Our third annual pitch: History costs money!


Will the future be served: Filling in at the Washington Monthly last weekend, Elon Green made it look very easy.

Responding to Maureen Dowd’s latest breakdown, he offered a capsule account of the press corps’ conduct in Campaign 2000. “By the time George Bush took office, this was accepted wisdom,” Green correctly wrote:
Al Gore said he’d invented the Internet; announced that he had personally discovered Love Canal, the most infamous toxic-waste site in the country; and bragged that he and Tipper had been the sole inspiration for the golden couple in Erich Segal’s best-selling novel Love Story (made into a hit movie with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal).
“Of course, none of this was true,” Green said. “But thanks in no small part to an unquestioning press—led, in fact, by Dowd herself—voters swallowed it whole.”

We don't know if voters “swallowed it whole,” but the press corps mightily tried. If they changed even one percent of the vote (and they did), they changed that election’s outcome. And that was a very fateful election. We were soon on our way to Iraq.

In one paragraph, Green gave a capsule account of Campaign 2000—and he tied it to the disgraceful Dowd. It’s amazing how rarely this has been done by the career liberal world. From March 1999 on, your nation’s elites have all agreed to swallow this story—a story which is much more awful than the part Green so easily told.

There’s a reason for that silence, of course. Having lost their minds over President Clinton’s blow jobs, they all took part in the twenty-month war which sent Bush to the White House. And they will never say so. People like Dowd have never been asked, not even once, to explain all the things they did.

It has all been disappeared.

The world would be a saner place if voters got to hear the facts Green so easily rattled. The fuller story is simply amazing; here at THE HOWLER, we want to leave that story for voters of the future. Let’s face it: Contemporary voters will never hear the story of the press corps’ conduct during the Clinton-Gore years, when conservative power was congealing in Washington.

Contemporary voters will never hear about the events described in Fools for Scandal. They’ll never hear the full story which lies behind Green’s capsule account. But future voters may want to know—and they will deserve to hear. We’d like to leave them the story.

We wouldn’t ask if there weren’t a need. But history takes time and money! Iif you want to support this effort, we hope you'll just click here.

Chapter 7 is coming next. The story gets worse and worse.

Elon Green made it look very easy. It’s stunning to think how rarely the public gets has been allowed to hear those facts. The full story ought to be told.

Why not pay history forward?

Embarrassment is watching your own side do it!


Chris and Eugene and Jack Welch oh my: Embarrassment is watching your own side do it.

Last night, a repurposed Chris Matthews and two scripted guests were complaining about the fact that a candidate said something accurate.

The offending person was Candidate Romney, who had appeared on a radio show (last week). Matthews played tape of Romney's exchange with his pal, Laura Ingraham:
INGRAHAM (videotape): How do you answer the president's argument that the economy is getting better in a general election campaign if you yourself are saying that it’s getting better?

ROMNEY: Well of course it’s getting better. The economy always gets better after a recession. But the question is, has it recovered by virtue as something the president has done or has he delayed the recovery and made it more painful? The latter is, of course, the truth.

INGRAHAM: Isn’t that a hard argument to make? Is that a stark enough contrast?

ROMNEY: Well, have you got a better one, Laura? This happens to be the truth.
The economy is getting better, of course, compared to where it has been. It would be absurd to say different. (The economy grew by 2.8 percent in the last quarter.)

Quite correctly, we liberals have gotten upset when Republicans make absurd misstatements about such matters. (The stimulus didn’t create any jobs!) Last night, the children got mad when Romney made this accurate statement.

Chris is a clown, as he always has been. But today, he’s a clown on our side:
MATTHEWS (continuing directly): “Have you got a better one, Laura?” Is he asking Laura? I mean, I like Laura. You know, I disagree with her, but I think— Is he like counting on her to give him a better campaign strategy?

ROBINSON: He’s just fishing around, you know? What’s interesting about that, of course, it’s a would have, could have, should have, right? And it’s a hypothetical. Of course, that’s his very case against Obama, and that’s Obama’s argument. Obama has made the recession worse. Obama says, “You know, if I hadn’t done the things I did, it would have been much worse than it was.”

MATTHEWS: Too much nuance.

ROBINSON: So it’s very difficult for Romney to say that Obama’s argument is ridiculous when in fact, he’s making the same argument.

MATTHEWS: Chris, last question to you. Why would you give away the store on the way to buy something? Why would you give it all away and say, yes, it's getting better? Sure. And, by the way, do you have a better argument for me, lady? Can you help me out here because I don’t have a better one?

I mean, give me a break! He’s admitting he doesn't have an argument against Obama.

CILLIZZA: I think Laura Ingraham asked the exact right question, which is, "Isn’t that a tough argument to sell?" And the reality is, Chris, it is. We know for a fact in politics is that the president probably gets too much blame, I should say probably gets too much blame when the economy is bad, gets too much credit when the economy gets better.

Romney seems to try to thinly slice that onion to say, "Well, yes, things are getting better, but it wouldn’t have gotten better as slowly if it wasn’t for what President Obama did."


CILLIZZA: It’s a lot more complicated argument than just to say things aren’t getting better. And remember in politics, especially campaign politics, especially presidential politics, simple is what sells.

MATTHEWS: Yes. You won the football game, but I would have won it by more points. Give me a break!
What an embarrassment these silly hired hands are.

Romney made an accurate statement; the economy is getting better, although it’s improving slowly. Everyone knows that’s true. But the hands all knew what the script demands. They pretended to get upset.

This is now the perpetual shape of the game on Our Own Liberal Channel. Almost every word is pretense. Ironically, we watched Piers Morgan a few hours later—and Jack Welch was Piers’ featured guest! Memories lit the corners of our minds as we remembered the way they were—the way Chris and his regular guests once pimped and recited for Jack, who was then Matthews' boss and patron:
WELCH (1/30/12): Well, I'm a big fan of Mitt Romney, not because of his combativeness, but because of his intellect and his ability to persuade all kinds of people to get together and get the right answers. So I'm—I think he's a solutions person. And this combative thing is necessary during these primaries, which is sort of crazy. But he's more of a conciliatory, pull teams-together and get- the-right-answer guy.


MORGAN: He's also, Jack, and I would imagine you would have been delighted by this. He's also turned the whole debate from his wealth and his success from what looked like a negative, because he looked so defensive about it, into much more of a positive now where he finally stood up and did what I guess you would have done a long time ago and said, “Hey, I've been successful, so what? That's the American way, isn't it?”

WELCH: Finally, he did it. It took him a long time. He's not a braggadocio guy. Candor like that doesn't come easy. Patting himself on the back doesn't come easy but he did it. And he did it in a first-class way. And he is a first-class person. And in doing that, he absolutely put the thing on the table. People might not like it. But John Kennedy was a wealthy man. Franklin Roosevelt was a wealthy man. Teddy Roosevelt was wealthy. We've had wealthy presidents.
There was more. But you get the idea.

We’re so old that we can remember when Matthews was pimping the viewpoint of Welch every night of the week. As he performed this nightly service, his salary went from $1 million to $5 million per year.

The “liberal” world just let it go. That includes people like Robinson.

You see, career liberals need good jobs at good pay! As editor of Style, Robinson savaged Candidate Gore in real time too.

Darlings! The hired hands were all doing it then! Today, though, things are much better. Today, they get to invent stupid claims which send thrills up our legs.

Romney made an accurate statement, saying it happens to be the truth. Treating his viewers like low-IQ fools, Chris Matthews got very upset.

The way the hired hands play you: Obama says this: “The economy is getting better. Except for me, it would have been worse.”

Romney says this: “The economy is getting slightly better. Except for him, it would have been better.”

Robinson knows what he's hired to do. “In fact, he’s making the same argument” as Obama, the hired hand brightly said.

DEATH AND TAXES AND NOVELS: Silly mistaken beliefs of the 34 percent!


Part 2—How we the rubes remain clueless: At one time, a person could count on two things. He could count on death and taxes.

Over the past forty years, that bargain has been expanded. Americans can count on death and taxes—and on novelized tales! We can count on the silly, novelized tales through which the boys and girls who pose as a press corps pretend to cover our White House campaigns (and many affairs of the wider world).

These silly tales pervaded the “press corps” of a Sunday morning:

Richard Nixon wasn’t gay—but Princess Margaret had a hot figure! Newt Gingrich has too many wives! And why in the world does President Barry argue with so many blonds on the tarmac? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/30/12.

Sunday morning, the Post and the Times drowned the nation in this sea of novelized piffle. Monday morning, the Post’s Marc Fisher followed suit on the front page of Style. His piece ate more than half that front page. On and on the gentleman went, discussing aspects of Mitt Romney’s wealth.

Should Mitt Romney have given that woman $50? Discuss—and see your brains turn to rot.

Romney’s proposals were not discussed in Fisher's long rumination. But time-honored novelized piffle held sway in part of his endless report:
FISHER (1/30/12): In 1992, when then-President George H.W. Bush flashed an amazed look upon seeing a demonstration of a supermarket price scanner, he was unfairly slammed as a rich guy so removed from ordinary life that he had never seen a staple of daily existence. In fact, Bush was expressing wonder over a new, advanced scanner, but the inaccurate reporting hit a nerve with voters who perceived Bush as detached.

