THE SHORTHAND AND THE POWER: Candidate Romney won't get the Gore treatment!


Part 4—Milbank won’t tell you the truth: Alas, poor Milbank!

In Sunday’s column, he unburdened himself about his growing despair.

Following Romney on the trail “is a painful yet familiar experience,” the sad fellow said. Before too long, Milbank explained:
MILBANK (1/15/12): Painful, because of the wince-inducing moments when you realize that, for all of Romney’s success in imitating human attributes, there remain glitches in the matrix that reveal him to be different from the rest of us.


Romney, the conservative writer Jonah Goldberg argued this week, has an “authentic inauthenticity problem.”

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.
Alas, poor Milbank! He cringes as he watches Candidate Romney, just as he cringed twelve years ago when forced to watch Candidate Gore!

What makes Dana T. Milbank cringe? Then as now, his list of complaints defines the mental/intellectual illness of modern American political culture. In all honesty, his complaints about Romney are almost as daft—almost as deranged—as his complaints about Gore. Gaze on the building-blocks of modern American discourse:
MILBANK: 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.


In Romney’s case, there is already abundant support for the archetype: his belief that “corporations are people,” his talk about hunting “small varmints,” the story about driving with the family dog in a kennel strapped atop the Romneys’ car, his attempted $10,000 bet with Rick Perry, his singing “Who let the dogs out?,” his pretending to be pinched on the behind by a waitress, his bizarre jokes about Hooters and hollandaise sauce, and his tendency to ask debate moderators for protection from his opponents.
Candidate Gore wore a three-button suit; Candidate Romney made a remark (in 2007) about letting the dogs out. He pretended that he had been pinched on the ass. He told jokes about Hollandaise sauce!

Let us say it one more time:

In these passages, Milbank defines a form of mental/intellectual illness. The illness in question is his own, although this illness is now the norm within the political “press corps.”

Milbank, the phoniest life-form on earth, cringes at these other two phonies. He can tell that Romney is “inauthentic” because he once pretended to be pinched on his ass by a waitress. And he could tell Gore was “inauthentic” because he wore a brown suit!

Incredibly, such pseudo-judgments now form a large part of the way our “press corps” covers elections. These are the types of examples these life-forms select to fuel their “shorthand” accounts of the candidates. And by the way, the inane examples they flog all about don’t even have to be based on facts! Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? Well actually no, he didn't. But then, Romney’s remark about corporations being people made some fairly obvious sense—if you’re willing to quote it in context, which someone like Milbank is not.

It has been obvious for a long time: The examples which fuel the pundit world’s shorthand don’t have to make any sense! Near the end of his piece, Milbank even cops to this rather remarkable fact.

In his final paragraph, Milbank muses on the “abundant support for the archetype” (for the shorthand) he has just provided in the case of Candidate Romney. But then, he cops to a remarkable fact. In a mildly rational world, the highlighted statement would be seen as a form of intellectual illness:
MILBANK (continuing directly): None of those is, by itself, disqualifying—and, as in Gore’s case, not all the examples are fair. But, combined with Romney’s frequent fluctuations on the issues, his awkwardness has left an impression that he is a phony and not to be trusted. Romney isn’t necessarily doomed—Gore, after all, received more votes than the other guy—but this much seems clear: Over the next 10 months, Romney will be getting the Gore treatment.
In this, his column’s closing paragraph, Milbank mentions a puzzling fact. He has listed many examples of Gore and Romney’s “inauthenticity.” But now, as he ends his column, he weirdly offers one last fact: Not all his examples are fair!

Really? Not all the examples were fair? Why then did he list them? In a mildly rational word, life-forms who “reason” this way would have been helped from the public square a long, long time ago. A caring society might even help them get the mental/intellectual aid for which they are clearly screaming.

