SONS OF FLUBBER: The joy of the flub!


Part 4—Helene Cooper tries to explain: “Journalists” are deeply involved in the joy of the flub.

Just consider one reaction to Candidate Romney’s latest.

Romney had been accused of a flub. At the august New Republic, Alec MacGillis took action.

Using old-fashioned language, MacGillis announced a competition: “Your Romney Gaffe Contest.” Readers were invited to think up new flubs—hilarious flubs Romney might yet uncork. The children were soon amusing themselves in the prescribed manner.

Last Friday, preceding the Super Bowl, MacGillis announced the winners.

There was nothing new in this reaction to Romney’s alleged flub. In December 1999, Candidate Gore was flatly misquoted in the New York Times and the Washington Post. “I was the one that started it all!” the foolish flubber was said to have said. Allegedly, he was referring to the investigation of the toxic waste site at New York’s Love Canal.

In reality, Gore hadn’t said it; unintentionally and by mistake, he had been flat-out misquoted. (For the full story, see Chapter 6 at How He Got There.) But before the first day of this nonsense was done, the RNC had swung into action. Chairman Jim Nicholson had thought up new flubs the hapless hopeful might utter.

In the sheer stupidity which follows, you see the way your low-IQ modern political culture sent George Bush to the White House. This was part of the RNC’s second press release on the subject:
RNC PRESS RELEASE (12/1/99): "Al Gore's career certainly has been incredible," added Nicholson. “And I use that word in its literal meaning, too. Next, he'll be telling us how he discovered Niagara Falls, how Tipper first navigated the Hudson River, and how Hillary built the Erie Canal with no one but Naomi Wolf to help her.”
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! In fact, Gore hadn’t made the original quoted remark—but so what? Nicholson was quickly imagining other weird things the hapless hopeful might say. And uh-oh! This became a Standard Pundit Amusement, right through the November 2000 election. Any time a slow-witted “journalist” couldn’t think of something to say, he or she could always imagine some new crazy thing Gore might utter!

The silly children played flub that whole year. George Bush went to the White House.

So it was when the children played flub for twenty months during Campaign 2000. Today, the children still enjoy this game. Beyond that, their skills are extremely weak when it comes to explaining flubs. Consider the way Helene Cooper explained Candidate Romney’s latest.

Cooper works for the New York Times, the brilliant news org which misquoted Gore, then refused to correct its mistake. This Monday, she wrote this fascinating report about the way the Obama White House and all the five families are now on a “Flub Watch”—a flub watch which “never stops.”

In the passage which follows, Cooper explains the way one “spin-master” leaped into action following Romney’s new alleged flub. In the second highlighted passage, Cooper attempts to explain what the candidate actually said:
COOPER (2/6/12): Mr. Woodhouse, a high-octane party spinmaster, was getting his children ready for school around 7 Wednesday morning when he spotted a new present from the Romney camp. ''Romney on CNN: I'm not concerned about the very poor,'' the blogger Rachel Weiner reported over Twitter.

Mr. Woodhouse sprang to action. ''It was a two-fer!'' Mr. Woodhouse said. ''First, it was just the most incredibly insensitive thing that someone in his position could say.'' And second, Mr. Woodhouse said, ''he gave us an opening to go after his record on the middle class,'' since Mr. Romney's comments were part of an effort to show that it is the middle class he is actually concerned about.

Mr. Woodhouse promptly reposted the Romney comments. on Twitter. Then he sent an e-mail to a list of reporters, ''just in case everyone hadn't seen it,'' he said. Minutes later, Mr. Woodhouse was on a conference call with several campaign and White House officials, discussing the remarks.

(To be clear, Mr. Romney said he was not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net, one he said he would fix if needed. Rather, he said, ''I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent to 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.'')

The Obama partisans came up with their plan for the day. ''It was clear by 9 a.m. that this thing had a life of its own,'' Mr. Woodhouse said, as Mr. Romney tried to clarify his remarks while news anchors, bloggers and reporters gave his comments round-the-clock coverage.
“Romney tried to clarify his remarks,” Cooper reported. In the second highlighted passage, Cooper tried to do the same. In the desire “to be clear,” the Timeswoman tried to explain what Romney had actually said.

