Part 2—Ruth Marcus, deep in the bag: When Joe Biden’s smiles of an autumn night became the press corps’ Official Group Focus, we had to make an admission:
We had been wrong! For some time!
In the age of Obama; in the age of MSNBC; in the age which started after Iraq, we didn’t think we’d see it again! We didn’t think we’d see the mainstream pundit corps align with the right on so stupid a focus—on a stupid, simple-minded focus designed to defeat Obama.
The fact that this alliance occurred last week sends us back to the drawing board (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/15/12). To what extent is the mainstream press deeply tied to the dreams of the right—to the dreams of the wealthy and powerful?
On Sunday, Ruth Marcus wrote a column about the Biden-Ryan debate. Her column made us think that those ties run extremely deep.
A bit of background on Marcus:
Marcus is going to vote for Obama. Her personal politics are moderate to center left, as such things are measured in Washington.
But as an insider pundit in good standing, Marcus has always been one of the Serious People who focus on issues of fiscal discipline. You’d think she'd want to write at some length about Romney’s extremely peculiar, extremely large proposal concerning cuts in income tax rates.
If you thought that, you would be wrong.
Consider her column in Sunday’s Washington Post. Marcus' column left us wondering: What institutional forces act to restrain this high-ranking insider columnist? Why does this column exist?
How odd! When the analysts first glanced at Marcus’ column, they sent up a lusty cheer!
Incredible! Marcus was focusing on the part of last week’s debate where Martha Raddatz pushed Paul Ryan to explain how Romney’s tax proposal would work. Romney says he will cut all tax rates twenty percent—but he says these rate cuts would be revenue neutral, because he would eliminate a balancing set of loopholes and deductions.
Could Congressman Ryan please give specifics? Which loopholes would Romney eliminate to offset the tons of revenue he would lose from his cut in tax rates?
Could Congressman Ryan please give specifics? Again and again, Raddatz asked.
Again and again, Ryan refused to answer.
In her column, Marcus fashioned a brief, peculiar opening, in which she cited something called “Cupcake Wars” along with the “choppy dialogue” crafted by David Mamet.
(Translation: High culture to tell us Post readers we’re smart—low culture because we aren’t. For the record, “Cupcake Wars” is a Food Network show. Marcus assumed we would know that.)
After this peculiar opening, Marcus quoted the transcript at length. Her lengthy transcript chunk featured Biden, Ryan and Raddatz.
We'd never seen a major columnist quoting so much text! The analysts cheered, thinking Marcus would proceed to explain a basic point about Ryan’s repeated evasions.
With apologies for its length, this is the chunk of the transcript Marcus included in her column. Remarkably, this lengthy transcript chunk burned roughly half of her column. The bracketed note about deletion was part of Marcus’ piece:
MARCUS (10/14/12): Moderator Martha Raddatz: Well, let's talk about this 20 percent. You have refused—and, again—to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics? Or are you still working on it, and that's why you won't tell voters?Again and again, Raddatz is shown asking Ryan for specifics. Again and again, he evades.
Paul Ryan: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big, bipartisan agreements. You see, I understand the–
Raddatz: Do you have the specifics? Do you have the–
Joe Biden: That would—that would be a first for the Republican Congress.
Raddatz: Do you know exactly what you're doing?
Ryan: Look—look at what Mitt Romney—look at what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did. They worked together out of a framework to lower tax rates and broaden the base, and they worked together to fix that . . . . [paragraph deleted for space]
Biden: Can I translate?
Ryan: —so we can lower tax rates across the board. Now, here's why I'm saying this. What we're saying is, here's the framework.
Biden: I hope I'm going to get time to respond to this.
Raddatz: You'll get time.
Ryan: We want to work with Congress—we want to work with the Congress on how best to achieve this. That means successful. Look–
Raddatz: No specifics, again.
Ryan: Mitt—what we're saying is, lower tax rates 20 percent, start with the wealthy, work with Congress to do it–
Raddatz: And you guarantee this math will add up?
Ryan: Absolutely. Six studies have guaranteed—six studies have verified that this math adds up. But here's–
Raddatz: Vice President Biden–
Biden: Let me translate. Let me have a chance to translate.
How could Romney offset the revenue lost by his large cuts in tax rates? He has promised that he would do so. But a major study has said this is “not mathematically possible.”
How could Romney do it? Ryan kept refusing to say—and Marcus presented a very large chunk of his exchange with Raddatz. Her transcript ended with Biden offering to “translate” Ryan’s remarks.
The analysts cheered when they glanced at this column! They assumed that Marcus would go on to explain the nuts and bolts of this groaning problem—especially since Marcus is such a fervent budget hawk.
They assumed that Marcus would explain why Ryan couldn’t answer Raddatz. But as it turned out, they were wrong!
Below, you see where that lengthy chunk of transcript took Marcus. Is Ruth Marcus really an honest broker?
Everything’s possible, of course. But at this point, only a fool would believe that:
MARCUS (continuing directly): The only thing missing was stage directions: As Ryan speaks, Biden smirks and chortles. Also, there was no cursing. "Malarkey," I'm pretty sure, is not part of the Mamet vocabulary.Poor Marcus! Boo-hooing openly, she worries about the poor mistreated voters!
The Mamet comparison isn't simple snarkiness. It underscores the fundamental frustration of this campaign season in general and the debates in particular: The candidates talk past one another. They fail to engage; they evade direct answers. The audience is left unsettled and confused.
Except in this case the audience is voters, not theater-goers. What study to believe? Whose guarantee to trust?
“The candidates talk past one another,” she says. “They evade direct answers,” she complains—having shown only one candidate engaging in that conduct.
“The audience is left unsettled and confused,” Marcus says. They don’t know what to believe!
Marcus is certainly right on that score—as far as she goes. Trust us: On this very morning, the vast majority of American voters couldn’t explain the issue Raddatz and Ryan discussed in that transcript.
They couldn’t describe the “studies” Ryan cited. They couldn’t even tell you what kind of “specifics” Raddatz was seeking. (Look again. Raddatz doesn't explain.)
They couldn’t explain what Romney has said about the way he would balance that revenue loss. They couldn't explain the first freaking thing about this sbsurd tax proposal.
That said, read through that long chunk of transcript! No one, including Raddatz, ever really explains what is being discussed. What kind of “specifics” does Raddatz seek? It isn’t explained in that chunk—and it wasn’t explained in the fuller discussion, even after Biden translated.
Alas! When Biden got his chance to speak, he wandered about the countryside before reaching the point which was under discussion. He offered several other facts, then made a glancing attempt to explain the groaning problem with Romney’s absurd proposal.
Most voters didn’t understand this issue coming in. Trust us—theose voters didn’t understand it going out! All three players contributed to the confusion: Ryan more than anyone else, but Raddatz and Biden as well.
Well guess what? By Sunday morning, another person had failed to clear up the confusion! That person was Citizen Marcus, who seemed to have some little birdie telling her to keep her trap shut.
The analysts cheered when they glanced at this column! Seeing Marcus quoting that transcript, they assumed that she would explain why Ryan did all that evading!
But Marcus did no such thing, as you can see if you read her full column. She turned and ran from the scene of the crime. Covering for Romney again, she became the latest insider to leave those voters “confused,” uninformed, in the dark.
Don’t worry! Marcus did manage to snark about Biden’s smiles, as Hard Pundit Law required. She snarked at the fact that he said “malarkey”—though she carefully avoided explaining why he chose that word.
When Democrats oppose cuts in services to regular people, Marcus is a reliable budget hawk. But here was Ryan, evading and writhing. The budget hawk made no attempt to explain why Ryan can’t explain Romney’s plan.
Has Marcus explained this point in the past? Actually, no—she hasn’t! It was August 1 when the Tax Policy Center explained that Romney’s plan was “not mathematically possible.” In the eleven weeks which have passed, Marcus has made a few glancing references to this problem. But her cites have been quite brief.
In those columns, budget hawk Marcus has never explained the scam behind Romney’s pseudo-proposal—a scam which dates to last February. In one somewhat comical effort, she evaded thusly, in her fullest discussion to date:
MARCUS (9/12/12): In my dream presidential debate, the moderator would ask Mitt Romney which tax breaks, exactly, he'd eliminate to pay for his rate cut. The Republican nominee, if history serves, would dodge and demur. The moderator would try again—Employer-sponsored health insurance? Mortgage interest? Charitable contributions? State and local taxes?—and then, in this fantasy scenario, announce that he would wait the allotted 90 minutes for Romney's answer.That’s the most detailed treatment Marcus has ever given of this ridiculous tax rate scam. In our view, Marcus has worked extremely hard to avoid explaining this scam.
This won't happen, though it might make for riveting television. In its place, here are some proposed questions, concentrating on the budget, taxes and entitlements, for next month's debates:
What mystic chords of corporate influence keep Marcus from explaining? Did the same chords lead the pundit corps to stampede after Biden’s smiles? Just as they did with Gore's (tiny number of) sighs?
We can’t answer that question, but we can tell you this: In their news reporting, the Washington Post and the New York Times have made no serious effort to examine or explain Romney’s ludicrous tax proposal.
The proposal is an obvious scam. In their alleged “news reporting,” the big papers have left it alone.
Who lost America? Our intellectual culture lies in ruins, as we’ll continue to show you all week. That obvious fact has been quite clear as the nation’s largest news orgs have clowned and evaded their way all through this vacuous pseudo-campaign.
And make no mistake: Every step of the way, the liberal world has accepted this conduct. On cable, the children have clowned and gamboled and played, reading their White House talking points—the inept talking points from Axelrod which may well get Romney elected.
Rather plainly, Citizen Marcus has avoided the truth. Why has Marcus done this thing? Why hasn’t Lawrence noticed? Why all the silence from Rachel?
Tomorrow: An abject refusal to report
Thursday: The bullshit we liberals keep churning