An automobile, a bus and a train...


...and then a bit of a walk:
We're returning today to our sprawling campus. Full services, such as they are, will resume tomorrow.

We'll start with the nine letters the New York Times published in yesterday's Sunday Review concerning that journey to Arkansas. We were especially struck by the first letter of the nine.

We've also been reading Chanel Miller's book, Know My Name. The review in yesterday's Book Review section appeared on line a few weeks back and can be accessed here.

A mission of indeterminate importance!


No fish today:
We're off on a mission of indeterminate importance.

As always, Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves will know where they can find us over the weekend. But we won't be posting today.

HEART(S) OF DUMBNESS: Friend, do you hate dental floss?


The literature of self-defeat:
Which of our nation's mice is dumber—our highly erudite city mice, or their dimwitted country cousins?

This past Sunday, the New York Times gave the familiar mandated answer to this familiar old question. It seems that a small group of country mice decided to pay their town's librarian $19 an hour, even though a visiting, two-degree city mouse had told them to pay 25.

The city mouse denounced the dumbness of the rubes on the first page of the Sunday Review. She employed every hackneyed element of the familiar novelized genre, not excluding this shopworn groaner:
They won't even let us smarter people tell them what to do!
Also, the country mice were said to be "very religious." More on that to come.

The essay by this credentialed city mouse ran beneath a stinging headline. The headline explained where the country mice live:
In the Land of Self-Defeat
Those country mice are just so dumb that they don't even pursue their own interest! So it goes when our own dimwitted tribe shouts its own view of the world.

Is it really true that the rural white crowd is dumber than us Over Here? Is it really true that the country mice engineer self-defeat, while we city mice steam ahead, skillfully shaping our future?

We're not sure what planet that writer lives on—the writer who dreamed that contrast.

Concerning the erudition of the country mice, we'll assume that, as with everyone else, there's plenty of room for improvement. But good God! Has any tribal group been any dumber, or more self-defeating, than our own upper-class liberal tribe over the past thirty years?

We may be the dumbest tribe ever seen on the planet. That said, we're so dumb that our credentialed think tank scholars have no idea of this fact.

How spectacularly dumb has the liberal world been starting in, let's say, 1987? To what extent has the liberal world fashioned persistent defeat?

Liberal angst is currently focused on the reign of Donald J. Trump. For ourselves, we think the man is highly disordered and dangerous.

That said, our allegedly brilliant liberal team spent decades putting Donald J. Trump where he is. People like that think tank seer were too dumb—and not infrequently, too careerist—to blow the whistle concerning this gruesome process.

How did our dimwitted liberal team help elect Donald J. Trump? As an aside, standard jibes about the country mice being "very religious" probably didn't help.

For today, we'd mainly point to the decades of slander our city mice enabled and aimed at the candidate Trump beat, though only under our arcane electoral rules and only while losing the popular vote.

People like the New York Times' think tank expert sat on their ascots, year after year, while that other candidate was slimed and degraded as "Evita Peron" and "Nurse Ratched"—and we're speaking her about the gender-based sliming which came at her from the top end of the mainstream and "liberal" press.

Monica Potts sat on her aspic while Maureen Dowd had her deeply unfortunate way with the political world. On June 22, 2008, Clark Hoyt, then the Times' public editor, savaged Dowd for "the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on [Candidate] Clinton." Among other things, the gentleman offered this:
HOYT (6/22/08): Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that [previously cited Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.

...[T]he relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton—in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1—left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed.
Plainly, Hoyt also believed that a line had been crossed. That said, these inane assaults on Candidate Clinton had been going on for many years by the time Hoyt wrote his column. And not only that:

During Campaign 2000, Dowd had written seven columns focusing on Candidate Gore's bald spot, including the demented column which appeared in the New York Times on the Sunday before that election—an election in which Gore was defeated by roughly 11 votes.

Stating the obvious, those attacks on Candidate Gore were also attacks aimed at Clinton and Clinton. This was a seamless, 25-year campaign, built around ongoing themes.

Needless to say, Hoyt's complaint about the sexist attacks on Candidate Clinton produced exactly zero discussion within the upper-end press. Maureen Dowd was too big a player at the Times to permit such discussion among grasping careerists at the journals, or in the well-funded billionaire/corporate realm of the think tank left.

Did Sunday's city mouse ever complain, back in real time, about the endless gender-based sliming of Nurse Ratched? As best we can tell, she did not. But the self-defeat in which our world has engaged simply defies comprehension. We kept it up right through Election Day 2016, at which point we put our brilliance on display by deciding to form a "resistance."

On the Friday night before that election, one of our academic wizards (Princeton) went on TV with Lawrence and said it would take a major weather event along the East Coast to give Trump a chance to win. Our rank and file believed these credentialed sachems, leading to the waves of confusion experienced by city mice the following Tuesday night.

By and large, we'd believed the credentialed experts, the people who had been failing us for decades by November 2016. These are the geniuses people like Potts strongly prefer to the dumb country mice who simply refused to take her advice about how to conduct their affairs.

It would take an entire book to chronicle our dimwitted tribe's decades-long romance with self-defeat. For now, let's move on to our manifest, world-class dumbness.

To put that dumbness on display, let's consider the literature of the New York Times. We'll direct you to a revealing feature which ran in print editions last Thursday morning.

Your lizard brain is going to tell you that we're being unfair. Your lizard will say that we've simply selected one piece out of the many wonderful items the wonderful New York Times runs.

We see the logic, but we reject the conclusion. Sometimes, the sheer stupidity of a tribe is too vast to wish away. That holds with the crazy things Donald Trump says—and with the frequently ludicrous work which appears in our glorious Times.

We're going to list last Thursday's feature under this unflattering heading:
Self-satisfied self-involvement
Self-satisfied self-involvement? Plainly, it's a major part of our deeply stupid, self-defeating city mouse tribal culture at the present time.

This dumbness presented itself on page A3 of last Thursday print editions, in a daily feature which started like this:
Here to Help
In our view, a tribe which tolerate nonsense like this as part of its journalism is a tribe that's too dumb to survive. A tribe reveals itself through its literature. On this day, part of our self-revealing literature continued along like this:
Here to Help

The research is limited, and flossing is not a cure-all, but it is still one of the few things people can do—along with brushing, drinking fluoridated water, rinsing with mouthwash, eating well, and going to the dentist regularly—to stand a chance against severe, long-term oral-health problems.
That's the way one youngish Times journalist started her feature this day. To read her longer on-line piece, you can just click here.

The writer was only seven years out of college (Wisconsin, class of 2012), but already she had descended to this level. It's where some of our brightest young minds end up under the weight of our dimwitted city mouse culture.

How dumb is that opening paragraph? If you can't see how dumb it is, you may be part of the problem! But as she starts, this young person is already pandering hard to self-involved New York Times readers.

Panic is invading the suburbs! She tells the readers to whom she is pandering that, aside from flossing, there are only a few things they can do to so much as "stand a chance against severe, long-term oral-health problems."

There are only a few things they can do! Along the way, she lists five:
A few other things they can do:
1) They can brush their teeth.
2) They can drink fluoridated water.
3) They can rinse with mouthwash.
4) They can eat well.
5) They can go to the dentist.
Might we make an observation about this list, which was assembled by a panic-stricken young city mouse who writes for the New York Times?

We'll guess that many New York Times readers are already brushing their teeth and going to the dentist. Beyond that, the leading authority on the topic says that roughly two-thirds of the nation's population can only avoid option #2 by refusing to drink their tap water.

It's hard to account for the hint of panic found in that opening paragraph. But as she continues, this fallen young journalist pretty much gives us a good solid laugh:
HERE TO HELP (continuing directly): Thankfully, in addition to string floss, you can find other interdental cleaners—things designed to clean between teeth—that are safe and effective. The best way to know whether an interdental cleaner is right for you is by asking your dentist, said Dr. Michele Neuburger, a dental officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Oral Health.
"Thankfully," New York Times readers who hate to floss "can find other interdental cleaners...that are safe and effective!"

So the journalist tells us. In a parody of journalistic process, she then asks a certified national expert how her readers can know which such cleaner is best for them.

The expert tells the New York Times journalist that her readers should ask their dentist! So it goes as the Times tries to help!

As she continues, the writer lists and discusses five different interdental cleaners the reader might ask about. As you can see at the link we provided, the third such cleaner is "Toothpicks." From there, the writers moves ahead to "Floss picks," a variant of same.

Please approach this remarkable piece as literature! Work like this is so stunningly fatuous that it inevitably tells us something about the tribe from which it emerges. And such nonsense appears on a daily basis on the Times' "reimagined" page A3, for which the Times fashioned a stunning motto:
You are the dumbest, most self-involved people on earth.
We at the Times want to serve you.
In fairness, this silly essay about the few ways the reader might stand a chance against severe, long-term oral-health problems is no dumber than vast amounts of the political writing the Times has offered down through the years. That includes the work of Dowd, the paper's defining star during the era in question.

