Rich and McCammond do: Everybody hates what Joe Biden (can be said to have) said.
Everyone is deeply offended by his vile statement, whatever his statement was.
With this latest outburst of tribal inanity, an old villain has returned to the discourse—"paraphrase abuse." This procedural villain ruled Campaign 2000, eventually sending George Bush to the White House. At present, the villain threatens to dominate Campaign 2020, though in an amended form.
With these basic markers laid down, let's turn to what Kevin Drum said. His judgment may be a tiny tad harsher than ours in one respect, but it's a good place to start.
Drum started by quoting Rep. John Lewis, who had offered a defense of Biden's deeply offensive remarks. The blogger continued from there (headline included):
DRUM (6/21/19): Civil Rights Heroes Lewis and Clyburn Defend BidenAre Biden's detractors only pretending to be outraged by his outrageous remarks, whatever those remarks really were?
Rep. Jim Clyburn has defended Biden too. Is this just an age thing? Maybe, but under normal circumstances John Lewis’s opinion on race issues is hailed as nearly definitive. Why not this time too?
I’m not thrilled about the prospect of Democrats nominating a candidate of Biden’s age. But I’m also not thrilled with a bunch of Democrats pretending to be outraged that Biden is condoning racism or dog whistling to bigoted whites. It’s only June, and this is already turning into a very ugly primary race.
We'd be slow to voice that definitive judgment. But we'd agree that the highly impressive expressions of virtue concerning the candidate's offensive remarks suggest the possibility of a "very ugly," and perhaps self-destructive, Democratic primary race.
Do we enjoy having Trump as president? If so, let's keep this up!
That said, let's turn to the expressions of outrage—and to the ominous return of an ancient enemy, "paraphrase abuse." In 1999 and 2000, twenty months of such abuse sent George W. Bush to the White House.
In the wake of a failed impeachment, the mainstream press corps hated Bill Clinton. He'd enjoyed ten acts of oral sex without first gaining their permission!
Candidate Gore represented their last shot at Clinton. Result? Every time Gore opened his mouth, the corps invented creative paraphrases of what he'd supposedly said.
Pundits would repeat these invented statements, expressing their outrage and shock. They kept it up right through the first Bush-Gore debate, when they invented two new "lies" the psychiatric basket case had allegedly loosed on the world.
In this way, the tribal behavior known as "paraphrase abuse" (more simply, PA) sent Bush to the White House. That said, this was a type of PA which is technically known as group paraphrase abuse (GPA).
What the heck is GPA? In this tragic form of abuse, all members of a tribe or guild agree to inventively paraphrase their victim in the exact same way.
For example, everyone agrees to say, Al Gore said he invented the Internet! The standard invented paraphrase is repeated again and again.
A slightly more comical form of PA is emerging in the case of Biden. In an outbreak of divergent paraphrase abuse (DPA), each child is permitted to offer his or her unique account of what was allegedly said.
In an outbreak of DPA, everyone agrees to hate what the target said, but everyone paraphrases the hated remarks in his or her own way. Everyone hates what the target said and meant, but no one agrees what that was!
Let's apply these anthropological findings to the subject of Biden's remarks. First, an important point:
As we noted yesterday, no one exactly knows what Candidate Biden said. There is no audio- or videotape of his plainly offensive remarks. There is no full, reliable transcript.
All we have is the brief "pool report" penned by some unnamed reporter. (For the brief text of the pool report, see yesterday's post.) The pool report included a couple of quoted remarks, absent a fuller attempt at context. We can't even be sure the "quotations" are perfectly accurate, but the wider context is largely unaddressed.
A sensible person would start with those understandings—with the awareness that he or she didn't quite know exactly what Biden had said. But within our pseudo-liberal and MSM worlds, the absence of full knowledge will more typically be seen as an interpretive advantage!
This lack of knowledge lets the individual paraphrase the target's remarks in a way he or she finds most pleasing. This brings us to the paraphrase of Biden offered yesterday by Frank Rich.
Yesterday, we suggested that Mayor de Blasio may be the world's dumbest person. We'll admit that we had completely forgotten that Rich is still roaming the earth.
As he proved in the years which followed Campaign 2000, Rich may be the dumbest person of the past fifty years. Yesterday, huffing and blowing in vintage fashion, he paraphrased Biden like this:
RICH (6/21/19): [Biden's] Trump-like refusal to apologize for his tone-deaf remarks about the civility he enjoyed with segregationist colleagues in the Senate shows that he really is clueless. He keeps protesting that he’s not a bigot and that he (mostly) supported civil-rights legislation. True, but that’s changing the subject. His behavior this week reminds us that there are fundamental failures of empathy and historical sophistication that explain why he was flummoxed by the Clarence Thomas–Anita Hill hearings and why he championed the 1994 “tough on crime” law that contributed to the rise of mass incarceration. It’s why, in 2019, he actually considers it an accolade that a viciously racist senator called him “son” instead of “boy.”As is required by Hard Pundit Law, Rich cited the 1994 crime bill, which was supported by two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Clyburn, and was enabled through a procedural vote by Rep. Lewis.
