Missing-person watch: Whatever happened to Norm!


A non-centrist disappears: Trust us: Producers of the major Sunday “news” programs know how to reach Norm Ornstein.

Ornstein is a very familiar figure in journalistic circles. As early as 1986, the Washington Monthly profiled him as DC’s “King of Quotes,” as the expert you couldn't escape.

Ten years later, CNN’s Bernies, Shaw and Kalb, reported that King Norm had been dethroned. He was no longer Washington’s most-quoted expert, although he still held second place:
SHAW (6/19/96): Now, a story about royalty of the most vocal kind. One man has been the expert, the pundit, the ultimate source of matters governmental for reporters here in Washington. But not any more. The long-time “King of Quotes” has lost his crown. CNN's Bernard Kalb explains.

KALB: Overthrow a king anywhere else in the world, and it's big news. Here in Washington, hardly a ripple, not even a syllable of gratitude to the deposed monarch from the thousands of journalists he's rescued from ignorance…

It seems that his royal highness, Norman Ornstein, who reigns as a scholar at a Washington think-tank, has been dethroned as the “King of Quotes.” He was given that title a decade ago by the Washington Monthly—the pundit most quoted in the print media on how the government operates. Now, ten years later—toppled!

The crown has gone to fellow pundit Thomas Mann, who reigns at a different think-tank.
Ornstein used to be on TV so much, we penned a joke about the syndrome: “How do people in these think-tanks ever find time to think?” At any rate, according to the National Journal, Mann had been quoted more than Ornstein in the previous year. King Norman had been deposed! All hail the new king, Thomas Mann!

Ornstein and Mann are still extremely well-known—and now, they’ve written a very tough book. But how weird! All of a sudden, Sunday producers just can’t seem to find them!

Ornstein and Mann’s new book bears a punishing title: "It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With The New Politics of Extremism." These famous non-aligned experts have dropped any “non-partisan” pose and gone after one of our two major parties.

Ornstein and Mann are trashing the GOP for the "exstremism" found in their title. In the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section, Robert Kaiser reviewed the new book. Kaiser's a big player too:
KAISER (5/6/12): Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein have been Washington fixtures for three decades. They are two of the brightest, best informed and most scholarly students of our politics.


Now Mann and Ornstein have decided that the time has come to abandon the evenhandedness still fashionable among political journalists (as opposed to the partisan talking heads and bloggers now so popular). The blunt result will be invigorating for some readers, and infuriating for others.

Their principal conclusion is unequivocal: Today’s Republicans in Congress behave like a parliamentary party in a British-style parliament, a winner-take-all system. But a parliamentary party—“ideologically polarized, internally unified, vehemently oppositional”—doesn’t work in a “separation-of-powers system that makes it extremely difficult for majorities to work their will.”

These Republicans “have become more loyal to party than to country,” the authors write, so “the political system has become grievously hobbled at a time when the country faces unusually serious problems and grave threats. . . . The country is squandering its economic future and putting itself at risk because of an inability to govern effectively.”
Ornstein and Mann are telling the harsh, brutal truth—and suddenly they’ve disappeared! They have dropped “the evenhandedness still fashionable among political journalists”—and those Sunday TV producers suddenly can’t seem to find them!

Last Sunday, Meet the Press featured some of the most fatuous pseudo-centrist piffle ever assembled in one place. Alleged economist Diane Swonk was grotesque—but Tom Brokaw was almost as bad. (More from Brokaw tomorrow.)

Meanwhile, where the heck are Ornstein and Mann? It has been weeks since their book appeared—and they haven’t appeared on any Sunday program! They have done a segment on the NewsHour, and a short segment on Morning Edition.

Ornstein appeared on Last Word, but he was forced to share time with Krystal Ball. We liberals need smokin’ hot sex appeal! Otherwise, we just won’t watch at all!

Ornstein and Mann haven’t appeared on any Sunday program! Once, they were DC’s most quoted persons. Now, their phone numbers can’t be found. Diane Swonk recites her prattle—but Ornstein has disappeared!

Lo, how the non-centrists may fall! If it's Sunday morning, it's piffle!


  1. If anything could be considered a bellwether for the extremism of the Republican Party, it has to be the State of Arizona.
    Arizona is the poster child for the extreme right.

    The Tea party has terrorized all political candidates with the specter of a losing primary fight.

    ALEC has trained virtually every Republican lawmaker in Arizona.

    If you want to look at the future of America, look to the west.

    What was in the Kaiser review that Bob left out, probably because he would be accused of self-serving, was this:

    Mann and Ornstein rightly blame the news media for doing a mediocre job covering the most important political story of the last three decades: the transformation of the Republican Party. They are critical of the conventions of mainstream journalism that lead to the evenhandedness they have now abandoned themselves. They see a “reflexive tendency of many in the mainstream press to use false equivalence to explain outcomes,”when Republican obstructionism and Republican rejection of science and basic facts have no Democratic equivalents. It’s much easier to write stories “that convey an impression that the two sides are equally implicated.”

  2. Oh, don't fool yourself. Bob plays the "false equivalence" game himself and practically on a daily basis. And most egregiously when he said "liberals" have no right to criticize the mean things Rush Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke unless they are willing to criticize the mean things Bill Maher once said about women in general.

    1. Sometimes he does.

      But not to the extent of say, Factcheck.org.
      They force equivalence by counting the number of misleading comments from each side, not by evaluating the egregiousness of the false claims.

      My particular ox is Somerby's claim that Tea Partiers are just a loose confederation of frightened Americans reacting to events that are beyond their comprehension.

      To the contrary, they are well organized and well trained, and have a clear agenda, starting with the replacement of old school Republican politicians with ALEC trained extremists.

  3. Ornstein and Mann haven't been on C-SPAN either unless I missed them.

  4. it seems as you stood a much more incredible end of the week as compared to my own, personal! haya ', my spouse and i put in that studying for finals. ughhh.
    attractive website, mind you!