Bush’s rich-guy reputation was so enduring that his son, George W., set out to create a wholly different story line—avoiding his Ivy League alma maters and Maine coast family compound to highlight his down-home Texas persona, a regular guy who spoke, acted and dressed differently from his Connecticut Yankee father.

President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign turned the tables on his wealthy opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry, who was pictured in a Bush-Cheney TV ad windsurfing off Nantucket, blowing to and fro as an announcer reeled off his waffling positions on a series of issues.
Supermarket scanners—and windsurfing! (Even worse—windsurfing off Nantucket!) These are the fatuous units of thought through which the “press corps” has long pretended to evaluate White House candidates.

(Of course, when judgment turns on such fatuous metrics, the “press corps” can easily tip the scales in a preferred direction. Fisher was too polite to mention the role the New York Times played in the fashioning of each Bush. In 1992, Andrew Rosenthal was the source for that “inaccurate reporting” about Bush 41, who had been judged to be out of touch. But by 1999, preference in Gotham had changed; by now, the children were very upset about Bill Clinton’s blow jobs. In line with this new improved view of the world, the Times was eager to pimp the “news” that Candidate Bush 43 had bought a Texas ranch, so reminiscent of President Johnson. The Times ran this bullshit on page one, with a photo, helping Bush type his new novel.)

This pseudo-coverage of the candidates has been widespread since 1972. And uh-oh! As our brains get filled with this stupid sad mush, we the people never seem to get clear about serious matters.

Consider this brief but remarkable post by the Washington Post’s Suzy Khimm. Monday morning, Fisher’s rumination on piffle ate up half of Style’s front page. Two days earlier, Khimm’s brief blog post had barely been noticed:
KHIMM (1/27/12): Northwestern University and University of Chicago’s business schools surveyed a group of top economists, as well as the public at large, and found some big differences when it came to economic policy. Some of the questions tested basic economic literary: A full 100 percent of economists agreed that permanently raising the federal tax rate by 1 percent for those in the top income tax bracket would increase federal tax revenue over the next 10 years. By contrast, only 66 percent of the general public agreed that this was the case, with just 50 percent of Republicans concurring and 80 percent of Democrats. The misconception could partly explain why there’s such aversion to tax increases.
Only 66 percent agreed with this thing that every economist knows. That leaves a clueless 34 percent. Never mind how we got that!

The highlighted finding is very sad, but it’s hardly surprising. Every economist agreed: Raising the marginal income tax rate would produce extra revenue. But only 50 percent of Republicans agreed with this obvious notion! As Kevin Drum noted before moving on, “That's a big victory for Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.”

It’s also a triumph of The Big Stupid—of the novelized culture which rules the work of our mainstream “press.”

Why did half of Republican voters doubt that rather obvious fact? Easy! For the past thirty years, a Potemkin “press corps” has gamboled and played, focusing on silly, novelized treatments of the candidates’ “character.” Every manner of inane absurd item has been served to us the rubes. We’ve been told that we can evaluate candidates by their clothing or by their choice in water sports—by their pointless offhand remarks, by the size of their houses. In 1988, Maureen Dowd (and a welter of others) told us that Candidate Bush 41 had asked for “a splash of coffee” at a New Hampshire diner. On the basis of this alleged locution, we were told he was out of touch.

In 2004, the same pseudo-journalist told us that Candidate Kerry had made a similar plummy remark. (“Who amongst us doesn’t like NASCAR.”) In each case, there is no evidence supporting the claim that the candidates made these reported remark. But in each case, the life-forms who work for the New York Times took the piffle and ran.

In the meantime, we the rubes were getting deceived about taxes.

Why did so many voters say that raising that tax rate might not increase revenue? Duh! Over the course of the past thirty years, corporate disinformation machines have drummed this into voters’ heads, even as our pseudo-journalists talked about earth tones and scanners and cheesesteaks—and pretended that Ed Muskie wept. If we lower the tax rates, we get extra revenue! Gullible fans of Rush and Sean have been handed this scam for a good many years—as the Dowds, the Collinses, the Riches, the Fishers gamboled and played and ignored. The sheer stupidity of our discourse reflects the interplay of these two groups: The hustlers who run disinformation machines and the crackpots who can’t stop discussing the imagined treatment of Mitt Romney’s dog. Before the week is done, we’ll review what the barely-sane Lady Collins told Diane Rehm about that topic, her favorite.

Long story short: Gail Collins is virtually out of her mind—and the mainstream “press corps” simply can’t tell! Neither can liberal voters, of course. And your career liberal intellectual leaders are sworn not to tattle.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the press corps’ neighborhood. Sunday morning, then again Monday, their silly, stupid-assed tales were spilling forth all over the land. Meanwhile, in a little-noticed post, Khimm recorded one small part of the blinding stupidity which defines our public debate.

Last night, on your liberal channel, all the whores were smiling your way, handing you novelized tales about Mitt. But uh-oh! In the past few weeks, the New York Times tried to explain the tax proposals of the various Republican candidates.

The New York Times gave this task its best shot. As usual, the New York Times failed.

Tomorrow: Explaining Romney’s proposals

At one time, Marc Fisher knew wardrobe: In the fall of 1999, Fisher was taking his character clues from one candidate’s wardrobe. A war was on against Candidate Gore. In the Washington Post’s Sunday magazine, Fisher typed the prevailing scripts, as all the whores had now done:
FISHER (11/28/99): Enter Al Gore. Seemed like a nice enough guy, maybe even a decent person. That is, until he started doing the kinds of contortions we've seen before in that Unreadable group. He became the New Gore, like the New Nixon. He got folksy on us, like Bush and his pork rinds. He started telling us deeply personal stuff that we didn't want to know, like Carter and his lust.


[W]hen Al Gore sneaks around and spends $15,000 a month to hire an oddball like Naomi Wolf, a controversialist who campaigns against the tyranny of the beauty culture and then plasters soft-lit glossies of herself and her perfectly teased hair all over the Internet and on her book jackets, we have two choices: We can say Gore's a good man who's been duped by over-eager aides, or we can say this is a man who does not know himself, a man who is unknowable, unreadable and therefore not fit to be president.

A person who makes her living by writing pop philosophy about sex tells a man who would be president of the United States that he must be a different kind of man, that he must be more assertive, that he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American. And he says, "Okay."

To call him unreadable is to be charitable.
That passage is political porn, of the highest and ugliest order. It explains how George Bush reached the White House. It explains the dead in Iraq.

Joan Walsh sat there and stared. As of last night, she's very troiubled by the dog on the roof of the car!

Fisher was troubled by Gore’s brown suit, which was “alien to virtually every American.” He was troubled by Naomi Wolf’s hair—and he was willing to call her an oddball. That passage is full of misstatements and unproven claims. But just for the record, that “oddball” had appeared on a special edition of Meet the Press just two years before, invited to be one of two guests to discuss the nation’s changing gender roles. Two of her books of "pop philosophy about sex" had been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

Naomi Wolf was thoroughly mainstream. Until these life-forms got started with their new death-dealing novel. (Three days later, Gore was accidentally misquoted about Love Canal, completely by mistake. Joan Walsh kept her trap shut, although last night she began to speak out concerning the dog on the car.)

Why does a man of Fisher’s low caliber still work within the mainstream press? In large part, the answer is obvious. We pseudo-liberals have agreed to this bargain. The silence provides high-paying employment for the whores who pimp on our side.

Candidate Gore wore an alien suit! Mitt Romney strapped his dog to his car! And raising the tax rate will not produce revenue!

These are the silly novelized tales which define our failing world.

Chapter 6: One last synopsis!


Why didn’t anyone speak: Tomorrow, we start our third annual fund-raising drive! After thirteen years at our post!

Lucky duckies will get the chance to fund our incomparable companion site, How He Got There.

Should the story which is being explored at that site be told in full? We’ll beg, you can decide!

For today, let’s ask one last question about our newly-posted Chapter 6: What did no one speak? (To read Chapter 6, just click here.)

Quick review: On December 1, 1999, Candidate Gore was accidentally misquoted by Ceci Connolly and Katharine Seelye in the Washington Post and the New York Times. Making matters worse, their accidental joint error had accidentally produced a “perfect misquotation.” According to the two reporters, Gore had said the following words to a high school class about the effort which produced the Superfund program in the late 1970s:

“I was the one that started it all!”

As accidentally misreported, Gore's statement was wonderfully grandiose—and it was plainly inaccurate! This made it a perfect misquotation for those who hoped to revive a dying theme: AL GORE, LIAR.

Sadly, Candidate Gore hadn’t made the grandiose statement in question. On Hardball, a major cable show, videotape made this fact clear that first very first night. Plainly, Candidate Gore didn’t say, “I was the one that started it all,” the grandiose, ungrammatical statement the two reporters accidentally managed to stick in his mouth by mistake. But so what! Major journalists just kept repeating the accidental misquotation over the course of the next several months! And no one stood up to correct them!

