TIME FOR A CHANGE: Columnist Krugman, meet essayist Rich!

FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017

Part 4—Our own music men, Over Here:
Last Friday night, Carl Bernstein said it was time for a change in the way cable news covers Trump.

It's hard to argue with that! Could it also be time for a change Over Here, in our own liberal world?

We actually think it is! In our view, the liberal world hit rock bottom last year when Donald J. Trump pulled an inside straight and ended up in the White House. When you lose to a ludicrous candidate like that, it's almost surely time for a change in your own tribe's pitiful practices.

In what way should our liberal world change? For one suggestion, let's return to Paul Krugman's column this Monday.

Krugman's column ended as shown below, with a question about Trump voters. For background, see Part 2 in this award-winning series.

Krugman ended as shown below. To us, this passage seemed illustrative, and it seemed somewhat peculiar:
KRUGMAN (3/20/17): [W]hy did so many Americans vote for Mr. Trump, whose character flaws should have been obvious long before the election?

Catastrophic media failure and F.B.I. malfeasance played crucial roles. But my sense is that there’s also something going on in our society: Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like, mistaking bombast and belligerence for real toughness.

Why? Is it celebrity culture? Is it working-class despair, channeled into a desire for people who spout easy slogans?

The truth is that I don’t know. But we can at least hope that watching Mr. Trump in action will be a learning experience—not for him, because he never learns anything, but for the body politic...
Krugman has long been the journalistic MVP of our liberal world. We were saddened by that passage.

In part, we were saddened because Krugman almost seemed to be searching for "the reason" which would explain 63 million different votes, cast by 63 million different people.

That would be an extremely dumb thing to do. Technically, Krugman doesn't do it in that passage. But he almost seemed to drifting in that deeply tribal direction.

Krugman did something else in that passage. He said that "many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like." He seemed to offer that as a major explanation for all those votes for Trump.

As he cast this aspersion, Krugman seemed to say that the "many Americans" to whom he referred can all be found Over There.
The dumbbells were all Over There, in the tents of Those People, The Others.

He said he doesn't know how they got so dumb, but the dumb ones are all Over There.

We would very strongly dispute each of Krugman's points. We don't think it's gigantically hard to understand why people would vote for Trump. More significantly, the specific dumbness Krugman describes has also been on wide display Over Here, within our liberal tribe.

In our view, it's true! In our view, many conservative-leaning voters have, in fact, unwisely trusted a succession of con men over the past thirty years.

They've trusted Rush Limbaugh; they've trusted Trump. In our view, these assessments were unwise.

That said, we the people have always been inclined to fall for the blandishments of con men. And uh-oh:

Over the course of the past thirty years, we liberals have repeatedly been conned by such types Over Here. In the process, we've tolerated the rise of a world which inexorably led us to Trump.

We failed to see through our own music men, and own music men have been many. We in the liberal rank-and-file have tolerated horrendous leadership.

These leaders have routinely sold our interests away. Just as it has ever been, we haven't been able to see this.

What types of music men have we accepted? Let's start with the behavior of mainstream and liberal journalism during the Clinton-Gore years.

During that period, the crazy claims which constituted "Trump-before-Trump" sometimes came from the right. Jerry Falwell paraded around selling a film about the Clintons' many murders.

The mainstream press corps gave Falwell a pass. As this sick arrangement developed, we in the liberal rank-and-file peacefully napped in the woods.

Jerry Falwell was selling his ludicrous film in the mid-1990s. By that time, the more consequential wars against the Clintons and Gore had taken shape within the upper-end mainstream press.

We've recited this history a million times. Nothing will ever make career liberal con men discuss it.

Whatever! For reasons which are rarely discussed, the most consequential wars against both Clintons and Gore largely came from the elite mainstream press, not from the hard right. These wars were driven and enabled by figures admired by Us.

"Many Americans" couldn't see through Trump? We liberals couldn't see through the figures to whom we refer!

The great turning-point in modern political history came when Candidate Bush nosed past Candidate Gore. People are dead all over the world, though it has become blindingly obvious that we liberals don't actually care.

The war which permitted Bush to squeak past Gore was conducted by mainstream and liberal figures. Unfortunately, "many Americans" in our own liberal tends were unable to see what was being done by the high-profile figures to whom we refer, including those who were being made rich by the near-billionaire Jack Welch, conservative CEO of NBC News and its cable arms.