It's also no dumber than much of what happens on the Rachel Maddow Show, whose beloved host refused to challenge the development of the Benghazi narratives all through the fall of 2012, then refused to challenge Comey the God after he attacked Candidate Clinton on July 5, 2016.

Indeed, the guest host on this TV star's program spent two nights endorsing Comey's point of view immediately after that July attack. These are a few of the ways the careerist sachems of our own ridiculous tribe engineered self-defeat.

How in the world did Candidate Trump squeeze by Candidate Clinton? Three of the prime-time hosts on our top tribal channel—Matthews, Williams and O'Donnell—played leading or significant roles in the decades of sliming aimed at Clinton, Clinton and Gore. This softened her up for the kill.

The biggest star on the channel, Maddow, will never tell you any such thing; she'll discuss Ed Meese instead. And because no one else will tell rank-and-file liberals such things, liberals out in San Francisco bow to cardboard cutouts of Maddow, their doula, much as many country mice defer to the claims of Sean Hannity.

Our tribe's behavior has been very dumb, almost wholly because of our "leaders." But at the Times, such a claim can only be made about our ridiculous cousins, the country mice! Good God, how dumb they are!

Our leadership has spent at least three decades fashioning self-defeat. Thanks to careerists at city mouse think tanks, good decent people within our tribe have never been told about this.

Still coming: Inside Arky churches

Does Donald J. Trump possess unmatched wisdom?


Never mind—please look Over There!:
Does Donald J. Trump have "great and unmatched wisdom," as he himself at last admitted in a recent tweet?

Is Trump's self-assessment accurate? Here is the fuller text of what he unmatchedly said:
TRUMP (10/7/19): As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over...

....the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!
So the beloved president said. Indeed, he had stated part of that strongly before!

Turkey's economy could be totally destroyed and obliterated! And of course, as Trump himself has acknowledged, many people consider him to be "a highly stable genius."

For ourselves, we're going to guess that Donald J. Trump doesn't possess "great and unmatched wisdom." We'd offer his highly peculiar claims as evidence to that effect.

Is something "wrong" with Donald J. Trump? We've been asking that question since March 2015. We think the question's important.

As it turns out, we may not be alone. Based on a front-page report in today's New York Times, the White House official who spoke to the first Trump whistle-blower also seems to think that something may be wrong with the commander. At the start of his report, Nicholas Fandos writes this:
FANDOS (10/9/19): A White House official who listened to President Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s leader described it as “crazy,” “frightening” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security,” according to a memo written by the whistle-blower at the center of the Ukraine scandal, a C.I.A. officer who spoke to the White House official.

The official was “visibly shaken by what had transpired,” the C.I.A. officer wrote in his memo, one day after Mr. Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in a July 25 phone call to open investigations that would benefit him politically.
If the whistle-blower's account is accurate, the White House official thought Trump's conduct was "crazy" and "frightening." When we read this account, we thought of Trump's extremely strange behavior last week in two separate press events with the visiting Finnish president—public rantings which recalled many reports of the president's unhinged private conduct.

On Monday afternoon's Deadline: White House, Frank Figliuzzi specifically cited Trump's strange claim to unmatched wisdom, going on to say this:
FIGLIUZZI (10/7/19): He is increasingly showing signs not just of narcissism, but now of a messianic complex, a messiah-like wisdom and knowledge. "I’m right, everyone else is wrong"—even those who are experts on Turkish, Kurdish, and Syrian matters.

So we’ve reached the point here where someone can’t have a conversation with our president. He doesn’t trust anyone around him. He makes the call all by himself, and he makes the wrong call. And if this keeps happening we are going to find troops involved. We are going to find missiles involved. He is going to make a horrible call all by himself.
Figliuzzi described the general situation as "perilously dangerous." We've heard the same suggestion, many times, from a despondent group of future anthropologists who regret their own disastrous failure to speak up in real time.

Trump's recent tweet was extremely strange, even by his own peculiar standards. The source to the whistle-blower apparently described Trump's phone call in July as "crazy" and "frightening."

Despite all this, the national press corps still agrees that it mustn't consider the possibility that some serious mental health issue is involved in this weird behavior. More importantly, a bunch of Arkies are so dumb that they're paying their librarian $19 an hour when an East Coast think tank veteran thinks they should be paying her 25!

How dumb are people in Arkansas? It's our view that the New York Times, once again, is asking the wrong freaking question.

HEART(S) OF DUMBNESS: Who cares if a hospital has to close?


Inside Clinton's churches:
How dumb, and how venal, are the roughly 2500 people who live in Clinton, Arkansas?

If we were forced to take a guess, we'd guess that they aren't especially dumb as compared to everyone else, and that they aren't massively venal.

That said, like Rod Steiger's sheriff, "We ain't no experts." For that reason, the New York Times enacted an ancient human tradition:

They let a credentialed East Coast expert settle these questions for us.

The expert in question is Monica Potts, a former and possibly current Fellow at New America, a major Washington think tank. Potts holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from Bryn Mawr (class of 2002), plus a master's degree in magazine writing from the Columbia School of Journalism.

In the view of the Times, this equipped Potts to settle a burning question: How much should the people of Clinton, Arkansas be paying their head librarian?

How dumb are the people of Clinton, Arkansas? We have no idea!

For ourselves, we're more inclined to wonder how dumb you have to be to build the front-page essay in the Sunday Review around so pointless a question. But that's what the brainiac New York Times did in last Sunday's editions.

How much should Clinton have paid its librarian? Potts says $25 per hour, but the town bumped that initial budget proposal down to only 19.

As Potts notes, the leading candidate for the job accepted that rate of pay. Some would say this means that the town avoided over-paying for the position—made a sound budget decision.

At any rate, what's the answer? Should Clinton's librarian get $19 per hour? Or should she get 25?

On Monday,
Kevin Drum critiqued the Potts essay. He suggested that, in a low-wage rural town with significant budget problems, it's entirely possible that the town's resolution of this quandary may have made actual sense!

Drum didn't raise the larger point, concerning why the New York Times would ridicule this small town's residents over so minuscule a matter. In comments, Drum's readers quickly began insisting that Potts was surely right in her assessment concerning the appropriate wage.

As they did, they brought the eternal note of sadness in. They also put an ancient fact on display:

Within our highly tribal species, urban elites will always ridicule the mental hygiene of the rubes who live in the provinces. Our species has always functioned this way, and until we decide to be less dumb, our species always will.

At any rate, Potts was pretty dadgummed hard on the people of Clinton, among whom she grew up and among whom she once again lives. Basically, she said two things:

The people of Clinton are too dumb to let us credentialed elites tell them how much to pay their librarian. And in their dumbness, they're letting us see how venal they are.

You can see these themes expressed in the passage shown below, but they pop up elsewhere in Potts' piece:
POTTS (10/6/19) Since coming back, I’ve realized that it is true that people here think life here has taken a turn for the worse. What’s also true, though, is that many here seem determined to get rid of the last institutions trying to help them, to keep people with educations out, and to retreat from community life and concentrate on taking care of themselves and their own families. It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbor.
In that passage, Potts discovers that the people of Clinton "seem determined to" turn their backs on the brighter people who are trying to help them!

Beyond that, they even stand opposed to "helping [their] neighbor!" Similar condemnation is voiced in this longer passage, in which our evangelist makes a journalistic error:
POTTS: There was general agreement among the Facebook commenters that no one in the area was paid that much—the librarian’s wages would have worked out to be about $42,200 a year—and the people who do actually earn incomes that are similar—teachers and many county officials—largely remained quiet. (Clinton has a median income of $34,764 and a poverty rate of 22.6 percent.) When a few of us, including me, pointed out that the candidate for the library job had a master’s degree, more people commented on the uselessness of education. “Call me narrow-minded but I’ve never understood why a librarian needs a four-year degree,” someone wrote. “We were taught Dewey decimal system in grade school. Never sounded like anything too tough.”

I watched the fight unfold with a sense of sadness, anger and frustration. I started arguing. It didn’t work.
The pay request was pulled from the Quorum Court’s agenda.

I didn’t realize it at first, but the fight over the library was rolled up into a bigger one about the library building, and an even bigger fight than that, about the county government, what it should pay for, and how and whether people should be taxed at all. The library fight was, itself, a fight over the future of rural America, what it meant to choose to live in a county like mine, what my neighbors were willing to do for one another, what they were willing to sacrifice to foster a sense of community here.

