The Post should use the real word: “Fraud!”


Halloween and Mitt Romney’s “proposal:” On Monday, the Washington Post published an editorial battering Romney’s tax proposal.

Check that! The Post battered Romney’s “tax proposal.” This is part of what the editors said, starting with the headline:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (10/29/12): Mr. Romney’s tax plan still doesn’t add up

In a letter published on this page last week, Pierce Scranton, economic policy director for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, took issue with an editorial describing the "implausibility" of Mr. Romney's tax plan. In the debates and other recent comments, Mr. Romney has taken to suggesting that one way to make his $5 trillion tax cut revenue-neutral would be to "pick a number"—say $25,000—and let taxpayers take that much, and no more, in deductions. The Tax Policy Center, analyzing that proposal, found that it would close only $1.3 trillion of Mr. Romney's newly dug revenue hole. And no matter how many times the Romney campaign insists that independent studies "have demonstrated the Romney plan works," that simply isn't true—not with the parameters (revenue neutrality and no tax increases for those making less than $200,000) that Mr. Romney has set, and not unless you assume economic growth far greater than that predicted by Mr. Romney's own advisers.
There was more, but you get the picture. Romney has made tax cut proposals which would cost the treasury $5 trillion. At best, he has come up with one-quarter as much—$1.3 trillion—in offsetting adjustments to loopholes and deductions.

Romney’s proposal for cuts in tax rates was first made in late February. (Although Obama kept saying, at the first debate, that Romney had been pushing the proposal for two years. Did he really think that at that point?) From that day to this, neither liberals nor the mainstream press have conveyed the depth of the fraud involved in this pseudo-proposal.

The editors refer to their previous statement, in which they cited the proposal’s “implausibility.” But Romney’s pseudo-proposal isn’t “implausible.” The proposal is what it always was, a manifest act of fraud.

On August 1, the Tax Policy Center released a study in which it declared that the proposal was “not mathematically possible.” But that formulation also failed to capture the size of the fraud.

(Saying the Romney plan “doesn’t add up” utterly fails to capture the size of the deception involved here. Many proposals don't add up. This half-dead turkey doesn't even begin to get anywhere close.)

Just think about it! The editors refer to a new study which finds that Romney’s newest “idea” could only offset about one-fourth of his proposed tax reductions! That's twenty-five cents on the dollar! And a few weeks earlier, a report by the Joint Committee on Taxation found that the initial iteration of Romney’s “proposal” would only allow him to lower tax rates by four percent.

He had said twenty percent! At most, he could manage four! And that would require dumping deductions which would be hard to dump.

The liberal world has utterly failed to describe this “proposal” as what it is—as an act of fraud on the public. Let’s make a comparison with the Bush tax cut proposal of Campaign 2000:

In December 1999, Candidate Bush proposed a large set of tax cuts. (They were about one-third as large as Romney's set of proposals.) He said this was a good way to use the budget surpluses which were being projected for the upcoming ten years.

Many liberals thought this was a bad idea. But Bush's proposal made perfect sense as a simple matter of logic. In particular, Bush didn’t pretend he had some magic way to offset the revenue loss. He simply said that he would dispose of projected surpluses this way.

It may have been a bad idea. But it wasn’t a con game, a fraud.

Twelve years later, Romney came forward with a proposal which was, in fact, a fraud. The background:

Romney made his proposal at a time when every other Republican candidate had a crazy tax cut proposal. Presumably, he came up with his pseudo-proposal so he could make it sound like he was proposing giant tax cuts too—although he also said, in other settings, that he would offset the revenue loss by dumping those tax deductions.

We liberals never quite got around to telling the voters that this was a fraud. We never pushed the nation’s editors to tell the truth about this.

All summer long, we clowned about Romney’s horses and dogs. Gail Collins kept stroking herself about Seamus. On the One True Liberal Channnel, the children gamboled and played. At one point, Lawrence even tried to get in a fight with Tagg!

This act of fraud is now eight months old. The best the Post can say is “implausible”—and the Post has pushed harder in this area than we liberals have!

As usual, the liberal world slept and snored concerning Romney’s proposal. We had to wait until August 1 before a think tank declared that the plan was “not mathematically possible.”

That statement, however damning, was itself a large understatement.

Question: Has any major political tribe ever been as lazy, as useless, as we modern liberals are? Is there anything our leaders ever noticed or arranged to get right? Anything in the past twenty years?

We don’t mean this as a criticism of the editors of the Post. When it comes to Romney’s pseudo-proposal, they have pushed harder than we liberals have. But then, we liberals are utterly feckless—have been for a long while.

Tonight, the nation’s actual children are dressing up as people they aren’t. So it was with Candidate Romney when he made his “tax proposal.”

“Treat and trick,” he should have yelled. But alas! The hopeful got to continue his clownish charade all through the rest of the year.

Ignatius sets himself right on Benghazi!


Also: When Chris Hayes met Anne-Marie Slaughter: As we told you in real time, David Ignatius broke every rule in the book when he defended Susan Rice’s statements concerning Benghazi.

Within the Village, Ignatius has surely been pounded hard since he committed that outrageous act. And sure enough! In this morning’s Washington Post, he skillfully rights the balance, with several early nods to the genius of those at Fox.

Let’s be clear: There have always been perfectly valid questions about what happened at Benghazi. Obama avoided one such question at the town hall debate—at which point, Romney saved him via his bungled one-act play concerning the term, “act of terror.”

That said, for the bulk of the past six weeks, Susan Rice’s unremarkable statements have been the focus of the attack. Disgracefully, Ignatius took her side several weeks back.

This morning, the requisite reaction! In the NFL, this is known as a make-up call.

Concerning someone who actively bungled this story, Chris Hayes offered a modified limited hang-out about his past errors this Sunday. We checked to see if he had self-corrected earlier, or if he had been more specific.

Hayes did bungle Benghazi, quite badly, as we noted on October 21. By coincidence (our post appeared later), Hayes had offered this mea culpa at the start of that morning’s program:
HAYES (10/21/12): Heading into tomorrow night’s foreign policy debate, the details of what happened in Benghazi on September 11 are, I have to say, more confusing to me as a consumer of news than they have ever been.

We talked about this pretty early on, and I will put myself in the category of people who were troubled—category of people who were troubled by what seemed to be a distance between what the reporting and what the intelligence agencies seemed to be saying and what was coming out of the White House. And I thought that gap was worrisome. And we talked about it on the show.

I don’t know what to think anymore because what looked like at first was—the official U.S. government line was that this was spontaneous and in reaction to the video. And there was a parallel channel of reporting seemed to be indicating this was premeditated, it was the work of possibly al Qaeda militants and had nothing to do with the video. In fact, there was no protest of the video. So that, that was—that was what happened.

Now we have reporting from the LA Times and the New York Times who were talking to people in Benghazi who were all saying, “No, dude, it was the video.” Here’s, here’s the LA Times—the assault was opportunist, no evidence of an al Qaeda link. "The assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last month appears to have been an opportunistic attack, rather than a long-planned operation, and intelligence agencies have found no evidence that it was ordered by al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials and witnesses interviewed in Libya."

Here’s my question to you. Has the media been punked by the right? I mean, did conservatives essentially generate a controversy where there was none? Because I am now beginning to think that was the case. And I am someone who on this program thought this is a very important issue. It seems there’s this distance. And now I really don’t know what to believe.
Good God. This pitiful child was still trying to figure if he had been punked by the right! He was beginning to think that the right may have ginned this whole shitstorm up!

Our analysis? Hayes should stop being “a consumer of news” and turn into a tough-minded analyst. Perhaps he should develop a small tiny clue about the way these lynch mobs work. About the way these lynch mobs have worked for at least the past twenty years!

Hayes was still trying to figure it out! He really didn’t know what to believe! At this point, he threw to a former speech-writer for Condi Rice; she of course extended the bullshit.

But the worst moment on Hayes’ program this day involved one more gruesome howler implicitly concerning What Susan Rice Said. Hayes had welcomed a ranking scholar to that morning’s program:

How could a talk show host go wrong with Princeton’s Anne-Marie Slaughter?

Here’s how a host could go wrong! In her very first oration, Slaughter recited the standard bogus account of what the administration (i.e., Rice) had said.

The professor wandered the countryside. No challenge or attempt at clarification followed:
SLAUGHTER (10/21/12): No, and well, and there is a way to square the circle here, where it— Originally, if you said it was a spontaneous thing from a protest, what that sounded like was there’s a protest going on outside the consulate, and then suddenly, that escalated into a, “Hey, let’s take over the consulate and let’s kill them.” Then they realized they had RPGs. And people do not demonstrate on the street—

HAYES: With RPGs, right.

SLAUGHTER: —about a video with RPGs. So then it looked like, “OK, it must have been an attack.” Then there was evidence that it could have— I mean, certainly, you had the head of al Qaeda calling for an attack. There were—it looked like there were links.

But then, ultimately, it is in reaction to the video, according to the people on the ground, but it was an attack that was spontaneous that day, not premeditated for weeks. So I—you know, the people I talked to in Washington right after all said privately, “We’re still trying to figure out—”

HAYES: Right.

SLAUGHTER: “—what was going on.” This was really hard to figure out.
Question: When did someone “originally” say that “it was a spontaneous thing from a protest?” In repeating that Standard Romney Canard for perhaps the ten millionth time, Slaughter was getting “punked by the right,” just as Hayes got punked earlier.

Admittedly, Hayes is earnest and adorable, but he needs to learn to stand and fight. He needs to acquire a minor clue about the way these lynch mobs work. He needs to get rid of guests who emerge from the hallowed halls with Fox News scripts spilling from their lips.

“This was really hard to figure out,” Slaughter said. Guess what, script-ass? We’ve noticed!

The moral of our story: This is the way the liberal world works. We urge liberals to take note.

RACE TO THE FINISH: Men in Orange!


Part 3—What the AP has reported: The AP’s ongoing project about “racial attitudes” got its start in 2008.

In 2009, five academics explained how the whole shebang got started. As we noted yesterday, their report appeared in Public Opinion Quarterly.

As we noted yesterday, their explanation was transparent nonsense. This is part of the eway it began:
PASEK ET AL (2009): Long before election day 2008, long before the country even knew who the major parties’ nominees for President would be, forecasting models predicted a win by the Democratic Party's candidate. These predictions were based upon a common set of indicators, including the health of the national economy and approval of the incumbent President. The average predicted vote share for Barack Obama across the 9 models shown in table 1 was 53.3 percent, a little smaller than the 53.7 percent that President Obama eventually earned...

But during the summer of 2008, the numerous polls being reported by the news media did not find an Obama lead. For example, as shown in figure 1, the ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll documented essentially no difference between the candidates’ share of the vote among likely voters until late September. Why was this? Even during the summer, the national economy was doing badly and in serious decline, the United States was involved in two wars that were not obviously succeeding at achieving their goals, and approval of President Bush was remarkably low. Furthermore, the proportion of the nation that called itself Republicans had been declining steadily over the prior months. These and other key factors that are thought to influence election outcomes pointed toward a greater Obama lead than was being observed.

Faced with this puzzle, a team of researchers at Stanford University and the Associated Press worked together to generate a series of hypotheses about what might explain Mr. Obama's lagging performance and to test those hypotheses with data from a new survey.
Astonishing. In fact, Obama ran ahead of McCain in almost every poll in the summer of 2008. In the November election, as the academics noted, he ever so slightly outperformed the forecasting models to which the professors referred!

But so what! A team of researchers—and the AP—proceeded with their attempt to explain a “puzzle,” a “lagging performance” which simply didn’t exist! This ridiculous origin story pretends to explain how a major journalistic project got started.

That is the way this nonsense began. Last Saturday, the AP published its latest report from this ongoing project.

On-line, the Washington Post published the AP’s full report. (In its Sunday hard-copy paper, it published a shortened version.) If that origin story was transparently bogus, this latest report is transparently odd—and race is a very important topic, a topic which ought to be reported with great care.

Do you understand what the AP claims in its new report? This is the way Sonya Ross and Jennifer Agiesta began:
ROSS AND AGIESTA (10/27/12): Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.

Those views could cost President Barack Obama votes as he tries for re-election, the survey found, though the effects are mitigated by some people’s more favorable views of blacks.

Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.
According to this AP report, “a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.” This racial prejudice “has increased slightly since 2008,” the AP reported.

“51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes,” Ross and Agiesta reported. That compares with only 48 percent four years ago.

That said, “the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent” when respondents’ sentiments were “measured by an implicit racial attitudes test.” This was up from 49 percent in 2008.

(On both of these tests, “the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell” as compared to 2008, the AP also reported. Do you understand what that means?)

Is it possible that a majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks? Is it possible that this many people “now express explicit anti-black attitudes?” Everything is possible, of course—and race has always been the most destructive force in American history.

That said, race is a very serious topic. You’d think a major news org would want to explain what sorts of “explicit anti-black attitudes” those people are now expressing. In what ways did all those people display these “explicit anti-black attitudes?”

A serious news org would want to explain that. Eventually, Ross and Agiesta made a half-hearted attempt:
ROSS AND AGIESTA: The AP developed the surveys to measure sensitive racial views in several ways and repeated those studies several times between 2008 and 2012.

The explicit racism measures asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about black and Hispanic people. In addition, the surveys asked how well respondents thought certain words, such as “friendly,” “hardworking,” “violent” and “lazy,” described blacks, whites and Hispanics.

The same respondents were also administered a survey designed to measure implicit racism, in which a photo of a black, Hispanic or white male flashed on the screen before a neutral image of a Chinese character. The respondents were then asked to rate their feelings toward the Chinese character. Previous research has shown that people transfer their feelings about the photo onto the character, allowing researchers to measure racist feelings even if a respondent does not acknowledge them.
According to that passage, respondents displayed their “explicit anti-black attitudes” in their responses to a series of statements about black people. But Ross and Agiesta included no examples of the statements to which they were asked to respond. Nor did they attempt to describe what respondents said about the way those additional highlighted words apply to blacks and whites.

“Implicit racism” was measured in a separate way, the reporters explained. Researchers were able to diagnose “racist feelings” through respondents’ reactions to a series of images.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the series of statements about blacks and Hispanics to which people were asked to respond. In our view, these questions are often just as bogus as the ridiculous origin story those professors published in 2009 in that high-ranking journal.

We'll look at those statements tomorrow. For today, let’s consider the obvious problems which lurk in this new AP report, even before we explicitly review the way these surveys worked.

For starters, you have to have a lot of faith in the academic class to report these findings as matter-of-factly as the AP did. As experienced, presumably skeptical journalists, do Ross and Agiesta really believe that a gang of professors from Stanford and Michigan can measure “prejudice toward blacks” and “racist attitudes” with the degree of precision they describe in this new report?

For unknown reasons, the professors in question don’t even know that Obama led in almost all national polling during the summer of 2008. Why would skeptical professional journalists simply assume that these orange-shoed researchers know how to measure the important traits described in this new report?

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the specific questions employed by these “Men in Orange.” But good God! There isn’t a hint of journalistic skepticism in Ross and Agiesta’s wide-eyed reporting. And uh-oh:

Obvious problems seem to emerge in the peculiar passage which follows. In this passage, Ross and Agiesta refer to the academic surveys in question as a poll:
ROSS AND AGIESTA: The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

Obama faced a similar situation in 2008, the survey then found.
Uh-oh! One would think that well-trained, skeptical professional journalists would wonder about several points:

First question: According to Ross and Agiesta, the professors came up with two separate ways to measure “prejudice toward blacks,” “racial prejudice,” “anti-black attitudes” and “anti-black sentiments.” And yet, one of their measures found much more racial prejudice among Republicans.

Their second measure “found little difference between the two parties.”

If the two measures differ to that extent, doesn’t that suggest the possibility that at least of the measures might be wrong? (Perhaps both measures?) Not to these intrepid reporters, who cruise right past the significant chasm between what the two measures found.

Second question: In each of these surveys, significant numbers of Democrats “express racial prejudice.” In the so-called implicit measure, some 55 percent of Democrats were found to “hold anti-black feelings.”

Those numbers are intriguing. As everyone knows, significant numbers of Democrats are in fact black or Hispanic. If 55 percent of Democrats were shown to hold “anti-black feelings,” doesn’t that suggest the possibility that quite a few black respondents were found to harbor such feelings? If not, wouldn't that suggest that white Democrats must have displayed more “anti-black feelings” than white Republicans did?

Black people can hold anti-black feelings, of course. Similarly, women can be misogynistic and Catholics can be anti-Catholic. But please note: Although Ross and Agiesta were eager to tell you how many Democrats, Republicans and independents were shown to hold “anti-black feelings,” they never tell you how many black respondents “hold anti-black feelings” as well!

Why didn’t our intrepid reporters give us that information? We can’t answer that question. But even a mildly skeptical observer could imagine one possible answer:

If substantial percentages of black respondents were allegedly shown to “hold anti-black feelings,” that would make almost anyone wonder how valid the AP's measures may be. It would undermine confidence in the professors—in those men of vast erudition, the orange-shoed fellows who still seem to think that Obama trailed in the national polling all through the summer of 2008.

The orange-shoed fellows who were willing to write that! In a professional journal, no less!

Question: Should the basic competence of these professors simply be assumed? Tomorrow, we’ll look at some of the questions they posed to their respondents. In our view, our question then answers itself.

Race is a very serious topic. Are Ross and Agiesta serious journalists? And should we assume that those orange-shoed profs are actually serious analysts?

Tomorrow: The questions they asked

Drumming Brooks: Here’s the bad news!


What Brooks said isn’t quite wrong: In 1948, Harry Truman ran for re-election against “the do-nothing Congress.”

In 2012, Barack Obama didn’t run for re-election against the obstructionist Congress.

This may reflect a difference in temperament. But here’s the other problem: If Obama told the truth about Congress, it might go somewthing like his:

Re-elect me and we’ll get nothing done! Elect Mitt Romney to the White House and he has a good solid chance!

Last night, Kevin Drum slammed David Brooks for voicing that italicized outlook. Here’s the problem: The outlook Brooks expresses today isn’t exactly wrong.

Brooks envisions a re-elected Obama stymied by the same old obstructions. (He describes Obama's agenda as "moderate and sensible.") On the other hand, he envisions a President Romney managing to get things done through the help of centrist Democrats.

He doesn't explicitly say that. But that's how it would have to proceed.

Here’s the bad news: Unless Obama uses the fiscal cliff to give himself all-new-and-improved leverage against congressional Republicans, the picture Brooks paints isn't exactly wrong. This has always been the downside to running against the obstructionist Congress.

For ourselves, we would have liked to see someone tell the public, in a big fulsome way, that they actually have an obstructionist Congress—that their Congress has been actively trying to undermine economic recovery. But that would require a political discourse light-years beyond the one we actually have.

Drum is right about what Brooks said. Unfortunately, barring a new approach, Brooks is probably right about the workings of Congress. Here's where we're afraid Brooks is wrong, and perhaps being disingenuous:

Brooks pictures Romney shape-shifting his way to the center-right. There is no reason to assume he would do that.

We'll guess he could probably succeed working from the plain old right. We'll guess that Brooks could picture that too if he'd just give himself the chance.