How good were Cooper’s skills at this task? We’d say her skills were poor. What follows represents the way we ourselves would paraphrase or explain Romney’s remarks. Yes, it would take a few extra words. But then, this is a White House campaign—the kind of enterprise which once put George W. Bush in power:
COOPER REWRITTEN: (To be clear, Mr. Romney said he was “not concerned about” the very poor or the very rich—the very rich because they were “doing fine,” the very poor because they have a safety net which he said he would fix if needed. Rather, he said, ''I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent to 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.'' Instantly questioned about his choice of words, he said he meant that the very rich and the very poor wouldn’t be the “focus” of his campaign. He said his “focus” would be on that broad middle class. “These are the people who've been most badly hurt during the Obama years,” Romney said.)
In part, you won’t see Romney’s remarks explained that way because this kills the fun of the flub. For similar reasons, the “press corps” kept repeating that misquotation of Gore for weeks and months after it became clear that he had been misquoted. (They also adopted a mocking group paraphrase of what he had supposedly said.) How hapless were the skills of the “press corps?” When the New York Times finally corrected its misquotation of Gore, they misquoted him a new, second way—right in their formal correction of the first misquotation!

That’s the way flub was being played in December 1999. MacGillis and Cooper help us see the way the game is played now.

What is wrong with the joy of the flub? Flub culture gives tremendous power to the boys and girls of the “press corps.” Once these utterly silly children decide that they don’t care for a candidate, flub culture lets them express their displeasure through the flogging of pointless remarks—or even through direct misquotation when the need is great. And make no mistake—they play this game with a special joy. In part, they do this because they aren’t very smart. In part, it’s because they aren’t very honest.

Did Romney really commit a flub? More precisely, did he really say that he’s “not concerned about the very poor?” That quotation is technically accurate—but so was the quotation of Candidate Kerry in 2004. (He said he was “for it before he was against it!” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!) In our view, it’s fairly clear what Romney meant; indeed, he explained what he meant right away. But reporting what Romney said he meant would kill the fun of the flub—and our “journalists” are all sons of Flubber.

Romney’s remarks were worth exploring in at least several ways. In fact, Romney’s proposals are hard to square with his statement. The very rich aren’t his “focus,” he said—and yet, he has proposed gigantic tax cuts for this class even after the Bush tax cuts get extended. At the same time, he has proposed large cuts in the funding of the programs which make up the safety net. How would this square with his statement that he will fix the safety net if needed?

Can we talk? Some of Romney’s basic proposals are just bat-shit insane. Others are hard to square with his statement about his campaign's focus. But reporters don’t like discussing such crap. Bat-shit crazy proposals are boring. They prefer to have fun with flub culture.

Some of Romney’s most basic proposals are flat-out bat-shit insane. But given the state of our low-IQ culture, you can go for weeks at a time without hearing that fact discussed. Even on The One True Liberal Channel, the millionaire children like to gambol and play. They too like to play with their flubs.

(A run-down on Maddow tomorrow or Saturday. Most evenings, you can hear the liberal world’s brain cells dying as this program is broadcast. Last night, did you see her truly ludicrous opening? Things go from gong-show to worse.)

Flub culture savaged Candidate Gore. Four years later, it badly damaged Candidate Kerry. But so what? “Journalists” deeply enjoy playing flub—and their actual skills are amazingly weak, bordering on non-existent.


  1. I'm right with Bob, that Flub culture gives tremendous power to the the press corps. Bad reporters have more power than good reporters.

    For me, the situation somewhat parallels what I faced in my career. As I rose in middle management, I didn't feel more and more powerful. Perhaps others in the same position might have used their authority to help their friends, to punish their enemies, or to make organizational policy in a way that personally benefited them. However, my goal was to do my job properly, so I didn't think I had the power to make personally favorable decisions. On, the contrary, I felt more burdened by the greater responsibility, to try to get more things right.

    A good reporter or a good newspaper wouldn't have the power to savage Gore or Romney because they'd have to strive to accurately report what he said and what he meant. A good newspaper wouldn't have the power to slander the Duke men's lacrosse team. Tragically, from the New York Times on down, bad reporting seems to be all to common.

  2. A bit off topic but reminded me of writings here and might be of interest to DH readers: