WHO LOST AMERICA: Death by culture!


Part 1—To our surprise, we were wrong: We’ve been surprised by the press corps’ reaction to the Biden-Ryan debate.

In one major respect, their reaction showed we were just flat-out wrong.

In fairness, we weren’t surprised to see the children All Focusing On The Same Thing. In modern press culture, the children will kill both their grandmothers—and both of yours—to keep themselves within the boundaries of Official Approved Guild Consensus.

Similarly, we weren’t surprised to see the children focus on style over substance. In its essence, modern press culture is an endless search for ways to avoid any discussion of any matter of substance.

(Long ago, Maureen Dowd captured the lift of this this driving dream in a quip to Joe Klein. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/30/10.)

We weren’t surprised by those aspects of press corps reaction. But we were surprised by to see the children adopting A Standard Fatuous Theme in which they trashed the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.

In the age of Obama, we thought that day was gone.

Just last week or the week before, we told a famous journalist—a name so big it would rock your world!—that this could pretty much never happen in the Obama era.

They did this to Clinton, then to Gore, with barely a peep of protest from liberals. But this could never happen today, we said in the wake of Obama’s weak first debate.

We said it—but it was wrong! After the Biden-Ryan debate, the children agreed on a silly theme, and their silly theme was harshly anti-Biden.

Yesterday morning, like a good puppet, David Gregory quoted another child who had stood to recite The Approved Standard Theme. Gregory’s recitation-by-quotation came very early in yesterday’s Meet the Press:
GREGORY (10/14/12): We talked about the vice presidential debate, Mayor. And a lot of focus here on the vice president and his demeanor.

A lot of liberals thought, “Hey, he was taking it to Ryan and that’s what people wanted to see, that’s what the president d0, didn’t do the first time.” But then there was the issue of the laugh.

We’ve captured some of that just in video form as you see him laughing at all these different points throughout the debate. I—I thought at the time maybe he was watching, you know, something like Meet The Parents on the side that was making him crack up throughout the, throughout the 90 minutes. John Dickerson from Slate magazine wrote the following, which I thought really captured what we saw:

“In the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden found a way to be both a participant and the guy in the Barcalounger at home yelling at the television. He interrupted Paul Ryan, moderator Martha Raddatz, and even himself with interjections, sighs, and quips. He appealed to the heavens, he looked to the floor. With all the activity, he surely shed calories. When he wasn’t engaged in those antics, Biden laughed and smiled to himself as if Ryan had sold him something illegal that he’d just consumed. At times his treatment was so dismissive, he seemed only a few threads of restraint from reaching across the table and patting Ryan on the head.”

Does it matter?
“Does it matter?” this tool inquired.

Answer: Yes, it does! It matters when multimillionaires agree to recite such fatuous points, as careerist “liberals” look on.

It has mattered an enormous amount in the past. It matters again today.

Candidate Biden did smile a lot during last week’s debate. Networks which showed the debate in split screen helped you zero in on such distractions.

It would have been better if he hadn’t smiled so much. Then too, it would have been better if tools like Dickinson had focused on substantive issues from this debate, rather than on Biden’s smiles.

Please understand how Dickinson ended up with that florid description. We have explained this process many times in the past.

Today, we’ll describe it again. This is what happens when the children decide that they will All Say The Same Thing:

By the laws of mainstream pseudo-journalism, pseudo-journalists like Dickinson must cling to conventional narratives. But uh-oh! When the children agree they’ll All Say The Same Thing, the only way the individual child can distinguish himself is by saying that one thing more colorfully.

Each child has to top the previous child! As they do, the story grows. The best example of this disgraceful conduct involves the three-button suits that had the children upset during Campaign 2000.

(Good liberals have agreed to avoid discussing this history. That’s why this type of conduct is occurring all over again.)

In the fall of 1999, the children were very, very upset about Candidate Gore’s troubling wardrobe. They were upset when he wore a brown suit. They were upset when he wore polo shirts.

They were upset when he wore cowboy boots, as he had done throughout his career. They argued about how high he was hemming his pants so voters could see the boots more clearly.

(No. We’re not making that up.)

As the children staged this group disgrace, good career liberals kept their traps shut. E. J. Dionne, so fiery today, knew that he mustn’t speak up—except for that one sidelong comment.

At one point, the children became concerned about the number of buttons they could see on Gore’s suit jackets.

Gore was wearing three-button suits—and this had the children upset. Chris Matthews offered a smutty rumination; Gore must be wearing the three-button suits as a signal to female voters, much as sailors wear buttons on the fly of their pants!