Beyond that, if the crime bill actually "contributed to the rise of mass incarceration," it did so in the tiniest way, as the data make clear.
Inevitably, Rich started with that. But good God! As he continued, he said that Biden "actually considers it an accolade that a viciously racist senator called him 'son' instead of 'boy.' " Frank Rich was able to draw that insight from his reading of Biden's remarks!
Admittedly, that inference by Rich is spectacularly dumb, heading directly toward stupid. But good lord! Later that day, on Deadline: White House, Alexi McCammond managed to top even Rich!
McCammond is cable TV's latest "It [Young Female Person]." It would be our guess that cable producers love McCammond because she's quite young (University of Chicago, class of 2015) but looks even younger.
(Yes, that's part of the way cable works with respect to the peddling of female flesh. Based on past performance, the liberal world will start to notice this corporate behavior around the year 2050.)
We'll guess that cable loves McCammond for another reason. Partly due to her youth and inexperience, she has absolutely nothing to say. She makes up for this shortfall by being an amazingly earnest reciter of Official Approved Tribal Script, to the extent that she understands it.
Perhaps for these reasons, McCammond appeared on yesterday's Deadline: White House. Her assessment of Biden's remarks was even more clueless than Rich's.
Yes, she actually said these things (click here, advance to the 5-minute mark). McCammond is very young:
MCCAMMOND (6/21/19): At some point, you have to think twice, and maybe three times, about the things that you're saying. And instead of just flat-out refusing to apologize for everything, which seems like a strategy of defiance, and maybe even taking a page from Trump's playbook, why not say, "Yeah! I messed up! I didn't realize, when I said that, the implications and the racial history of calling black men 'boy.' "Let's face it! Even by cable news standards, that was just tragically dumb.
And also, that suggests he has so much privilege, by saying "I was called son and not boy," that he doesn't even recognize that I think it's more complex than even the racial aspect. There's an aspect of privilege that he's not acknowledging when he's trying to serve the entire country and he's running a campaign on saying he will unite everyone, which includes black folks and people with no privilege, instead of being a divider like President Trump. It just surprise me that he thinks it's defiant not to apologize, but he can't own up to the things that he gets wrong.
The idea that Biden doesn't "realize the implications and the racial history of calling black men 'boy' " takes us well past merely dumb to the realm of tragically dumb. That particular speculation is so dumb it defies comprehension.
As she continued, the youngster interpreted Biden's remark about having been called "son" in a way which also seems remarkably dumb. It's hard to know exactly what the earnest young pundit actually meant, but she seemed to be saying that Biden failed to acknowledge the "privilege" that allowed him to be called "son" when others were being called "boy."
That also strikes us as an amazingly improbable reading of what Biden felt, thought or meant as he apparently affected a deep Southern drawl to mock the men in question, one of whom he identified as "one of the meanest guys I ever knew." In fairness to the hapless McCammond, she then began assailing Biden with the word "privilege," just like her assistant, associate and adjunct professors always trained her to do.
Given McCammond credit! She recited one emerging Standard Script, in which Biden is accused of taking a page from Trump's playbook by refusing to apologize for his millions of sins. That said, her rumination on Biden's view of "son, not boy" truly defied comprehension. She may have been working from Rich's text at that point. If so, she went him one better.
This was typical mumblespeak on McCammond's part. Why is someone so young and so clueless on a national program at all? (She has even appeared on Meet the Press!)
We've already given you one possible explanation. Reliably, McCammond attempts to say what she thinks Teechur wants to hear said. She often stumbles beyond the actual tribal boundaries, a tendency which is likely overlooked due to her youthful (female) appearance.
(Cable news doesn't book incompetent men of such tender years. The liberal world will notice this type of exploitation by the year 2050.)
No one is able to review a full transcript of Biden's remarks. No one can view a videotape to assess his tone and demeanor.
That said, your press corps is full of novelists, and our array of Democratic hopefuls is straining to eat into Biden's lead in the polls. We think Drum is justified in his concern about an ugly race to come, with hopefuls "pretending" that their attacks are heroic and deeply principled.
For ourselves, we only wish that Lewis and Clyburn would take the time, even once, to sit down with the genius McCammond and get some grounding in the history of racial misconduct. No doubt they wallow in privilege too. The utterly ridiculous McCammond could surely straighten them out!
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But as Professor Harari has tried to explain, our human race is quite unimpressive when we split into tribes and guilds and start inventing group "fictions." Also, when our youngsters chase careers, or when our pols chase higher office.
Donald J. Trump is in the White House. With our tribe's unparalleled performative virtue, we liberals may keep him right there.
Fox is laughing at this every night. It's not at all clear that they're wrong.