A few early examples:

On December 4, 1999, William Kristol repeated the perfect misquotation on CNBC’s Russert program. Tim Russert and Mark Shields simply stared as he did.

On December 5, Kristol repeated the perfect misquotation on ABC’s This Week. Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts and the two Georges just sat there and stared as he did. George Stephanopoulos said that Gore’s grandiose misstatement “again showed his Pinocchio problem.” Gore was a LIAR again!

On December 6, Brian Williams repeated the perfect misquotation on his hour-long nightly cable show. He was reading it from U.S. News, which had included the perfect misquotation in its new edition.

On December 7, the Washington Times apparently chose to start using the perfect misquotation. Up to that point, the paper had used accurate quotations in reporting this utterly pointless incident. But now, six days after the perfect misquotation was plainly corrected on cable TV, the paper’s editors switched from right to wrong, using the perfect misquotation in a punishing editorial which fretted about Gore’s mental state.

This went on for months. In the process, the GORE LIAR theme, hardened, then turned to stone. Question:

Why the heck did no one speak up as this press corps wilding continued? After the clowning performance by the Washington Times, we e-mailed Howard Kurtz ourselves! Howard Kurtz said and wrote nothing! Somehow, he just never heard!

Did no one see that this war of disinformation was being waged against Candidate Gore? Up in New Hampshire, the high school students to whom Gore had spoken were fighting to make the press tell the truth about what had occurred in their classroom. For their troubles, they were openly mocked in a December 14 report by the Associated Press. At that same AP, on December 1, a young reporter had tried to report the fact that Gore had been misquoted. Years later, she quoted her editor telling her this: The AP “isn’t in the business of correcting the Post and the Times.”

Her editor "still wanted an exaggeration story," she told a research team from the Kennedy School.

Why did no one speak in real time? Beyond that, why does no one discuss this amazing story even today?

We’re just asking—you can decide. We will recommend our Chapter 6, which we continue to rewrite in parts. Tomorrow, lucky duckies will get the chance to pay Chapter 7 forward, to fund this ongoing project.

Should future generations hear the truth about the way George Bush reached the White House? In the present day, people will never be told, of course—not by this press corps, not by this group of career “liberals.”

On that point we can all agree. But should future generations be told? Should they be told how we got here?

Paul Krugman’s meta-watch!


An important story continues: In this morning’s column, Paul Krugman continues a very important story—an important story which won’t gain traction, except in his own persistent reports.

Krugman continues to tell a meta-story—a story which can’t be folded within the existing frameworks of the establishment press. Krugman is telling a very big story.

Trust us. No one else will:
KRUGMAN (1/30/12): Haven’t we learned a lot about economic management over the last 80 years? Yes, we have—but in Britain and elsewhere, the policy elite decided to throw that hard-won knowledge out the window, and rely on ideologically convenient wishful thinking instead.
Krugman has told this story again and again. Trust us—it won’t gain traction.

What is Krugman’s meta-story? The gods don’t know what they’re doing! More simply put, the planet’s elites are ignoring the most elementary, hard-won knowledge about the way economies work.

This story flies in the face of our most basic ideas. Within mainstream frameworks, it can’t be true that our elites could be so deluded. And because Krugman’s story can’t be true, Krugman’s story won’t be discussed. Denial moves it off the stage. It’s a version of a jutifiably famous tale: The emperor’s new clothes.

The emperor’s new clothes may be the most insightful tale in the western arsenal. It defines the way the human mind refuses to see what stands right before it, if the obvious truth doesn’t comport with basic essential belief. In Anderson’s tale, it couldn’t be true that the emperor was so foolish as to parade around without clothes.

In the modern equivalent, it can’t be true that the Aspen crowd has walked away from the most elementary knowledge.

Krugman keeps writing this meta-report. It won’t be mentioned anywhere else. Everyone will glance away.

Darlings! This just isn’t said!

DEATH AND TAXES AND NOVELS: What we get instead!


Part 1—Sunday morning: “She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe, As a calm darkens among water-lights.”

Wallace Stevens said that. Just click here.

“What is it with Barack Obama’s penchant for getting in tangles with blond politicians on airport tarmacs?”

Alas. Maureen Dowd wrote that. But then, this is what Sunday morning is like within our sad, failing press culture:

“Was Nixon gay? No, but a rumor takes off.”

Yesterday morning, that was the banner headline atop page B3 of the Washington Post’s Outlook section. Professor Feldstein was all over the latest rumor—a rumor which hasn’t “taken off” and almost surely won’t. Including that eye-catching banner headline, this is the way he started:
FELDSTEIN (1/29/12): Was Nixon gay? No, but a rumor takes off.

Richard Nixon was many things—crafty, criminal, self-pitying, vengeful, paranoid. But gay?

According to a book to be released Tuesday, “Nixon’s Darkest Secrets,” the former president and his best friend, Charles “Bebe” Rebozo, had a relationship of a “possibly homosexual nature.”
Exciting! Professor Feldstein goes on to say that the author of this sad stupid book offers some “pretty thin gruel” on this topic—“but not so thin that it keeps the author from enthusiastic speculation.”

And not so thin that it kept the Post from this cry for readers’ eyeballs! Meanwhile, right at the top of Outlook’s front page, we were getting our sad, silly thrills about—bring it on!—Princess Margaret! Our world is very foolish:
SECREST (1/29/12): God save the queen from a tell-all

Once upon a time there were two princesses. The older sister was good and always did the right thing. She had a wonderful smile. When she grew up and became queen, she was going to single-handedly bring about a second Golden Age. Just like the first queen of the same name. Only better.

The younger sister was petite, shapely, smiled a lot and was absolutely stunning. All she had to do was be lovely, and, as one of Stephen Sondheim’s heroines sings in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” she did that extremely well. She joked and flirted and stayed out late and smoked and was really bad.
Richard Nixon wasn’t gay—but Princess Margaret was shapely and smoked, and she was really bad. (Later, we learn that she “had a great pair of gams.”) Accompanying these cries for help was Outlook’s featured report—a hopeless attempt by a senile professor to discuss a topic of the deepest importance, an utterly bogus pseudo-analysis which ran beneath the largest banner in American headline history.

For a very bad time, click here.

God may save the queen from a tell-all—but what can God possibly do for us? If Outlook was depressing and sad, the New York Times Sunday Review was possibly dumber, sadder. Gail Collins was on that section’s front page—and needless to say, she was beating her meat about Newt Gingrich’s love life. This is the way the semi-sane lady started to float readers’ boats:
COLLINS (1/29/12): Newt’s Real Legacy

Do you think that after all is said and done, Newt Gingrich will just go down in history as the politician who conclusively proved that voters don’t care about a candidate’s sexual misbehavior?
Collins cares about two things: Who’s fucking who—and their dogs. But then, she was matched this day by the pitiful Dowd, who stroked herself as she dreamed about the cat fights of President Barry.

She did lounge in her peignoir, we’d guess. Or was she face down on Dear Jack’s shag? After examining her text, we can’t be entirely sure: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/opinion/sunday/dowd-tension-on-the-tarmac.html?ref=todayspaper
DOWD (1/29/12): Tension on the Tarmac

What is it with Barack Obama’s penchant for getting in tangles with blond politicians on airport tarmacs?

Usually, tarmacs are for joyous welcomes or teary goodbyes. But No Drama Obama saves his rare tempests for the runway.
On and on this idiot went, feeling the dark encroachment of that old catastrophic event: Why didn’t Michael love me more than Zeta-whatsherthingy?

Richard Nixon wasn’t gay—but Princess Margaret had a hot figure! “Barry” loves to tangle with blonds—and inevitably, Collins was moved to type what follows, in the piece which headlined the Sunday Review: “Mitt Romney drove to Canada with the family Irish setter strapped on the car roof.”

Collins has long been visibly nuts—and this was Sunday morning.

(Tomorrow, more on this visible lunacy, as Diane Rehm wonderfully puzzles about the things this very strange person has told her.)

Nixon and Margaret and Seamus oh my! This is the lunacy editors gave us Sunday morning. And not only that! Beneath the piece about Nixon-ain’t-gay, Melinda Henneberger also mused about the meaning of Gingrich’s love life.

“Was Nixon gay?” and “What make Newt rut?” filled Outlook’s entire B3. No ads! Just solid good fun!

This brings us back to that pitiful piece which headlined Outlook’s front page. The piece was written by James Q. Wilson, who is now 80 years of age and “analyzes” a major issue like he’s approaching 300, a perfect score in bowling. The headline itself ate half the front page. In size (though not in shape), it resembled the banner a person might drag behind a plane at the beach:
Angry about income inequality?
Wilson’s “analysis” emerged from that sprawling large headline. Let’s just say this: If an undergraduate turned in that piece, you might wonder what happened to the poor kid when he was still in high school.

Dean Baker commented on Wilson’s piece; for our money, he was too kind, although he clarified a point we had wondered about as we read. We’ll return to the good professor’s report before our week of mornings is done. But Sunday morning showed us the state of American pseudo-discourse.