Rural rules, or the way the Senate works: In part, this reflects the way the Senate favors the GOP, given our current political alignments. There are very few blue-state Republicans in the Senate, but quite a few red-state Democrats. That’s because every state gets the same two votes in the Senate—and at present, the smaller rural states tend to be conservative.

Little Wyoming gets two votes. So does big liberal California. If you can’t elect Democrats from the red states, you can’t elect enough Democrats to compete in the Senate at all.

In 2000, Gore narrowly won the nationwide popular vote—but he only won 20 states in the process (or 21, if you count Florida). As our nation aligns at present, Senate logic strongly favors the GOP.

Some Standard Group Stories are accepted by all!


What Glenn Kessler said on Benghazi: Mercifully, the hurricane has wiped away the need to pretend that we’re discussing the presidential election.

Last evening, TV pundits were stripped of the need to declare that the other side had been lying while their own incomparable side has been telling the truth all along.

As part of this process, Benghazi slid beneath the waves churned by Hurricane Sandy. This lets us offer a bit of history concerning the potent Group Story which grew up around this event.

Within the insider press corps, some narratives are more equal than others. Some narratives possess so much social capital that they end up being adopted by one and all.

No one dissents from the Standard Account, not even our new breed of fact-checkers.

In the case of the Benghazi Group Story, we reviewed the pitiful job Politifact did when it fact-checked this story. Today, let’s look at what Glenn Kessler wrote on September 27.

Kessler is the main man at the Washington Post’s FactChecker site. No one is perfect, but Kessler has done a lot of good work as he’s covered the current campaign.

We’ve often learned facts from reading his posts. In recent days, he has been pounding away at Candidate Romney.

That said, Kessler’s September 27 report on Benghazi shows the power of the Group Story which formed around that event. On that day, Kessler posted a timeline of the events which followed the September 11 attacks. Today, we’ll look at Kessler’s introduction to that timeline.

In our view, Kessler’s introduction would have been extremely speculative as an opinion column. As the work of a fact-checker, we’d say it wandered many miles off the reservation.

Right from the start, Kessler speculated and offered insinuations about the administration’s motives. In these speculations, he kept assuming the worst—and he seemed to make some factual errors as well:
KESSLER (9/27/12): In any kind of confused overseas event, initial reports are often wrong. But the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including the ambassador, is a case study of how an administration can carefully keep the focus as long as possible on one storyline—and then turn on a dime when it is no longer tenable.

For political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead the administration kept the focus on what was ultimately a red herring—anger in the Arab world over anti-Muslim video posted on You Tube. With key phrases and message discipline, the administration was able to conflate an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt—which apparently was prompted by the video—with the deadly assault in Benghazi.

Officials were also able to dismiss pointed questions by referring to an ongoing investigation.

Ultimately, when the head of the National Counterterrorism Center was asked pointblank on Capitol Hill whether it was an act of terror—and he agreed—the administration talking points began to shift. (Tough news reporting—as well as statements by Libya’s president—also played a role.) Yet President Obama himself resisted using the “t” word, even as late as Tuesday, while keeping the focus on the video in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

On Wednesday [9/26], however, White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged also that Obama himself believes the attack was terrorism—and so more than two weeks after the attack the Rubicon finally was crossed.

As a reader service, we have compiled a comprehensive timeline of administration statements, showing the evolution in talking points, with key phrases highlighted in bold. Many readers sent suggestions for this timeline, for which we are deeply grateful.

We will leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions on whether this is merely the result of the fog of war and diplomacy—or a deliberate effort to steer the storyline away from more politically damaging questions. After all, in a competitive election, two weeks is a lifetime.
As a fact-check, that’s a work of pulp fiction! Right from his opening paragraph on, Kessler kept assuming and implying that the administration had behaved in bad faith. He never even considered the possibility that administration statements changed as more information came in.

Beyond that, he asserted, as a simple fact, that the anti-Muslim video played no role in the Benghazi attacks. As far as we know, the truth of that matter still hasn’t been established.

He asserted that Obama resisted using the “t” word, even though Obama had referred to “acts of terror” on several occasions, starting on September 12.

Kessler also seemed to say that Obama blamed the video for the Benghazi attack when he addressed to the United Nations. That has been part of the Standard Group Story, but Obama simply didn’t do that. In fairness, we note that Kessler used a rather slippery construction in the passage in question. He seemed to imply that Obama blamed the video, without saying so directly.

That's very odd conduct for a fact-checker. But the level of insinuation was high all through this peculiar piece.

The Benghazi episode has been quite remarkable. A powerful Group Story took hold in the press, migrating from the conservative world into our mainstream press organs. Liberals just sat there and watched.

Kessler pushed this Group Story early and often. We’ve learned a lot from Kessler’s posts. But within the conservative world and the mainstream press, the Benghazi Group Story has been very potent.

We’d have to call this the strangest performance Kessler turned in all year.

RACE TO THE FINISH: “Polarization” then and now!


Part 2—Plus, the AP’s improbable claims: Jon Cohen is polling director for the Washington Post. Last Friday, he built a front-page news report around an exciting hook:
COHEN (10/26/12): The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago.
As it turns out, Obama’s “steep drop in support among white voters” amounts to maybe five points, a quite underwhelming amount. Meanwhile, is this election more “polarized along racial lines” than any election since 1988?

While we’re at it, is this election “polarized along racial lines” at all?

It all depends on what the meaning of “polarized along racial lines” is! Based on his final paragraph and one accompanying graphic, Cohen seems to be referring to the gap between Obama’s level of support from white voters and his level of support from nonwhite voters.

There is always such a gap in our White House elections. That said, the gap this year is larger than usual, largely for reasons which have been explained about three million times now.

Cohen seems to be saying that the gap is larger this year than in any election since 1988. It seems to us that he's understating. The following data are drawn from two different parts of Cohen’s report:
Percentage of the vote, white voters and nonwhite voters:
Michael Dukakis 1988:
White voters: 40 percent
Nonwhite voters: 79 percent
Barack Obama 2012 (as recorded in current Post poll):
White voters: 37 percent
Nonwhite voters: 80 percent
As you can see, the gap is actually larger today than it was in 1988. If that’s the metric Cohen is using, this election is actually “more polarized along racial lines” than any election since 1984!

(In 1984, Mondale got 34 percent of the white vote and something exceeding 80 percent of the nonwhite vote. He got 91 percent from black voters, 66 percent from a substantially smaller group of Hispanic voters. We’re using Roper data.)

Whatever! Cohen had an exciting hook, however poorly it was explained and applied. And after all, this is only race, the most destructive force in all of American history. Who needs accuracy, clarity, moderation when discussing this tired old topic? Why not open with that exciting hook—a hook which makes tired blood flow?

Do Cohen’s data really mean that this election is “more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988?” Do they mean that this election is “polarized along racial lines” at all? For ourselves, we’d stay away from that eye-catching word, though journalists like to use it in various contexts.

(Do you remember when Hillary Clinton was said to be highly “polarizing?” In our view, “polarization” often conveys a great deal of heat and a lot less light.)

In fact, the last presidential election—the election held in 2008—actually was “more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988,” if we apply Cohen’s metric. In 2008, Obama got 43 percent of the white vote, 80 percent from nonwhites. That fell short of the gap achieved by Dukakis. But it was the largest such gap in any election since then.

But so what? Euphoria reigned in 2008 when we elected our first black president. No one felt the need to declare or observe how “polarized” we allegedly were. Both before and after that year’s election, Cohen wrote lengthy reports about the Post’s polling without mentioning the fact that 2008 was shaping up to be, or had turned out to be, “more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988.” Through an act of will, Cohen managed to report the way blacks, whites and Hispanics had voted without feeling the need to tell the world that the election had been more polarized than any since 1988.

But that was then—and this is now. Now, a different hook is employed, a hook which makes tired blood course through jaundiced veins.

Is this campaign “more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988?” In the narrow sense, the gap among white and nonwhite voters may end up being larger than at any time since 1984. In the broader sense, the gap was larger than normal four years ago—larger than at any time since 1988!—but Cohen took a different approach to his reporting.

Do you feel that something essential was being withheld from you at that time?

As a general matter, hooks and frameworks are in the eye of the journalistic beholder. To our taste, this particular hook conveys a great deal more heat than light. Everyone knows why Hispanic voters are trending away from the GOP—and everyone knows why black voters support Obama to a slightly higher degree than they normally do in the case of the Democratic candidate.

Nor should anyone be surprised by that five-point drop in Obama’s white support—although the blood may begin to flow if we’re told that the drop is “steep.”

That said, some journalists love the excitement of race—and some of us liberals love race too. When employed correctly, race can let us white liberals puff ourselves up; we get to pose as racial heroes or at least as racial savants. In some cases, this has occurred in the past few days as a new report emerged from the Associated Press, one of our least competent journalistic organizations.

In recent years, we liberals have learned to roll our eyes at the AP’s work. Its work is often quite underwhelming, we liberals have sadly learned.

Quite correctly, we liberals have learned to doubt the AP. Until it produces a pleasing report about race, in which case we rush to affirm the org’s intellectual greatness.

In the case of its new report about race, the AP is extending a bungled type of reporting it has done several times in the past. On an intellectual basis, the AP’s report is extremely weak, as AP reports often are.

But if the AP’s report is weak, what can we say about the lofty academics upon whose work the report is based? For ourselves, we’ll only say this:

The professors have failed us many times in the past. In this case, some of the professors’ work borders on outright fraud.

Tomorrow: What the AP said

For those who want to read ahead: We liberals tend to believe the professors, especially when they say the sorts of things we like.

But good God! In this new companion report, the Associated Press describes the academic surveys on which its recent report about race is based. At one point, the AP links to an academic account of the way its reports on race got started in 2008.

