The lies of Jonathan Chait!


PART 3—NO, HE DOESN’T BELIEVE THAT: We share Paul Krugman’s apparent concern about the coverage of Candidate Ryan.

For years, the children of the mainstream press have behaved like Ryan’s sons and daughters. They have fawned about his courage, his honesty. They’ve even pretended he’s smart!

If you’re watching MSNBC this week, you’re being told the election is over—that Romney can’t possibly win the race due to his selection of Ryan. For various reasons, we don’t share that sanguine outlook.

At present, many elements in the press have abandoned their fawning to Bold Honest Ryan. That said, we share Krugman’s apparent concern—his apparent fear that the Ryan coverage could help tip the race. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/15/12.)

Question: If the fawning to Ryan continues, will the public see through it? Will they see it as part of a pattern? As Krugman challenged “the news media” in this recent blog post, he cited another post about Candidate Ryan—a post by Jonathan Chait.


In that post, Chait lies through his teeth—and that’s a word we rarely use around here. Chait’s lying helps explain a basic advantage accruing to a hopeful like Ryan—an advantage which has been invented and sustained through the lying of people like Chait.

What is the nature of Krugman’s concern? As he explains his concern, he refers to the post in which Chait lies through his teeth, as Krugman of course understands:
KRUGMAN (8/12/12): So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is—as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand—about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000.

Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan’s case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan’s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air—huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned.


So that’s the constituency Romney is targeting: not a large segment of the electorate, but a few hundred at most editors, reporters, programmers, and pundits. His hope is that Ryan’s unjustified reputation for honest wonkery will transfer to the ticket as a whole.
Did Romney pick Ryan to target the press corps? We have no idea; neither does Krugman, of course. But we do share Krugman’s concern about the Ryan coverage.

In his first paragraph, Krugman links to this post by Chait, saying Chait “also seems to understand” this dynamic. But uh-oh! Chait lies right in your face in that post, as Krugman of course understands.

Read Chait’s lengthy post with care. You’ll note that he never mentions the press corps until he makes one tiny point at the end. This may explain why Krugman only says that Chait “seems to understand” the problem.

Is Chris Hayes writing Chait’s stuff now? Krugman is forthright in his post. He directly criticizes the press for its past coverage of Ryan, warning about the possible coverage from here.

Chait, by contrast, sidles about, avoiding such direct criticism. Go ahead! See if you can find a single word in his lengthy post about the past coverage of Ryan.

Is Chris Hayes writing for Chait? This is the way our insider children avoid compromising their high-end careers. But Chait only starts his outright lying as he nears the end of his piece. Like Krugman, he refers to the way the mainstream press covered Candidate Bush during Campaign 2000.

As he does so, omigod! The journalist lies in your face:
CHAIT (8/12/12): ...How can Romney, whose campaign spent months relentlessly smearing Republican and Democratic foe alike and spitting derision at the naïveté of anybody who objected, reclaim his political virginity? By bathing in Ryan’s soft glow.

One underrated aspect of the new GOP veep nominee’s political arsenal is a recurring persona of his that you might call Sad Paul Ryan. Sad Paul Ryan is less an ideological crusader and more like a wide-eyed boy who has come to Washington full of hope only to have his youthful dreams crushed by nastiness and name-calling. How Ryan’s high-minded belief in the purity of political debate managed to survive his rise to power as a Washington staffer, I cannot say. So emotionally vulnerable is Sad Paul Ryan that even a statistical recitation of the effects of his plan will nearly reduce him to tears. He is capable of complaining that Obama will “affix views to your opponent that they do not have so you can demonize them”—two sentences after accusing Obama of advocating “socialized medicine.”

Yet Sad Paul Ryan appears so genuinely sad when he says such things—quite likely because he lacks the self-awareness that might complicate his earnest dejection—that he melts the cynicism of hardened observers. So Romney’s advisers are now proclaiming, “We are betting that a substantive campaign, conducted on the high ground, and focused primarily on jobs and the economy, will trump a campaign that is designed to appeal to our worst instincts,” and the candidate himself is delivering lines such as “Mr. President, take your campaign out of the gutter and let's talk about issues.” (Talking About The Issues is Ryan’s thing, unless talking about the issues means discussing any specific element contained within his plan, in which case he would rather talk about bowhunting or catfish noodling.) Romney and Ryan inaugurated their new high-road campaign with the charge that Obama “robbed” $700 billion from Medicare, declining to mention that their own plans keep the same cuts in place.