We the people don’t understand federal taxation (click here) or any other major topic. That fact has been shown again and again, in a string of information surveys conducted down through the years. And why are we the people so clueless? To some extent, it’s because the barely sane people we still call a “press corps” cram their foolish repetitive piffle into our heads instead.

Can we be sure of death and taxes? That used to be the deal. But in our press corps, we get little clear writing about taxation, a point we will examine all week.

Thanks to our vacuous press corps culture, we get dreamy novels—complacencies—rammed into our head-holes instead.

Tomorrow: The (mistaken) thoughts of the 34 percent

Chapter 6: Why not the worst!


The role that was played by Chris Matthews: By now, the gentleman has been repurposed.

Today, Chris Matthews is a reliable member of the pro-Obama, pro-Democratic Party team we watch on MSNBC. His blustering and his overstatements now serve "liberal" interests.

This may even represent some version of his actual political outlook.

But during the Clinton-Gore years, Matthews played a vastly different role in our political discourse. During the twenty months of Campaign 2000, no one worked harder than Matthews did to drive the war against Candidate Gore—to send George Bush to the White House.

Just a guess: We would guess that Matthews was behaving this way at the behest of Jack Welch, the conservative Republican near-billionaire who was then the head of GE, thus the head of NBC News. Matthews was being paid roughly $1 million per year at the time Campaign 2000 started.

Within a few years, his take had risen to $5 million per—and Welch's man was safely ensconced in the White House. Matthews had purchased a $4.4 million home on Nantucket, where he palled around with the GE boss, along with other leading members of the NBC News team.

Just a guess: This morning’s post gives you a look at the way Matthews achieved the rise in his annual haul.

Over at our companion site, Chapter 6 describes a pivotal episode in the press coverage of Campaign 2000. (To read Chapter 6, just click here.) It may have been the pivotal episode in that entire campaign. In this episode, the press corps nailed down its most punishing theme about Candidate Gore—the deeply punishing, deeply consequential claim that Gore was a LIAR.

This narrative was nailed into place during December 1999. It was initiated, then driven along, by a long string of misquotations, then by a mocking group paraphrase: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!

The paraphrase came from the RNC. The misquotations came from several major news orgs—although the misquotations were widely repeated, even after it was clear that they were bogus, false, wrong.

Once the initial misquotation occurred, no one played a more central role in this process than Chris Matthews.

Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! This RNC claim was silly, absurd—but Matthews moved aggressively to advance it on December 1, the very first day of this squalid affair. He thundered and roared for the next two nights as this ridiculous theme took hold in the press. In the passage below from Chapter 6, we describe some—not all—of his misconduct during this episode.

This is the way George Bush reached the White House. Voices will tell you this can’t have occurred.

Those voices will be wrong.

We’ve posted a version of this material before. It’s only one part of the squalid story we tell in Chapter 6. It's only part of Matthews' role in this particular episode, but it gives you a sense of the ludicrous way this punishing episode unfolded. (The way Matthews advanced the RNC's mocking paraphrase is described elsewhere in Chapter 6.) Meanwhile, we invite you to marvel at the fact that the man who behaved in these gruesome ways is, in his current incarnation, accepted by the liberal world as one of its high-profile champions.

We liberals are very easy to play. There’s nothing we seem to like more!

What follows is only one part of Matthews’ misconduct during this episode. They never told you about this at Salon, or at the New Republic, or even at the Nation. As you watch representatives of those entites clowning on Hardball, we’ll let you guess why those journals had so little to say in real time and still won't discuss this now.

What follows is only one short excerpt from Chapter 6. To understand the full context, you have to read the actual chapter, which describes the way an innocuous statement by Candidate Gore was transformed into his third troubling LIE, nailing a theme into place.

At best, the following excerpt can give you a sense of the way Matthews worked to take out Candidate Gore. But yes, the clowning described in this excerpt actually shows you how your nation got to Iraq.

No one played you harder than Matthews. Why is he still on the air?

Background: On November 30, 1999, Candidate Gore made an innocuous remark to a high school class at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire. His remark concerned the role he had played, twenty years before, in producing the federal Superfund legislation.

The next day, Ceci Connolly and "Kit" Seelye misquoted Gore. Chris Matthews went to work.

We think you know the rest of the story. For full context, you must read Chapter 6. What follows is just one part of this remarkable tale.

Excerpt from Chapter 6, How He Got There:

How bad was the performance on Hardball? On December 1 and 2
, Gore was battered on the influential program, even after Matthews corrected the perfect misquotation.

On December 1, Matthews described Gore’s remarks at Concord High as “delusionary,” even as he made absurd misstatements about what Gore had actually said. On December 2, the Concord High comments were said to reflect “Gore’s latest delusion of grandeur.”

“We’ll have to start wondering about the psychological tendencies that make a man jump so far out on the edge,” Matthews announced on December 1. The next night, he began to share his own assessment of Gore’s psychological problems.

“He's not happy with being Al Gore,” Matthews mused. “He wants to be these other guys.”

Meanwhile, Matthews kept linking Gore’s statements at Concord High to his earlier alleged misstatements. Repeatedly, he claimed that Gore had said he invented the Internet and inspired Love Story; he frequently seemed to be quoting Gore as he made these assertions. “He reminds me of Snoopy thinking he’s the Red Baron,” the irate pundit groused. He likened Gore to the fictional characters Zelig and Forrest Gump.

“He’s almost like Ben Franklin,” Matthews complained. “He invented everything.”

Even as he made these assessments, Matthews displayed remarkable ignorance of what Gore had actually said to the Concord High students. Plainly, Gore hadn’t told the students that he encountered the Love Canal problem during his early career as a journalist, the absurd account Matthews advanced several times on December 1. But no matter! According to Matthews, this was “the amazing assertion by the vice president of the United States, Al Gore, that...Love Canal, the horror story, was based upon his investigative reporting.”

Baldly misstating the simplest facts, Matthews trashed Gore for making delusional statements. And instant ridicule instantly followed. Gore was “sort of a Jimmy Olson turned wild,” the Hardball host mockingly said.

That said, Hardball’s most remarkable performance came from Alan Simpson, a recently-retired Republican senator whose fact-deprived attacks on Gore would extend all through the campaign. Simpson was the perfect Hardball guest–colorful, homespun and baldly dishonest. He appeared as a guest on December 2, the second night of the Love Canal wallow. By now, Hardball’s Gore-trashing host was pushing his themes very hard.

“From Love Story to Love Canal,” Matthews thundered, promoting his upcoming segment with Simpson. “We'll talk about Al Gore's latest delusions of grandeur.”

Soon, Matthews was teasing the segment again: “Coming up next: From Love Story to Love Canal. We'll talk to Al Simpson about Al Gore's latest bragging and backtracking.”

The stage was set for Simpson’s performance, one of the most unfortunate outings of the entire campaign.

Was Simpson suffering memory lapses? If not, his performance was grossly dishonest. “It makes no sense,” he quickly said, speaking of Gore’s misquoted story. “It’s like–it’s fantasyland! I was on the Environment and Public Works Committee,” Simpson said, referring to his time in the Senate. “I came along and we did the Clean Air Act and the Superfund. And I don’t remember Al ever, you know, doing any heavy lifting.

“He wasn’t lifting timbers,” Simpson convincingly said.

“I came along and we did the Clean Air Act?” Simpson flirted with the type of grandiosity with which Gore stood widely charged. But there was something more striking in Simpson’s performance than his world-class bombast and his high self-regard. Hardball viewers had no way of knowing, because no one ever corrected the record. But Simpson was struggling to recall his own history with the Superfund program, let alone that of Gore.

The former senator made it seem that he had done the “heavy lifting”—that Gore was somehow the pitiful fabulist. It did make for a wonderful rant. But what were the actual facts?

In fact, way back in June 1980, Simpson had been the sole opponent to the Superfund bill in the Senate committee he named. In the 10-1 committee vote which sent the Superfund bill to the floor, the Wyoming senator had cast the lone “no” vote.

Why had Simpson opposed the bill? “It preempts state common law,” he told the Washington Post that day. “It gives me the creeps.” A few months later, Simpson appeared on a “Who’s Who of opponents to the Superfund bill,” a press release from Congress Watch, a Nader organization.

That’s right: Although he supported the much-reduced bill which finally emerged from the Senate, Simpson had opposed the measure in mid-year, when, despite that committee vote, it seemed unlikely to pass. And, as Congress Watch reported, he was a leading recipient of contributions from industry groups which opposed the legislation.

Nineteen years later, Simpson appeared on Hardball and seemed to say that Gore had been reinventing this history. Gore seemed to be in “fantasyland,” the solon convincingly said.

Simpson didn’t recall “any heavy lifting” by Gore in that Senate committee? There was an obvious reason for that: As Simpson must have understood, Gore’s famous hearings were held in the House, from 1978 through 1980, during the lengthy process which led to the Superfund’s passage. In May 1980, the bill was giving Simpson “the creeps,” but Gore was writing a New York Times op-ed piece urging the measure's passage. The second-term congressman was already known as one of the Superfund’s leading proponents. Gore chaired his fifteenth hearing on the Love Canal problem that very month.

Had Simpson forgotten these basic facts as he blustered and bellowed on Hardball? There’s no way to know, but one thing is clear: Viewers had been grossly misled by the time the solon was finished. But no one questioned or challenged Simpson as he made his absurd presentations; instead, Matthews and a second guest, Robert Reich, kept affirming his ludicrous statements. Matthews kept saying that Gore was the one who was weirdly making things up. “Well, you know the beauty of digital movie making,” he said at one point, responding to one of Simpson’s misstatements. “You can now take a guy like [Gore] and make him Forrest Gump and put him in that scene with you!”

Reich had served in the Clinton cabinet. Did he correct the factual record? That would have meant challenging Simpson, his long-time partner in a public broadcasting venture. And Reich had just endorsed Bill Bradley, a fact Matthews mentioned in passing.

This led to a classic Hardball moment. “I don’t know why [Gore] feels that he has to exaggerate and make some of this stuff up,” Reich said, seconding Simpson’s absurd misstatements. The history of the Superfund bill had at last been turned on its head.

Did Matthews and Reich actually know that Simpson was speaking from “fantasyland?” There’s no way to answer that question. But Simpson’s phantasmagoric performance went uncorrected on future programs; Hardball viewers were never told how grossly they’d been misled. But so it would go as a punishing narrative re-emerged, then turned to stone. Gore was becoming a LIAR again—and this time, the portrait would hold.

End of excerpt

That is only one part of this tale. But in this and similar ways, the GORE LIAR theme was nailed into place. From this point on, the notion that Gore was a delusional liar shaped covearge of this long campaign.

Candidate Gore would be trashed in these ways right through the November 2000 election. Disinformation would rain on the public's heads. George Bush would end up in the White House.

Chris Matthews played a key role every step of the way. Today, he's a "liberal" champion. Rachel keeps telling us he's her friend.

She gets paid $2 million per year! But then, who's keeping score?

We suggest you read that chapter—that you muse on the ways of the world.

Where he went from there: On December 3, 1999, Matthews shifted his focus.

He had spent two nights making Gore a big LIAR. Now, on Friday night, he fawned over Candidate Bush at great length, then spent time trashing Hillary Clinton, who was running for the Senate.

Matthews thrashed and trashed and thundered and roared. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/27/08 to recall the way we all got here.

This is Matthews in real time. This is the way George Bush reached the White House.

Beyond that, it may represent the way Matthews got to Nantucket.

Chapter 6: Coming tomorrow, Chris Matthews!


It’s hard to believe that this happened: By the time of Campaign 2000, your so-called mainstream American press corps was in full break-down mode.

In November 1998, Sally Quinn described the “outrage” Establishment Washington felt toward President Clinton. She described that outrage at great length in a very important report in the Post.

She included the press corps’ insider elite among her many complainants.

In February 1999, Clinton’s impeachment trial was held. Three weeks later, Candidate Gore began to campaign—and the “press corps” landed on his head like a ton of bricks. How might we describe what followed?

Dan Kennedy called it “a virtual wilding.” We’d have to say Dan got it right.

Twenty months of misconduct followed. Rather plainly, this sent George Bush to the White House. And from that day forward, the press corps has refused to discuss what it did those summers. (And those autumns; and that winter.) To this day, very few voters understand what occurred.

One result: Newt Gingrich parades around and about, complaining about that vile “liberal bias.” In our tribe, we keep our traps shut about the Clinton/Gore years. Joan refuses to tattle on Chris. You might call it, “Careers in the balance!”

Yesterday, we thought of this long-standing code of silence when we read the following comment to a Paul Krugman post:
COMMENTER (1/25/12): Maybe instead of conflating "truth" with "intent,” Politifact could issue a ruling on the former and provide space for commentary on the latter. The media did this in 2000. They had to say negative things about Al Gore to equal the negative things about GWB, even though there was much less to say about Gore. They had to be even-handed and thus being even-handed wasn't truthful.
That well-meaning liberal reader still doesn’t have the slightest idea what happened in Campaign 2000. He thinks the press corps made up shit about Candidate Gore just to balance the volume of shit they were dumping on Candidate Bush.

Plainly, that isn’t what happened; that isn’t what happened at all. In fact, the press corps went very easy on Bush, defending him at (almost) every juncture. (When John McCain finally rose in the polls, their ardor cooled for several months.) But how in the world would a reader know that? For the past twelve years, the liberal world has agreed not to tell the truth about what occurred.

In fact, that reader is reciting the Cokie Roberts cover story about the way this campaign was covered! That is the ludicrous cover story, almost exactly as Cokie once told it!

You can hardly blame a liberal reader for not understanding what happened. The real events were simply astounding—hard to believe—and they went on for almost two years. In Chapter 6 of How He Got There, we describe a pivotal episode in this campaign, an episode from December 1999. It was in that month that the press corps’ most punishing narrative locked into place, the claim that Al Gore was a LIAR.

To read Chapter 6, just click here.

Tomorrow, we’ll post an excerpt from that chapter. The excerpt deals with the work of Chris Matthews. Few people worked any harder to send George W. Bush to the White House. In this particular instance, Matthews played a very key role in building the narrative which pretended that Gore was a LIAR.

It’s astounding to think that the “liberal” world would accept this man in their midst for an instant. In the meantime, Chapter 6 is long and astounding.

And yes, these events did occur.

Politifact watch: Our skills are amazingly weak!


Fact-checks and astronaut clown suits: Rachel Maddow was pounding away at Politifact again last night.

This is the fact-check about which she railed. We think Politifact pretty much bungled again. But then again, so did the silly TV host, who still seems upset about the way the site fact-checked an error she made last year.

What claim did Politifact assess in this new presentation? Here it is, just as it appears in big bold print atop the site’s post. This statement is taken from an Obama campaign commercial:
"For the first time in 13 years, our dependence on foreign oil is below 50 percent."
Once again, Politifact found that the quoted statement is just plain flat-out factually accurate. But once again, in its pitiful way, it rated the statement “half true!”

Why the heck does the bungling site keep cranking out such puzzling ratings? If you read their actual post, you will find their explanation, which isn’t exactly half-bad.

In Politifact’s judgment, Obama seems to claim credit in the ad for this improving situation. (“The commercial suggests that the current president deserves credit.”) Politifact judges that this “suggestion” is a rather large stretch.

Does the commercial really suggest that Obama deserves credit? We’d have to say that’s a reasonable inference. In its post, Politifact says the drop in consumption of foreign oil has largely been caused by the recession, not by anything Obama has done. On that basis, they want to flag the commercial’s “suggestion.”

Politifact’s post includes perfectly valid information and judgments. Conceivably, voters might want to know why we’re using less foreign oil; conceivably, voters might want to be told that it isn’t really Obama’s doing. But why does Politifact put a “half true” label on a quoted statement, even as they say that the actual statement is 100 percent factually accurate?

Here as elsewhere, Politifact develops some decent information. But the conceptual scheme behind their ratings is just amazingly weak.

(Given the judgments Politifact reached, "True but misleading" would have been a more sensible rating. Or "True but perhaps misleading.")

Maddow is Politifact’s flip side. Last night, she ranted and flailed, as she typically does, making no real attempt to explain the reasoning behind Politifact’s rating. In this familiar cable way, the clueless chase down the clumsy.

As a people, our intellectual skills are just amazingly weak. Yesterday, we had a similar thought when we read this post about Politifact. The post was written by a very smart person, Paul Krugman. By light years, Krugman has been the liberal world’s most valuable journalist over the past dozen years. But he mind-reads up a storm in his post—and this rumination about fact-checking may not make as much sense as it seems:
KRUGMAN (1/25/12): Now, the point of Politifact and other news-org fact-check things is supposed to be to do this work for readers, so that you don’t have to learn your way around labor-force or trade or crime or whatever statistics every time you have doubts about a political claim.

Unfortunately, Politifact has lost sight of what it was supposed to be doing. Instead of simply saying whether a claim is true, it’s trying to act as some kind of referee of what it imagines to be fair play: even if a politician says something completely true, it gets ruled only partly true if Politifact feels that the fact is being used to gain an unfair political advantage. In the case of Obama’s job statement, Politifact first called it only half true, then upgraded that to mostly true, not because Obama said anything factually incorrect, but because Politifact perceived Obama as trying to imply that he was responsible for the gains.

This is deeply wrong on two levels. First, fact-checking should be about checking facts—not about trying to impose some sort of Marquess of Queensbury rules on how you’re allowed to use facts. Aside from undermining the mission, this makes the whole thing subjective—notice that Politifact wasn’t even analyzing what Obama said, they were analyzing their impression about what he might have been trying to imply. Leave that for the talking heads!
We don’t think this makes as much sense as it might seem. Many statements the voters might want to see fact-checked come loaded with insinuations. You can’t perform a useful fact-check if you ignore that fact. One of Krugman’s commenters offered a current example:
COMMENTER: [Politifact] also rates Newt's statement that "more people have been put on food stamps under Barack Obama than anyone in American history" as "half true" when it's just a simple fact. Of course, he's implying that the president is somehow forcing Americans onto [so-called food stamps] as part of an evil program of socialist enslavement, but the statement remains factually true.
"More people have been put on food stamps under Barack Obama than anyone in American history.” Should Politifact have rated that statement “True,” then ended its fact-check right there?

In our view, that “half true” rating was a bit bungled too. But Krugman's logic seems to suggests that the site should just tell readers that Gingrich’s statement is true.

Bottom line: Fact-checkers will often want to address insinuations which are lodged within statements. In these recent bungles, Politifact has developed its information reasonably well. But then it creates ridiculous bungles by the way it hands out its ratings.

(For ourselves, we would rate that "food stamps" claim by Gingrich this way: “Highly misleading,” or "True but highly misleading." But Politifact insists on using some gradient of “true” in its ratings. This is a very bad idea. Most successful disinformation isn't "false;" it's skillfully misleading.)

We're sorry, but what follows is true: Our modern journalistic culture is just amazingly unintelligent. Our analytical skills are virtually non-existent. When partisan fury is thrown in the stew, things go from bad to worser. Krugman’s mind-reading is a bad sign, and he has long been our most valuable player (and our smartest).

Last night, Maddow performed her first half-hour in an astronaut suit. She spent her second half-hour reminding us that she had done it.

We’re frequently in the hands of clowns. Do you think we can get there from here?

Say hello to your millionaire clown, the one in the astronaut suit: Pitifully, this was Maddow’s attempt to explain why Politifact chose that rating. The corporate-owned millionaire entertainer was clowning hard, as usual:
MADDOW (1/26/12): Seriously? This is PolitiFact. This is why PolitiFact is fired. Apparently, they think they have inferred a causality claim by virtue of the fact that the president said this true thing and that somehow makes this true thing not true anymore or something.

Under the same logic, if the president went outside and gave a speech in the rain and said, “Thanks for coming, I appreciate your being here because it`s raining,” PolitiFact would fact-check whether or not it was raining and find it half true even though it was, in fact, raining, because somehow raining implied to PolitiFact that the president was claiming to be El Nino.
Maddow was no longer wearing her astronaut suit as she offered that stupid-ass clatter. Had she been wearing two big orange shoes, the costuming would have fit.

WHAT DO AVERAGE VOTERS THINK: Voters think the darnedest things!


Part 3—In search of information and outreach: What do we the people think?

We the people may have strange ideas! Information surveys have long made it clear—we often don’t know the most basic facts about even the most significant issues.

In the modern partisan context, tribal disinformation and messaging may take over from there.

And so it was that a set of voters offered their reactions to an anodyne statement from Wednesday’s State of the Union Address. On Hannity, Dr. Luntz quoted something Obama said. His focus group took it from there:
LUNTZ (1/25/12): Sean, I want to go right now to a clip about fairness because the president talked about it several times tonight...

OBAMA (videotape): We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

LUNTZ: “Everyone plays by the same set of rules. Everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Who is against that here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not true. He says everyone plays by the same set of rules, and the tax credit is for you, and the tax breaks are for you, it's— He singled out everybody.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't make life fair. Life is not fair. And there's no way to do it. And that's really code for what the president is saying. And I think it's just—he's just talking socialism again. And economically—


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can the expectation be that we play by the same set of rules when government doesn't?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't think you can talk about fairness and having a fair share and working the same when you're giving people, you're holding hands and you're giving people too many opportunities.
Those objections to Obama’s statement aren’t necessarily “false” or unfounded. But what do these voters actually think? Consider what the last woman said:

She seemed to say that Obama has been “holding hands and giving people too many opportunities.” But what did she mean by that? Was that a reference to “Obamacare?” Was it a “food stamps” reference?

Let’s consider the bombastic charge Newt Gingrich has been tossing around.

Over and over, conservative voters keep getting told that Obama is “the most successful food stamp president in history.” Could that be what this woman meant? Is that what she had in mind? If so, what does she think Obama has done with regard to food assistance programs? What does she think Gingrich is specifically saying when he tosses that charge all around?

Like you, we have no way of knowing what that irate woman meant. Nor do we know what voters think and believe concerning Obama and “food stamps.”

Gingrich keeps delivering his charge. He did so again after Wednesday’s address. But what does Gingrich even mean by his repeated assertion? Does he mean that Obama has widened eligibility for food assistance? Does he mean that Obama’s job plans have failed—that this has widened participation? Plainly, Gingrich seems to be saying that Obama wants many people on food assistance. He has repeatedly said or implied that Obama wants to create “a culture of dependence.”

What do voters think and believe about this repeated charge? We have never seen a print reporter or TV host ask a range of voters what they think the facts might be concerning this topic. (We would love to see Ed Schultz discuss this topic with a range of average voters.) And oh yes: Despite the repeated nature of this charge, we haven’t seen any major news org present a news report about the facts behind this charge.

On our liberal sites, we call the charge racist and then we move on. This strikes us as ineffective.

Last May, Politifact developed a fair amount of information when they fact-checked Gingrich’s statement about our “food stamp president” (click here). But very few voters read that site. (It foolishly ranked his statement “half true.”) How many voters have been exposed to a range of information about this matter? More to the point:

Have you ever seen a liberal entity conduct outreach to voters regarding this topic? Regarding any topic? Despite Gingrich’s serial bombast, we have never seen a major newspaper lay out the facts about food assistance during the current economic meltdown. But beyond that: As Gingrich throws this bomb around, have you ever seen a liberal news org develop the background information? Have you seen any liberal entity conduct outreach forums in which the basic facts of this matter are explained to average voters?

We have not. Voters like that “unidentified woman” hear all manner of garbage from Newt; they interpret such bombast as they might. Have you ever seen your tribe attempt to perform fundamental outreach? Have you ever seen a major news org explain the facts of this case?

Information plays an amazingly limited role in our political culture. Within the liberal world, outreach to average voters is virtually non-existent; we specialize in repeating the claims on which we already agree. And when we voters are left on our own, weird thoughts may worm their way into our heads. This brings us back to Marc Fisher’s front-page report in last Saturday’s Washington Post.

Fisher explored the way voters form their views in these highly tribal times. Many voters now get their information from highly partisan sources, he said.

But uh-oh! The process doesn’t seem to be taking hold with one of the three South Carolina voters Fisher profiled! James Akers is a Democratic Party official—and he may vote for Romney:
FISHER (1/21/12): Akers, a 30-year-old real estate agent who is also vice chairman of Greenville County’s Democratic Party, is an incessant tweeter...

What Akers recommends to his 798 followers on Twitter are news articles and commentaries, almost all from sites that fit comfortably with his socially liberal perspective—places such as MSNBC, Huffington Post, Mother Jones and CNN.


But Akers was never so deep in his information bubble as to block out alternative ideas. Although he was a Hillary Clinton delegate at the last Democratic convention, he has been disappointed enough by Obama—“He’s become such a divisive figure”—to have fallen for Jon Huntsman, the Republican who Akers thought would be tough on spending but moderate on social issues.

Now that Huntsman has dropped out, Akers is weighing whether to risk expulsion from the county Democratic hierarchy if he votes in the GOP primary—in South Carolina, all voters may take part in any party’s primary—or stick with his own party.

He has been surprised to find himself interested in Romney as a moderate who might not be that different from Obama and might be more competent.
Akers is a Democratic Party official—but he may vote for Romney! The information bubble doesn’t seem to be working its will on him.

On the other hand, Fisher also profiled 46-year-old Diane Belsom. Life inside the bubble seems to agree with her:
FISHER: Belsom—gracious, willowy and chatty—sometimes worries that she’s not seeing the full picture, yet she wants her family to live firmly in “our Christian worldview. I want my daughter to know that we are under attack by radical Islam, even if she sometimes gets depressed about the whole movement to Sharia law. I home-school her because the government schools have an anti-Christian worldview, so they’re teaching lies.”

Growing up in South Florida, Belsom read three local newspapers, and the family watched the evening news on TV. But as she and her parents grew more religious, they began reading mainly conservative and Christian outlets. The bookcases in Belsom’s home office include shelves of titles on creationism, as well as books warning against pornography, “the gay agenda” and radical Islam.

On Facebook, the big story is Obama deciding against approving an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Belsom scans rants against the decision. One headline reads, “Obama cans pipeline, signaling no interest in job creation”.

“I think we can all agree Obama’s driving us into the ground,” she says. “My honest opinion is that he hates our country and is trying to destroy us. Hopefully, I’m not too tunnel-visioned. But I guess I mostly see what I agree with.”
Sometimes, we the people have the darnedest ideas! Belsom’s “honest opinion” is that Obama “hates our country and is trying to destroy us.” Her daughter “sometimes gets depressed about the whole movement to Sharia law.”

And wait—there’s more! "I think we can all agree Obama’s driving us into the ground,” Belsom says. What do you suppose she means by that? What do you suppose she knows, or thinks she knows, about the growth of food assistance?

Voters think the darnedest things, especially in this age of burgeoning tribal culture. Having said that, we’ll ask you again:

Have you ever seen a major newspaper explain the facts about food assistance? Have you ever seen a liberal news org do so? Have you ever seen a progressive org conduct outreach to average voters about this topic? About any topic? Do you know of any such org which has created a forum the average voter would be inclined to trust?

Voters think the darnedest things! As we look at the burgeoning tribal world, we see little effort from our own tribe to intervene in this disastrous process.

Was the third voter the charm: Who was Fisher’s third Palmetto State voter? Read his piece and see! This young woman tries to read a lot of news sources to learn as much as she can.

Question: Where could she go to learn the facts about that “food stamps” charge? Do you know of any forum our tribe is conducting, to which she might be sent?

Chapter 6: The shape of a Salem witch trial!


It’s a somewhat hard story to tell: We’re not satisfied with Chapter 6 at our companion site, How He Got There.

(To read Chapter 6, just click here.)

We’ll continue to tinker with its contents. But if you want to know how Bush reached the White House, the heart of the story is here. In December 1999, an endless wave of misquotations let the mainstream press corps nail its most sacred theme into place:

Candidate Gore was a LIAR, just like President Clinton!

[Clarification for those who need it: This does not reflect our view of President Clinton. But in the wake of his impeachment trial, the press corps was filled with outrage at Clinton, as Sally Quinn had reported in detail in the Washington Post. The trashing of Gore was closely patterned on the pre-existing trashing of Clinton. Again and again, pundits made this connection as they constructed their GORE LIAR theme.]

Riding a wave of misquotations, the press corps nailed this theme into place in December 1999. On December 1, this punishing theme re-emerged from the previous spring, brought back to life by a strange misquotation. And as the month of December proceeded, this narrative hardened, then turned to stone. The theme that Candidate Gore was a LIAR would shape the press coverage of Campaign 2000 from this point forward.

How did George W. Bush reach the White House? Unless you want to be clueless forever, the heart of the story is here.

Why aren’t we satisfied with this chapter? The story is somewhat hard to tell, mostly due to the volume of “errors” committed by the press corps. The first misquotation was quickly identified, right there on the December 1 Hardball. The videotape was perfectly clear: Gore had been misquoted.

But so what? The Washington Post and the New York Times refused to issue corrections, absurdly claiming that their mutual error hadn’t changed the meaning of Gore’s remarks. And good God! Even after the tape was played on TV, major journalists just kept repeating the misquotation over the next several months! No one said a word about this, except a group of remarkable high school kids in New Hampshire—and new misquotations were quickly churned, adding to the frolic. Right on December 1, the AP somehow managed to concoct a second misquotation; a third misquotation soon emerged from the mist, and one lonely sentence from Gore’s remarks was endlessly quoted out of context. Adding to the chaos, the press corps adopted a mocking paraphrase of Gore’s remarks—a paraphrase that plainly emerged from the RNC's press releases.

This is the way the press corps functioned during Campaign 2000, in the wake of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Professor Krugman still can’t figure this out. (Too shrill!) Luckily, we have.

And yes, this is what the press corps was like in the fall of 1999. The corps had spent the month of November shrieking and wailing about Gore’s clothes—and about Naomi Wolf, the “sexpot counselor” he had supposedly hired “to teach him how to be a man.” A few years later, press critic Dan Kennedy called the press corps’ conduct during that period “a virtual wilding.”

Dan was right on the mark.

In December, they staged a second virtual wilding—a wilding fueled by a raft of misquotations. Due to the volume of misquotations and other burlesques, the story is a bit hard to tell.

We have done the best we could, though we’ll continue to tinker. And by the way—eleven more months of such nonsense would follow. Our companion site will boast eight more chapters before this repellent story is finished. And yes, this story does explain how George Bush got to the White House.

November was a “virtual wilding.” December produced a Salem witch trial. This is how Bush reached the White House, although your career liberal leaders will never, ever tell.

You can bring yourself up to date. Go ahead—read it here.

Tomorrow: Repellent behavior—and pushbacks

Fact-checking seems like a great idea!


Until you see fact-checking done: Fact-checking seems like a great idea—until you see fact-checking done.

Many people have pounded Politifact for this fact-check of Obama’s State of the Union Address—a fact-check the site has already adjusted, quite poorly.

As usual, the increasingly hapless site did a fairly good job assembling information about the statement they were checking. The problems occurred when they gave the fact-checked statement a rating.

In case you don’t already know: Even at the amended post, this is the statement Politifact says it was checking:
“In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.”
That statement constitutes the headline atop the Politifact post. That is the statement the prize-winning site says it was fact-checking.

Obama said it; Politifact checked. And sure enough! Each part of the statement was found to be accurate, as you can see if you read Politifact’s report. But uh-oh! In its initial post, Politifact rated Obama’s statement “half true.”

After complaints, they amended their judgment. As matters stand, the quoted statement is rated “mostly true.”

That's sad.

What is supposed to be wrong with that statement? Why isn’t the statement just flat-out “True?” Reading between the lines and around a few corners, Politifact thinks Obama was giving his own policies credit for those job gains—and they think that’s a bit of a stretch. These are the parts of his statement which spooked them: “In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect.” (Italics ours.)

Was Obama taking credit for the job growth? You can torture that thought from his text, although we’d say some torture is needed. But even if you take that route, both parts of the quoted, headlined statement remain flat-out accurate: True!

Politifact did a decent job presenting the relevant background information. But as we have noted in the past, the conceptual skills just aren’t strong at this prize-winning site. In the current instance, if they felt Obama was trying to take too much credit, they could have rated his statement like this:

“True (with one minor caveat).”

We think that rating would show excessive concern about Obama’s credit-grab. But at least it would recognize the obvious: The claims which appear in Politifact’s headline were, in fact, found to be accurate!

Fact-checking seems like a good idea—until you see people do it! We had a similar reaction after reading Glenn Kessler’s State of the Union fact-check at the Washington Post.

Kessler offered “a guide through some of President Obama’s more fact-challenged claims, in the order in which he made them.” But people! This is the fifth such claim by Obama, with Kessler’s fact-check shown in full:
“A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for the first time in fifteen years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity.”

This is true. An interesting article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this month explains that costs in China have risen because of labor unrest, higher shipping rates—and weakening of the yuan against the dollar because of political pressure by the United States.
“This is true,” Kessler said. We have no idea why the statement he quoted would be included in a list of Obama’s “more fact-challenged claims.”

Except maybe we do. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly—and sometimes, do fact-checkers have to find errors? We thought Kessler picked several nits in other parts of his post. Sometimes, being cast in the role of fact-checker may make us feel that we have to find piles of bum facts.

Then there was Rachel Maddow, taking revenge on Politifact, her nemesis. She’s a former Rhodes Scholar, but you’d never know it! She clowned and performed, as she constantly does—and played it dumb in the process.

Rachel didn’t seem to have any idea what Politifact’s reasoning was. We thought the site’s reasoning process was weak—but at least we told you what it was. We didn’t attempt to con (and please) you in the clowning way this TV star did. (To watch her perform, just click this. Do not throw fish to the seals!)

A week or so back, the public editor at the New York Times wrote a pair of barely coherent posts asking if the Times should do more fact-checking in its news reports. (Or something.)

We liberals screeched and wailed: Of course they should do more fact-checking! This editor’s posts were hard to parse. But few of his critics seemed aware of the pitfalls involved when reporters are told to “check facts.”

The press corps’ skills are very poor. Fact-checking seems like a great idea—until you see it done.



Part 2—Where does Dr. Luntz find them: Last night, we liberals were given a good warm feeling at the start of the Maddow Show.

Results were in concerning the State of the Union Address. Right at the start of the program, we were helped to understand that the results were incredibly good:
MADDOW (/1/25/12): All right. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

Here’s something you don’t see ever. This was— Look, this was posted by CBS News, by their polling unit! CBS was polling approval or disapproval of the proposals made by President Obama in his State of the Union speech last night.

Poll results like this aren’t usually found in nature. But this was apparently the response. If you can’t see it there, the disapproval rate was 9 percent, and the approval rate was 91 percent.
“Here’s something you don’t see ever,” Maddow said, sharing the sky-high approval numbers for Obama’s proposals.

“Poll results like this aren’t usually found in nature,” Maddow said—and her statement was technically accurate. But results like that are frequently found after a State of the Union Address. Here was Maddow, one year ago, providing the same warm feeling:
MADDOW (1/26/11): Halfway through Barack Obama’s first term, his State of the Union address last night is being pretty universally hailed as centrist, as not too liberal, not too conservative, but right down the middle of American politics. And that is something that Americans like to hear.

The instant reaction polls to President Obama’s speech last night were almost comically positive. CBS reported that 92 percent of the people who watched the speech approved of Mr. Obama`s proposals, 92! CNN reporting that 84 percent of people had a positive response.

Those sorts of numbers do not happen in politics! Those are crazy numbers.
You never see it—except once a year!