The answer was, for the most part, not very much.
For the record, Potts makes a journalistic error in that passage. She compares the proposed personal income for the librarian—initially, $42,000 per year—to the average household income for residents of the town—$34,764.

This tilts the discussion in Potts' favor. But so it can go when unlettered masses turn their backs on helpful credentialed elites.

At any rate, what are Those People willing to do for each other? As they turn their back on Potts, the journalist comes up with the answer—not very much!

Potts goes on to offer examples of how venal and dumb her neighbors actually are. In that very passage, she quotes a random person on Facebook offering The Dumbest Possible Thought of All Time concerning the need for a librarian to have a college degree.

Apparently, we readers are supposed to see how dumb this particular comment is, and with it how dumb the whole freaking county must be.

For ourselves, we don't think the comment in question is necessarily super-dumb. But as to the obvious generalization we were supposed to draw, we'll only say that, in the same edition of the Times, we read this account of the brilliant way we highly credentialed liberal elites behave on the upper-end coasts:
HESS (10/6/19): Molly Jong-Fast, a former novelist who once described her pre-Trump self as “completely selfish and disinterested in politics” and who is now a liberal Twitter influencer and columnist for the Never Trump site The Bulwark, told me that Maddow “made wonkiness cool.”

Recently, I went to dinner at the home of [Name Withheld], a preschool principal in San Francisco
who turned to Maddow in her depression and confusion over the 2016 election. I brought a bottle of rosé, and she poured it into glasses decorated with charms that featured Russia-investigation figures on one side and characters from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on the other. I sipped from the Hope Hicks/Beverly Crusher glass, and we watched Maddow’s show over veggie enchiladas. “I think of her as a news doula: You know the news is going to be painful no matter what, so we might as well have someone who helps us survive it,” [Name Withheld] told me. Last year, [she] had a Maddow-themed birthday party, at which her friends and her two young sons put on big black glasses and slicked their hair to the side. Also in attendance was a life-size cardboard cutout of Maddow, which is now in storage so as not to startle guests.


After [Name Withheld] bought her Maddow cardboard cutout, she got a Robert Mueller one, too. For a time she would sit him in her front window, posing him near speech bubbles that she wrote herself. But after the real Mueller filed his report and failed to step into the role she had imagined for him, she tucked him away in the closet with Maddow. Now her car is decorated with Elizabeth Warren bumper stickers.
We're going to guess that the people in Arkansas' heart of dumbness would roll their eyes over conduct like that. But so it goes when we stereotype large groups, and insult individuals, over random behaviors and comments.

For ourselves, we thought Potts quoted several Arkies making dumb remarks which didn't seem all that dumb to us. At one point, she quotes a resident citing the concern she felt when she said "she’d witnessed, in Texas, a hospital being practically bankrupted by the cost of caring for immigrants."

As Potts continues, she seems to fashion this concern in an extremely unflattering way. But what was that woman supposed to think when she saw this hospital approaching bankruptcy?

Potts doesn't exactly say. Meanwhile, is it possible that people in Clinton help each other in venues Potts may have missed?

For ourselves, we have no idea. But tomorrow, we'll visit a comment by a resident about life inside Clinton's churches.

As a general matter, we think it's very unwise to condescend to large groups of people in the way Potts seems to do in her high-profile piece. Indeed, right at the start of her essay, Potts alleges a general view among these rough-hewn rural folk—an alleged view which strikes us as rather apt.

Below, you see a chunk of Potts' third paragraph. She's quoting a Wisconsin professor who wrote an intriguing essay in Vox:
POTTS: In 2016, shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory, Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, summed up the attitudes she observed after years of studying rural Americans: “The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered “racial minorities on welfare” as well as “lazy urban professionals” working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars.
Right there in paragraph 3, Potts establishes the idea that people in Clinton stand opposed to "racial minorities on welfare." In the course of her essay, she makes no attempt to justify this implicit claim, but this claim lets Times readers know that we're about to be favored with one of our favorite stories.

Professor Cramer also said that rural folk have a certain lack of respect for "lazy urban professionals." As quoted by Potts, the term "urban" may seem like a second racial whistle.

In fact, in Cramer's actual article, the reference seemed more intriguing to us. Cramer said these rural folk were underwhelmed by folk like herself:
CRAMER (11/16/16): They also thought that they didn’t get their fair share of tax money. To them, too much of it went to the cities, to “undeserving” people. The undeserving included racial minorities on welfare but it also included lazy urban professionals like me working desk jobs and producing nothing more than ideas.
In Cramer's essay, rural Wisconsinites were said to resent such "lazy urban professionals" as professors and possibly journalists. If people in Clinton hold such resentments, we'd have to say that their general view isn't necessarily wrong.

Potts emerged from a well-funded think tank to tell the people in her home town how much to pay their librarian. She wrote an essay in which it was clear that she found their general view of the world to be dumb and self-defeating.

Indeed, the headline on her New York Times piece said that these drooling rustics live "in the land of self-defeat." That may well be true about them, but it's certainly true about us!

Tomorrow, we'll wonder what is going on inside Clinton's churches. Beyond that, we'll examine the human dumbness occasionally found on the nation's coasts.

As a general matter, let the word go forth to the nations—our vastly self-impressed species routinely lives in the heart of dumbness. Part of that folly lies is this fact:

As a general matter, we're only wired to spot the dumbness when it's found Over There.

Tomorrow: Friend, do you hate flossing? In that case, listen to us...

Susan Rice, misparaphrased still!


Ways that Donald Trump got there:
Without Benghazi, would Donald J. Trump ever have reached the White House?

There is no way to tell. The attack occurred on September 11, 2012. The bogus stories about what occurred got started the following Sunday, and they continued, aimed at Hillary Clinton, over the next four years.

Initially, the bogus stories concerned Susan Rice—more specifically, what she said on the Sunday programs that following weekend. We mention this because in this morning's Washington Post, Rice was misparaphrased again, with the stress on the damage done to Rice, rather than to Clinton:
HELLER (10/8/19): Susan Rice was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, equipped with a gold-standard Washington résumé—Stanford, Rhodes scholar, Oxford doctorate, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs. She explained that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was “wiped after a brutal week.” The Obama White House asked Rice to appear “in her stead” on all five Sunday news programs.

It was days after attacks in Libya killed four Americans.

“I smell a rat,” said her mother, a lauded education policy expert. “This is not a good idea. Can’t you get out of it?”

“Mom, don’t be ridiculous,” Rice said. “I’ve done the shows. It will be fine.”

Well, no, it was not.

Benghazi became the millstone in Rice’s stellar career. It stopped her from succeeding Clinton.

Criticism of Rice was relentless after the intelligence talking points she was given proved incorrect and inadequate. She said the attacks were a spontaneous protest, but the government inquiry was still evolving, and later determined that some individuals were affiliated with terrorist groups. The scrutiny lasted through multiple congressional investigations.
"She said the attacks were a spontaneous protest?"

Actually, that isn't what Susan Rice said on the Sunday shows that day. But as soon as she finished speaking on Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer and John McCain got busy misparaphrasing what she'd just said.

Needless to say, their bogus paraphrase was quickly adopted as gospel. We discussed what Rice had actually said at great length in the days and weeks which followed, but at times of Major Insider Consensus, you might as well talk to Trump's wall.

Rice was attacked all through the fall, with timorous stars like Rachel Maddow running for cover. (Four years later, she did the same thing from July 5 on with respect to Comey the God's attack on Candidate Clinton.) The Benghazi narratives were born in this way, and they were relentlessly used to attack Candidate Clinton, right on through until Emailgate was deemed more damaging still.

Rice was instantly misparaphrased; the process continues today. In real time, cable stars all ran and hid. After all, John McCain was a certified saint and straight-talker, and Schieffer was a highly respected dean of the upper-end press corps. Insider careerists simply don't challenge establishment stars of that stripe.

Beyond that, basic paraphrase is a skill our intellectual leaders have never quite mastered. Luckily, we liberals still have rural Arkansans we can mock for their pitiful lack of smarts.

According to major anthropologists, our own liberal team just isn't real sharp. That said, how did you think that Donald Trump got there? Have you spent all your time blaming Them?

HEART(S) OF DUMBNESS: Hess observes liberal fans in the wild!


Our own heart of dumbness:
We have no doubt that Monica Potts is a good, decent person.

Potts graduated from Bryn Mawr in the class of 2002. That said, she grew up in Van Buren County, Arkansas, and she didn't grow up as one of the swells.