Now, adopting a persona of high-mindedness does not have a perfect track record in American politics. But it’s not a hopeless gambit, either. George W. Bush in 2000 successfully convinced the campaign press corps that Al Gore was a serial liar, and when the press pack suddenly decided in October of that year that Al Gore’s lies were the story of the race, his poll numbers fatally swooned. Many undecided voters pay little attention to the issues and simply form impressions of the candidates, rooted in broad personal appraisal.

The political upside Romney is trying to capitalize upon with Ryan is his reputation for sincerity and high-mindedness. In this sense, the Ryan pick is an attempt to capture the center—not with substance, but with (perceived) character.
You’ll note that Chait never mentions the press corps as he discusses the Sad Paul Ryan persona. Unlike the forthright Krugman, he doesn’t mention the role the press has played in promoting this sad, stupid scam.

He only mentions the press near the end of his post, when he discusses Campaign 2000. And when he discusses Campaign 2000, he lies right in your face.

We’re sorry, but no: This is no way on the face of the earth that Chait believes that highlighted passage. Chait is lying in your face, as Krugman of course has to know.

How hard will insider children work to avoid telling the truth about their own elite? To what extent will these strivers go to keep the public clueless? Just look at the ludicrous things Chait says about Campaign 2000.

Chait does not believe those things. He’s lying right in your face.

Good God! According to Chait, “the campaign press corps...suddenly decided in October [2000] that Al Gore’s lies were the story of the race.”

Suddenly decided in October 2000? The chronology there is from Neptune. There’s no way on the face of the earth that Jonathan Chait believes that.

Chait also says that Candidate Bush convinced the press corps that Gore was a liar! That claim is utterly ludicrous too. There no way Chait believes that.

What’s the real chronology here? Who really drove the lies about Candidate Gore? We've spent years presenting that history. There’s no way Chait doesn’t know it:

The invention of Gore as the world’s biggest liar ("just like Clinton") started in December 1997—at the New York Times, no less (Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich). Gore became a serial liar in March 1999, in the very first week of his campaign for the White House.

(President Clinton’s impeachment trial had ended three weeks earlier.)

Candidate Bush had nothing to do with any of these events. Gore was invented as a serial liar long before Bush announced he was running, long before he set foot on the trail.

(Bush announced, and made his first campaign appearance, in June 1999. Gore had been a serial liar for three months at that point.)

Sorry, pseudolib strivers! As you well know, the invention of Gore as a serial liar came from the mainstream press corps, in the spring of 1999—from the mainstream news orgs to which Chait fawns for future employment and income.

During that early period, the press corps did take some of its cues from Jim Nicholson’s RNC. But the powerful energy driving this scam came from within our biggest press organs—most strikingly, from the Washington Post, the New York Times and Jack Welch’s ethnic clubhouse at NBC News, including its cable arm.

This didn’t occur in October 2000; that statement is just an astonishing lie. And every part of the mainstream press corps took part in this massive scam.

That includes The New Republic, the journal at which Chait was employed all through this long slow scam. Gore was invented as a serial liar in part through the efforts (and the silence) of that well-known “liberal” journal.

As these events unfolded, Jonathan Chait kept his pretty trap shut. Presumably, he was afraid his career might be harmed if he told you what was happening.

Last week, Chait typed an astounding lie, going beyond the absolute nonsense he put in his aptly-named 2007 book, The Big Con. In that book, he pretended that the New York Times got dragged into the War Against Gore against its will—and only in October 2000.

At the time, we thought that was the most ridiculous claim we'd ever seen in print (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/16/11). In fact, the Times hounded Gore every step of the way in the press corps' twenty-month war. Now, our horrible liar tops even himself, pretending that the press as a whole got conned at that very late date.

Got “convinced!” By Candidate Bush!

You will never be lied to more baldly. Here’s why Chait’s lying matters:

Krugman is right to be concerned about the Ryan coverage. So far, a lot of the bloom has been off the rose as the press corps has reviewed Candidate Ryan. But some of those old fawning themes will surely reappear.

Will those themes be believed?

