SPAWN OF DOWD: O'Donnell buys the con!


The Pew Center’s latest victim: In itself, it doesn’t hugely matter. But it was just as we told you in yesterday’s post! (Click here, scroll to the bottom.)

Last evening, on the Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell was saying that voters are obsessed with the fact that Mitt Romney’s a Mormon. As Lawrence explained how bad things are, he became Pew’s latest victim:
O’DONNELL (10/19/11): Ron Carey, the new NBC poll of South Carolina and Florida Republican voters goes to another problem that appears to be—it doesn’t exactly say how it plays in the campaign. But the question, the Mormon question, that we all don’t even quite know how to talk about.

For example, in South Carolina, the NBC poll found that of Republican primary voters, 53 percent say, no, a Mormon is not a Christian. In Florida, 42 percent of Republican primary voters say a Mormon is not a Christian.

And then there’s another question. A recent poll, it asked to describe Mitt Romney in one word. 60 percent used the word Mormon. The next thing down was health care, at 17 percent.

Is there a way to factor in what the Mormon factor is in Republican primary voting and how it’s going to affect Romney going forward?
Do we know “how to talk about the Mormon question?” First, Lawrence said we didn’t. Then, he proceeded to prove it.

No, it doesn’t hugely matter. But as the videotape makes clear, Lawrence was talking about the new Pew survey, which asked respondents to describe Romney in one word. But it wasn’t sixty percent of respondents who blurted out the word “Mormon.” It was sixty respondents—sixty respondents in all, out of 1007 adults who were surveyed. To verify this, just click here.

In fact, the actual percentage who said the word “Mormon” was just under six percent. But people! What's a factor of ten? It's close enough for cable!

Several points:

It’s an indictment of the (generally worthless) Pew reports that its people keep asking this question. As we told you yesterday morning: “This survey question rarely produces useful data—and it constantly produces confusion.”

Ten hours later, O’Donnell went on the air. He and his viewers became Pew’s latest marks.

The people at Pew should drop this question, along with a lot more of their work. But let’s include a brief word about O’Donnell.

Who is Lawrence O’Donnell? In 1994, O’Donnell got hot. He married a movie semi-star and scored a few profiles in the press. At the time, O’Donnell was a top aide to Daniel Moynihan, who would spend the rest of the decade helping George Bush find his way into the White House. You had to chuckle at something Jeanne Wright wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
WRIGHT (8/12/94): Sen. Boxer said O'Donnell is "extremely effective because of his special relationship with Pat Moynihan. That kind of relationship is rare in life. There is a certain kinship there."

Others are quick to criticize that relationship.

"Lawrence brings out the worst in Moynihan," said a White House staffer. "He fosters and encourages the testy Moynihan, the easily offended Moynihan, the Moynihan who reads insults when they are not given."

Said one Administration official: "He's adopted Moynihan's intellectual arrogance, but without the intellect."
We're not saying that's accurate. Meanwhile, in the home-town Boston Globe, Jack Farrell had already described the various forms of the steamy man-love, including a quote from a memoir O’Donnell had written about his father:
FARRELL (3/20/94): "O'Donnell Abu!" Moynihan sings, when asked about his protege. "That's a-b-u," says the Senate's reigning intellectual, spelling out the traditional Irish victory chant.

"God, he's something special, isn't he? Put it down there: The country is better off because O'Donnell is looking after your health care," Moynihan says. "We want to give the president a bill, and if it can be done O'Donnell will do it."


O'Donnell certainly suffers no shortage of self-esteem. In his book he describes his brother Michael as a "handsome . . . six-footer with the arms of a blacksmith . . . pale blue eyes and movie-star teeth." Without missing a beat he goes on to write, "we are occasionally mistaken for each other."
Presumably, Farrell was jealous.

Moynihan went on to undermine Candidate Gore, braying on the front page of the New York Times when Gore dared to use the word “privatization” to describe Candidate Bush’s proposal for Social Security.

Yes, that really happened. The “liberal world” sat and stared.

O’Donnell went on to cable stardom. No, it doesn’t gigantically matter. But last night, O’Donnell Abu became the Pew Center's latest score.

Coming tomorrow or Saturday: Disregard those recent Pew rankings of positive/negative coverage


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