THE YEAR OF THE LIBERAL: "PLAIN TALK," the New York Times headline says!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2016

That's always a dangerous sign:
We're postponing our discussion of the pair of Trump voters who appeared, via videotape, on the December 10 Maddow program.

What are Trump voters actually like? We're postponing that discussion again!

Was 2015 really "the year of liberal loathing," as so many scholars are now claiming? Does that tendency toward tribal hatred tend to surface in liberal discussions of people who may vote for Trump?

Let's stop the clowning around! We think our world is full of liberal loathing, and we think it's ugly, unhelpful and stupid.

But good God! The items we've seen in the press just today! Let's discuss a bit of the context within which that loathing occurs.

The worst journalism we've read today is this lengthy New York Times news report about the situation in Flint. We'll discuss that report this afternoon. For now, let's discuss some other bobbles from the nation's discourse.

Fred Kaplan returns from Neptune

Our first click today produced this piece by Fred Kaplan at Slate. Kaplan is a 61-year-old Pulitzer-winning journalist. He also seems to be newly returned from a long sojourn on Mars.

In his piece, Kaplan describes the context surrounding Hillary Clinton's vote in October 2002 on the Iraq war resolution. Incredibly, this is Kaplan's explanation for his new report:
KAPLAN (2/4/16): Listening to her rationale Wednesday night, I didn’t know whether she was telling the truth. I had written many Slate columns about the Iraq debate and the ensuing war, but I couldn’t remember the details of then-Sen. Clinton’s position. Looking up those details now, I have come to a conclusion about the rationale she recited at the New Hampshire town hall: Hillary was telling the truth.
Whatever one thinks of Kaplan's conclusions about Clinton's past motivations and current accuracy, his report is full of actual information. That said, it's stunning to think that he actually had to research this matter—that he "couldn't remember the details" he's reporting today.

Down through the years, we've been stunned by the clueless way we liberals describe and discuss that war resolution vote. It's astounding to think that a journalist of Kaplan's standing "couldn't remember" the discussion and debate which surrounded that fateful vote.

That said, Kaplan's report includes this correction: "This article originally misidentified Rep. Richard Gephardt as a senator and the Democratic majority leader. He was the House minority leader."

Everybody makes mistakes. But people, really! Good God!

The New York Times headlines PLAIN TALK

It's never a good sign when a major news org thinks it has spotted "plain talk."

During the Clinton/Gore/Clinton years, straight talk, straight-shooting and plain talk have formed the basis for an endless, ongoing press corps narrative. Our journalists have constantly spotted this type of straight talk, always from pols who are opposing the fake, phony Clintons-and-Gore.

This morning, the New York Times headlined "plain talk" right at the top of our hard-copy front page. Traditionally, warning lights begin to flash when the Times offers headlines like this:

"PLAIN TALK PULLS YOUNGER VOTERS TO SANDERS RUN"

We're so old that we can remember when "straight talk" was allegedly pulling voters to Bill Bradley's run, even as Bradley was lying his ascot off about an array of topics. (Al Gore invented Willie Horton!)

Saint McCain, the king of alleged "straight talk," was exhibiting similar problems. The press kept averting its gaze.

We warned you then as we'll warn you today—when the press corps bestows this benediction on pols, such pols will often be inclined to take advantage. That doesn't mean that Candidate Sanders is doing this. But it also doesn't mean that he isn't, or that he won't.

This morning's front-page PLAIN TALK report
was written by Amy Chozick. She quickly quotes an 18-year-old college freshman. This youngster recites the narrative the Times has peddled concerning the Clintons and Gore for an extremely long time.

Journalistic claims of PLAIN TALK should serve as a warning sign. This is a very old press corps script, one that's been badly abused.

Top savant tells Playboy all

Is Bernie Sanders a viable candidate? How about Hillary Clinton?

We don't know how to answer those questions. Inevitably, though, we felt ourselves forced to click on this Politico proffer:

"Maddow: Hard to see Sanders winning"

As it turned out, Maddow had been sharing her insights with Playboy. And she meant it was hard to see Sanders winning the Democratic nomination, not the general election. ("My prediction for Bernie: populist hero forever but hard to imagine him still being there at the convention.")