A decade ago, she described her upbringing in a post at Tapped, the group blog of the American Prospect. Youngsters were discussing the question of who gets favored in elite college admissions. As part of a thoughtful longer statement, Potts offered this profile of her rural Arkansas youth:
POTTS (7/21/10): My family was fairly poor when I was young but by the time I was applying to college, had worked its way to tenuous working-class status. I was raised in a town of 2,000 in rural Arkansas, and though I wasn't a member of [Future Farmers of America], I took an agriculture and shop class in middle school, learned how to shoot a rifle (though not very well), and was vice president of Future Homemakers of America (hey, everyone should learn to cook). I had decided at a very young age that I wanted to go to Harvard, but by the time my feminism was ignited as a high schooler, I was applying to the former Seven Sisters schools instead. I admit I identified as liberal, but I'm not sure how that would have come out in the application process, while I can tell you for sure that the fact that I started and ran a church youth group did...
In our view, that sounds like part of a fascinating American and human story. In a nation of 330 million souls, there are quite a few such stories, all of which should perhaps be treated with something resembling respect.

Potts has done good work as a journalist in the past. We thought she displayed shaky but highly familiar judgment in her high-profile essay in last weekend's Sunday Review, an essay in which she described her return to her rural home town to write a book about low-income women.

In the course of her essay, Potts smacked the minions of her old hometown—Clinton, Arkansas—pretty dadblamed good. In a novelized form as old as humanity, she seemed to say that the yokels in question are just amazingly dumb, and dad-gummed venal too.

As she noted in her essay, Potts has now spent twenty years living on the East Coast. Most recently, she said she's been living in Washington, where she's been a kept person of the multimillion-dollar think tank, New America.

Right from the start of Sunday's essay, Potts battered her former and once-again neighbors real good. Essentially, she said they're too dumb to come in out of the rain—and that they even oppose the idea of helping others:
POTTS (10/6/19): Since coming back, I’ve realized that it is true that people here think life here has taken a turn for the worse. What’s also true, though, is that many here seem determined to get rid of the last institutions trying to help them, to keep people with educations out, and to retreat from community life and concentrate on taking care of themselves and their own families. It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbors.
These Arkies today! They won't even let us brighter people tell them what to think and do!

They're against immigrants, Potts explained, citing no particular evidence. But they're also "against helping your neighbors!" Yes, they're really that bad!

Are Potts' neighbors really that dumb and that venal? For ourselves, we've never been to Clinton, but we'll examine the strength of Potts' claims before the week is through.

For ourselves, we don't think the evidence Potts provides supports the "Them So Dumb, Us So Smart" line of pseudo-analysis which has long ruled our human world. But that isn't the question we're going to track down today.

Are Arkies too dumb to come out of the rain? We'll guess that, on balance, they aren't. That said, we thought Potts' portrait of Those Hopeless Rubes was especially striking in Sunday's Times, given the portrait Amanda Hess drew of some of Us Geniuses Here on The Coasts in that same Sunday edition.

Potts' portrait of today's rural Arky was the featured, front-page piece in the high-profile Sunday Review. Hess wrote the featured essay in that same day's Sunday Magazine.

Hess wrote a profile of Rachel Maddow, concerning whom, we're forced to to say, Hess seemed to have little to say. But good lord! After reading Potts go after the pitiful dumbness of the Arkies, we couldn't help noting the portrait Hess drew of a certain class of bicoastal Maddow supporters.

These fans don't hail from the heart of dumbness known as Van Buren County. Rather plainly, they reside in the finer, smarter locales—in our well-educated cities, or on one of our two major coasts.

These are the giants of perception in whose midst Potts had lived for twenty years. But how strange! Hess' portrait of these "typical fans" started off like this:
HESS (10/6/19): Maddow’s typical fan has been branded (by Kat Stoeffel in The New York Times) as the “MSNBC Mom,” a woman who feels that the election has radicalized her; even if she has not moved to the left politically, her liberal sympathies and news consumption have swelled into a suddenly central part of her identity. (The network has monetized this lightly condescending label with a set of MSNBC Mom tote bags and latte mugs.) Molly Jong-Fast, a former novelist who once described her pre-Trump self as “completely selfish and disinterested in politics” and who is now a liberal Twitter influencer and columnist for the Never Trump site The Bulwark, told me that Maddow “made wonkiness cool.”
Stating the obvious, there's nothing wrong with being an "MSNBC Mom." To read Kat Stoeffel's portrait of such people, you can just click here.

There's nothing wrong with being an "MSNBC Mom" or a Maddow fan. We do return to the concept of condescension as Hess describes the network's attempt to sell these people latte mugs and the occasional tote bag.

In fairness, the network has to find some way to pay Maddow's giant salary, whose size goes unreported by Hess. In a typical part of upper-end culture, we learn the salary of Clinton's librarian in the course of reading Sunday's essays, but we don't learn how much Maddow is paid to assemble a long list of fans, or how much Potts is being paid by her billionaire-funded think tank.

To purchase one of those tote bags, you can just click here. As for Jong-Fast, who Hess describes as a "liberal influencer," she grew up with every coastal advantage—she's the daughter of novelist Erica Jong—but she says she was “completely selfish and disinterested in politics” until Donald J. Trump came to power in 2016!

We'll assume that Jong-Fast is being too hard on herself, if in a hackneyed way. That said, the lazy disinterest and lack of perception of such upper-end players has long been a distinguishing characteristic of the superficial, unintelligent liberal cult which clowned and snored and stared into space until our dumbness and disinterest ended with Trump in the White House.

Our most erudite "liberal influencers" had told us that Donald J. Trump couldn't possibly win that election, and we tended to believe these tribal sachems. Today, we send our agents into the wild to let us know how amazingly stupid Those Other People are!

Is Jong-Fast a "liberal Twitter influencer" in any significant way? For ourselves, we have no idea, but we clicked the link provided by Hess to check on her liberal tweets.

Having done so, we'll only say this—having little or nothing to say on some subject isn't a moral shortcoming. But in her recent tweets, Jong-Fast seems to have little to say about opposition to Trump which isn't completely conventional. She's largely reciting tribal dogma, much as Potts could be said to have done in her familiar account of How Dumb The Others Are.

Are people in Clinton unusually dumb? We feel certain there's room for improvement! That said, our own tribe has been marked by spectacular dumbness over the course of the past thirty-odd years, a point we'll explore in more detail before the week is done.

Today, people like Potts take foundation swag to journey to a heart of dumbness and tell us about the pitiful dumbness of Others. But what are we liberals actually like, Over Here in Genius Land?

Below, you see the way Hess continued as she described that "typical fan." We're withholding the name of the good, decent person in question, though not of the high-IQ liberal realm within which she brilliantly dwells:
HESS (continuing directly): Recently, I went to dinner at the home of [Name Withheld], a preschool principal in San Francisco who turned to Maddow in her depression and confusion over the 2016 election. I brought a bottle of rosé, and she poured it into glasses decorated with charms that featured Russia-investigation figures on one side and characters from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on the other. I sipped from the Hope Hicks/Beverly Crusher glass, and we watched Maddow’s show over veggie enchiladas. “I think of her as a news doula: You know the news is going to be painful no matter what, so we might as well have someone who helps us survive it,” [Name Withheld] told me. Last year, [she] had a Maddow-themed birthday party, at which her friends and her two young sons put on big black glasses and slicked their hair to the side. Also in attendance was a life-size cardboard cutout of Maddow, which is now in storage so as not to startle guests.
We'll admit that we had to look "doula" up. But why can't those numbnuts in Clinton, Arkansas be more like this typical fan?

Later, Hess returned to this particular fan, who or may not be "typical" of our admittedly brilliant tribe:
HESS: After [Name Withheld] bought her Maddow cardboard cutout, she got a Robert Mueller one, too. For a time she would sit him in her front window, posing him near speech bubbles that she wrote herself. But after the real Mueller filed his report and failed to step into the role she had imagined for him, she tucked him away in the closet with Maddow. Now her car is decorated with Elizabeth Warren bumper stickers.
Is this the typical Maddow/Warren fan? The typical modern liberal?

It would be our thought that, in a vast nation, it's hard to come up with a "typical" person. That would be our thought about Maddow fans, and about the pitiful hayseeds described in the Potts travelogue.

Having said that, we'll also say this:

As with Jong-Fast, so too here. Like Jong-Fast, this San Franciscan was shocked, just shocked, when Donald Trump won that election. Our geniuses told her it couldn't happen, and she believed what she heard.

In the next day or two, we'll run through some of the episodes we liberals slept through in the decades leading to that election defeat.

Our persistent indolence and our lack of perception didn't necessarily make us "dumb." But these traits did and do make us human, like the people whose candidate won. There's room for improvement in Van Buren County, but also perhaps Over Here.

Is Name Withheld a typical fan? Not necessarily, no.

Is Jong-Fast a typical liberal? We'll suggest there's no such thing.