Even when told, we liberals weren't able to see what was happening. To make a fascinating story short, consider two astonishing facts:

To this very day, no one has ever written a profile of Chris Matthews' astonishing conduct during Campaign 2000, in which he waged war against Candidate Gore and against Candidate Clinton, and in the years which followed, during which time he continued his misogynistic attacks on Candidate Clinton.

Equally astonishing:

To this very day, no one has ever written a serious profile of Maureen Dowd's astonishing journalism—no one except Clark Hoyt, her own newspaper's public editor, whose blistering profile of Dowd's treatment of Candidate Clinton was widely ignored back in 2008.

Simple story: Within the guild, Matthews and Dowd were each too powerful to be discussed by their unprincipled colleagues. In these ways, we liberals were sold down the river by a full battalion of mainstream journalists, many of whom we foolishly regard as our liberal leaders.

"Many Americans" couldn't see through Candidate Trump? As a general matter, we would be inclined to agree with that judgment.

But "many Americans" Over Here have been unable to see through the vast assortment of gong-show artists who have been loosed upon us by various corporate suits. We can't even see through the clowning of Maddow! Why should The Others see through the nonsense of Candidate Trump?

Krugman's lament about Those People's blindness came at a propitious time. In this very same week, one of our dumbest music men would peddle his latest trombone.

We refer to head buffoon Frank Rich, who is known as "the great Frank Rich" when he's dragged out for musical purposes on the Maddow Show. Consider this blowhard's track record:

Start with the headlong chase after Bill Clinton's ten blow jobs. During that period, Rich authored the definitive dumbest remark in support of the greatness of Gennifer Flowers, a disordered person whose credibility ought to rated at zero.

Jump ahead to Campaign 2000. Once the primaries were over, Rich spent the whole of 2000 insisting that Bush and Gore were two peas in a pod. From a very high platform, he kept telling the liberal world that there was no difference between them.

Let's move to September 2002. As war with Iraq was being sold, Al Gore delivered a major speech warning against this move. (Almost no one else did.)

Rather than hail the most prominent liberal to make such a speech, Rich savaged Gore's for his unsightly motives, which Rich had somehow divined.

As for Rich himself, he never made a clear declaration concerning the proposed war; he then went on sabbatical as decision day drew nearer. A few years later, after the war had gone bad, Rich ran around to the front of the line. He wrote a best-selling book about the war which made him a larger lib hero.

In 2006, Gore starred in the film about climate change which went on to win an Oscar. Speaking to his brilliant friend Don Imus, Rich trashed Gore's motives all over again. He compared the Oscar-winning documentary to a high school instructional film.

Even the film's commercial success, and the eventual Oscar, didn't alter Rich's perspective. Finally, when Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Rich executed an instant 180. Overnight, he went from unrelenting ridicule to silly ridiculous fawning, as is the way of his ridiculous kind.

Frankly, "many Americans" in our own liberal tents haven't been able to see through ridiculous figures like Rich. Perhaps we ought to consider such facts before we puzzle over the failure of Those People, Over There, to see through a figure like Trump.

This week, of course, our biggest buffoon continued to give us liberals his trademark bad advice.

In a pitiful essay for New York magazine, Rich implored the liberal world to continue loathing and trashing Those People. This is terrible, ugly, stupid advice, advice which comes to us live and direct from the man who started out as the famous "Butcher of Broadway."

Rich went to Harvard, of course. Given that opportunity, he seems to have learned little except the best ways to kick down. Our Harvard man's pitiful headline is this:

"No Sympathy for the Hillbilly"

Sad! Over Here in our liberal tents, we haven't been able to see him for the false prophet he is.

Alas! We live in a time when a vast array of corporate entities teach us to loathe The Others. In case you haven't noticed, this is a very good way to make money on line, or in cable.

Rush Limbaugh has long been one such major corporate entity. Over Here, we're now creating our own.

It's true! Regular good and decent people will frequently be influenced, in harmful ways, by persuasive music men with prehistoric tribal pleadings.

That said, our tents are full of such music men Over Here. Krugman's column notwithstanding, this phenomenon isn't restricted to the judgments reached Over There, by Those People, The Others, hillbillies.

Krugman's new column moves in a much wiser direction today. He correctly describes the flow of this destructive game, noting the way "the media" have misled the wider world about the works of Paul Ryan.

