Part 3—The shorthand described through the years: As we noted in Monday’s post, we have sometimes referred to Dana Milbank as “Lord Dowdinpantz.”
This morning, Dowd emulates this lord. On Sunday, Milbank told us that Candidate Romney lacks “authenticity,” just like Candidate Gore before him. Milbank “cringes” at the one, just as he cringed at the other. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/16/12.
This morning, Dowd plays the same familiar old game. Dowd too says Romney is “inauthentic"—but she draws a different comparison. To Dowd, Candidate Romney is inauthentic just like Poppy Bush!
First Downinpantz, then Dowd herself! When it comes to campaign pseudo-coverage, this is one of the only tricks these palace life-forms know. They like to type simple, novelized tales—profoundly simple-minded tales which make for easy reading. But alas! Because they’re able to think of so few, they often revisit past hits:
DOWD (1/18/12): Watching Mitt Romney in the Myrtle Beach debate gave me acid flashbacks to Poppy Bush.We don’t have the slightest idea how Romney’s quoted remark “sounded all 19th century.” But this is one the only tricks these life-forms know—and to help themselves perform their trick, they establish low standards of “evidence.” By the rules of their game, everything seems to prove their point, no matter how dumb/inane/stupid.
Maybe it was when Mittens decorously noted, in front of the raucous, bloodthirsty South Carolina crowd: “When I get invited, I’m delighted to be able to go hunting.”
Maybe it was Romney sounding all 19th century recounting his sharp right turn on abortion as governor of Massachusetts: “I penned an op-ed in The Boston Globe and said I am pro-life.”
In fairness to Dowd, she actually draws some valid comparisons between Romney and Bush 41 before her column is done. She presents the most obvious points in the world, but you can’t really say that they’re wrong. Romney flipped on abortion rights—and so did Bush 41 before him! Bush campaigned at flag factories—and Romney sings God Bless America!
(Dowd fails to note that Romney has to sing songs, to some extent, because instinctive bigots—folk like herself—keep harping on his scary, alien Mormon faith. On Sunday, Dowd worked at making Romney The Other. Three days later, she complains that Bush once did the same thing to Dukakis!)
At any rate, Dowd’s column tracks Milbank’s effort, unless you consider the sheer absurdity of Milbank’s comparison—the one between Romney and Gore. That said, let’s consider the sheer absurdity of this entire journalistic form, in which the phoniest people on earth worry about the “authenticity” of the various candidates.
Milbank and Dowd are two of a kind; they’re empty, inane, mega-bogus. It’s hard not to laugh at Dowd today as she assails Romney and Bush for their lack of “a passion for ideas.” Crackers! When has anything like an “idea” ever appeared in a column by Dowd? The approach long known as Creeping Dowdism has famously driven “ideas” from our discourse. As Milbank reminded the world this past Sunday, our “journalists” now think about “character” only. And they assess it like this:
MILBANK (1/15/12): Romney, the conservative writer Jonah Goldberg argued this week, has an “authentic inauthenticity problem.”Milbank cringes when he recalls Gore’s three-button suits! (And his cowboy boots! And those alleged earth tones—i.e., that one brown suit!) To Milbank, the fact that Gore wore a three-button suit helped display his lack of “authenticity.” Twelve years later, he is still reciting this ludicrous claim—and the Washington Post is still printing it.
And that is precisely why his struggle is so familiar. He is the political reincarnation of Al Gore, whose campaign I covered with an equal amount of cringing a dozen years ago.
To see Romney, in his Gap jeans, laughing awkwardly at his own jokes and making patently disingenuous claims, brings back all those bad memories of 2000: “Love Story.” Inventing the Internet. Earth tones. Three-button suits. The alpha male in cowboy boots. The iced-tea defense. The Buddhist temple. The sighing during the debate.
If you couldn’t see writing this stupid and fake, you wouldn’t believe it exists. That said, the sheer absurdity of Milbank’s “evidence” returns us to the most important part of his column. In the following passage, he correctly describes the way the “press corps” pretends to cover our White House campaigns. The highlighted sentence goes to the heart of a deep, profound national problem:
MILBANK: The media tend to assign each candidate a character flaw as a form of shorthand (John McCain was volatile, George W. Bush was dopey, Obama is all talk). Ominously, Romney’s descriptions are the same applied to Gore 12 years ago: assuming “personas,” going through “makeovers,” attempting “regular-guy” traits, exhibiting “robotic” behavior and issuing new versions, such as “Romney 3.0.”Alas! In this description of his colleagues, the fatuous fellow is perfectly right. In order to simplify their task, our media “assign each candidate a character flaw as a form of shorthand.” And once that shorthand is assigned, “reporters...are perpetually on the lookout for new examples”—for silly tidbits which will “support” the description assigned to the candidate.
For Romney, the problem now becomes that reporters, and opponents, are perpetually on the lookout for new examples to add to his dossier of awkwardness.