That said, while Name Withheld is a regular person, Jong-Fast is now an influencer, and she says that she was lazy and dumb right through 2016! Meanwhile, at the top of the heap, the New Yorker once published a crazy profile of Maddow by Janet Malcolm, who is often hailed as the greatest magazine writer of the past several decades.

Malcolm hails from the top of the coastal elite. Her account of her own devotion to Maddow came straight from the loony-tunes bin.

In Sunday morning's New York Times, readers were told about a typical liberal fan. She'd had a Mueller cutout in her window, and she'd posted speech bubbles of what the great man was saying.

We wouldn't call that person typical, nor would we call her dumb. But sure enough! In that same edition, subscribers got to read about how venal and stupid The Others are. They won't even let giants like us tell them how much they should pay the local librarian!

According to major anthropologists, the tendency to function this way is as old as the human brain. The human brain is wired for tribe, or so the top experts say.

That said, how strong was the logic of Potts' assessments? Not enormously strong, we'd suggest.

We're sure there's room for vast improvement among the burghers of Van Buren County. But have you ever looked around within our own upper-end liberal tents?

Tomorrow: "And turns his back on me..."

Johnson doesn't trust the FBI or the CIA!


Pepperidge Farm remembers...:
Senator Johnson (R-Wisconsin) outraged all right-thinking people on yesterday's Meet the Press.

He did so in several different ways. One such way was by saying this:
JOHNSON (10/6/19): I don't trust those guys.
It's not entirely clear what Johnson was saying, because he and Chuck Todd spent a vast amount of time interrupting each other.

Todd is being praised for his role in yesterday's fracas, but this new press culture is a highly unconstructive form of Creeping Cuomoism. Anyone who has watched Chris Cuomo pretend to interview Rudy Giuliani will possibly know what we mean.

(Earth to Chris: If that's the way folk talk in New York, folk should stop talking that way.)

At any rate, if you want to see what kind of transcripts result from Creeping Cuomoism, just click here, then marvel at the verbal shards which go on and on and on down the page as Todd and Johnson engage in their co-interruptions.

What did Johnson seem to be saying? He seemed to be saying that he doesn't trust the leadership of the FBI and the CIA. Among right-thinking people, this has been treated as an outrageous stance, but at one time, not too long ago, this would have been a typical stance from almost any liberal.

Is it possible that intelligence officials did something "wrong" in their approach to Candidate or Early President Trump? Of course it is, we're inclined to say, although we have no knowledge of any such misconduct.

We'll guess that these people, perfectly sensibly, saw Candidate, then President, Donald J. Trump as an impending disaster and as a threat to the nation. That said, who could possibly believe that an upstanding fellow like Comey the God would ever have acted inappropriately, no matter what he may have thought?

For ourselves, we'd like to see William Barr go ahead and do his freaking report. We're curious about the Maltese professor too; we're curious to see if Barr, or if U.S. attorney John Durham, can actually come up with any information about him.

Also, about Putin's smokin' hot "niece!"

Today's standard liberal takes a different approach. Tribally, we're committed to shutting inquiry down even before any results, absurd or otherwise, can even so much as get leaked.

That said, Donald J. Trump did get elected; he did appoint William Barr to serve as attorney general. We're curious to see what Barr comes up with, if anything, concerning any possible misconduct on the part of intelligence officials.

Others want to cover their ears. Our interpretation?

They know our tribe can't win a debate, at least not to a sufficient degree, if we think the results of this probe turn out to be blooey—that we haven't been able to win a debate going back many long years.

Among various ridiculous things, Johnson said he doesn't trust power. We can't swear that he should.

HEART(S) OF DUMBNESS: Potts reports from Arkansas!


Hess from San Francisco:
Monica Potts has taken a journey up a long, winding river into the heart of dumbness.

It's even worse than that! For the past twenty years, Potts has been "living on the East Coast, most recently in the Washington area." She reports this fact in the essay which appeared on the front page of the Sunday Review in yesterday's New York Times.

Just for the record, Monica Potts is a good, decent person. From 2010 through 2014, she was a senior writer at the American Prospect, producing longform journalism. Since September 2014, she has been a fellow at New America, formerly the New America Foundation, a well-funded, self-admiring think tank which, in 2013, produced one of the slipperiest books about public schools of the entire "education reform" era.

We don't intend any of this as a criticism of Potts. Some of her past writing has been highly praised. Some of her writing has produced aggressive criticism from people more woke than she.

By any sensible standard, Potts seems to be a thoroughly decent person. But yesterday, the New York Times gave her one of its most valuable weekly platforms to describe her continuing trip into the heart of dumbness.

You see, although Potts has been living in Washington, D.C., she grew up in Clinton, Arkansas, a small town in rural Van Buren County.

Potts left Clinton to go to college; she graduated from Bryn Mawr in 2002. But two years ago, she returned to her home town. She describes this turn of events early in Sunday's essay:
POTTS (10/6/19): I returned to Van Buren County at the end of 2017 after 20 years living on the East Coast, most recently in the Washington area, because I’m writing a book about Clinton, Van Buren’s county seat. My partner and I knew it would be a challenge: The county is very remote, very religious and full of Trump voters, and we suspected we’d stand out because of our political beliefs.
The county "is full of Trump voters," Potts reports, finding a slightly unusual way to state an unsurprising fact. It's also "very religious," making the place a challenge.

In its author identity line, the Times describes the book Pots is writing: "Monica Potts is working on a book about the low-income women of her home town." Because the town is very small, there may or may not be an enormous number of such people, depending on how you keep score.

According to Census Bureau estimates
, Clinton's population was roughly 2,700 as of 2017. Its median household income was $34,764—well below the national figure of $57,632.

In those same estimates, 22.9% of Clinton residents were said to be living below the federal poverty line. The figure was 19.6% for Van Buren County (population, roughly 16,000) as a whole.

These poverty rates were higher than the national figure of 14.6%. That said, the cost of living would be lower than average in Van Buren County. For most purposes, it's hard to make sensible nationwide comparisons on the basis of a single official "poverty" standard.

At any rate, Potts is back in a town which is "full of Trump voters." Inevitably, the town turns out to be the heart of dumbness, a fact Potts conveys fairly clearly at the start of her front-page report.

How dumb are the people in Clinton? The people in Clinton are dumb! For starters, the Times has placed the following headline on the essay Potts provided:
In the Land of Self-Defeat
What a fight over the local library in my hometown in rural Arkansas taught me about my neighbors’ go-it-alone mythology—and Donald Trump’s unbeatable appeal.
Potts' essay is coming to us from "the land of self-defeat," where people work from their "mythology!" Potts learned these things from a fight about the local library in Clinton—a fight she describes in her piece.

To her credit, Potts seems to note the implausibility of this undertaking at one point in her essay. Still, in just the third paragraph of her essay, she starts explaining how dumb These People are, along with other rural Americans like them.

She spells it out like this:
POTTS: ...In 2016, shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory, Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, summed up the attitudes she observed after years of studying rural Americans: “The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected,” she wrote in Vox, explaining that her subjects considered “racial minorities on welfare” as well as “lazy urban professionals” working desk jobs to be undeserving of state and federal dollars. People like my neighbors hate that the government is spending money on those who don’t look like them and don’t live like them—but what I’ve learned since I came home is that they remain opposed even when they themselves stand to benefit.
Needless to say, the people in Clinton have it in for racial minorities on welfare. But according to Potts, they're so dumb that they even oppose federal spending when they themselves stand to gain!

Sadly, they're even dumber than that. Here, let Potts explain:
POTTS: Since coming back, I’ve realized that it is true that people here think life here has taken a turn for the worse. What’s also true, though, is that many here seem determined to get rid of the last institutions trying to help them, to keep people with educations out, and to retreat from community life and concentrate on taking care of themselves and their own families. It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbor.
These People! They're so dumb that they won't even cooperate with "the last institutions trying to help them!" And it sounds like they're remarkably venal too. They're opposed to taxes, immigrants and government—but they even stand opposed to "helping your neighbor!"

Potts never quite explains what that unpleasant claim means. But so it may go when people like Potts try to go home again.

Concerning the people of Clinton and/or Van Buren County, we'll quickly give them this. If "their basic concern" is that "people like them, in places like theirs, are overlooked and disrespected," we'll say that yesterday's essay suggests that they aren't always crazily wrong in the things they think and suspect.

We'll examine the logic of Potts' specific critique as the week proceeds. For now, suffice it to say that Potts builds her remarkable act of denigration around a question of pay for the local librarian:

In this low-income locale, the librarian ended up getting paid $19 per hour. Potts believes the figure should have been more like 25.

For our money, the tone of Potts' essay makes her rediscovered fellow citizens seem like giants of perception. That said, how dumb are the people in Clinton?

We're going to guess that there's plenty of room for improvement!

