Making Ezra Klein dumb: On Monday, Paul Krugman wrote a column about a very important fact. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/13/12.
Krugman’s fact is a sensitive fact. On the other hand, it may be the most important fact in all of American politics. In many ways, American conservatism is now “detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality.”
That sensitive fact has been true for decades, a point of chronology Krugman still seems to miss. But you simply can’t run a modern nation this way. You simply can’t run a modern nation if tens of millions of its citizens believe all manner of nonsense and crap.
Krugman’s point is very important, though we think he expressed it somewhat poorly. But omigod! In this morning’s column, David Brooks says much the same thing! We’ve been waiting a very long time to see someone use that key word:
BROOKS (2/14/12): This economic determinism would be bad enough if it was just making public debate dumber. But the amputation of sociologic, psychological and cognitive considerations makes good policy impossible.You’ll have to read the column to see what Brooks was talking about. But we were thrilled to see someone say that our public discourse is “dumb.”
Is our public discourse dumb? We’re not sure—is the Pope’s chalice Catholic? In fact, our public discourse is stunningly dumb. In part, the dumbness is a corporate choice, a choice by our elites.
We thought of that when we watched Ezra Klein guest-hosting last night for Dear Rachel. As you may know, Ezra Klein actually isn’t dumb. This was clear in his opening segment, during which he offered a very informative analysis of Obama and Romney’s budget pronouncements. His guest in this segment was Peter Orszag, former Obama budget honcho. The segment was loaded with basic info, the kind of basic information which is almost constantly missing from our pseudo-debates.
Mitt Romney has offered bizarre budget plans. With Orszag’s help, Klein took you on a long fast ride through this basic information.
That said, corporate clowns just like to have fun, even on putative “news” shows. And so it was that Klein was reduced to the pitiful crap which follows. E. J. Dionne dragged him along:
DIONNE (2/13/12): In the Pew poll, Obama has an 8-point lead over Romney and a 10-point lead over Santorum. Not even the margin of error, when you compare to Gingrich and Gingrich was the main competitor, Romney could make a strong case that he was stronger than Gingrich.There was more to this blockheaded back and forth, but we’ll spare you. Here’s our question: Are these two guys really this dumb? Or were they just pretending?
And I think what’s happened on each side, the Romney side, the Santorum side—Romney has been very awkward, to the point where, when he uses a phrase like he governed “in a severely conservative way,” that’s a story for days. We’re talking about the word "severely" and he just does not seem comfortable.
Rick Santorum knows what he believes and looks comfortable saying it. And I think it’s that contrast that is really helping Rick Santorum right now.
KLEIN: What I thought was sort of amazing about “severely conservative” is it was Mitt Romney’s only deviation from his script. He went off of his script for one comment, and it was a gaffe.
Do you mind if we explain Dionne’s comments? Romney’s phrase has been “a story for days” because he’s a target on MSNBC. On MSNBC, the hacks have been “talking about the word ‘severely’ ” because that’s the kind of silly shit they’re paid to hack to us rubes.
They’re being paid to pretend that this pointless locution represents some sort of “gaffe.” This is a corporate decision.
Surely, Dionne understands the general shape of this process. In Campaign 2000, the boys and girls spent twenty months mocking every turn of phrase (and wardrobe element) from Candidate Gore, then coming to that same sad conclusion: He just doesn’t seem comfortable! In September 1999, Dionne even described this process as part of a column. He then kept his mouth shut, like a good guild member, as it continued for the next fourteen months.
You may know how that ended up.
Dionne decided to keep his trap shut. Today, he’s paid to go on MSNBC and peddle this same silly shit to us rubes. In the process, liberal viewers get dumbed way down. Last night, so did Klein.
Regarding Klein: If you watched last evening’s program, you may have noticed a few performance tics. Klein is a rather sober person, unlike the jester he replaced. But Maddow’s staff had prepared monologues filled with the same sorts of jokes, jibes and jests which make this putative “news” program a tribute to entertainment values—to the dumb often swamping the smart.
Klein isn’t good at “doing Maddow.” But bless his heart, he kept trying! Ironically, this produced the same sort of awkwardness commonly attributed to Candidate Romney. Klein fumbled his way through the types of jests which Maddow throws down in the way others breathe. He didn’t look comfortable in his own skin, as may sometimes be true with Romney. As was constantly said to be true in the case of Candidate Gore.
Does Romney look comfortable in his own skin? This familiar standard has been invented because it’s so absurdly subjective; it lets any pundit, no matter how slow, voice a negative judgment about a targeted pol. Gore was endlessly trashed on this basis. On MSNBC, so is Romney.
That said, the fundamentals remain: Candidate Gore had sensible proposals; Candidate Romney does not. The silly shit about pointless locutions has been designed to please you tribally, to give you some good entertainment. But can Dionne really be so dumb as to think this bullshit makes sense?
Final point: All through that opening segment, Klein read the text he was given—text which included jests and jibes about what a geeky policy wonk he is. This too is designed to entertain. (Maddow revels in it.) Klein looked uncomfortable in his own skin as he read this silly shit; he couldn’t have seemed much more “stiff.” But the fundamentals remain: Klein offered tons of basic information last night, although it was soon being buried under The Dumb.
Final point: They went after Candidate Gore that way because there was no other way to deride him. But Romney’s proposals are bat-shit insane. Romney’s proposals can be used to defeat him. Still, corporate clowns just want (you) to have fun.
We were happy to see David Brooks use that word. Your discourse is stunningly dumb.