This well-paid assassin actually said that! And then, a horrible person found a way to top everyone else.

On Rivera Live, Arianna actually sewed a fourth button on Gore’s deeply troubling suits! The horrible creature said what follows as part of a discussion of Naomi Wolf, who was a litle bit bitchy and a little bit witchy within the children's tale.

No, we really aren’t making this up. In a comment for the ages, this horrible person said this:
HUFFINGTON (11/9/99): You see, I think when you are talking about campaign managers, that's a very different story. When you are talking about a consultant that you bring on to give opinions on how to dress and whether you're an alpha male and how do you become a beta male— Frankly, you know, what is fascinating is that the way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, “Nobody here—nobody here in Hanover, New Hampshire, wears tan suits with blue shirts.” You know, it's just—and buttons all four buttons! You know, it's not just--it's just not the way most American males dress.
Gore had worn no four-button suits. But so what? When pundits agree to All Say The Same Thing, each pundit has to embellish the tale if she wants to stand out. Result? Arianna sewed a fourth button on Gore’s suits, telling us “it's just not the way most American males dress!” (Earlier Dowd: "Al Gore is so feminized he's practically lactating.")

(In an unmistakable brush with greatness, we saw the candidate at a cattle-call Christmas party that year. “[We] see you’re wearing one of your three-button suits,” we deftly quipped. “Oh, you mean my strategy for winning the black vote,” he shot back, rolling his eyes. In our experience, this candidate had always taken great pleasure in the absurd.)

(A bit later that evening, the candidate explained Katharine Seelye’s latest “news report” in the New York Times, which had us puzzled; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/29/03. At least from December 1999 forward, the candidate understood what was happening as the mainstream press corps took him down—and the liberal world looked on.)

Let’s return to the basic blocking and tackling:

When the children agree they’ll All Say The Same Thing, the children have to embellish the tale or their account won’t stand out. So it would be with Gore’s “loud, perpetual sighs”—and so it has been in the past few days with Biden’s troubling grins.

Yesterday, Maureen Dowd wrote the rare actual column. But before she did, she had to confess, all over again, that her East Coast Irish Catholic family was basically out of its mind in the 1950s, when she was failing to grow up. In the process, this world-class crackpot included a fact which helps illustrate the ongoing death of our culture:
DOWD (10/14/12): Now you know what Thanksgiving with my family is like.

A donnybrook with Irish Catholic uncles and nephews interrupting one another, mocking one another, arguing over one another, bombastically denouncing every political opinion except their own as malarkey.

The loser of the vice-presidential debate was, of course, Barack Obama. In contrast to the pair on the undercard slugging it out, the president’s limp performance the other night was even more inexplicable and inexcusable. The president was no doubt warned not to sigh, but his entire demeanor was a sigh.

The fact that one diffident debate by the president could throw his whole race into crisis shows that nobody madly loves Obama anymore. With his aloof presidency, he shook off the deep attachments from 2008, and now his support lacks intensity.

Even if he comes out in the town-hall debate on Tuesday with Ben Affleck charm, he has a Mitt Romney problem. Will it be the real Obama or will he just be doing what the media suggest and the base demands?

In Thursday night’s hockey game of a debate, the odd semiotics were not Gore-y sighs but grins. It’s hard to imagine a politician getting penalized for smiling too much, but Joe Biden managed it, breaking out in smiles and laughter 92 times by the count of ABC News. Ever since Obama tapped him, Biden has felt that his role is to warm up Barry’s Brother From Another Planet affect. In this debate, making up for his boss’s Spockiness was critically important, so Biden overcompensated with a volcano of verbosity and gesticulating.

Biden was trying to do what Romney did well: come across as a senior partner chastising a junior associate who screwed up. For this vice president, though, less is never more. He mugged condescension as if he were the star of a silent movie. But who ever accused Uncle Joe of subtlety?
We get it, we get it! Your family was nuts when you failed to grow up! (Still “is,” you seem to be saying!) And, inside your hollow soul, Biden is your Uncle Joe!

OK, OK—we get it! But good God! Just look at that highlighted passage:

Dowd of course had to mention Gore’s sighs, helping dumb her narrative down. But good God! We now live in a world where a major news org—ABC News—thinks it’s performing an act of journalism when it counts up the number of smiles!

When major news orgs engage in such conduct—when other “journalists” don’t cringe in embarrassment—we are seeing death by culture. Our society is dying beneath the weight of a deeply insipid intellectual culture—a culture the liberal world has tolerated and advanced every step of the way.