But we don’t live in that kind of society. We live in a society where life-forms like Milbank present long lists of offenses—examples of candidates’ inauthenticity. His examples are inane on their face—and he even tells us that some of them aren’t fair! But this defective intellectual conduct is widely accepted within our culture; indeed, it virtually defines the workings of the mainstream “press.” Twelve years later, Milbank is still reciting his kooky complaints against Candidate Gore—against someone who holds the Nobel Peace prize. But no one is surprised by his conduct. His column appears in the Sunday Post—and it drifts by without comment.

This mental/intellectual illness thus belongs to us as a whole. Indeed, a cadre of similar chattering chimps are structuring this year’s White House campaign in the same ridiculous ways Milbank and friends structured Campaign 2000. Twelve years ago, for twenty straight months, Milbank and friends flung their poo all around about earth tones—and about Love Story!

Today, the chimps are talking about “the family dog in a kennel strapped atop the Romneys’ car.” (This incident occurred in 1983!) They’re reciting various comments by Romney—after these largely pointless remarks have been taken ten miles out of context.

They’re talking about his Gap jeans.

That said, let’s get clear on one of Milbank’s key statements. We refer to his closing remark: “Romney isn’t necessarily doomed...[But] over the next 10 months, Romney will be getting the Gore treatment.”

One part of that passage is plainly true: Candidate Romney could win the election. But just as plainly, Candidate Romney won’t “get the Gore treatment” this year. We assume that even Milbank knows that. He’s just too dishonest to tell you.

Why won’t Romney “get the Gore treatment?” The answer involves an obvious bit of history—a bit of history even Paul Krugman isn’t willing to tell.

Why won’t Romney “get the Gore treatment?” Duh. As of late 1998, the mainstream press corps had merged with its conservative counterpart in its loathing for President Clinton. In November 1998, Sally Quinn described this general state of affairs in a very important, detailed report in the Washington Post. (To read that report, just click here.)

The groups were joined in their loathing for Clinton. As a result, the two branches of America's “press corps” joined in their treatment of Candidate Gore over the next two years. Rush and Sean advanced ludicrous claims about what a phony delusional liar Gore was—silly, inane assertions which were almost never based in real facts. But people like Milbank advanced the same claims, cringing about Gore’s inauthenticity as they did! There was no pushback against RNC claims, as would have occurred with an actual “press corps.” All the defectives frisked Gore’s clothes and invented his “lies”—Rush, Sean and Dana together.

That treatment will not be handed to Romney. The conservative world will strongly defend him; silly-bill claims by fools like Milbank will be pushed back against hard. Romney may still be defeated, of course. But you can be sure of one thing: Romney won't “get the Gore treatment.” (Nor should he.)

That treatment involved a full-bore assault by both branches of our “press corps.” Guild members like Milbank still won’t tell you that. But then again, neither will Krugman.

These people deceive you as other folk breathe. Tomorrow: Concerning Dear Rachel and Paul.

Also tomorrow: Who is Dana T. Milbank?


  1. And has a lengthy article about how his hair is "slicked back, reminding us of Gordon Gekko." Good God.

  2. Wow, I would have thought, given his supreme snark and hauteur, that Dana Milbank was to the manor and manner born, or at least to the prominent Milbank family of New York manors and manners born.

    But he's the child of middle-class parents, is Roman Catholic (and apparently not from the country's Catholic aristocracy) and ended up at one of the three major Ivies--Yale. So perhaps his haughty indifference derives from having internalized those upper class values he encountered outside the home, sort of like Gail Collins, who is also not from a wealthy or prominent family, but acts like an aristocrat who need not trouble her beautiful little mind with anything but trivia and a few well-read and recited scripts.

  3. Saying corporations are people doesn't make sense in any context. Of course corporations are comprised of people. So is the local birdwatching club. Should birdwatching clubs get to vote? Or create Super Pacs? Why or Why Not?
    Of course corporate profits go to people. But which people? Under current law and common capitalist practice, management maximizes profits for non-productive shareholders, and minimizes pay and benefits for productive employees. And over the last 30 years we have seen the result.

  4. looks to me like mathews might be giving romney and gingrich the gore treatment from the few shows ive seen.

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