By normal journalistic standards, this procedure is horrible on its face, but matters quickly get worse. Here’s why: Because these “journalists” are preternaturally stupid, their “new examples” don’t have to make any sense! In the fall of 1999, reporters showed that Gore was phony—“inauthentic”— because of his boots and his three-button suits! On December 24 of that year—Christmas Eve—the Post’s Al Kamen helped us see that Gore was a phony because of the family photograph on his Christmas card!
And yes, that actually happened. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/24/99.
The sheer stupidity of this process takes our discourse to the floor of the sea. But we “liberals” have tolerated this culture for decades—and now we play the game ourselves, as we’ll discuss tomorrow.
At any rate, Milbank describes a “problem” for Romney—and yes, the problem is real. From this point forward, Milbank says, reporters will be “on the lookout for new examples” of his inauthenticity. In saying this, Milbank describes a classic “double standard,” in which one candidate is judged by a different metric from all the rest. Pointless remarks will be lustily frisked—if they’re made by this one candidate! If Romney says he “penned” an op-ed, this will be rushed to the top of a column, cited as evidence of the candidate’s “19th century” mind.
This simplifies the reporter’s job, of course. Any example, no matter how inane, will be accepted as proof of her “shorthand.” Life is very, very simple when you can function like this. But then, we’ve all seen this process before. During Campaign 2000, Washington Post ombudsman E. R. Shipp described the same inane, corrupt process in a short but brilliant column. She described the way the Post’s reporters were “typecasting” the various candidates. This is the same process Milbank described:
SHIPP (3/5/00): Typecasting the CandidatesShipp was describing the same corrupt process about which Milbank recently blathered. Journalists assign a “shorthand” characterization to each of the candidates. From there, these reporters “typecast the candidates;” they seek “new examples” of the selected trait, deep-sixing everything else. Shipp went on to cite some examples of this behavior. In the process, she debunked one of the ludicrous character “flaws” Milbank pimped this weekend:
There is something not quite satisfying about The Post's coverage of the quests of Bill Bradley, George W. Bush, Al Gore and John McCain to become our next president…
[R]eaders react…to roles that The Post seems to have assigned to the actors in this unfolding political drama. Gore is the guy in search of an identity; Bradley is the Zen-like intellectual in search of a political strategy; McCain is the war hero who speaks off the cuff and is, thus, a "maverick"; and Bush is a lightweight with a famous name, and has the blessings of the party establishment and lots of money in his war chest. As a result of this approach, some candidates are whipping boys; others seem to get a free pass.
SHIPP (continuing directly): Readers have questioned a Post article that portrayed Gore as delusional, thinking that he was not only the man who discovered Love Canal, a New York community contaminated by illegally dumped toxic waste decades ago, but also the basis for the character of Oliver Barrett IV in Eric Segal's "Love Story." Gore (Albert II) was, according to Segal, one of the preppies he had in mind in creating the character; the other was Gore's roommate, the actor Tommy Lee Jones. As for Love Canal, Gore said that after a high school student contacted him about a toxic waste site in Toone, Tenn., he sought information about other such sites, learned about Love Canal, and used the two as case studies in a hearing that led to legislation aimed at cleaning up such sites. As he put it: "I . . . had the first hearing on that issue, and Toone, Tenn.—that was the one you didn't hear of—but that was the one that started it all." That is a whole lot different from The Post's version, "I'm the one that started it all," which fits the role The Post seems to have assigned him in Campaign 2000.Gore was "accidentally" misquoted about Love Canal—and there was absolutely nothing wrong with his fleeting “Love Story” comments. (Only two reporters even heard the unrecorded remarks. Each reporter said the resulting “scandal” was bunk.) But twelve years later, Milbank still cringes when he's forced to recalls this deeply troubling matter! This child is a beast, a small sad buffoon—an enemy of the state.
Shipp described the same stupid process Milbank described this weekend. Our “journalists” settle on a “shorthand” account—then they start to rummage around, looking for simple-minded ways to reinforce their preferred claim. This procedure gives them tremendous power—the power to define a candidate and perhaps to defeat him.
Shipp loudly complained about this behavior. The rest of the “press corps,” as a group, ignored every word she said.
How does a child like Milbank persist in such conduct, twelve years later? Tomorrow, we’ll look at recent behavior by Maddow and Krugman; each seems determined, in his or her way, to keep this garbage alive. Make no mistake—the corrupted process Milbank described continues to rule our campaign coverage. No, it won’t be as bad for Candidate Romney as it was for Candidate Gore; we’ll explain that obvious point tomorrow. But we’re still being handed “shorthand” accounts of the various candidates, pimped along by “new examples” which, if we want to be honest, don’t have to make any sense.
One other problem obtains: In the hands of royals like Milbank and Dowd, these “new examples” will rarely involve anything that actually matters. You won’t read about Romney’s conduct at Bain; you won’t read about his regressive proposals. The silly children will gambol and play, telling you Romney used the word “penned.” And they’ll remind you of something else: Gore wore a three-button suit!
Only a nation which was close to insane could tolerate conduct of this type. Dowd has been at this project for decades.
Maddow and Krugman don’t care.
Tomorrow: Repulsive behavior