Chris Cillizza, right in your kisser!

FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2012

Thereby protecting the guild: Is anyone more disingenuous—more dishonest—than major mainstream “journalists?”

In this morning’s Washington Post, Chris Cillizza pretends to explain why certain “gaffes” have a long shelf life while other “gaffes” don't. This is Cillizza’s explanation—an explanation which isn’t:
CILLIZZA (3/23/12): All political gaffes are not created equal.

Some come to define campaigns, while others disappear in a single news cycle (or sometimes less).

So what differentiates the gaffes that enter campaign folklore from those that even the most committed political junkies struggle to recall a few weeks after they happen?

It's actually a relatively simple answer: Gaffes that matter are those that speak to a larger narrative about a candidate or a doubt/worry that voters already have about that candidate.
In the highlighted passage, Cillizza pins the blame on “voters.” Gaffes stick around if they reinforce something the voters think.

In some cases, this may even be true. But much more often, “gaffes” are seized upon or invented by the press corps; they stick around if they reinforce a judgment the press corps favors. Nor do these tales have to make any sense if the press corps wants to advance them. Just look at three of the examples Cillizza presents.

Cillizza’s first classic example:
CILLIZZA: Recent (and even not-so-recent) political campaigns are filled with gaffes that prove [my] point.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's order of swiss cheese on his cheese steak mattered because the senator from Massachusetts already was fighting against the idea that he was out of touch with average Americans.
Really? Ordering swiss cheese on a cheese steak means a person is “out of touch with average Americans?” Cillizza’s explanation is utterly daft; you'd have to be insane to believe this explanation. But then, this “gaffe” was an artifact of the press corps itself. It didn’t come from the voters.

Repeat: That world-class crap about Candidate Kerry came from the small tiny brains of the mainstream “press corps.” Another alleged example:
CILLIZZA: George H.W. Bush looking at his watch during a presidential debate in the 1992 campaign mattered because there already was a sense in the electorate that the incumbent president was aloof and uncaring.
Really? If a person look at his watch, that means he’s “aloof and uncaring?” Would voters advance such a puddle of piss? In fact, the press corps drove this silly piddle. If it had been left to the voters, nothing would have been said.

Here’s a third example from Cillizza. This one is especially gruesome, in its own special way:
CILLIZZA: Edmund Muskie's tearing up in New Hampshire during the 1972 presidential campaign mattered because it reinforced the idea kicking around in political circles that the Democratic senator from Maine was emotionally unstable and prone to bursts of temper. (The one and only David S. Broder wrote extensively about the Muskie crying episode in his book "Behind the Front Page.")
In this case, Cillizza doesn’t even try to blame the voters for this hoary old groaner. He says Muskie’s alleged crying jag reinforced an idea which was “kicking around in political circles.”

In fact, the idea that Muskie was emotionally unstable had been kicking around among certain journalists, as Lou Cannon explained in a book, embarrassing himself in the process. And good grief! In 1987, “the one and only David Broder” wrote an article in the Washington Monthly admitting that he wasn’t sure if Muskie ever cried at all! “In retrospect, though, there were a few problems with the Muskie story,” Broder very weirdly wrote. “First, it is unclear whether Muskie did cry.”

For Broder’s astonishing story, click here. He notes that Cannon decided that Muskie was unstable while the two men played poker together. And he notes that he doesn't know if Muskie cried at all, ewven though he made a giant big deal about the claim in real time.

Is Cillizza unaware of this astounding confession? Or does he feel that “voters” can’t be told such things even now?

We began critiquing these life-forms on a daily basis in 1998. At that point in our life, we had no idea that anyone could be as dishonest as these people are. In public education, in entertainment, we had never encountered life-forms like these. This morning we get the perfect example, sloshed at us by Cillizza.

Bottom line: Within the guild, they always say it was somebody else’s doing or fault! When they made up two years’ worth of tales about Candidate Gore, they kept insisting that the stories came from “Republican opponents” or “late night comics.”

Sometimes, those stories began at the RNC—but they got their long life from the press corps itself. This was the press corps’ war against Gore. They won’t tell the truth to this day.

Almost always, these dumb-as-rocks stories are given long life by the boys and girls of the “mainstream press.” Cillizza is simply lying again. These silly stories come from him and his colleagues, our most repellent life-forms.

Also today: In the very same Washington Post, Melinda Henneberger also recalls the tale of George Bush checking his watch.

Are they human? Where do they come from? Who or what made them this way?


  1. In the highlighted passage, Cillizza pins the blame on “voters.” Gaffes stick around if they reinforce something the voters think.

    In some cases, this may even be true. But much more often, “gaffes” are seized upon or invented by the press corps; they stick around if they reinforce a judgment the press corps favors.

    Spot on. The thing is, as the Sadly, No! guys say, IT'S ALL PROJECTION. In this case, people like Cilizza believe that they are representative of what "the voters" think on any issue, that they know what average citizens think because they themselves think it, and they then project that belief onto "the voters." They won't admit to themselves that in fact they are not at all conversant with what "the voters" think or believe, as a group.

    This is why people like Chris Cilizza are called "the Villagers."

    1. Exactly, and remember that part of the game is to keep contests close. The media hates nothing more than covering a boring landslide in the making. So woe be to any "frontrunner" of either party.

      Example: The famous October 2007 Democratic debate in which Hillary Clinton found herself debating the two moderators (Williams and Russert) more than her opponents.

  2. I don't even think they believe they know what the public thinks. They run their theories past each other, honing and snarking and nodding and reinforcing, letting all manner of their personal feelings against a candidate be swirled into the batter, then bake a narrative. Then, they're too lazy, as Bob points out, to check some of the stories that support the narratives, i.e. Gore and the Internet, Muskie's (non-existent) tears, Kerry's (non-existent) "who among us doesn't like NASCAR." Then the media hammers these themes for months, building on them, refining them, making them worse. Suddenly, based on one awkward phrase, Kerry is a "flip-flopper." End of story. Al Gore is a liar. Bob is exactly right: these are the preconceived notions of voters. They're the pet narratives of the media.

  3. No list of manufactured "gaffes" would be complete without noting the wilding that occurred when Hillary Clinton mentioned what happened to RFK in June, 1968.

    Great progressives Keith Olbermann and David Axelrod outdid themselves trumping up that frenzy of fauxtrage.

  4. One can only gaze in horror at the smug creatures who decide what particular personal irritation is important enough to share with the rubes . It is gossip taken to a lethal level , but nothing that hasn't sat astride a fence during our climb from the soup . The agony imposed upon the body by the little fleas and their out sized importance is worse than arthritis , why it is almost like a plague .

  5. Marginally OT: Gail Collins is part of a larger madness at NYT - - -

  6. Gail was delirious this morning.
    Tippecanoe and Seamus too!

  7. they come from a farm, where they're harvested very late at night, so they won't be destroyed by people who actually care about the state of the nation. to them, it is all a game, because otherwise they'd be so very, very bored. well, that, and they really like those huge cocktail shrimp at the parties.

  8. Rarely do I agree with *all* comments but the only problem I have with Bob's mention of life forms ... is that calling these people "life forms" is an insult to all life. Bad joke but I felt like going there ... after a sip of vodka and diet 7-up. I just found a "trojan" in the recycle bin of a computer I am trying to fix. Trojan ... Santourm. This is not my world, I just live in it.

    -PT Dennis

  9. As I watch Hockey Night in Canada [3-3 Rangers @ MapleLeafs] ... I am not 7bdd2e0a-761a-11e1-9f61-000bcdcb5194 ... I am TheRealGammarock.

    -PT Dennis