That tends to be true of all us humans, possibly including Potts herself and even the glorious Times. As a general matter, we're all stumbling along, seeing through a shot glass darkly, hampered by the inevitable shortcomings known as the human condition.

Few organizations put our shortcomings on display with more frequency than the Times. We think the paper has done it again by publishing Potts' essay and by giving it such prominent display.

In truth, we thought Potts' essay was itself perhaps a bit less than fully insightful, with a possible undertone of The Ugly. Then too, there was the profile by Amanda Hess which was the featured piece in yesterday's New York Times magazine.

While Potts had ventured to darkest Arkansas, Hess had gone to upper-end San Francisco, where she met with one of Rachel Maddow's legion of fans. She also quoted Molly Jong-Fast, a name-brand Maddow fan, imaginably in New York City.

Potts' journey to Clinton got the featured spot in the Sunday Review. Hess' trip to the Golden Gate received the corresponding placement in the Sunday magazine.

That said, here's our question:

Is it possible that Hess had journeyed upstream to a heart of dumbness too? To us, it almost seemed, reading her essay, that the answer could be yes.

We'll explore these two essays, and the populations they discuss, over the next few days. That said, is Clinton, Arkansas really "the land of self-defeat?"

Before we enjoy that idea too much, let's spend some time among our own set, possibly in upper-end Gotham, definitely out by the bay.

Tomorrow: Brilliance-by-the-bay

COUNTRY MUSIC MEETS IMPEACHMENT: On the road with Minnie Pearl!


Don't get beneath your raisin':
Was Minnie Pearl a racist? Perhaps a slobbering racist?

Frankly, we aren't sure! All through the sixteen hours of his PBS film, Country Music, Ken Burns ducks this blindingly obvious question, arguably along with one or two others.

In fairness to Pearl, she carried a basic disadvantage in the general area of so-called race. She was born in 1912 in Hickman County, Tennessee, a jurisdiction of roughly 16,000 souls at the time of her birthin'.

Hickman County was one small part of the sprawling Jim Crow South—and the lady's parents were socially defined as "white." That made Pearl "white" too, at a time when the white world tended to be less than fully evolved concerning matters of "race."

At any rate, her name at birth was Sarah Colley. Later, she adopted the "Minnie Pearl" alias as a Southern comedy star.

What was Colley taught about "race" in the years of her raisin'? We have no idea, nor was Burns willing to tell when he profiled her in just the second episode of his eight-episode film.

That said, we drew a lesson about modern politics as we watched his profile unfold. It had to do with the cultural values Sarah Colley apparently drew from her raisin'.

Who the heck was Minnie Pearl? Burns stressed the fact that she was born to a prosperous family.

Many stories in Country Music describe a rise from impoverishment. Minnie Pearl's background was different, Burns said:
COUNTRY MUSIC: The most enduring and improbable comedy star of the Grand Ole Opry was a college-educated aspiring actress from a prosperous Tennessee family who joined the cast in 1940...

Nothing in Sarah Colley's upbringing seemed destined to produce the character she became on the Opry stage.
Her father owned a sawmill, and the home he provided for his family had one of the town's best libraries, its finest carriage, and one of its first automobiles.

As a young girl, she became sensitive that she wasn't as pretty as her friends, but she excelled in elocution and determined to be a great actress. She enrolled at the most fashionable finishing school in the state, Ward-Belmont, located in a former plantation mansion in Nashville, where she studied Shakespeare.
To watch this profile, click here, move ahead to the 1:23 mark.

"She became sensitive that she wasn't as pretty as her friends." Especially given the person this young woman became, it's hard to hear those words.

But as to who this young woman became, Burns describes her first job after finishing college—"a job with a theater company in Atlanta which was helping rural towns throughout the South stage plays and variety shows with homegrown talent."

Apparently, Colley wasn't staying in fancy hotels as she provided this service. We thought of our nation's modern political breakdown as Burns' narrator continued the story:
COUNTRY MUSIC: One cold winter night in January 1936, she arrived in a little village near Sand Mountain in northern Alabama.

She boarded with a poor family, presided over by a woman in her seventies whose youngest of sixteen children was simply called "Brother."

"When I left," Colley remembered, "the old lady paid me the highest possible compliment. "She said, 'Lord a-mercy, child, I hate to see you go. You're just like one of us.' "
Given the reckoning of the world, the young woman named Sarah Colley wasn't "just like one of them." She'd come from a much more privileged background, but perhaps she'd been trained to respect the person of those who were perhaps less fortunate in the eyes of the world.

Or who knows? Maybe those were simply the values she developed on her own.

Immediately, we thought of our own political tribe as Burns' narrator offered this story. We thought of how rarely we're able to convey the impression, to certain groups of Others, that we believe we're just like one of them.

At any rate, as Burns continued to draw his portrait, he continued to stress Sarah Colley's refusal to place herself above those who may have seemed lesser. As she did her hard travelin' during these years, she developed the Minnie Pearl character which would become regionally famous. But she said she avoided making her character "a caricature" of poor rural people, as other country comedians of the era often did.

She shared the news from the fictional town of Grinders Switch in the fictional person of Minnie Pearl. Before too many years had passed, she got her shot at the Grand Ole Opry:
COUNTRY MUSIC: In 1940, at age 28, she got a chance to audition on the Grand Ole Opry.

Aware of her genteel background, "Some were afraid," she said, that the Opry audience "would find that out and suspect I was a phony, would think I was putting down country people."

Just before she went on the air, [the Opry emcee] thought she looked scared, and gave her what she later called "the very best advice any performer can get"...
At this point, we get one of the heartwarming anecdotes Burns especially loves. But Minnie Pearl was a widely-loved regional giant for the next fifty years, based upon her refusal to let people think that she looked down on those who hadn't studied Shakespeare or imagined going to college.

Don't get us wrong! Minnie Pearl's performances are hard to watch today. You can verify this through YouTube searchin'. (The same is true of much northern comedy of the era.)

That said, we were struck by the political lesson lurking in Burns' profile. This lesson involves the way we admittedly superior upper-end liberals express ourselves with respect to the many deplorable irredeemables who put Donald Trump where he is.

In the language of the Burns film, Sarah Colley didn't get "above her raisin'." She also didn't go beneath it. We'd say her aim was true.

Apparently, she actually didn't look down on those who were less sophisticated. Beyond that, she didn't want such people to think that she did. She conveyed this attitude for a great many years.

Minnie Pearl presented the news from the fictional town of Grinders Switch. She did so in a way which didn't broadcast condescension.

On a personal note, we well remember the Saturday night when we saw that Minnie Pearl had gone national. It happened in June 1969, in the lobby of a small inn, By-The-Sea, in the actual town of Dennisport, Mass., when we were stunned to see our first broadcast of the new CBS program, Hee Haw.

(Political warning: According to the leading authority on the program, "Hee Haw's appeal was not limited to a rural audience. It was successful in all of the major markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago." In syndication, it stayed on the air for roughly twenty-five years.)

We were overnighting in Dennisport in a party of four when first we encountered Hee Haw. The other feller had grown up not far from Nashville and was well aware of Minnie Pearl, not to mention Grandpa Jones and possibly Cousin Emmy. One of the ladies had been born and raised, by admirable parents, in Mississippi during the most difficult times of the Civil Rights era.

At least two members of our party were thrilled by what they saw on a small TV screen that night. Two weeks ago, we thought we saw a political lesson when Burns profiled Minnie Pearl.

"Don't get above your raisin'!" On several occasions, the Burns film presented that as the basic ethos of country music culture. As a self-appraisal by an industry, it may perhaps be a bit overstated in a self-flattering way.

That said, at least according to Burns, Sarah Colley never got above or beneath her raisin'. She proceeded to do the right thing, even to author a lingering political lesson.

Our own tribe will never take it. Of that we can feel fairly sure!

Hard to watch today: In her early adult years, June Carter also did a lot of country clownin'—country clownin' that can be hard to watch today.

For an example of what we mean, you can watch this brief clip of her with Hank Williams, country music's all-time greatest star. For the more extensive tape from which this clip is drawn, you can just click here.

Williams died at age 29. Carter, later June Carter Cash, lived a long, productive, decent life.

Colley wouldn't mock the lessers. We were immediately struck by the lesson this conduct teaches today.

Should Donald J. Trump be impeached?


Further discussion next week:
Should Donald J. Trump be impeached?

We're not sure that's the relevant question. At any rate, we expect to examine the matter next week.

In the meantime, we'd recommend today's column by David Brooks, which is presumably getting murdered in comments.
Brooks conducts an imaginary conversation with a Trump voter. The conversation starts like this:
BROOKS: I hope you read the rough transcript of that Trump phone call with the Ukrainian president. Trump clearly used public power to ask a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his political opponent. This is impeachable. I don’t see how you can deny the facts in front of your face.