“Those sorts of numbers do not happen in politics,” Rachel told us last year. This year, she was amazed by the CBS numbers all over again! “Poll results like this aren’t usually found in nature,” she exclaimed this time around. We liberals got the same feeling we got last year—and we maybe got conned just a tad.

This is one of the services rendered on partisan cable “news” shows.

Last year, we checked past polling results for State of the Union Addresses. It turned out that data like these are pretty much the norm when we the people watch our presidents render their annual address (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/27/11). We took the trouble to point this out—but our efforts were all for naught. Last night, Rachel was mega-surprised again, just as she had been last year!

(Last year, we didn't post the numbers we found. We suggested you do a quick search.)

This is the way of partisan cable. Indeed, if we liberals got a thrill up the leg as we watched Rachel exult last night, conservatives had been well-served the night before as they watched Sean Hannity’s show, with Frank Luntz’s focus group.

Luntz’s voters were not in step with those CBS numbers. Early on, the doctor said that 15 of his 27 subjects had voted for Obama in 2008. But few of them seemed to be inclined to vote for Obama again. No tape of this session is on-line at Fox. But working from the Nexis transcript, these are the first reactions the good Dr. Luntz adduced:
LUNTZ (1/24/12): If you were to give the American people a single sentence to describe what you thought of the speech, what would it be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The same old rhetoric that comes out of every State of the Union speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see leadership to deliver on the rhetoric.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard the same thing and the same passions I heard throughout his campaign, and at every other State of the Union. I don't believe it anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was dark and divisive. It was not for me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I appreciated the fact that he honored and remembered our troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was contradictory.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was in full-on campaign mode.
We don’t know how Luntz came up with this brood. But it looks like the folk at CBS News don’t have their phone numbers!

Who knows where such focus groups come from? That said, we were most impressed by these voters’ reactions to one particular part of the speech. After a commercial break, Dr. Luntz played a bit of tape, then asked a key question:
LUNTZ: Sean, I want to go right now to a clip about fairness because the president talked about it several times tonight and he's going to do it again and again between now and Election Day. This is a very divisive clip about the principle of fairness. Let's take a look.

OBAMA (videotape): We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.


LUNTZ: “Everyone plays by the same set of rules. Everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Who is against that here?
“Everyone plays by the same set of rules?” As it turned out, lots of folk were against that there! (Luntz had called this “a very divisive clip” based on the group’s electronic reactions during the actual speech.)

Dr. Luntz chided his subjects for their negative reactions. For ourselves, we were struck by how weak the intellectual skills of some of us the people can be. We were also struck by the fury, which would be more clear on the tape:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (continuing directly): It's not true. He says everyone plays by the same set of rules, and the tax credit is for you, and the tax breaks are for you, it's— He singled out everybody.

LUNTZ: What's the issue? I don't get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nonetheless, there were loads of scoundrels and cheats particularly in the financial system and the system has not been fair, it has been rigged. And it needs to be improved. It cannot be fixed perfectly but it needs to be improved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't make life fair. Life is not fair. And there's no way to do it. And that's really code for what the president is saying. And I think it's just—he's just talking socialism again. And economically—

LUNTZ: Wait, wait, wait!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's asking for fairness of outcome, not opportunity.

LUNTZ: Hold on! He says everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What is the problem with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can the expectation be that we play by the same set of rules when government doesn't?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't think you can talk about fairness and having a fair share and working the same when you're giving people, you're holding hands and you're giving people too many opportunities.
If memory serves (there is no tape), the second “unidentified male” was one of the actual Obama supporters. But that first unidentified female could tell that Obama was speaking in code.

Hannity viewers are skilled with code. Our side is skilled with whistles.

In fairness, a few of Hannity’s helpers groped toward statements which made internal sense. For example, the last man seemed to be saying that Obama’s actions don’t match that rhetoric, given the fact that he has been “giving people too many opportunities.” But the fury which boiled up was striking—and many of the reactions didn’t make real clear sense.

In fairness, these are regular voters; these people aren’t professional pundits or analysts. You can’t expect average voters to express themselves with as much clarity as the lofty professionals will. That said, we were struck throughout by the fury which boiled from this group, more than half of whom were said to have voted for Obama. Here’s what happened when Hannity suggested a question for those voters—a clownishly leading question:
HANNITY: I'd like to ask the group this question. When they go back to 2008 and, and the soaring rhetoric and he was going heal the planet, “yes, we can,” and all the excitement. I call it Obama-mania.

Three years later, $5 trillions of new debt, unemployment is not fixed. The country I don't believe has come back. I mean what are the— Has he failed or has he succeeded and what do they think about the money that he spent, the debt he has taken on, more than any other president in history?

LUNTZ: Let's ask the question of Obama people. You voted for him.


LUNTZ: Why did you vote for him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for him because I felt this country needed a totally different path. I did feel that I had gotten a lot of good speeches.

LUNTZ: And did you get what you're expecting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not! Totally opposite!

LUNTZ: You voted for him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for him, and I believe that at the time there was change and he supports our military. My brother was killed in Afghanistan. So for me tonight he provided what I needed.

LUNTZ: You voted for him. Did you get what you're expecting?


LUNTZ: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he is going back to the same old thing that happened before. He wants to blame the rich and just—

LUNTZ: Did you find him to be divisive tonight, yes or no?


LUNTZ: Did you find him to be polarizing tonight, yes or no?

So it says on the transcript. We wish we could show you the tape.

Hannity’s clownishly leading question produced some angry retorts. Meanwhile, the cable gods looked down in pleasure over the past two nights. Dr. Luntz had a focus group which seemed very angry with Obama. At the same time, Dr. Maddow had poll results which amazed her all over again.

Back to Hannity's herd:

What do those angry voters think? What do they think Obama has done? What are the particulars behind their obvious fury? What do they think when they hear Newt Gingrich insult Obama as the “food stamp president?” What do they think Obama has done in that particular area?

We would like to see such voters interviewed by Rachel or by Ed, who does know how to speak with respect to average folk of the other tribe. No handful of voters can represent the understandings of the full electorate, or of any segment of same. But our side’s viewers got conned a tad last night, as their side’s viewers got conned a bit one night before.

What do voters think about x, y and z? Our side doesn’t seem very curious.

Tomorrow: The Washington Post and the Palmetto State 3

Chapter 6: The background to the story!


This episode did change the world: As we noted yesterday, we have posted Chapter 6 at our companion site, How He Got There.

Today, we’ll outline the basic background to the events we describe. To read Chapter 6, just click here.

Chapter 6 describes an episode from December 1999, which may have been the pivotal month in Campaign 2000, a White House campaign which changed the world’s history. In that month, the press corps nailed down a deeply punishing, much-beloved theme:

Candidate Gore is a liar, just like President Clinton!

From this point forward, this punishing narrative drove the coverage of Campaign 2000. Here’s the basic background:

The press corps’ coverage of Candidate Gore began in March 1999, one month after President Clinton's impeachment trial. At that point, the press corps assembled its GORE LIAR theme, using three ridiculous “lies” as building-blocks of this narrative.

By November 1999, the theme was dying on the vine, starved for a lack of examples. Maddeningly, Candidate Gore had issued no new LIES. And one of the original “lies” was so transparently absurd that even the press corps had been forced to abandon it.

By the rule of three, the press corps needed one more LIE to maintain this punishing narrative. And sure enough! Through the magic of misquotation, a perfect third LIE was accidentally concocted on December 1, 1999.

Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! The cry rang all through the land!

With apologies, Chapter 6 is quite long. But then, the “errors” were many. Many people have heard that Gore was misquoted by Ceci Connolly and Katharine Seelye in their December 1 news reports in the Washington Post and the New York Times. But that was just the first misquotation in this long, sordid episode. That same day, the AP chipped in with a new and different misquotation of Gore's fleeting remarks on this subject. Soon after that, there was a third misquotation, and perhaps a fourth, depending on how you were scoring. (Does out-of-context count?)

The press corps also adopted that mocking group paraphrase: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! This paraphrase came from the RNC. It jumped from RNC press releases over to Hardball on December 1, Day One. From there, it moved all through the land.

All these misquotations of Gore were quite widely repeated. The initial misquotation was plainly corrected, right there on Hardball, on the very first night. But so what! Major journalists just kept repeating the misquotation as their colleagues looked silently on. (This continued for months.) Example: On December 5, Bill Kristol repeated the misquotation on This Week—and George, Sam, Cokie and George all looked on. The press corps’ misconduct was simply astounding—and it went on and on.

Paul Krugman still won’t tell you these things. It might make the deeply radicalized professor seem too shrill. We’ll offer more background in coming days—but make no mistake. This is how we got to Iraq. This is how George Bush reached the White House.

You aren’t supposed to know these things. But go ahead—read the chapter, which we’re still refining.

The information is all right there. Your leaders know they mustn’t tell. But then, most of them were directly involved. The mainstream press corps had basically lost its mind by the start of Campaign 2000.

What lay behind this disgraceful group breakdown? We would suggest two likely answers: Oral sex—and emerging conservative power. Today, your leaders know they must forget.

But go ahead—read Chapter 6. This is what really occurred.