Yes they will, by many voters, in part because of the endless dissembling of career players like Chait. Thanks to the conduct of people like Chait, the American public has never been told about our recent press history!

They’ve never been told about the way the press keeps inventing conservative saints. They’ve never been told about the ways the press made demons of Clinton, then Gore.

In the absence of such understanding, voters are easy to scam once again. They lack the background understanding—understanding they’ve been denied by the conduct of people like Chait.

Good God! Candidate Bush “convinced the campaign press corps that Al Gore was a serial liar!” And get this: “The press pack suddenly decided in October of 2000 that Al Gore’s lies were the story of the race!”

You will never be lied to more baldly—and yes, this lying matters.

We rarely use the word “lie” around here. We typically caution against its use. That said, you will never be lied to more baldly than this. And by the way:

Candidate Romney could still win this race. The endless lying of people like Chait could end up tipping the scale.

Tomorrow: The children never stop


  1. Again, we are recipients of scripted news.

    The media have decided that Paul Ryan, though he might be wrong in some of his judgments, possesses certain heroic qualities that make him a Very Serious Person.

    Sort of like the guy that does the Allstate Insurance commercials.

    Somerby howls about this daily.

    There is a tiny handful of real reporters that challenge this slavish repetition of adjectives assigned to politicians.

    I can count the number of journalists that report on the culture of lies in the MSM on the fingers of one hand.

    Paul Krugman, Robert Parry, Charles S. Pierce, Murray Kempton, Gene Lyons.

    As Mort Sahl might ask the members of our MSM, "Is there are any group YOU haven't offended?"

    The overwhelming majority of American "reporters" can honestly reply, "Yes! Ours!"

    1. Murray Kempton in present tense? Can I come to your next seance?

    2. Even dead, he's still a better reporter than MoDo.

  2. And why is there nothing about the hair? A year or so ago Paul Ryan's hair dressing was mock Ronald Reagan. His most recent look, tonsorially speaking, is contemporary Jay Carney. But the mainstream press is silent on this transformation, as if his hair had always been combed down and then up. Before you know it, all his pix with 1940s hair will have been airbrushed from collective memory, a la Winston Smith. Who among us will cry out before it is too late?

  3. There are echoes of Krugman's point over at 'The New York Review of Books'

    Start quote:
    Very quickly, the young congressman Ryan began to attract attention. “Ideas” politicians are flashier than the practical legislators, who tend to deal with an issue at a time rather than global concepts and are more focused on what can be got through the congress and implemented. With the help of influential conservative media and also their own energetic efforts they can become meteorites. Journalists love to talk to them: they’re usually interesting and make themselves very accessible. Ryan was the new generation “ideas” politician, hip and cool. He bopped about Capitol Hill, Led Zeppelin playing on earphones that he would quickly remove at the approach of an inquiring journalist.
    End quote

    Link is here:

  4. "The War On Gore" can probably been shown to have started well before the period
    stated here. After Clinton won reelection, the Press Corps has resigned themselves to
    four more years, and perhaps sensing the Public had had it with the Starr gang, they
    had changed their tunes quite a bit. Don Imus, for one, was talking about how he
    actually liked and admired Clinton, it was that psycho GORE we had to worry about.
    Moncia Lewinsky, of course, changed all that.

    A clearer parallel to the amicable Press Ryan has gotten is probably found in
    free ride W received. A cursory vetting of Harken Energy would have kept W
    from holding any Public Office, if we are limiting ourselves to a sane universe, but I
    guess we have Texas to thank for that. Yet the connection The Daily Howler is trying
    to make here is pretty weak in any case. However bad Gore's treatment was, his passive response to it was exactly the wrong approach, and echoed the Class Act strategy
    of Dem winners going back at least to Stevenson.
    Indeed, we see the Press going after the more brazen RNC dog do do (go get'um, Soledad!) even as it makes nice with it's conservative consumers by treating Ryan respectfully. Bill Clinton has played along with this too, so how mad can we
    be at CNN? Every time the Dems play a little hardball, Bob acts like the virgin in Hef's Grotto. But it's really their job to see Ryan is held to account, not the Presses. Remember, W used the "invented the internet" too, Gore would simply not hit back.

    1. Shorter Greg:

      It's was Gore's fault, not the press.

      Yes, you do sound just that dumb, Greg.

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