The report to which the AP links appeared in Public Opinion Quarterly. It was written by five academics, including professors from Stanford and Michigan.

The report pretends to explain how this series of AP reports got started. Incredibly, this is the way these academics begin their explanation:
PASEK ET AL (2009): The presence of an African-American candidate on the ballot running for President in 2008 raises the possibility that the election outcome might have been influenced by anti-African-American racism among voters. This paper uses data from the Associated Press-Yahoo! News-Stanford University survey to explore this possibility, using measures of both explicit racism (symbolic racism) and implicit racism (the Affect Misattribution Procedure)...

Long before election day 2008, long before the country even knew who the major parties’ nominees for President would be, forecasting models predicted a win by the Democratic Party's candidate. These predictions were based upon a common set of indicators, including the health of the national economy and approval of the incumbent President. The average predicted vote share for Barack Obama across the 9 models shown in table 1 was 53.3 percent, a little smaller than the 53.7 percent that President Obama eventually earned...

But during the summer of 2008, the numerous polls being reported by the news media did not find an Obama lead. For example, as shown in figure 1, the ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll documented essentially no difference between the candidates’ share of the vote among likely voters until late September. Why was this? Even during the summer, the national economy was doing badly and in serious decline, the United States was involved in two wars that were not obviously succeeding at achieving their goals, and approval of President Bush was remarkably low. Furthermore, the proportion of the nation that called itself Republicans had been declining steadily over the prior months. These and other key factors that are thought to influence election outcomes pointed toward a greater Obama lead than was being observed.

Faced with this puzzle, a team of researchers at Stanford University and the Associated Press worked together to generate a series of hypotheses about what might explain Mr. Obama's lagging performance and to test those hypotheses with data from a new survey.
That third paragraph is larded with self-contradiction and factual errors. But good God! That highlighted claim is truly amazing: “But during the summer of 2008, the numerous polls being reported by the news media did not find an Obama lead?”

In fact, Obama led in almost all national polling during the summer of 2008, a fact you can relive here. And yet, the professors said precisely the opposite in their report! They then said “this puzzle” explains why Stanford and the AP joined forces to produce these reports about race.

They wantred to examine a puzzle. A puzzle which didn't exist!

(Just for the record, there was no ABC/Washington Post tracking poll in the summer of 2008.)

“During the summer of 2008, the numerous polls being reported by the news media did not find an Obama lead?” In what universe can five professors make such a claim in an academic journal? With no one saying a word about it, even several years later? In what universe could the AP still promote this nonsensical claim as the rationale for its equally absurd reports about race?

That ridiculous claim was made in this universe, by a group of academics who couldn’t write four paragraphs without engaging in an orgy of self-contradiction and factual error. Some of those same academics performed the strikingly clueless work behind that new AP report.

Despite their lofty academic standing, their work was comically bad, as we’ll see in the next two “jours,” as professors may say when in France.

Schieffer allows McCain to dissemble again!


Benghazi must never die: Plainly, Republicans political figures—and Fox—continue to think that Benghazi is a political winner which may put Romney over the top.

Over the weekend, Fox ran an hour-long special on the subject that included the most cherry-picked rendition of Susan Rice’s presentation we have seen to date. We can’t find a transcript or tape of the program, but videotape of Rice was clipped within an inch of its life.

Plainly, the dissembling on this topic will continue right through November 6.

That said, you didn’t have to be watching Fox to see the onslaught continue. Yesterday morning, John McCain appeared on Face the Nation.

Need we say much more?

Bob Schieffer did the enabling as McCain continued to misrepresent what Ambassador Rice and President Obama said about Benghazi. It was the Same Old Bogus Story, pimped with Schieffer’s permission:
MCCAIN (10/28/12): Probably the worst of all of this, of course, is the gross, gross, outrageous statements that [Obama] made and his— I was on your program when Susan Rice came on. And I was slack-jawed when she went through that routine of the, that this was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a video. We now know there was no demonstration. There was no mob. So how could intelligence community ever reach a conclusion that there was a spontaneous demonstration when there wasn’t?


So the president went on various shows, despite what he said he said in the Rose Garden about terrorist acts, he went on several programs, including The View, including Letterman, including before the UN, where he continued to refer, days later, many days later, to this as a spontaneous demonstration because of a hateful video. We know that is patently false.

What did the president know? When did he know it? And what did he do about it?
Watergate references to the side, let’s get clear about this latest dissembling:

On the September 16 Face the Nation, Ambassador Rice did not “say that that this was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a video.”

When he spoke to the United Nations, President Obama did not refer to the Benghazi attacks as a spontaneous demonstration because of a hateful video.

McCain continues to thunder about, making statements which are, at best, grossly misleading. And what does a major network anchor say in response to such misrepresentations?

A major network anchor says nothing! Schieffer gave McCain free rein, then finally dropped the topic. His new question, asked on a bit of a first-name basis, was this:
SCHIEFFER: What do you think Mitt Romney needs to do? If he called and you said, “What do I need to do now, John, to close this?” what would you tell him?
Scheiffer seemed to be asking what Romney must do to close out a winning campaign. He made no attempt to challenge “John’s” account of what Rice and Obama said.

Schieffer’s next guest was Rahm Emmanuel. Incredibly, he quickly asked this:
SCHIEFFER: Now you weren’t there, obviously you don’t have access to this information, but you were White House chief of staff. How is it that so many of, versions of events could come out of this thing? I mean, you know, yes, yes, he— Yes, [Obama] said in the Rose Garden, he referred to a terrorist attack. But five days later, Susan Rice was right here on this broadcast and on other Sunday broadcasts saying that no, it wasn’t. And I mean, how is it that that could happen?

On the September 16 Face the Nation, Susan Rice did not say that no, it wasn’t a terrorist attack. She said the violence began when “extremist elements” arrived at the consulate “with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.”

That’s what Rice actually said to Schieffer right there on his own freaking program. Surely Schieffer has access to transcripts and tapes! But this has all been disappeared as people like McCain—and Schieffer himself—keep pushing a thoroughly scripted and grossly misleading line.

These scripted misstatements aren’t going to stop. More on this topic tomorrow.

What the fearless Emmanuel said: In response to Schieffer’s question, the best Emmanuel could manage was this: “When Susan went out there, she was working off the intelligence provided at that point.”

No one is ever allowed to say that Schieffer may be misstating a point—that he may be misstating what was said to his own face, right there on his own program.

People! In accordance with Hard Pundit Law, things like that simply aren’t done!

Why we voters don’t know a whole lot!


Now they’ve even got Krugman: Let’s face it: The third debate represents the last chance for serious discussion of serious issues in a presidential campaign.

After that, it’s nothing but cant. No serious discussion of serious issues is likely to prevail.

As an example of what we mean, consider the six reports about the campaign we found in our hard-copy New York Times today (“Washington Edition”).

Six reports! It sounds like a lot! But these are the headlines we found:
Headlines today in our hard-copy Times, all election reporting:
In Middle of a Messy Election, A Nightmare Makes Landfall (page A1)
Obama Is Even In TV Ad Race Despite PACs (page A1)
With Less Time for Voting, Black Churches Redouble Their Efforts (page A10)
Famous for Gaffes, a Candidate in Missouri Learns to Watch His Words (page A10)
What Works in a Campaign Commercial? Ad Executives Offer Their Takes (page A12)
Rural Ohio Is Startled Host To Diverted G.O.P. Ticket (page A12)
None of those reports deals with a substantive policy matter. On the other hand, two of these reports concern campaign commercials—and one concerns Todd Akin’s gaffes! But then, the focus on TV ads and gaffes has been quite constant as the slacker Times has pretended to cover this race.

Indeed, the Times has often seemed like some sort of professional journal for the advertising industry. These endless reports have taken the place of even the most simple-minded reporting about central policy matters.

Today, you get to read about Akins’ gaffes again. (No day would be complete without them.) You learn nothing about any policy matter—and speaking of the apocalypse, you even get a strange account of Medicaid from Paul Krugman, the long-standing MVP of the American press corps.

Or so it seems to us. Because we read papers like the Times, we can’t say we’re totally sure.

Romney’s proposal for Medicaid has been widely ignored in this campaign, as Krugman notes in his column. Just a guess: In large part, that’s because of the impression Krugman gives as he describes the program:
KRUGMAN (10/29/12): So this election is, to an important degree, really about Medicaid. And this, in turn, means that you need to know something more about the program.

For while Medicaid is generally viewed as health care for the nonelderly poor, that’s only part of the story. And focusing solely on who Medicaid covers can obscure an equally important fact: Medicaid has been more successful at controlling costs than any other major part of the nation’s health care system.

So, about coverage: most Medicaid beneficiaries are indeed relatively young (because older people are covered by Medicare) and relatively poor (because eligibility for Medicaid, unlike Medicare, is determined by need). But more than nine million Americans benefit from both Medicare and Medicaid, and elderly or disabled beneficiaries account for the majority of Medicaid’s costs. And contrary to what you may have heard, the great majority of Medicaid beneficiaries are in working families.

For those who get coverage through the program, Medicaid is a much-needed form of financial aid. It is also, quite literally, a lifesaver. Mr. Romney has said that a lack of health insurance doesn’t kill people in America; oh yes, it does, and states that expand Medicaid coverage show striking drops in mortality.

So Medicaid does a vast amount of good.
As far as we know, none of that is wrong. But what about all the middle-class people who receive (expensive) nursing home care through the Medicaid program, at least in certain states?

In early September, Nina Bernstein did a front-page report in the Times which flirted with this topic. She keyed her report to a statement Bill Clinton made in his convention address—a statement she said was inaccurate. But this is the way she started:
BERNSTEIN (9/7/12): Medicaid has long conjured up images of inner-city clinics jammed with poor families. Its far less-visible role is as the only safety net for millions of middle-class people whose needs for long-term care, at home or in a nursing home, outlast their resources.