Regular people, decent and good, have always believed music men. This morning, Krugman's aim is true. On Monday, he was kicking down—and forgetting to kick Over There.

Christopher Matthews was Trump before Trump. He got very rich in the process. He was working for Jack Welch at that time. This couldn't be mentioned because the rest of our liberal heroes wanted those Welch paydays too.

No one has ever told the liberal rank-and-file about that noxious history. On the leadership level, our own moral squalor is rank, epidemic—our own squalor, that of our own music men, the ones who got rich Over Here.

Next week: Who are Those People?


  1. Damn, I love this blog, but I think Bob is a bit off today in a way that makes it appear that he's arguing that "both sides" are similarly bad, which in my view is very wrong.

    It's absolutely true that the mainstream liberal press has been awful for decades. It's also true that Bob has now been right, in real time, about the media's serious flaws during 2 very consequential Presidential elections. Finally, it's certainly true that someone needs to call-out the lazy posers in the media for what they are and have been.

    But it's not true that the laziness and frivolousness of the mainstream media is an echo of the propaganda of the right-wing media. One side is pushing falsehoods as a matter of course, while the other side is simply too lazy, ignorant or stupid to tell the truth about what's going on. There's a difference, just as there's a difference between the Democratic Party (which is, as all human organizations are, corrupt and ineffectual and ridiculous in many ways, but in the end is a party that actually seeks to govern) and the Republican Party (which exhibits no interest in governing whatsoever).

    1. Laziness and ignorance that produce falsehoods are no different than intentionally peddling them. Gross negligence. Democrats do this because reality never aligns with their theory and if they weren't lazy or ignorant they would lie if they had to. See USSR. No high ground for "hands up don't shoot."

    2. Don't get to frustrated. It's just the way life is. Sometimes there is nothing you can do.
      As sure as there's a great big sun in the sky, Republicans may pass their ACA replacement bill today, and someone somewhere in America will still think they aren't assholes tomorrow. Que sera sera.

  2. Somerby says: "Donald J. Trump pulled an inside straight and ended up in the White House"

    Actually, Trump colluded with the Russians to illegally steal an election from the winner, Clinton. He didn't win by chance. He cheated.

    Then Somerby goes on to say that Krugman is wrong to consider those who voted for Trump as "the Others" and he even says he can find many good reasons for voting for Trump himself. Poor Somerby.

    If he can find any reason whatsoever to vote for someone like Trump, Somerby is demented. You do not vote for a pussy-grabbing misogynist who encourages white nationalism and hangs around with mobsters, no matter how unemployed you are, how discouraged you are by the economy, how bad your personal life circumstances may be. You do not do that if you are a thinking human being with a shred of intelligence.

    I didn't vote for Chris Matthews either, or Rachel Maddow or Krugman. I do not believe music men and I recognize them by the things they say and do. When people fail to pay attention to the words and actions of those they vote for, they are not doing their job and they deserve to be chastised for it, as Krugman does and as Somerby should do. It is not "kicking down" to say so.

    Somerby's columns are awful these days. I don't know why he has nothing to say any more. Maybe he has given up intellectually speaking. Maybe it is time for him to move on to something else. He is dead wrong about Trump.

    Personally, I think his concern for tribes and the other is ridiculous -- I haven't read the sources he got that from, but it is very stupid stuff. His belief that he will change anyone here by calling liberals names is idiotic. And his constant harping on those good, decent, Trump voters, who don't care what Trump did but will vote for him out of desperation or hope, is also ridiculous. You don't expect miracles from pussy-grabbing, daughter-f**king billionaires.

    1. You see, I share many of your beliefs, but you go off the rails when you write things that say that Trump has sex with his daughter.

      Regarding your points about Trump voters, I honestly don't get how or why anyone could vote for him, but I will tell you that I have close friends and relatives, who I respect and love very much, who voted for him and support him. They aren't stupid people - in fact, they're very intelligent, although on this issue they seem very deluded to me, and I can't get them to explain their views in a way that makes any sense to me.

      I think Bob's point is that we're all tribal, and "liberals" are no more immune to such tribal behavior than conservatives. I'm sure that's true, but I think he then jumps from there to some assertions that appear to me to equate conservatives' viewpoints and actions to those of liberals. That's where he loses me.

    2. ... and I can't get them to explain their views in a way that makes any sense to me.

