Pundits just want to embarrass themselves!


Toobin and Gergen join in: Allegedly, girls just want to have fun.

Pundits just want to embarrass themselves. Two cases in point appeared with Anderson Cooper this Friday. (See our previous post.)

Cooper made a very modest attempt to clarify the basic facts. Then, it was time to speculate about the way the boys feel:
COOPER (1/31/14): Wildstein has also, it seems like, has taken issue with some of the things that Chris Christie has said about Wildstein, about himself.

ZERNIKE: And I think that is what the interesting personal dynamic here is that Chris Christie stood up at that two-hour marathon press conference and said, “Look, it has been, you know, my friendship with, say Wildstein has been overstated. We weren't even acquaintances in high school. I barely knew him. I was on the, you know, I was the class president and an athlete. I had no idea what he was doing.” I think there is a feeling among Wildstein's friends that this really antagonized David Wildstein and him to say, OK, I will prove you wrong.


COOPER: Jeff, some were saying that Christie and Wildstein were high school buddies. Christie, as Kate pointed out, shot that down completely. I do want to play the sound bite of what he said.

CHRISTIE (videotape): David and I were not friends in high school. We were not acquaintances in high school. We didn't travel same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time.

COOPER: I mean, this is a guy who clearly can do some damage to the governor. It seems like maybe he was antagonized.

TOOBIN: Anderson, it is revenge of the nerds today. You know, I mean, you know, this is obviously a complicated political story. But there is such an interesting personal dimension here.

You know, David Wildstein was this guy who was most well known in New Jersey as a blogger, someone who followed New Jersey politics intimately. He finally gets his chance to be in the, or somewhere near, the inner circle of the governor and here when everything hits the fan the governor just throws him under the bus.

Well, David Wildstein is not finished talking and he is looking for a deal. This purpose of the letter was to get the Port Authority to pay his legal fees which they have not agreed to do. But I think the larger purpose is that he wants immunity. And the action is really going to be with Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney who is the only person in the process who has the power to grant immunity. And basically, what Wildstein is saying, Come to me, Fishman, I will give you jewels if you give me immunity. And perhaps he will.

COOPER: Well Jeff, does that then call into question perhaps the veracity of what he is saying? Or just have put his credibility on the line if he is, I mean, he clearly, he is wanting something from this.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. I mean, that is the tradeoff that always goes on here is that the angrier you are, the worse you look as a witness. And to me what is most important part of that letter are the two references to documentary evidence, to facts that he says prove that Christie was not telling the truth at the news conference. Because, you know, Christie's people can always discredit Wildstein as bitter and embittered, you know, president of the AV Club who resents the class president.
For the record, there were no references in the letter to “documentary evidence.”

You’ll note that Cooper made no attempt to establish the facts concerning the “high school buddies.” He didn’t ask Zernike why she had described the fellows as “high school friends” on the Times web site that very afternoon.

(The description was later bumped back to “high school classmates.” That description is also inaccurate.)

Cooper simply threw to Toobin, who began creating a novel about the way Wildstein must feel. Newsflash:

Presumably, Toobin doesn’t know Wildstein. He doesn’t know how Wildstein feels.

All three children enjoyed the tale about the antagonized high school nerd who got thrown under the bus and might end up looking like someone from the AV Club. When David Gergen appeared for segment two, a second problem presented:
COOPER: David, you said all along that Christie might be able to weather this politically as long as it is shown he actually, you know, knew—didn't know about this in advance or order the lane closures. We still don't know from this letter whether that is the case. What do you think these revelations mean for the governor politically?

GERGEN: I think they are very grave for him, Anderson, if this letter proves to be accurate. Contrary to what we heard earlier, I read the letter as directly contradicting what the governor said in two press conferences—namely, he said he didn't know anything about the lane closings until the whole episode was over. This letter says he knew, there was evidence tying him to knowledge while the lane closures were there.

If that is the case, that's a perilous revelation for him. Let's take a good example, a telling example. The Newark Star Ledger, the largest newspaper in New Jersey, a left-leaning newspaper to be sure, but also a newspaper that endorsed Governor Christie in 2013, has come out tonight to say, if this letter is accurate, he must resign. He must resign. If he won't resign, he must be impeached. That is very tough stuff if you want to run for the White House.
Cooper seemed to think the letter involved “revelations.” Gergen went on and on about what the letter means “if it is accurate.”

What if the letter isn’t accurate? Gergen didn’t offer his thoughts about that. He quoted what an excitable newspaper had said about the need for impeachment—if the claims are true.

Elsewhere, we saw the Star-Ledger ridiculed for the way it jumped the gun in that instant editorial. Gergen was racing off with them.

Zernike was racing off too. This sad exchange came right before the exchange we just posted:
COOPER: Kate, the documents you wrote about in the Times, a lot of it was redacted. There were e-mails that Wildstein provided between him and Bridgett Kelly. Has he provided un-redacted documents? Do we know?