IMAGINARY TRUMP VOTER: I haven’t really had time to look into it. There’s always some fight between Trump and the East Coast media. I guess I just try to stay focused on the big picture.
As his first imagined point, Brooks imagines the Trump voter saying that he hasn't had time to look into the whole Ukraine thing. Later, the imaginary voter says this:
BROOKS: We [journalists] became Trump-O-Centric because his daily outrages undermine norms, spread xenophobia, degrade public morality.

IMAGINARY TRUMP VOTER: You think that because you have the kind of jobs that allow you to follow Twitter all day. I don’t have that luxury. So all that passing nonsense seems far away. I have to deal with the actual realities of life.
These strike us as relevant points.

Yesterday, we discussed a New York Times report about support for impeachment. According to Quinnipiac, approval for Trump had grown by 12 points among Republicans during the recent impeachment drive.

We skipped another part of that Times news report. The part we skipped said this:
RUSSONELLO (10/2/19): In the Monmouth poll, respondents were asked how much they had heard about reports that Trump had asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden’s son; 27 percent said they had heard only “a little,” and another 21 percent said they had heard nothing at all about it.
Do you mind if we get a bit snarky? Among respondents to this survey, 27 percent said they'd heard only “a little” about the current matter. An additional 21 percent said they'd heard nothing at all.

We'll take that to mean that 48 percent of respondents had heard nothing about this topic. Check that—at least 48 percent!

Brooks' imaginary voter goes on to say, in effect, that our team has long cried wolf concerning impeachment. Next week, we expect to show you some of what Trump voters were told on Fox last night.

In our view, everything Trump does is likely to be crazy; Giuliani may be crazier still. That said, The Crazy has been running our politics for at least three decades now, and for much of that time it was our crowd which was too dumb to display the first clue about what was transpiring directly before us.

This overall thirty-plus years of The Dumb strikes us as the relevant topic to be concerned about at this time. To wit:

This very morning, the New York Times—our brightest newspaper—does a very poor job trying to fact-check Trump's claims about Biden and Biden. Meanwhile—and yes, we do think this is relevant—yesterday's "Here to Help" feature (page A3) started off like this:
Here to Help
We hope to review this latest foolishness in more detail. But in our view, our upper-end culture is drenched in this manifest dumbness and vast self-involvement, and on this embarrassing upper-end fish food feeds a flounder named Trump.

Nothing Trump does won't be crazy. On the other hand, it seems to us that he's very successfully sliming Candidate Biden at the present time. That said, other, more competent Democratic front-runners have been successfully slimed before this.

Nothing Trump does won't be crazy. But when it comes to grinding incompetence, our own exalted, self-impressed tribe just isn't real far behind.

COUNTRY MUSIC MEETS IMPEACHMENT: Country music voted for Trump!


Charley Pride (may have) voted for Clinton:
Kevin Drum isn't a country music star, no matter what he may tell you.

He does remain our favorite blogger. Last week, he wandered into the ongoing debate about the 16-hour Ken Burns film, Country Music.

Politically speaking, the PBS film emerged at a somewhat peculiar time. Burns was exploring part of the national culture of Southern and rural white working-class America. He was doing so at a time when this part of the blessed community has become especially unpopular among PBS contributors and other top people who know.

The blessed community has split into tribes. And on the whole, Nashville's tribes have aligned themselves Over There:

Kathy Mattea grew up in West Virginia—and her family had come from coal. The state, the industry and the lingering culture of coal are all aligned Over There.

Merle Haggard grew up in central California, not on the state's golden coast. He grew up in a family which had been derided as Okies.

According to a 1969 Rolling Stone review,
his songs "romanticize[d] the hardships and tragedies of America’s transient proletarian." He "addressed himself exclusively to Nixon’s 'silent majority,' the suburban working class."

In the present day, California is massively blue, but central California is red. And even as early as 1970, country music was part of the national culture of much of the white working class, with Tex Montana starring on stage in far-north Massena, New York.

The remarkable Dolly Parton grew up without running water in rural eastern Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky is part of the red tribe today.

The remarkable Charley Pride grew up the son of a sharecropper in rural Mississipi. Across the nation, the descendants of Charley Pride's people are part of the blue tribe today.

Tomorrow, we're going to journey all the way back to the young Minnie Pearl, before her years at the Opry. But for today, we'll only note this:

As Burns related the stories of these musicians and their families, he was largely describing the national culture of today's Trump voters, the people found Over There.

Over Here, in PBS country, those people are frequently seen as Those People. This gave the Burns film a somewhat peculiar political feel, one Burns almost wholly avoided.

Out in Cali, Drum waded in last week, offering an interesting post which many readers disliked. Truth to tell, we thought Drum was pretty much wrong in the part of his assessment which drew tribal complaints, but his post helps direct us toward an important point.

"Conservative Kool-Aid Is Powerful Stuff"—so read the headline on Drum's post. And just for the record, there is no doubt that this claim is true.

Drum listed four crazy things The Others believe, one of which didn't necessarily strike us as crazy. But then, he turned the tables on blue-tribe voters, eventually offering the highlighted remark:
DRUM (9/30/19): And besides, even if Trump was a little over his skis in his conversation with Ukraine’s president, there really is a huge scandal surrounding Joe Biden. Right? Clearly the guy tried to call off the Ukrainian dogs in order to help his son make a ton of money, and used a billion dollars in taxpayer money to make his threat good.

Don’t just shake your head at this. Lots of Republicans believe it. And frankly, a lot of you probably believe equally crazy things about them. The big difference is that while some liberals may watch more MSNBC than is good for them, they also ingest other news that prevents them from going entirely over the edge. A great many conservatives don’t. It’s just Fox and Hannity and Breitbart 24/7.
Uh-oh! Readers disliked the possible suggestion that we liberals believe as many crazy things as they do Over There.

We liberals don't "go entirely over the edge," Drum was quick to say. But readers didn't like the highlighted statement, and we think it mis-assesses our own tribe's role in the destructive national schism we have described above—in the division and conquest which lets the powerful rule.

Do modern liberals believe as many crazy things as modern conservatives do? In our own knee-jerk instant assessment no, we probably don't.

At present, we don't have a corporate apparatus directing as many factual absurdities at us as The Others do. Our long-standing tribal problem mainly lies somewhere else.

To what tribal problem do we refer? A few months before releasing Okie From Muskogee, Haggard described a deeply unhelpful tribal impulse in his song, Hungry Eyes.

He was describing the struggles of the "Okie" class during an earlier era. But we'd have to say that his basic indictment basically holds true today:
Another class of people put us somewhere just below;
One more reason for my mama's hungry eyes.
Another class of people put them somewhere just below? By all accounts, that was true when (white) Dust Bowl refugees arrived in California in the 1930s. But we'd have to say it's basically an accurate picture of one part of our national struggles today.

Blue-tribe members, please! By the time of our own struggle with Tex Montana at the Golden Horseshoe, the nation's bicoastal pseudo-elites were deeply invested in free-floating disparagement of the white working-class. (Far-left politics of that era tried to address this problem.)

This condescension has never gone away. It's what keeps Donald J. Trump in power. Before that, it's what got him there.

Don't get us wrong! We liberals do believe all kinds of things which aren't true, most of which involve our frequently self-flattering, performative stances concerning race and gender.

We believed that Michael Brown had his hands up and that he said don't shoot. We believe that women are paid 80 cents on the dollar for doing the very same work.

(When candidates repeat the latter claim, we praise them for their candor. When candidates say Michael Brown was "murdered," we praise them for not backing down.)

(When candidates criticize an opponent for having opposed mandated busing way back when, we ignore the fact that they themselves don't support mandated busing today. Up in Gotham, we'll slander Asian-American parents and kids in the most unprincipled ways, insisting that they're fiendishly taking our own tribe's seats in the best schools away.)

There's no mandated claim in these areas that we won't rush to support. And as we engage in this endless ridiculous conduct, we never stop telling the world that The Others are crazily dumb.

Bicoastal liberals, please! We're so dumb that we were able to see Stormy Daniels as a "feminist hero" and as a "feminist icon" when she shook down Donald J. Trump for a big sack of cash. We're so spectacularly dumb that when we gazed on her visibly crazy lawyer, we actually thought that we were seeing a guy who should run for president!

When The Others see us doing these things, they think that we're stupendously dumb. Anthropologists tell us that this view can't exactly be said to be wrong.

Do blue-tribe voters believe as many crazy things as red-tribe voters do? It's hard to say, but we would say that we probably don't.

They've been told, by people they trust, that climate change is a hoax, and they've long been inclined to believe it.