Although we have no idea if he will, we don't find it hard to imagine Sanders winning the nomination. By traditional norms, he couldn't win the general election—but traditional norms are losing their hold, and the GOP may nominate a candidate who "can't win the general" either.

In fairness, Maddow is rarely wrong in these matters. On several occasions last summer and fall, she correctly noted that Rick Santorum was "the best communicator" in the large GOP field. She followed the lead of Lawrence O'Donnell, who insisted for months in 2011 that Tim Pawlenty was going to be the Republican Party's 2012 nominee.

Concerning the possible death of plain talk

People get crazy during campaigns, crazy and scripted and tribal. We're all inclined to be this way. This morning, Paul Krugman complains:
KRUGMAN (2/5/16): And speaking of demonization: One unpleasant, ugly side of this debate has been the tendency of some Sanders supporters, and sometimes the campaign itself, to suggest that anyone raising questions about the senator’s proposals must be a corrupt tool of vested interests.

Recently Kenneth Thorpe, a respected health policy expert and a longtime supporter of reform, tried to put numbers on the Sanders plan, and concluded that it would cost substantially more than the campaign says. He may or may not be right, although most of the health wonks I know have reached similar conclusions.

But the campaign’s policy director immediately attacked Mr. Thorpe’s integrity: “It’s coming from a gentleman that worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield. It’s exactly what you would expect somebody who worked for B.C.B.S. to come up with.” Oh, boy.
For the record, the same thing happened in 1999 when the very same Kenneth Thorpe "tried to put numbers" on the Gore and Bradley health plans. His motives were attacked by Bradley folk, until Bradley's top health care adviser acknowledged that the campaign had screwed up its number-crunching.

(Or perhaps they made their numbers up. When pols are granted the PLAIN TALK tag, they tend to start taking advantage.)

That health care aide was never heard from again. Needless to say, the narrative about Straight Talker Bradley and Big Liar Gore continued without interruption.

"Insulted the entire gay community"

In many ways, we think Bernie Sanders is a phenomenal pol. That said, we aren't sure what would happen once the attack machine started on him. You can be sure that 18-year-olds on page one of the Times haven't examined this question.

In many ways, we think Sanders is phenomenal. That said, we're going to revisit that ancient warning about pols who get praised for PLAIN TALK. As a warm-up, let's start with this passage from Krugman's column:
KRUGMAN (2/5/16): We saw something similar back in 2008, when some Obama supporters temporarily became bitter opponents of the individual mandate—the requirement that everyone buy insurance—which Hillary Clinton supported but Mr. Obama opposed. (Once in office, he in effect conceded that she had been right, and included the mandate in his initiative.)
Krugman is being polite. The individual mandate always polled poorly. Despite that fact, Candidate Clinton went ahead and proposed it. Candidate Obama said he opposed the mandate, then flipped once he'd been elected.

Who engaged in PLAIN TALK there? By the dictates of Hard Pundit Law concerning the Clintons and Gore, you weren't allowed to imagine that Candidate Clinton had been forthcoming while the other fellow had possibly worked a small con.

Last evening, Candidate Sanders "misremembered" another such moment from that campaign. It involved Obama's pledge "to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries."

Erring, Candidate Obama said he would do that; Candidate Clinton said she would not. Last night, Candidate Sanders "misremembered" what this dispute had actually been about. Candidate Clinton tried to correct him.

When he made this small mistake, was Candidate Sanders taking advantage of an ancient narrative? Last week, we were surprised when we saw the videotape of this peculiar remark on the cable show Hardball:
SANDERS (1/29/16): It is great to be against the war after you vote for the war. It is great to be for gay rights after you insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA. It is great to finally kicking and screaming, come out against the TPP, but where were you on all of the other trade agreements.
Did Hillary Clinton "insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA?" Did Bill Clinton do that? That's what 18-year-olds are now being told, and the thought is stirring their souls.

For the record:

DOMA was authored by Bob Barr, a Republican congressman. It passed both houses of Congress by overwhelming, veto-proof majorities.