With baby boomers and their parents living longer than ever, few families can count on their own money to go the distance. So while Medicare has drawn more attention in the election campaign, seniors and their families may have even more at stake in the future of Medicaid changes—those proposed, and others already under way.
From that point on, things got rather murky, in standard Times fashion. But right in Bernstein’s opening paragraph, she referred to “millions of middle-class people whose needs for long-term care, at home or in a nursing home,” are paid for by Medicaid.


To what extent does Medicaid pay for nursing home care for middle-class seniors? To what extent do middle-class voters understand this topic when they heard that Romney wants to slash spending for this program?

We don’t know the full answer to that first question. That said, we’ll guess that the vast majority of middle-class voters don’t understand that Medicaid may pay the bills for the future care of their own parents or grandparents.

And we’ll have to say, few voters will get a clear picture of this from reading Krugman’s description today. From his oddly murky account, would a reader understand that nursing home care for middle-class seniors is (sometimes? often?) paid for by Medicaid?

(We know, we know: He doesn't contradict that fact. But would readers come to understand that fact if they didn't already know it?)

Just a guess: Most Times readers have no idea about the way this works. We certainly know we don’t! But go ahead! Enjoy another report about Akin’s gaffes! (Gaffes are entertaining.) And by all means, please keep reading about those campaign ads! Keep track of the states in which the candidates keep saying the same old crap!

Make no mistake: The Times has worked hard, all through this campaign, to avoid discussing matters of substance which can’t be made entertaining and fun. Romney’s tax proposal made no earthly sense. In its Potemkin news reporting, the New York Times still hasn’t told you.

People are working hard, and sincerely, at those black churches. At the New York Times, not so much.

RACE TO THE FINISH: A thrill up the leg!


Part 1—What does polarized mean: Is the current election the most racialized in the past two decades?

In our view, the correct answer to that question would be: “What do you mean by that term?”

But first:

Many journalists love the topic of race. It attracts attention and fires the blood. People look up when you type about race—or about “racialization!”

And not only that! People look up when you build a report around the idea of racial “polarization!” Blood begins to rush through the veins! Weak, tired prose becomes thrilling!

Last Friday, Jon Cohen did a front-page report in the Washington Post about patterns in current polling.

Cohen is polling director for the Post. He may be good at managing polls—but he has always been an underwhelming journalist. For his recent “5 myths about political polling,” click here. This piece was quite weak, as you will surely discover.

Back to last Friday: What was the theme of Cohen’s front-page news report? Essentially, Cohen’s theme was this: Obama will get less support from white voters this time than he did in 2008!

Such an outcome will hardly be surprising. Obama beat McCain by 7.2 points in 2008. At present, he’s running a point behind Romney in the Washington Post’s tracking poll.

Almost surely, Obama is going to get fewer votes this time! No one will be surprised if that happens, especially since he’s seeking re-election in bad economic times.

Newsflash! Presidents tend to get fewer votes when they seek re-election in bad times. If you doubt that, ask Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, whose vote percentages we will present below.

No one is going to be surprised if Obama gets fewer votes this time! Indeed, that’s pretty much what everyone has always predicted! (For ourselves, we have no idea.) That said, Cohen found a great deal of excitement in this less than shocking prospect. Here’s the way he framed his front-page report:
COHEN (10/26/12): The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago.

At this stage in 2008, Obama trailed Republican John McCain by seven percentage points among white voters. Even in victory, Obama ended up losing white voters by 12 percentage points, according to that year’s exit poll.

But now, Obama has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney 60 percent to 37 percent among whites, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll. That presents a significant hurdle for the president—and suggests that he will need to achieve even larger margins of victory among women and minorities, two important parts of the Democratic base, to win reelection.
In the current Post poll, Obama is doing worse among white voters than he did in 2008! He is currently trailing among white voters, 60-37!

On its face, that sounds like a lot. But in some ways, it pretty much isn’t.

Breaking! The Democratic presidential candidate always loses the white vote! Typically, the Democrat loses by a substantial amount. These are the results among white voters in the last three presidential elections:
Percentage of the vote, white voters only:
2000: Bush 55, Gore 42 (Nader 3)
2004: Bush 58, Kerry 41
2008: McCain 55, Obama 43
In 2008, Obama ran in a good climate for Democrats; overall, he beat McCain by 7.2 points. But even in that circumstance, Obama only got 43 percent of the white vote. That was slightly more than Candidates Kerry or Gore had received.

(We’re using Roper numbers throughout. Click here, then keep clicking. For New York Times numbers, which may differ slightly, click this.)

Obama surely lost some votes in 2008 because of his race. In our view, he probably lost net votes among whites because of his race. If Kerry and Gore got 41 and 42 percent, Obama probably should have gotten a somewhat higher percentage than he did, given the circumstances in which he ran. That said, this is speculation—and as we noted in 2008 and 2009, there was little interest within the press corps in exploring this obvious topic.

That said, Obama is seeking re-election in a much more difficult context. Given the voting patterns of the past forty years, it would be completely unremarkable if his percentage of the white vote slipped from 43 percent to (let’s say) 37 or 38 percent.

(Presumably, that total would reflect some race-based holdouts, as was the case in 2008.)

This just in: When presidents seek re-election in bad times, they always lose white support! Below, you see Jimmy Carter’s numbers in 1976 and 1980, along with George H. W. Bush’s numbers three cycles later:
Percentage of the vote, white voters only:
1976: Ford 52, Carter 48
1980: Reagan 56, Carter 36 (Anderson 8)

1988: Bush 60, Dukakis 40
1992: Bush 41, Clinton 39 (Perot 21)
Many white voters dumped Carter and Bush when they sought re-election. The analysis is complicated by the presence of major third-party candidates in 1980 and 1992. But the loss of support is plain:

In 1976, Carter almost broke even with Ford among white voters. Four years later, Reagan beat him among white voters by twenty points.

(In 1984, Mondale lost the white vote by 32 points—66 to 34.)

In 1988, Bush beat Dukakis among white voters by twenty points. Four years later, Clinton almost matched him.

Extra! Presidents running in bad economies tend to lose support from white voters! Judging from those earlier examples, there would be nothing shocking if Obama went from 43 percent in 2008 to 38 percent this time.

But on the front page of the Washington Post, Cohen found ways to make this unfortunate but rather pedestrian development sound extremely exciting. In his opening paragraph, he said this election is “shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988.”

Exciting! Cohen never quite explained what that formulation meant—and to the extent that he finally did explain, he may have understated the matter. (If he wanted to use that formulation, he probably should have said “since 1984.” More tomorrow.)

That said, what does “polarized along racial lines” actually mean in this context? Why did Cohen choose to use the word “polarized” at all? Granted, the word can be very exciting in its various applications, not all of which involve race. But what does it mean in this context—and what did it mean when Kevin Drum said in a headline that this is our most “racialized” election in the past two decades? (In his text, Drum referred to it as "the most thoroughly racialized.")

Granted, these terms convey lots of heat. But do these terms convey light?

Let’s be fair to polling director Cohen! In fairness, “polarized along racial lines” is an exciting phrase. It’s the kind of phrase which sends blood through veins. Even better, it tends to let us liberals imagine and pretend that we’re the truly good people here, even though we often pretty much aren’t.

We wouldn’t use that formulation ourselves, especially with respect to such a serious topic. But in fairness, many journalists love the thrill of race.

Race sends thrills up some journalists’ legs! Ditto for the legs of some liberals and even some academics! Indeed, this phenomenon is painfully clear in a recent AP report—a report the Post ran at great length this weekend.

Leave it to the Associated Press, one of our least competent news orgs! In our view, the AP’s exciting report shows the remarkable haplessness of large segments of the journalistic and academic words.

In our view, that report shows one more thing. It shows the thrill we can send up our legs when we toy with the topic of race.

That AP report conveys almost no light. But thank you dear God! All that heat!

Tomorrow: What the AP said

Lawrence serves the comfort food!


Matthews keeps praising McCain: On the political side, John Sununu has been one of the grimiest players in Campaign 2012.

The fellow has been very grimy.

On the journalistic side, Lawrence has been one of the dumbest. That’s pretty much what happened last night when Lawrence discussed Sununu’s latest, then said that Sununu had lied:
O’DONNELL (10/26/12): Today, Mitt Romney did not address what his campaign national co-chair John Sununu said last night about Colin Powell's endorsement of President Obama.

(Begin videotape)
SUNUNU: We have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.
PIERS MORGAN: What reason would that be?
SUNUNU: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.
(End videotape)

O’DONNELL: “What reason would that be” was the question. And John Sununu issued this lie today:

"Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision that he made today and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president’s policies. Piers Morgan’s question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don’t think he should.”
Sununu’s a very grimy player—but Lawrence loves to serve comfort food. In fact, Piers Morgan did ask Sununu if Powell should leave the GOP, not that it's really relevant.

This was the full exchange. It’s part of a longer story:
MORGAN (10/25/12): Final question: Colin Powell decided to opt for President Obama again, despite apparently still being a Republican. Is it time he left the party, do you think?

SUNUNU: I'm not sure how important that is. I do like the fact that Colin Powell's boss, George Herbert Walker Bush, has endorsed Mitt Romney all along. And frankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.

MORGAN: What reason would that be?

SUNUNU: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you are proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.

MORGAN: John Sununu, nice to talk to you.

SUNUNU: Thank you.
Why did Morgan ask that strange leading question? He got it from the upright fellow we saw praised on MSNBC last night, for perhaps the three millionth time.