Question: Did Joe Biden engage in “a donnybrook” with Paul Ryan? Did he constantly interrupt Ryan, mock him, argue over him? Did he “bombastically denounce every political opinion except his own as malarkey?”

Did Biden really present “a volcano of verbosity and gesticulating?”

In all honesty, no, he did not. Even if you think he smiled too much, he didn’t actually do that. For one thing, he and Ryan spoke the same number of words. It’s hard to imagine how that could occur if one guy is constantly interrupting and talking over the other.

(In the first Bush-Gore debate, when Lehrer says Gore was constantly interrupting, Bush somehow managed to speak more words than Gore—7900 words to 7400, the New York Times reported. But so what? According to Lehrer’s Standard Account, Gore “violated the time limits for questions and responses, ignored the polite pleas of the moderator, and, generally, came across as overbearing—unlikable.” In our view, Lehrer generally comes across as dishonest when he says such things. Career liberals won’t say so, of course.)

Biden didn’t present a volcano. He didn’t shed calories; he didn’t “seem only a few threads of restraint from reaching across the table and patting Ryan on the head.” But the story is only going to grow as the years go by—as the children add one more tale to their standard list of Great Moments From Past Debates.

Almost all their moments involve body language—or jokes, or make-up malfunctions. None of their treasured moments involve actual matters of substance.

Tomorrow, we’ll show you the remarkable way Ruth Marcus avoided discussing what was said by Candidates Biden and Ryan. Later, we’ll show you some of the fatuous garbage that’s being churned by our newly emerging “liberal” press organs.

But make no mistake:

In everything we show you this week, you'll see your nation dying by culture. A modern nation can’t function this way—and the liberal world has accepted this culture every step of the way.

Tomorrow: A remarkable column by Marcus

Take the loud sighs challenge: Again, we invite you to take ninety minutes from your life to watch that first Bush-Gore debate. To watch the debate as C-Span aired it, go ahead—just click here.

Your assignment, if you’re willing to take it:

In the children’s lore, this has become the debate at which Gore “repeatedly,” “loudly” sighed. Two weeks ago, the Daily Beast referred to his “perpetual” sighs.

In last year’s extremely strange book, Jim Lehrer offered a very strange explanation of why he was unaware of this conduct as it transpired, just ten feet from where he was sitting. In his own book in 2001, Jeff Greenfield basically lied through his teeth in order to serve you this tale, which was already standard. (For part one of our five-part report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/29/01.

Questions: As you watch the tape of that debate, how many loud sighs do you hear? Do you understand how the children developed their treasured tale?

Question: For many people in Iraq, didn’t this turn out to be literal death—literal death by press culture?

Extra credit for journalism majors: Count the buttons on Gore’s suit. How many buttons did Bush wear? When the camera goes to Lehrer, can you count his number of buttons? Why or why not?

Compare and contrast the number of buttons. What kinds of sexual signals were these men emitting? (By the rules of hard pundit law, you don't have to explain.)


  1. Quaker in a BasementOctober 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Jeez, judging by the press reaction, you'd think Biden would be better off if he had shot a guy in the face.

  2. I love Dowd using a (terrible) gag line from Sarah Palin. Have to say, I thought they would try to do a replay on the sigh thing and it would fizzle. But they have brought it farther than I would have though, not as bad as back in the day, but bad enough. Ariana herself notes that Biden somehow let us down in terms of leadership.
    What does any of this mean, and does anyone care about the veep debate anyway? It seems like it's close enough it's hard to tell what's working and not working. And as they have told us straight, they like it close.

  3. DOWD (10/14/12): Now you know what Thanksgiving with my family is like.
    A donnybrook with Irish Catholic uncles and nephews interrupting one another, mocking one another, arguing over one another, bombastically denouncing every political opinion except their own as malarkey.

    somerby: We get it, we get it! Your family was nuts when you failed to grow up! (Still “is,” you seem to be saying!) And, inside your hollow soul, Biden is your Uncle Joe!

    >>> nuts? i didnt personally have anything like that experience growing up, but to me this sounds like an extended family which was closely enough bonded to each other that they could risk disagreeing with one another, and in the process possibly learning something. and a lot of fun.

    somerby: and, inside your hollow soul, Biden is your Uncle Joe!

    >>> what can you say to that? somerby seems the nut.

    1. and i would know from nuts

  4. I love the way David Gregory calls his show Meet The Press ! Man, that's about the most 'incestuous' so called press you could possibly assemble, given a country this size ! The other problem being 2/3 of the guests on there are not even reporters/journalists, let alone press journalists.