Part 3—Lacking a glimmer of hope: President Obama was right!
Being a great uncle is very hard work, as we learned in Durham last weekend. Between the soccer, the books and and the hand-clapping games, there’s little time for anything else.
If you want to follow the news, you’ll be getting the news in mere glimpses and glimmers.
That said, we got the chance to watch a bit of the new cable show, Up With Chris Hayes, as we lounged in our flawless Super 8 suite before our duties started last Saturday. At that time of day, we would normally be at our local bagel joint, plowing through the Saturday Post.
Briefly freed by a great uncle's schedule, we were eager to catch a glimpse of Hayes’ new program.
Alas! Despite the program’s name, the analysts’ faces fell as Hayes led a discussion about last week’s number-one dumb discussion. Quite correctly, Hayes started by rolling his eyes at this ludicrous flap—a flap which grew from Hilary Rosen’s snide remark concerning Ann Romney’s history as a stay-at-home mom.
There’s no doubt about it! A pile of faux outrage was put on display as folk discussed this topic last week. The analysts agreed with Hayes’s remarks as he opened the segment:
HAYES (4/14/12): You have probably heard by now, whether directly or through osmosis, all the faux outrage on the campaign trail this week about Ann Romney and her role as a stay-at-home mom. The manufactured controversy was prompted by a stray comment on CNN made by an analyst who was in no way affiliated officially with the Obama campaign.To watch this full segment, click here.
To be truthful, Hayes’ cable channel is deeply involved in the manufacture of faux controversy too. How many times will they play the tape of Romney’s remark about Michigan’s trees, while suggesting that we can draw some meaning from this pointless jest? But when nonsense is churned by Big Ed or Lawrence, that isn’t Hayes’ fault or doing. And last week’s flap about Rosen’s comment truly was manufactured, faux—largely because, as Hayes pointed out, Rosen spoke for no one but herself when she made her snide, fleeting remark.
Unfortunately, Hayes was soon off in the tribal weeds and the analysts’ faces fell. Hayes is plainly smarter, and better informed, than many players on his channel. For that reason, the analysts teared up, then openly cried, as his tribal devotion overwhelmed his smarts and good sense:
HAYES (continuing directly): But the theatrics obscure a much deeper and more fundamental problem with the way our government and society values the work of women, either inside the home or out.At this point, Hayes played tape of Romney praising “the idea that people who are receiving assistance, welfare assistance, have a responsibility of working.” In his remarks, Romney said that he wanted such individuals “to have the dignity of work.”
When Mitt Romney responded to the controversy in a speech to the NRA Friday, he said, quote, “I happen to believe that all moms are working moms”—all moms are working moms. But that hasn’t always been the tune of Republicans on this issue. An entire massive sea change in federal policy, the welfare reform act of 1996, was predicated on the fundamental notion that mothers on welfare needed to get out of the home and go to work and that staying at home and caring for their children did not count as “work.” In fact, as recently as this year, Mitt Romney himself campaigned on the proposition that meaningful welfare reform should require parents with children to get out of the home and into the work force.
“This really angers me, it genuinely angers me,” Hayes now said. “...It seems to me there’s a double standard in what we call ‘work’”
By now, the analysts were bawling. Here’s why:
Let’s start with the way Hayes framed this discussion—a discussion which had him genuinely angry. Hayes told his channel’s liberal viewers that Republicans haven’t always sung the same (semantic) tune on this score. He quickly cited the welfare reform act of 1996 as part of his evidence.
But the welfare reform act of 1996 passed with considerable Democratic support. A fellow named Clinton signed the bill, and 25 Democratic senators voted aye. (21 voted no.) The aye votes included such well-known persons as Joe Biden, Russ Feingold, John Kerry, Harry Reid. (Also voting aye: Byrd, Harkin, Levin, Mikulski, Rockefeller, Wyden.)
In the House, Democrats split their votes, 98-98. Voting aye were the following players, a group which included six future senators and a serious White House candidate. (Cardin, DeFazio, Dicks, Dingell, Durbin, Fazio, Frost, Hamilton, Hoyer, Johnston, Kanjorski, Kaptur, Lincoln, Lowey, Meehan, Murtha, Reed, Richardson, Torricelli.)
Democrats have often talked about work the same way Romney does! But so what? Quite quickly, Hayes was in the semantic weeds, quoting the Mittster as he praised "the dignity of work." But whatever you think of the welfare reform—whatever you think of the logic and values behind it; whatever you think of its semantics—this is not a Republican manifestation, except in the tribalized fields MSNBC now likes to plow.
Hayes was soon far off in the semantic weeds. He savaged Romney for alleged semantic inconsistency—alleged inconsistency which has also been voiced by major Democrats down through the years. And then, omigod! He threw to Princeton’s Betsey Stevenson, who punished the world with the following consummate nonsense:
STEVENSON: So it’s a “bad mom, good mom” double standard and I mean that’s the subtext of it and that’s what’s so galling. You know, for poor moms, for single moms, the idea is, “You know what? Your kids are going to be better off in day care because you’re just not that good of a mom. And so you should go to work.” Now, if you’re a rich mom—rich married mom—you’re a good mom. We want you to stay home so in fact we’re going to subsidize that through the tax code.Good God. With apologies to Paul Krugman, it’s impossible to be that dumb unless you’re a Princeton professor! We were surprised by Hayes’ failure to impose some basic sense on this utterly foolish discussion—a discussion which was extremely foolish no matter what you think about the logic of “welfare reform.”
Earth to tribe: Overwhelmingly, voters will understand the logic of this type of “welfare reform” in a very different way. Rightly or wrongly, they will draw a very basic distinction between stay-at-home mothers who are supported by public assistance (welfare) and stay-at-home mothers who aren’t. In this context, when Romney (and many Democrats) discuss “the dignity of work,” they are referring to “the dignity of supporting yourself and your family through your own earnings.”
Whatever you may think of this type of “welfare reform,” the wide range of voters will understand the logic of Romney’s remarks in that way. When liberals parse his remarks as Stevenson did, they are simply begging for obliteration at the polls. We were stunned to see a smart person like Hayes let this foolish discussion proceed without the slightest attempt to introduce the planet’s most obvious points of clarification.
It’s fine with us if Hayes is angry about this type of welfare reform. (Although you’ll never see his channel’s more famous “liberals” stoop to such a boring discussion.) Many people hotly opposed the 1996 bill, including the editorial boards of both the Washington Post and the New York Times.
If Hayes thinks this legislation was unwise, that’s fine with us. We'd love to see a discussion, minus the work of the clowns.
But the semantics and logic displayed by Romney are those of many Democrats. Presumably, this would include a fellow named Barack Obama. Meanwhile, however much we may pity the children exposed to the logic of Princeton professors, might we suggest that folk like Stevenson be kept off our brave new liberal air—if we want to advance progressive interests within the American political context.
In yesterday’s post, Kevin Drum rolled his eyes at the direction this nonsense has now taken. He decried the “tone deaf” political turn this has taken among some in our tribe.
For ourselves, our reaction came on Saturday morning in a brief break from a great uncle’s duties. In our own brief glimpse of a new cable program, we learned to have even less faith in the brave new liberal world the corporate suits are helping us at The One True Liberal Channel.
Maybe it was just a rare bad segment; we got our news last weekend in glimmers. But the analysts were down, way down, after taking in Up With Chris Hayes.