Before Sununu appeared with Morgan this Thursday, John McCain did a segment. McCain was the one who first suggested that Powell should leave the party:
MORGAN (10/25/12): You've been spitting blood all morning about Colin Powell endorsing Barack Obama again. Why are you so angry about it?

MCCAIN: I'm not angry about it. I just wish that he wouldn't call himself a Republican. I mean we Republicans have a habit of supporting Republicans. So that's all. I mean everybody's entitled to their views. Frankly, I don't think it will change one vote.
McCain said Powell shouldn’t call himself a Republican. Morgan took the comment and ran. Sununu then added the race angle.

One night later, Lawrence semi-misrepresented what Morgan actually said. On the brighter side, this let him use the word “lie.”

Lawrence loves the L-word.

Earlier last evening, on Hardball, Saint McCain was praised once again for his wonderful moral brilliance. In fact, McCain has been playing the ugly angry fool for at least the past six weeks now.

McCain has repeatedly misstated basic facts about Benghazi, often in highly poisonous ways. Unless you watch The One True Channel, where this saint gets praised for the wonderful way he conducted himself in the past.

This election may turn out to be very close. Benghazi could turn out to be the difference. Plainly, that's what the GOP thinks.

In a highly poisonous way, McCain keeps driving the Benghazi truck.

Lawrence and Chris don't know this.



Part 4—In the wake of Hurricane Alec: Early next week, the east coast will see an October hurricane—an extremely rare event.

Last Tuesday, the political world saw an equally rare event. We saw a mainstream journalist, Alec MacGillis, challenge higher ranking guild members! By name!

And omigod! We even saw MacGillis suggest that those higher ranking scribes were pimping a Romney line!

This is simply never done inside the Washington press corps. Conservatives attack mainstream journalists all the time, of course.

But ranking liberals never attack such major mainstream players. In accordance with established guild rules, it simply isn’t done.

Hurricane Alec came out of nowhere! Such conduct hadn’t been seen in DC in a very long time.

Was MacGillis’ implied accusation true? Were Chris Cillizza (Washington Post) and Mike Allen (Politico) actually pimping a Preferred Romney Line? Were they applying a double standard to keep their line alive?

You’ll have to judge that one for yourself. But several other rare events occurred in the wake of Hurricane Alec.

Good God! Cillizza felt he had to respond—to a complaint which had come from the left! Or at least, he felt he had to pretend to respond.

In this post, Cillizza cherry-picked one small thing MacGillis had written. He then offered a slender rebuttal to that lone cherry-picked point.

That said, when’s the last time you saw a player like Cillizza responding to a complaint from the left? Was it roughly the last time an October hurricane found its way up the coast?

Cillizza’s response was a rare event. And then, omigod! Another rare sighting! The very next day, the New York Times filed a news report which flatly contradicted Cillizza’s thesis!

Were Jeff and Ashley hearing footsteps? Who knows? But a liberal can dream:
ZELENY AND PARKER (10/25/12): Romney Is Upbeat, But Math Is the Same

Mitt Romney is savoring the energy surrounding his candidacy, talking with rising confidence about his ability to overtake President Obama in the closing days of the race.

He dwells far less on the biggest obstacle facing his campaign: the Electoral College.

A decade after taking the first steps in his quest to win the White House, Mr. Romney can finally see the presidency within his grasp, his advisers say. To many Republicans, he sounds more presidential than at any other moment of his campaign, a point that was not lost on his audience Wednesday in Nevada, when he declared: ''If I'm elected—no, when I'm elected.''

But the swelling crowds and the fresh optimism among his supporters do not minimize the challenge confronting him across a wide landscape of battleground states, where Mr. Romney must win a series of individual statewide races, rather than a national contest. His room for error is so slight, one adviser said, the mathematics could be more daunting than the politics.
Was Candidate Romney still on the move? Jeff and Ashley swallowed hard, then said the thesis was bunk.

Good lord! Cillizza felt he had to respond to a complaint from the left. And the Times reported that his claim had been a big pile of bunk! Events like these might occur more often if liberal and mainstream journalists pushed back at ranking mainstream hacks.

Conservatives push back at these folk all the time! On our side, this kind of conduct is roughly as common as a Halloween storm.

This is what our careerists wouldn’t do during the years when the Post and the Times pimped the Clinton pseudo-scandals.

This is what our careerists wouldn’t do during the twenty-month war against Gore. (Yes, that includes Joan Walsh.)

Darlings! MacGillis’ conduct just isn’t engaged in! Even now, liberal children are refusing to speak as Susan Rice gets left for dead in a mainstream/right-wing joint attack which may give Romney the White House.

People, it just isn’t done!

How bad is our team at telling the truth—if the truth involves ranking journalists? Just consider one small point at the start of MacGillis’ shitstorm:
MACGILLIS (10/23/12): The Liberal Media, in Love With Our Narrative

We are the liberal media—hear us roar. We like Aaron Sorkin and gay marriage and invitations to the New Yorker’s bash on the roof of the W Hotel on the eve of the White House Correspondents Dinner. We have Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer’s cell phone on speed dial. If you water-boarded us, we’d admit to voting for pretty much every Democratic presidential candidate for the past two decades, with the possible exception of Al Gore in 2000 (he didn’t give us a clever nickname; the other guy did.)
In a fleeting aside, MacGillis suggested the “liberal media” had a large problem with one Democratic nominee, the fellow in Campaign 2000.

To this day, liberal and mainstream careerists refuse to discuss this. They refuse to describe what they and their colleagues actually did during Campaign 2000.

In this refusal, they refuse to inform the public about the actual ways of the press corps. They refuse to challenge the right-wing’s cry about the corps’ “liberal bias.”

To what extent do the children refuse to tell the truth about such matters? Let’s look at something Noam Scheiber wrote on this same subject this week.

Scheiber is a lad on the rise. He’s also a former Rhode Scholar.

In theory, that means that he’s smart. But when Scheiber wrote about Campaign 2000 this week, his ability to construct a clear sentence suddenly seemed to desert him! This paralysis occurs with great regularity when this topic comes up.

Question: Does Noam Scheiber really write this poorly? Or was the murky prose in this passage designed to extend a twelve-year scam?
SCHIEBER (10/26/12): The good news is that a lot has changed since 2000. Back then, there were only a handful of outlets dedicated to calling bullshit when they saw it—TNR and a few other lefty magazines, along with a handful of columnists like Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne. Today there’s a whole cable network (MSNBC) dedicated to this stuff, dozens of popular liberal blogs, and in-house fact-checkers at most major newspapers, all of whom have been fairly good (if not great) at adjudicating these questions.

Likewise, in 2000, the Bush campaign didn’t merely sell its version of the truth. It also made Gore out to be a liar. This crippled his ability to question Bush’s record. (The strategy was very explicit. In his book on the campaign, Bush media strategist Stuart Stevens referred to it as “blowing up the aircraft carrier instead of shooting down planes”—the planes being individual allegations from Gore and the aircraft carrier being his credibility. Stevens is, of course, Romney’s top strategist this time around.) Meanwhile, the press played right into Bush's hand, running stories about Gore’s dubious invention of the Internet and trumped up claims about his dog’s arthritis medicine. Fortunately, the Romney campaign has had little success tagging Obama with the serial exaggerator label in 2012.
Try not to laugh at Scheiber’s claim that TNR was “dedicated to calling bullshit” in Campaign 2000. For better or worse, it wasn’t.

But consider that second paragraph, where Scheiber pretends to describe what happened in that fateful campaign. Do Rhodes Scholars really write that poorly? Or is Scheiber finding ways to avoid explaining what his colleagues did?

What does Scheiber say in that passage? He opens with a pleasing deception, seeming to say that “the Bush campaign” was the entity which “made Gore out to be a liar.”

In fact, the mainstream press corps tagged Gore that way, long before the Bush campaign ever said a word on the subject. Climbers and guild members still refuse to state that obvious fact.

They refuse to tell you the truth. They know we liberals will swallow it whole if we're told that the Bush campaign did it!

No, it wasn’t the Bush campaign which turned Gore into a liar. That said, Scheiber does say that the press corps “played right into Bush's hand” with some of the stories they ran.

But what was supposed to be wrong with those stories? And how about Gore himself?

Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? You simply can’t tell what Scheiber is saying, given his rather dubious prose. Meanwhile, Scheiber explicitly seems to say that Gore did make “trumped up claims about his dog’s arthritis medicine.” Or was it the press which made those “trumped up claims?”

You simply can’t tell from what Scheiber writes. Suddenly, our brilliant Rhodes Scholar can’t seem to compose a clear statement!

Why did Scheiber’s prose turn murky when he discussed this fateful campaign? We can’t tell you that. But a cynic would tell you this:

That murky prose helps Scheiber avoid explaining what his colleagues did. Twelve years later, a liberal writer pretty much has to acknowledge that something was wrong with the press corps’ conduct. (This is now standard belief.)

But these children still don’t want to tell you the truth about the depth of their guild's misconduct. In the guild, it just isn’t done—and the children find ways to obey.

To this day, children like Scheiber won’t tell you the truth about your recent political history. Their prose gets murky on demand.

These are very bad boys and girls.

People are dead all over the world because of the things they’ve refused to do. Because of the things they still won’t say, even at this late date.

Hurricane Alec hit town this week. Our guess: Still a rare event!

Scheiber’s most obvious con: Who is Scheiber trying to kid with this nonsense:

“Fortunately, the Romney campaign has had little success tagging Obama with the serial exaggerator label in 2012?”

Liberals, please! You’re being conned!

As everybody surely knows, the Romney campaign hasn’t tried to “tag Obama with the serial exaggerator label.” The campaign against Obama has been quite different in character.

Everybody understands this, even this pimple-faced child.