The vote was 85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House, with many famous liberal Dems voting in favor of passage. That was the politics of same-sex marriage at the time, before today's journalistically useful 18-year-olds had so much as been born.

Bill Clinton called the bill "unnecessary and divisive." Press secretary Mike McCurry called it "gay baiting, plain and simple." After it passed by those overwhelming margins in the fall of 1996, Clinton decided to sign it, but he refused to hold a signing ceremony. Among other things, it seems to have been a defense against defeat in November's general election.

Did President Clinton "insult the entire gay community" by doing what he did? If he did, so did the bulk of Democrats in both the House and the Senate. That includes the late Senator Wellstone, as Candidate Clinton noted last night.

Did Hillary Clinton "insult the entire gay community" at that time? We'd be inclined to call that a stretch, even a bit of an ugly stretch.

Is it possible that 18-year-olds are being misled by yet another official PLAIN TALKER? Our national discourse is scripted, brainless, empty, dumb. For that reason, you will never see any such question raised on page one of the Times.

We're frequently stunned by the know-nothing way the politics of the 1990s get discussed. In the first click we clicked today, Kaplan extended the problem into 2002.

This is the know-nothing, dumbnified context within which we the liberals assess the nation's Trump voters. The truth is, we liberals just aren't especially sharp, though you'll never get us the liberals to believe such a ludicrous claim.

Still coming: Assessing that pair of Trump voters

23 comments:

  1. Bob Somerby skips video of Trump voters. Instead gives his written imitation of a Trump subject-changing stream-f-conciousness speech.

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    1. How many different topics can you spot?

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  2. Plain Talk About Amy Chozik's latest article

    You'll never hear this from Bob Somerby. Amy Chozick quickly tells you what the article is all about:

    "On Monday in Iowa, Mr. Sanders defeated Mrs. Clinton among voters ages 17 to 29 by 70 percentage points, greater than the 43-percentage-point margin by which Barack Obama won that age group in Iowa in 2008."

    Bob tries to tell you she quickly quoted an 18 year old college freshman. Actually this is her first quote:

    “He may seem like some old geezer who doesn’t care about stuff,” said Caroline Buddin, 24, a sales associate in Charleston, S.C. “But if you actually give him the time of day and listen to what he has to say, he has a lot of good ideas.”

    The 18 year old was quoted second. Then Ms Chozik went on to say this:

    "Some 87 percent of likely New Hampshire primary voters ages 18 to 29 said they would vote for Mr. Sanders in the state’s primary on Tuesday, compared with 13 percent for Mrs. Clinton, according to a UMass-Lowell poll conducted Feb. 1 to 3."

    You didn't hear that from Bob either.

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    1. "You didn't hear that from Bob either."

      And it isn't relevant to -- more specifically, it does not contradict or vitiate -- the point of Somerby's piece.

      So, pardon us, Anonymous, if we don't give a shit about your irrelevant soi-disant "plain talk."

      Meanwhile, Somerby's right:

      The plain-talking Sanders is definitely misstating what happened around DOMA. Neither Clinton could fairly be called a supporter of that bill. By calling him plain-talking, the press abets this nonsense.

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    2. Who's "we"? You got a weasel in your pocket?

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    3. "The plain-talking Sanders is definitely misstating what happened around DOMA."

      Of course since Clinton flat out lied about DOMA earlier, saying she participated in Clinton administration discussions where it was determined DOMA could help head off a Contitutional Amerndment banning gay marriage, I guess one can use the excuse for Bernie that Clinton supporters give for her e-mail: everyone before her did it!

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    4. @ 7:11 PM -

      Breitbart ->>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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    5. Hardly @ 1:23 AM

      "Gay rights activists who opposed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, challenged this recent explanation by Clinton, saying it was a revisionist version of what really happened. Maddow asked Clinton whether her approach to civil rights issues were different from her husband’s, as shown by the policies he enacted. Many of the civil rights achievements of the Obama administration were undoing policies under Bill Clinton’s administration for politically practical reasons, Maddow said, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” mandatory sentencing and DOMA.
      -------
      We always place the burden of proof on the speaker. However, the Clinton campaign declined to comment in response to our inquiries. So we examined whether there really is evidence to support her explanation that there was enough political momentum to amend the U.S. Constitution, and that “there had to be some way to stop that.” What we found was a lot murkier than she made it seem. The evidence, if any, is pretty slim."