ZERNIKE: No. He hasn't yet provided them. His lawyer has said he will turn them over. The legislature is expecting them. The legislature says they haven't gotten them yet. But I think that is what makes this latest development important is that—or interesting, at least—is that what we know about the scandal so far, we know from David Wildstein. We know from David Wildstein that it was Bridget Kelly who sent an e-mail from this administration saying time for traffic problems in Fort Lee. So the possibility that David Wildstein has more information is very real.
The possibility that Wildstein is full of crap is also “very real.”

As the New York Times reporter-of-record, Zernike plays a good prosecutor. This may help explain the long string of factual errors she has already recorded.

According to civics textbooks, journalists are supposed to remind us excitable citizens of the problems with vague accusations like these. That wasn’t happening as these ridiculous figures gathered around Cooper’s bonfire.

This is the way these idiots went after Clinton, then after Candidate Gore. This is the way they went after Susan Rice.

This is the way these idiots are. When they do this to liberals, we meekly defer. When they do it to others, we cheer.


  1. It is perfectly clear that Wildstein is creating a space for Christie to capitulate gracefully and cut a deal of no prosecutions in return for his resignation.

    Since Christie doubled down - Wildstein now knows that "it is each man for himself" and revelations are going to come pouring out (and not just from Wildstein).

    Looks like Christie is going to go down the hard way and may end up doing time (I believe we are talking of violation of Federal law in this case).

    1. Brian Murphy:

      "It may be true that David Wildstein 'will do and say anything to save David Wildstein.' But at this point the same can be said of Chris Christie.

      It was probably a good idea for the governor to hire that white-collar criminal defense lawyer from Manhattan.

      After all, we don’t know what was in the file boxes David Wildstein carried out of the Port Authority last year. He mentioned them in passing on Sept. 18, 2013 in an email to Bill Stepien.

      Why do we know that?

      Because it’s in the documents Wildstein provided to the legislature. Exhibit A. Page 642. An email sent at 5:30 a.m."

  2. "This is the way these idiots went after Clinton, then after Candidate Gore. This is the way they went after Susan Rice."

    No, Bob. This is not the same way. Sometimes scandal is real. And once again, your inability to tell and/or acknowledge the difference makes you look silly.

    1. Don't you think that with a real scandal it is even more important to deal with the facts instead of vague accusations?

    2. TDH has pointed out some of the typically sloppy coverage by the media. These juicy scandals come along and the media feast on them like a pack of hyenas. However, this one is different than Clinton, Gore, Rice, unlike those instances, there is apparently some substance to it.

    3. That remains to be seen.

  3. Bob...It's a very fair inference when an assertion is made that there is "proof" of something, that it's documentary and not "he said, he said".

  4. Bone-gnawer could have done this research himself instead of hurling more feces into the public space:


    A rather self-serving summary

    "Asked Saturday to clarify which story Christie meant, a spokesman for the governor, Colin Reed, told The Star-Ledger:

    "If you’re asking me about how the governor learned about the lane closures, you can say from me: ‘Governor Christie has said each time he has been asked that he first learned about the closing of the lanes on the George Washington Bridge from press accounts after the instance was over,'" Reed wrote in an email, repeating a statement issued Friday night.

    "And then you should make the point that first story ran on 9/13, the day the lanes had already been reopened."

    Bone-gnawer is going to gnaw on whether Sep 13 counts as "During" or "after" the lane closings.

    However revelations to come are going to render all this moot.

  5. Speaking of pundits embarrassing themselves, Christie's "office" has issued a five-point, 700-word "rebuttal" to Zernicke's story.

    Bob and his fans might find Point No. 3 quite interesting:

    "3. The Governor first learned lanes at the George Washington Bridge were even closed from press accounts after the fact. Even then he was under the belief it was a traffic study. He first learned David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly closed lanes for political purposes when it was reported on January 8th."

    Please take note that Christie's "office" says it isn't a "traffic study." Please note also that Christie's "office" that it was done "for political purposes.

    With friends like these, does the Big Boy need enemies? Then again, just probably his staffers running amok again.

    1. Christie says that because the NY Times said it and he supposedly learned all he knew from the press. It doesn't mean it is true.

    2. But Rachel Maddow and Somerby agree it wasn't for political purposes. So does the NYTimes carry more weight in shaping the malleable mind of Governor Christie than the multi-millionaire clown at 30 Rock or the "national treasure" down by Baltimore?

  6. I myself do not think Wildstein is bluffing because bluffing would piss off the US attorney, and Wildstein will have to proffer whatever he has to get a deal anyway. I think they wrote "evidence exists" because they were ordered to turn everything over and if they didn't do that, it's contempt which they could probably trump up to "obstruction".

    He badly wants immunity for something and he seems to have a perfectly competent lawyer, so I would think he wants immunity because he did something unlawful.

    You don't have to treat it as a "smoking gun" to know it is bad news for Chris Christie, just reading the letter. It is unequivocally bad news for Chris Christie.