      That's because there isn't a rational explanation for anyone voting for Trump. If you watched this insane huckster bluffing his way through the campaign for half a minute and still pulled the lever for that treasonous bastard, there is something very wrong with you.

    3. Sombery's suggested a simple reason why people voted for Trump: they thought the alternative was as bad or worse. He's also called attention to the 25-year war in the media on Clinton that shaped the opinions of people on both the left and right. Why is that so hard to fathom?

    4. No, I agree with Mr. Somerby about the 25-year war in the media on Clinton. What he neglects to mention is that you have to be a real imbecile to buy into that.

      I am just a dumb engineer reading and trying understand the facts and I figured out the bullshit a long time ago. Mr. Somerby certainly saw through the bullshit. Why didn't these imbeciles see it for what it was?

      And again, compared to the raging lunatic campaign of the orange gibbon, Secretary Clinton was a saint. Why couldn't they reason that out? Because they are hateful bastards, just working up to the infamous day when they could have their orgasm by sticking it to Hillary. Dumb mothers.

  3. There could not have been an American who missed that among the things Donald Trump lied about was being a rapist. He was caught on tape bragging about it, when better than a dozen women came forward, he called them all liars (the promised lawsuits, another lie) in the same laughably mendacious fashion he lies about everything.
    This, and much, much more rests firmly on the shoulders of the Trump voter.
    They own this catastrophe.

    Well, if you look at it that way, you can expect to reelect him!! Maybe. Maybe a bizarre flight from basics truths is what actually condemns us. After all, as soon as Bob abandons the "liberals are too mean" argument,he starts right in on the "liberals are wimps" argument.
    Yes, the horribleness of Maureen Dowd, and the fact that her early Trump collumns should not be ignored. Lost in the shuffle is that the frivolous abuse of Hillary Clinton is as bad or worse than any Trump reporting.
    But the press began by covering Trump like he was something out of a freak show (which he was and is) but by the end only a fool with a not very hidden contempt for the US could have voted for him. This contempt was not fueled by years of Frank Rich, it came straight from Fox News. Journalists so bad Bob has to give them a pass, as if they were competing in the Journalistic Special Olympics and needed or deserved special rules. Now, one senses, Bob is afraid to confront the basic realities about who Trump is and what he is doing to the Country. It's easier to snark about Maddow, etc.

    1. How dare anyone critique Maddow. Rather than constantly complaining that Somerby doesn't dedicate his blog to writing about Fox News, why not start up your own Fox News column? You're both only one person, you could kind of pick up the slack so to speak.

  4. There is a troll here who keeps accusing Somerby of being conservative. That is incorrect. Somerby is a Bernie supporter who believes the liberal party is dead and we need a socialist dawn. So Somerby kicks liberals because he wants to destroy it and he woos confused low information voters because he believes their economic interests will attract them to a people's party based on proletariat common interest. Bob is snarking on behalf of Bernie these days because he doesn't know much about US history. Wish he could be more open about his goals -- we don't need yet another music man pretending to reform the left when he wants to appropriate its voters on behalf of a do-nothing narcissist with odd views about women, whose name is Bernie Sanders.

    1. What liberal party?
      You're buying the phony "American Exceptionalism" tripe if you think America can have a liberal party.

    2. All polls show some women have rape fantasies and people from Trump's 7 banned countries think it's good to murder gays and want Jews extinct. Maybe it's not polite to say facts like these out loud but the worst you can accuse Bernie of is not censoring facts out of his writing. This makes you accuse him of odd views about women like every criticism of Obama turned into racism. This is why Obama and Bernie voters turned into Trump voters.

  5. I can tell you exactly why people voted for Trump, if you care at all to understand.

    Reason 1: immigration
    Reason 2: immigration
    Reason 3: trade
    Reason 4: elitist disdain for average Americans
    Reason 5: immigration

    Had the dems simply stuck to caring about the American worker, rather than being the party that stands for abortions for transgender muslim refugees and forcing mom and pop shops into bankruptcy unless they bake a dildo cake, they would never have to worry about someone like Trump.

    1. "Had the dems simply stuck to caring about the American worker, rather than being the party that stands for abortions for transgender muslim refugees and forcing mom and pop shops into bankruptcy unless they bake a dildo cake, they would never have to worry about someone like Trump. "

      Worth repeating.