On the other hand:

In the last six weeks, the Romney campaign has tried very hard to tag Obama as the guy who played games—who even lied!—about what happened at Benghazi. Again and again, the mainstream press has been very happy to recite this Romney line.

Children like Scheiber have stared into space as this slander has been advanced. They surely don’t want to challenge their elders! Not with their own futures so bright!

The children have refused to challenged the ongoing war against Susan Rice. This is precisely what their colleagues did when the Boston Globe invented that big pile of crap about the troubling arthritis pills of Candidate Gore’s troubling dog.

Little has changed in the last dozen years in the souls of these quislings and climbers. We liberals still swallow their bullshit whole, just as we did in the past.

The Times pretends to do campaign reporting!


Breaking! How many people in campaign ads seem to be visually sad: Finally!

Finally, with Election Day nearing, the New York Times has done an extremely long, carefully researched front-page news report!

The report runs 4900 words. But it isn’t about our election campaign. This lengthy report is all about the wealth of China’s first family.

The Times still hasn’t reported about the way Bain Capital underfunded the pensions at that Kansas City steel mill. But please don’t despair:

Even if Romney is getting a pass, the Chinese first family is not!

Alas! As Election Day draws closer, the clowning by the New York Times only increases. Did you check the gigantic graphic in yesterday’s Election 2012 section?

The colorful graphic consumed about eighty percent of page A12—the first page of the section. Here are some of the earliest facts it helped us understand:
Fact: Twenty-one percent of Republican ads show someone who is “visually sad” or in tears. Only one percent of Democratic ads do this.

Fact: Nine percent of Democratic ads show sunny skies—as compared to only four percent of Republican ads.

Fact: Three percent of both Republican and Democratic ads show a gloomy day. The parties agree on this point.

Fact: Twenty-nine percent of Republican ads are shot in black and white.
To review this giant graphic, click here. Don’t let your children look!

Our conclusion:

As Election Day nears, the Times is determined to fill our heads with utterly worthless nonsense and fluff. They're hoping we'll see this as “campaign reporting.”

This just in: Sadly, it's junk!

McCain keeps shooting off his mouth!


How the West Wing might be lost: Last night, John McCain shot off his mouth for Piers Morgan.

On MSNBC, it’s conventional to praise Saint McCain for having been less racist than Romney back in 2008. That’s a bit of a reinvention. In 2008, that pretty much isn't the way leading liberals saw things.

Whatevger! But even as this reinvention occurs, McCain is all over TV, saying dumb shit like this:
MORGAN (10/25/12): Let's turn to an interview that Barack Obama has given to Rolling Stone magazine and there's been some leaks from this in which the president effectively calls Mitt Romney, and he uses this word, a bull-shitter. Is that dignified for the president of the United States to use that term about his rival?

MCCAIN: Of course not. And it's not presidential to deride and be sarcastic about his opponent in the debates. You know, he talked about bayonets and horses as if bayonets are obsolete. The Marines train with bayonets in combat zones. They're required to carry them. And of course, talking about aircraft carriers, the president, as far as we can tell, has been on an aircraft carrier once when it was tied up to the pier and they had a charity basketball game.

He's never been on a submarine and he calls our Navy personnel, who are in the medical business, who are called corpsmen, calls them corpse men. I don't know if he was talking to a zombie or not but the fact is that the president shouldn't be bragging about his background and expertise on military matters.
On MSNBC, this guy routinely gets praised.

In fact, Obama did not “talk about bayonets and horses as if bayonets are obsolete.” He simply said we now use fewer bayonets and horses. And that angry-man talk about carriers and submarines is really talk for the ages.

Earlier, McCain sounded off against Colin Powell, who had just endorsed Obama. (“I'm not angry about it. I just wish that he wouldn't call himself a Republican.”) But for our money, McCain’s most interesting statements last night concerned, what else, Benghazi:
MCCAIN: Look, there were warnings, there was an attack on the consulate in August, there was one in November. There was, there was clearly requests by our ambassador, not Facebook posting, but by our ambassador for better protection. His last message was about that. His diary that was found not by our people but by CNN reporter talked about his concerns.

I think it's a very legitimate question. Why didn't we do something about it? And if we knew that there was danger, why didn't we have forces on alert in case something that would happen and then why did they send out our ambassador to the U.N., why did the president go on these programs and speak to the U.N. and continue to claim that it was a hateful video that triggered a spontaneous demonstration?

You can't assume anything, but either a cover-up or colossal incompetence which is absolutely ridiculous and outrageous.
McCain’s question about security preparation is perfectly legitimate. Obama ducked this topic at the town hall debate.

But then, McCain made a blatant misstatement about Susan Rice and about Obama’s U.N. address. He misrepresented what Rice said, flatly misstated regarding Obama.

In his speech at the U.N., Obama discussed Benghazi at some length, mainly to praise Chris Stevens. But he offered no statement about what had caused the attack.

McCain's statement last night was untrue. When he spoke at the U.N., Obama didn’t “continue to claim that it was a hateful video that triggered a spontaneous demonstration.”

Obama said nothing of the kind. But so what? Last night on CNN, this was Morgan’s response to McCain: "Senator McCain, as always, provocative stuff. Thank you very much for joining me."

The misstatements aimed at Rice and Obama are part of the drive to take the White House. At Media Matters, you only hear about these slanders if they get delivered on Fox.

On MSNBC, you never hear about this topic at all. Sometimes, though, McCain gets praised for his deportment in 2008.

The wild horse of the airwaves: McCain has been at this for more than a month. For one example out of many, here he was in late September with the hapless Anderson Cooper.

McCain was spilling with snark:
MCCAIN (9/28/12): A casual observer, a first year cadet at West Point will tell you that that kind of attack is not a spontaneous demonstration. “Here, darling, let's go to a demonstration, bring the mortars.” This is, this is—

It’s insane that they would somehow believe that could be the result of a spontaneous demonstration.

And second of all, they've got it all wrong when they blame the video. It's not the video. It is the people, the Islamists, radical Islamists, that are pushing this video throughout media in the Middle East to crank up the anti-moderate, anti-pro-democracy force.

COOPER: There was reporting yesterday from Fran Townsend at CNN with sources and also a writer for the Daily Beast who said that intelligence sources he had talked to had said that in the intelligence community, there was within the first 24 hours were saying this was a terrorist attack, had even some people identified. Have you heard that? Can you comment on that? And if that is the case, why does the information that the intelligence community has not something that the administration is saying publicly?

MCCAIN: I don't know. But it doesn't take intelligence information to watch an operation take place with heavy weapons, mortars— That is not then a spontaneous demonstration. This is why it's reprehensible for our ambassador to the U.N. to go on all the networks and say that.
Except Rice didn’t “go on all the networks” and say that the fatal attack in Benghazi “was the result of a spontaneous demonstration.” According to Rice, “extremists” armed with “heavy weapons” came to the scene of a demonstration and “hijacked” ongoing events.

It now seems there was no demonstration. But Rice never said that the fatal attacks were “the result of a demonstration.” Second point: In real time, the New York Times reported that these extremists said, even as the attack was unfolding, that it was a reaction to the video. The Times reconfirmed that reporting last week.

Cooper didn’t seem to know these things then, doesn’t seem to know these things now. But so what? McCain has played the fool all over TV in the past month—and he will be permitted to do so right through Election Day.

On The One True Channel, the children like to recall the way McCain told that old lady in 2008 that Obama wasn’t an Arab. They seem to have no idea what the saint is doing now.



Part 3—Joan Walsh’s false instruction: In the aftermath of Monday’s debate, the New Republic’s Alec MacGillis did something that’s just never done.

A mainstream journalist himself, MacGillis criticized other such creatures—by name! Even more outrageously, he suggested they were pimping a fact-challenged line—a fact-challenged line which would have come from the Romney campaign itself.

(See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/25/12.)

Mainstream journalists have been pimping right-wing lines for a long time, of course:

They did so all during the Clinton years as mainstream news orgs helped the right invent a string of pseudo-scandals. “Whitewater” gave its name to a political era. This pseudo-scandal got its start in bogus reports on the New York Times’ front page.

They did so during Campaign 2000, when the mainstream spent twenty months advancing poisonous claims against Candidate Gore. In the piece which broke all the rules, MacGillis alluded to that era, a point we’ll visit tomorrow.

Mainstream journalists have been pimping RNC narratives for a good long time. But darlings! It has always been against the law for mainstream journalists to say so! Careerists have said the darnedest things as they’ve agreed to hide this basic fact.

That statement by Chait was the wildest of all. But all careerists knew they must never reveal the true ways of the guild.

MacGillis broke with this tradition, naming the names of mainstream hacks who seemed to be pimping the Romney camp’s line. To our ear, he sounded sincere.

We’ll admit we had a different reaction when we read this piece by Joan Walsh.

Poor Joan! Like MacGillis, she seemed to be writhing as mainstream pundits reacted to Monday's debate. Like MacGillis, she felt she saw a double standard at work in their reactions.

After this year’s first debate, Obama was battered for his prevent defense, Walsh wrote. But this week, Romney was praised for taking the same approach!

Good lord! Like MacGillis, Walsh was directly criticizing the mainstream press! She was even saying that mainstream pundits were pimping a Romney camp line!

Still and all, we weren't impressed. Beneath a rather ironic headline, this was the start of her piece:
WALSH (10/23/12): The man without a soul

I’m having a hard time watching television coverage of Romney’s debate performance the morning after. The conventional wisdom seems to be that while President Obama won the debate, Romney’s “prevent defense” at least kept him in the race—and it was the politically wise course. Of course, Obama’s “prevent defense” two weeks ago in Denver was a debacle that changed everything. I’m not sure why Romney’s turn at it is supposed to be smarter politics.