  7. So, in Bob's Bizarro World, Christie may well be the victim of both Wildstein's unhinged behavior and accusations as well as press speculation.

    And maybe Chris Christie has an evil twin and the real Chris Christie is being held by Mr Freeze in a giant refrigerated warehouse!

    Maybe Wildstein was a double agent also working for the mayor of Ft Lee .....or maybe even working for Maddow. We just don't know. We better wait until Christie appoints an investigative team.

    1. Way to misrepresent.

    2. I don't think I misrepresented at all. Bob's been wrong about this Christie scandal, and the press coverage of this scandal, from the start.

      However, I do like Bob's skeptical voice. I like that he will defy the most solid and universal conventional wisdom. I don't even mind the nit-picking. (Though, at least outside of Harvard, "classmates" can refer to acquaintances that attended school together without regard to year of graduation. I wouldn't use it that way, but people do.) So, I would like to express the sincere hope that Bob has the good fortune to find a more fertile ground in his next thread of posts.

    3. A classmate is someone who was in the same class as you. Wildstein and Christie were in different years so they were not in the same classes.

    4. I agree. Trollmes did not misrepresent. Mr. Freeze would indeed need a giant refrigerated warehouse if he were holding the real Chris Christie.

    5. Anon 1249,
      I agree that yours is a nice, precise usage guide for the word. I would prefer that people use "farther" to refer to cases of distance while using "further" for cases of time or abstract concepts. But people, even NYTimes reporters, often use less precise formulations. Whadda ya gonna do?

    6. Trollmes, I agree that yours is a nice use of the word nice. So since it's not such a big deal, why can't the NYT take the trouble to get it right?

    7. deadrat,

      Is it really that they don't "take the trouble to get it right?"

      Or is it more that they seem consistently to take the small trouble to get it wrong, in a manner which tilts a certain way?

    8. Anonymous @3:06P,

      It depends on whether you're a believer in the stupidity theory of the world or the conspiracy theory of the world.

      For my part, I believe in a conspiracy of the stupid, so I think it's impossible to tell.

  8. "According to civics textbooks, journalists are supposed to remind us excitable citizens of the problems with vague accusations like these."

    This has to be one of the silliest things I have ever read on a blog.

    If an elected official appeared on a cable talk show and babbled nonsense like this, Somerby would be quick to hammer the reporter who didn't ask, "Really? Name one textbook that ever said anything remotely close to that.

    As Somerby has said many times, anything is possible. So if one reader comes up with a quote from a civics textbook with an example to use in defense of the blogger, I will add that textbook to the list of silly civics texts I have read.

    1. What an inducement to look up this basic premise upon which our democracy rests!

    2. I take it you, like Somerby, can't name one.

    3. No need to look this up in a textbook. See the first amendment to the US Constitution.

    4. Damn. You are right. I apologize.

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the of the press that must remind our excitable citizens of the problems with vague accusations; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  9. OMB (Pundits Just Want To Embarass the OTB)

    Allegedly boy and girl (especially girl) pundits embarass themselves.
    As they say down Texas way, BOB does it to his own damn self.

    The higlighted words that follow are from Racel Maddow back in December. The words that follow are in response from BOB.

    And if the traffic study line is proven to not be true, what happens to Chris Christie then?....

    "Rachel engaged in free insinuation, trying to provide us with our nightly Christie hard-ons.

    Luckily, we were able to answer her question. If the traffic study line is proven to not be true, Chris Christie will say that he didn’t know.

    Presumably, his claim will be true. That’s what happens to Christie."


    1. Before Somerby debunked the "high school buddies" claim, Christie haters (i.e. Dem. party loyalists) thought their being buddies was a big deal. Now they want to ignore the whole thing. LMAO!

    2. And Bob "debunked" it how? Oh yeah. Christie said so.

    3. Since you disagreed with nothing KZ said, Mr. Perez, is it fair to assume that Somerby embarassed himself by stating in December that nothing will happen to Christie because he will simply deny knowing anything about the traffic study.

    4. Anonymous @10:48,

      TDH was wrong in December when he wrote that the scandal wasn't much of a story. He was right in December when he said that there was no evidence to tie Christie to the closings. Could you direct me to the entry in which he said that nothing will happen to Christie?

    5. Until Cecelia comes along to explain what Bob really, really meant, his words stand by themselves, deadrat.

    6. Anonymous @2:36P,

      OK, his words stand by themselves. Could you point me to those stand-alone words of his that say nothing will happen to Christie?

      I don't find that Cecelia "explains" what Bob meant. She points out what Bob wrote. TDH is as subtle as a jackhammer.

  10. What Bob seems to ignore is that Christie is largely a *creation* of the "press corps" he loathes.

    As the liberal world's "MVP," Krugman notes on his blog:

    "What’s remarkable here, actually, is how many pundits were taken in by the Christie persona. How could they not at least have wondered whether this guy’s bullying style reflected deeper flaws?"

    1. And Krugman has been challenging the "Christie persona" from Christie's earliest days in office.