    2. I think Dems could still have ignored labor and won anyway, if they sucked-up to the bigotry like Trump. In fact, Trump's win proves it.

    3. Don't forget average American disdain for the elite.

  6. Don't forget another of Rich's colleagues at the Times - Michiko Kakutani, queen of all reviewers, who found Gore's speeches too long and boring.

  7. Bob - sometimes you attack things that I don't think are there. I agree that even the excellent Krugman has occasionally strayed into "those people" analyses, but the piece you quote is a "body politic" analysis...something is wrong with the way we as a society evaluate candidates for leadership. I suppose he might believe that it's only "they" who are at fault, but he doesn't say that in the piece you quote. He has also been forthright in his holding the mainstream press to account, at least after Trump's victory.

    You, of course, have been fighting the lonely fight against the misdeeds of the press for far longer and far more consistently, for which we honor you. You have tended the flame for many years, and your role has been essential. But there are other essential roles, too. Your consistent telling of truth to power has, at times, marginalized you. Krugman has kept his counsel at times on the issue, but has been able to maintain a platform and influence through all these years that you, in your gadfly role, could not possibly replicate. Sometimes our society cannot handle the truth.

    We honor you both...but you would be even more effective if you, and Drum and Krugman and Yglesias and the other lights of the world could be allies, and support one another, or, if you must occasionally differ, do so more in sorrow than in anger.

    1. I second this.

      But criticism of one’s peers is crucially important in the world of journalism, as it is in the world of science, and I believe Somerby's campus makes important points. In other words, criticism can actually indicate solidarity.

  8. I think Krugman was on the right track, when he wrote, "Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like..." It's more than just sound. Many Americans have forgotten what it means for an American President to lead. Why did we forget? We forgot, because the prior President did a poor job of leading.

    In other words: Obama lacked the usual experience to be President. It's hard to argue that someone like Trump doesn't have the right experience to be President, because Obama has set so low a bar.

    1. you are shameless, DinC. Absolutely fucking shameless. Just like the vulgar lying bastard pervert traitor you voted for.

      Cheetoface just had his ass handed to him in a humiliating defeat of one of his prime objectives.

      He immediately blames the Democrats and his son-in-law, then washes his hands and literally is wishing and hoping for the ACA to "explode", thereby inflicting pain and suffering on many citizens of this country. He will not lift a finger to prevent, he is actually hoping for it to happen. This is a fucking monster with the character of a immature child.

      And you voted for that fucker. The party of personal responsibility, right dickhead?

      Now you try to deflect by attacking President Obama. You are a piece of shit and a fucking coward.

      That column TDH linked to by Krugman is all about the fraud who is Paul Ryan.


      So how did Mr. Ryan reach a position where his actions may reshape the lives of so many of his fellow citizens, in most cases very much for the worse? The answer lies in the impenetrable gullibility of his base. No, not his constituents: the news media, who made him what he is.

      Republican prove again and again and again, they are incapable of governing. Every fucking time in my life when they control the government, things turn to shit.

    2. mm - What are you upset about? You like the ACA and you're getting to keep the ACA.

    3. DavidinCal,
      I'm still upset Obama didn't nationalize the banks and throw the banking and Wall Street criminals in prison, too.
      And don't even get me started about the Bush/ Cheney torture regime walking free.

    4. We could have used Conseravtives, like DavidinCal, criticizing Obama for this too, but they were too busy accusing Obama of being born outside the USA, and sending emails of Obama with a bone in his nose.

      NOTE: But please don't accuse conservatives of bigotry. We have political correctness, so you can't bring up that obvious truth.

    5. Trump thought that repealing the ACA on its anniversary would be a feather in his cap. Instead, his attempt gave him a black eye. (Apologies to Joseph Heller.)
      That does not in any sense translate into us keeping Obamacare.

    6. Robert has just repeated an ugly, bigoted stereotype of black people. He thinks it's OK to do so, because he's attributing the bigotry to some imaginary conservative. But, that ugly image actually came out of Robert's mind.

    7. Who's throwing the "R" bomb now, Kay?

    8. "imaginary conservative"

      DavidinCal: Fact-free on the internet since the 1990s. Some traditions never die.

  9. Will Shakespeare knew.
    "Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home?
    What tributaries follow him to Rome
    To grace in captive bonds his chariot wheels?
    You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!"

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