Beyond scoring the debate on style points, though, why aren’t more people horrified by Romney’s capacity to disavow virtually everything he’s said on foreign policy and cuddle up with Obama, in order to seem less frightening to voters? On Afghanistan, on Iran, on abandoning Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, on killing Osama bin Laden, on Syria, on drones, Romney mostly said “me too” to Obama’s policies...And when he wasn’t echoing Obama, he sounded like a schoolboy reciting what he just learned in world geography class.

I found it chilling. Once again I thought to myself: Who is this guy who’s trying to imitate a cautious, sober global statesman (albeit one who sweats a lot)? I just watched Doris Kearns Goodwin on “Morning Joe” say Romney did the right thing because his goal was not to scare anybody and lose the momentum he gained from Debate 1, and everyone seemed to agree. But in what new realm of cynicism is it the right thing to hide your real policies in order to become president?
Incredibly, Walsh even named a famous name; it belonged to Doris Kearns Goodwin. Funny that! We have been naming that name for twelve years! This dates back to the war against Gore, the war Walsh wouldn’t oppose in real time and still won’t talk about now.

Poor Joan! She felt betrayed by the very conduct for which she has always covered! We thought of The Band singing Tears of Rage, though one small change in the famous lyrics did pop into our heads.

These are the generation-defining lyrics which suddenly popped into our heads. To hear The Band’s famous rendition, you can just click here:
From Tears of Rage:


It was all very painless
When you ran out to receive
All that false instruction
Which we never could believe

And now the heart is filled with gold
As if it was a purse
But, oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?


We pointed you the way to go
And scratched your name in sand
Though you just thought it was nothing more
Than a place for you to stand
I want you to know that while we watched
You discover no one would be true
That I myself was among the ones who thought
It was just a [careerist] thing to do.
As you know, the Dylan/Manuel lyrics said it was just a childish thing to do. But to our ear, Walsh continued to walk a careerist path as she discovered—just this week!—that Doris could be untrue.

Goodwin has been a squish forever, though many others have been worse. But so what! For years, Walsh played this game on the insider track as she stealthily worked her way up the careerist ladder.

Consider Walsh’s evolution from Campaign 2000 to now:

In 2000, Walsh was already at Salon—and Salon was one of the only publications which (belatedly) tried to challenge the war against Gore. In the fall of 2000, Eric Boehlert appeared at Salon, writing about this mainstream press war.

It was a fabulous hire.

Surely, Walsh read Boehlert’s work. Was she really unaware of our own work here at THE HOWLER and at But as Campaign 2000 ended, she wrote a long scripted piece in which she repeated ever piece of mandated cant the Goodwins and the rest of the gang had churned for the prior two years. (For link, see below.)

As the years went by, Walsh kept kissing the ass of Chris Matthews, who seemed to become her point of entry into the upper-class press corps. Surely she knew what Matthews had done when he served as Jack Welch’s top spear-chucker in the twenty-month war against Gore.

By today, of course she knows what Matthews did! But Walsh kept her trap shut tight—and, in recent years, she even began to tell us liberals, on the air, how much she admires Matthews’ values.

This was before Matthews completed the switch which made him a reliable liberal. Gagging, our analysts covered their mouths as they ran for the yard.

But Walsh achieved fame and success by fawning this way—and by withholding the truth.

Today, a person like Walsh can earn good swag on The One True Liberal Channel. Finally, she is allowed to notice small bits of the conduct which has helped define our politics over the past twenty years.

But even now, Walsh seems to stick to permissible observations. As everyone knows, liberals are now allowed to criticize Morning Joe. But as she continued this week's piece, Walsh completely forgot to say who else she was talking about.

It's a familiar pattern:
WALSH (continuing directly): I suppose the media folks who are reassured by Romney’s mild debate performance think that’s the real Romney–he’s not the hawk who’d let crazy John Bolton, a key adviser, run his foreign policy. This is the same approach a lot of people take to Romney’s extremism on women’s issues–oh, c’mon, ladies, he’s really a Massachusetts moderate who doesn’t mean any of what he says about overturning Roe v. Wade or defunding Planned Parenthood. That’s ridiculous. The fact is, we don’t know which Mitt Romney would take the oath of office, and that alone should consign him to an ugly defeat in two weeks.

The only thing the post-debate punditry really cares about is whether Obama’s modest (by their standards) debate win can make a difference, and again the conventional wisdom is it won’t, because foreign policy debates never do. First of all, I’m not so sure about that. I’d like to see some polls before I weigh in. But most important, insisting that the debate won’t move the electoral needle almost instructs voters not to take it seriously, and downplays the extent to which Romney’s reinvention is played as big news.
That's fiery! But just who are the “media folks” who created this “post-debate punditry?”

Walsh forgot to say!

Breaking every rule in the book, MacGillis actually named the names of some major press corps players, including one at the Washington Post. But uh-oh! Chris Cillizza is a regular guest on Hardball—and Hardball is the program on which Walsh has made her bones.

Hardball belongs to her lord and savior. Walsh will never criticize Cillizza. It simply isn’t allowed.

(As she continued her piece at Salon, who did Walsh batter by name? You guessed it! She battered Kevin Drum! He had seemed to criticize liberal pundits! This had to be batted down!)

Judging only from her performance, Walsh has been a careerist every step of the way. But the liberal rank and file has a very hard time seeing such patterns. For decades, they have been deceived by people who simply won’t tell them the truth.

They think Joan Walsh is on their side. They don’t understand that people like Walsh have made their bones by refusing to tell them the truth about our modern politics.

Surely, MacGillis knows more than he said in his piece this week. But to our ear, he actually sounded aggrieved—and he actually named some of the names you won’t hear named on MSNBC. Rachel will talk about “the Beltway,” or even about “the Beltway media.” But she will never name Cillizza. She won’t name Mike Allen by name.

She won’t even name Rick Klein! Rachel Maddow doesn’t go there. Her owners do not want that done.

Tomorrow, we’ll start with MacGillis’ glancing reference to Campaign 2000. Walsh refused to warn you in real time, won’t tell you the truth even now.

On Tuesday morning, Walsh discovered that Goodwin could be untrue. But Walsh has been conning you for years. We’ve been among the ones who thought it was a death-dealing thing to do.

Tomorrow: We who have been deceived

Visit our incomparable archives: For one review of Walsh’s past work, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/15/07.

To read Walsh in real time, click this and prepare to writhe. You’ll find a 3500-word piece Walsh wrote on the eve of Election Day 2000.

In those 3500 words, Walsh never described the way the mainstream press had gone after Gore for the past twenty months. She did find time for scripted mainstream press garbage like that which follows.

Twenty months of false instruction larded Walsh's work:
WALSH (11/6/00): But first, let’s state the obvious: Al Gore is a flawed candidate who has presided over a troubled campaign. For me, the indelible image from the Democratic National Convention wasn’t Al kissing Tipper, it was a photo Tipper shared of her Halloween-loving husband (Is it the costumes he loves? The infinite changeability?) dressed up like Frankenstein. I cringed: The image of Gore as Frankenstein captured his blockheaded otherworldly essence, the way he sometimes looks like a guy who’s been torn apart and stitched back together, unnaturally. It’s the perfect image to conjure up his synthetic feel, his mutability, the air of alienation from himself that sometimes feels almost poignant. It looked like a ready-made Republican campaign poster. I was sure I’d see it again.

As it happened, nobody made much of the Frankenstein photo, but I saw it again every time I watched Gore lurch from issue to issue, debate to debate, trying to reinvent himself anew. The trouble with Gore is his failure to tell a convincing story about what’s at stake in this election, from start to finish, to communicate a sense of calm conviction and unswerving values on core issues, the way he instead remakes himself when he’s in trouble and, in his worst moments, looks stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster, kind of sad and scary.

So it’s tempting to say, “It’s the likability, stupid,” and blame Gore’s troubles on Gore. Maybe the best assessment of Gore’s personality problem comes from our own Jake Tapper, who sums it up in two words: “Dingell-Norwood.” That’s the HMO reform bill Gore wasted time trying to explain in the last debate, instead of hammering Bush hard for vetoing a patients bill of rights in Texas, and capitalizing on the fact that voters support Gore’s approach on healthcare in most polls by connecting with the issue viscerally and emotionally.

Likewise, he’s run a mediocre campaign, beset by squabbling leadership and an inability to stay on message. Gore was in trouble right away, trailing Bush substantially in most polls by the summer of 1999. Criticized for his K Street campaign digs and his Rose Garden-and-motorcades strategy, he moved his operations to Nashville, and hired former Richard Gephardt/Jesse Jackson operative Donna Brazile as campaign manager to complete the populist overhaul. But the slight bounce he got from moving to Nashville’s Mainstream Drive was leveled out by his first big campaign blunder—the revelation that he’d hired Naomi Wolf to coach him on being an alpha male...
That was pure political porn. Don't let your children look.

Walsh typed like a mainstream robot that day. She recited each bit of misdirection, every piece of guild cant. She mentioned Gore’s infinite changeability! His attempts to reinvent himself! The way Naomi Wolf told him to be an alpha male! Even (good God) Dingell-Norwood!

It’s always possible that Walsh was really that dumb in November 2000. (And that sexist. The press corps' attacks on Wolf were drenched in misogyny. Was Walsh unable to notice?) But down through the years, she has maintained this clueless posture; this has extended well past the point where such cluelessness could be believed.

She has endlessly kissed the ass of Matthews, although of course she understands what he did and who he did it for. And why he did it. Joan knows!

Walsh has refused to tell you the truth, from that day right to this one. Although, on Tuesday, she finally noticed that Goodwin could be untrue! You're permitted to say that now!

Walsh has kissed plenty of keister and played it dumb on her way to the top. We hope her money is spending good. She’s done tremendous harm.