      Washinton Post Fact Checker 10/28/15

      "Sorry, Hillary, Gay Rights Advocates Say Bernie Is Right On DOMA History"

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-doma_us_562e7dcae4b0c66bae58eb2e

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    6. Anonymous @ 1:23 AMFebruary 6, 2016 at 12:59 PM

      Even your own citations don't support your claim that HRC "flat out lied."

      Get a grip on your hCDS.

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    7. I am voting for Hillary. Her story on DOMA is BS though. Her inability to accept that she has ever been wrong until it is too late is one of her weaknesses, however. Your inability to recongize flaws in who you support is one of yours. Hence your projection and suggestion of my derangement. But you are a liberal, and thus a hater. It is trend. According to Bob.

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  3. Here is what Bob quotes Sanders as saying on Hardball:

    "SANDERS (1/29/16): It is great to be against the war after you vote for the war. It is great to be for gay rights after you insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA. It is great to finally kicking and screaming, come out against the TPP, but where were you on all of the other trade agreements."

    Here is Bob'sa response to that statement:

    "Did Hillary Clinton "insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA?" Did Bill Clinton do that? That's what 18-year-olds are now being told, and the thought is stirring their souls."

    Did Bernie Sanders mention Hillary Clinton? Did he mention Bill Clinton? Is Bib conceding that, if Sanders is talking about Hillary, that his statement about the was and about trade is right?

    Is two out of three pretty good in a campaign? Be careful how you respond, if you are a Hillary supporter.

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    1. Well, was Sanders talking about the Clintons or somebody else? And Bernie is playing fast and loose with all three.

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    2. I have no idea who he is talking about. If it were not Bob's affinity for Bill Clinton, I am sure he would have used that clip to attack Matthews for misleading us about Sanders.

      I would put Clinton's commnet s about Sanders's positions on guns and health care up against these comment and call them even.

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    3. Except all Saint Bernie has to offer is his purity. Once that is gone, and you admit it is, you have just another guy who will bend the truth to get elected.

      I think what Clinton said about Sanders is more trule than what Sanders said about Clinton, so I see this as a false equivalence.

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    4. I liked Bernie more when he first started running than I do now. He is as bad a loser as Trump, calling for a recount or revote in Iowa. Maybe that's what happens when amateurs run for president.

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    5. Gotta admit you are right. Hillary is a pro. She has already proven she know all there is to know about runing a losing race for President.

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    6. Any vote count with multiple coin flips and shady fractional delegates is fair game to all kinds of criticism. Iowa's sense of entitlement at going first has puffed up self-importance and let to arcane procedures bearing little resemblance to democracy.

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    7. Any vote count with multiple coin flips and shady fractional delegates is fair game to all kinds of criticism. Iowa's sense of entitlement at going first has puffed up self-importance and let to arcane procedures bearing little resemblance to democracy.

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  4. Fairly good work here. We must note, if W is eventually let completely off the hook for the Invasion of Iraq, it will be left "progressives" who have done most of the heavy lifting. Such people for years explained that such a war could not come from the right, that the public would never stand for it. So, slippery characters that they are, they have all but made it Hillary's war.

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    1. Yes, I remember well Hillary landing on the USS Lincoln under the Mission Accomplished banner.

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  5. I think it's more than fair to ask if every civilized nation has healthcare for all at half the cost of ours, why do our "experts" keep coming up with such high estimates for American universal care. I'm assuming they are going to keep private elements, when the idea is to destroy them or bring them to heel. No more beeswax as usual.

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    1. It is pretty amazing that Sanders is the only candidate who comes close to saying what Somerby has for years, that we are being fleeced for health care. Yet Somerby is loyal to team Clinton for picking his college love, Gore.

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