They were told that Obama was born in Kenya. According to surveys which we were too lazy to "interrogate," a large percentage of red-tribe voters believed that crazy claim too!

Maybe Drum wasn't all that wrong in the outlandish thing he said. Red-tribe voters have swallowed a lot of Kool-Aid down through the years. But in fairness, we blue-tribe voters have done our share of swallowing too.

That said, the basic tribal stance that defines our role in our current national breakdown is our condescension toward the white working class. Topping the charts is our tribal insistence that Those People pretty much have to be racists.

Each of our tribes has a very strong tendency to be extremely dumb. Anthropologists keep telling us that nothing is going to change that.

They tell us that our blue-tribe dumbness is a function of basic human wiring. They tell us we're wired to spot the dumbness, but only when it's found Over There.

Tomorrow: On the road with the young Minnie Pearl

Support for impeachment said to grow!


But apparently not Over There:
Friend, do you support impeachment, even removal from office?

If so, you've been heartened by many reports which have said that support for impeachment has been growing. One such report appeared in yesterday's New York Times, In print editions, the report appeared beneath this headline:
Support for Impeachment Is Growing, Polls Indicate
It doesn't get more straightforward than that. That said, the basic numbers remained a bit underwhelming:
RUSSONELLO (10/2/19): A majority of registered voters now approve of the House’s inquiry into impeaching the president, a poll released on Monday by Quinnipiac University showed. A Monmouth University poll of all Americans released on Tuesday, meanwhile, found that 49 percent support the inquiry—just shy of a majority, but still an eight-point jump from August.


Voters are now evenly divided on whether Mr. Trump should be removed, with 47 percent saying he should be and the same number saying he should not, according to the latest Quinnipiac survey.
Those numbers remain underwhelming. That said, the most striking part of this news report was the part shown below:
RUSSONELLO: Even as Democrats and independents become more supportive of impeachment, there are signs that Ms. Pelosi may have a hard time building nationwide consensus.

The share of Republican voters expressing strong approval for Mr. Trump’s job performance rose by 12 points since last week
, from two-thirds to nearly four in five, according to the Quinnipiac polls. And the share of Republican voters saying Mr. Trump is generally an “honest” person has spiked since March, when Quinnipiac last asked the question: from 66 percent then to 83 percent today.

This suggests that the Republican base’s support for the president might be hardening as he comes under increasingly serious fire—even with evidence mounting that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate the son of a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
If accurate, those numbers affect the likelihood of removal from office, not of impeachment itself. But they reflect the remarkable state of partisan bifurcation within our body politic.

We live in two different worlds! People within our opposing political tribes hear vastly different arrays of "facts" and factual claims, to the extent that people hear any facts and factual claims at all.

People who watch Fox at night are hearing vastly different facts and factual claims, as compared to those who watch CNN or MSNBC. For ourselves, we're more impressed by this ongoing social and cultural breakdown than by the current issue, which is stronger than the Mueller report but smaller than a breadbox.

For ourselves, we assume that everything Donald Trump does is basically crazy or venal. We'll assume that most liberals think something pretty much like that.

This raises a basic question about us in the liberal world. Why do we seem to have so much trouble getting people to agree with us on this?

As liberals, we tend to offer a simple, self-serving answer to that question, an answer which denigrates The Others. But how sound is this default position? Not gigantically sound, we'd allege.

As our team pursues impeachment, support for Trump among their team may be rising. If so, this makes removal very unlikely, and it raises that same old question:

Trump seemed visibly crazy yesterday, in two different public sessions. Are you sure we aren't doing something wrong when we can't get Others to see this? Is it possible that, along the way, we've done something wrong?

As usual, Frost was on it: Robert Frost, forced to recite from memory at President Kennedy's inaugural:
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Have we somehow been withholding ourselves from our land of living? More on this topic in our award-winning Country Music wrap-up tomorrow.

COUNTRY MUSIC MEETS IMPEACHMENT: Faron Young came to [HEART] Charley Pride!


Race meets the Grand Ole Opry:
In Episode 5 of his eight-part PBS series, Country Music, Ken Burns lets Merle Haggard make an intriguing claim.

Burns is describing the way Haggard's parents became Dust Bowl refugees. They left Oklahoma "after a fire destroyed their farm during the Depression," we're told by the Burns narrator.

Haggard was born three years later, in 1937. But his parents "were still looked down on as Okies," the narrator of the Burns film says—and Haggard is shown saying this:
"The human being has a history of being awful cruel to something different. Okie was not a good word, you know. They were talked down to, and looked down on. It might have been something comparable to the way they treated the blacks."
At any rate, Haggard's parents were said to have been talked down to and looked down on. As we noted yesterday, Haggard presented a romanticized version of his parents' struggles in his song, Mama's Hungry Eyes:
[Daddy] dreamed of something better,
And my mama's faith was strong
And us kids were just too young to realize
That another class of people put us somewhere just below;
One more reason for my mama's hungry eyes.
In Haggard's telling, another class of people put his family somewhere just below. "The human being has a history of being awful cruel to something different," Haggard is shown saying.

In 1939, Steinbeck described this slice of human and American history in The Grapes of Wrath. On tape, Haggard suggested that the treatment afforded the Okies was something like the treatment long afforded to people socially defined as "black."

Is Haggard allowed to say that? Within the context of today's tribal wars, some will say that the late country music legend was making an inappropriate comparison.

We'll let each person decide that. But that last comment by Haggard is especially striking because of its placement within the Burns film. As Burns starts his profile of Haggard, he has just finished telling the story of Charley Pride, the son of a black Mississippi sharecropper—the fourth child of eleven—who, starting in 1965, broke a type of color line at the Grand Ole Opry.

"He would become the first black member of the Grand Ole Opry since DeFord Bailey decades earlier," Burns' narrator says. "The first black artist to have a number one country record, and the first artist of any color to win the Country Music Association Male Vocalist award two years in a row."

Indeed, Pride was selected as the CMA's top male vocalist in 1971 and 1972. In 1971, he was also selected as the CMA's entertainer of the year.

Pride had a very big country career. "Times were changing," the Burns narrator says. "Other awards would follow."

So we were told as we watched Country Music last week. In Episode 5, the film offers wickedly funny story-telling by Pride, thanks to his wickedly funny sense of humor. That said, we thought the Burns film tended to give wide berth to the general topic of race in Nashville, an apparent offshoot of Burns' apparent fondness for stories designed to illustrate the greatness of Americanism.

Consider the way Burns tells Pride's story in Episode 5. (To watch the material in question, click here, move ahead to the 58-minute mark.)

Ken Burns' Charley Pride is a remarkable figure, much like his Dolly Parton. Pride's breezy attitude, and his giant career, suggest the remarkable personal traits which let certain people blow through apparent obstacles while barely noticing their existence.

That said, Burns tells Pride's story through a series of heartwarming, feel-good stories which, it must be said, feel a bit like the "perfect stories" which are sometimes said to be "too good to check."

There's a perfect, feel-good story in which Pride wins over a silent, all-white audience in Detroit by telling a single joke.

There's a perfect, feel-good story in which Pride's racially nervous record label doesn't want him recording love songs—until his gigantic single, Kiss An Angel Good Mornin', became his biggest hit.

There's a perfect, feel-good story in which Loretta Lynn hugs Pride as he received one of his major early awards, ignoring directions to "step back one step" and avoid such physical contact.

Pride is very funny telling these stories, all of which may have the feel of tales too good to check. But the major such stories in the Burns profile involve Pride's relations with Faron Young, who was already a major Nashville star as Pride was attempting to make it.

When Pride arrives in Nashville, his manager tells him there are certain people he will have "to get by" due to their racial attitudes. Pride is shown telling the start of the story:
PRIDE: He said, "Now there are certain people in Nashville that you're just going to have to get by."...And the first name he named is Faron Young. And he said, "Faron's just subject to walk up to you and say, 'So you're that N-word who's trying to sing music!' "
Frankly, it didn't sound promising! But the story proceeds as shown:
PRIDE: I said, "Let's go find him." I said, "Might as well get it over with right now."

NARRATOR: They tracked down Faron Young at one of his favorite clubs.

PRIDE [affecting the voice of his manager]: "Faron, I want you to meet Charley Pride!"

[Pride scrunches his shoulders down.]

His shoulders went like that. I said, "Uh-oh, here it comes."

He got up and he says, "Charley Pride, you sing a fine song."

I said, "Faron, you do yourself."
Please understand! As this perfect story proceeds, Faron Young is a major star. Charley Pride hasn't even signed a record contract.

To our ear, this makes his statement to Young seem almost strangely cheeky. But the story proceeds apace:
PRIDE (continuing directly): But he would sing one, and I would sing one. He would sing one, and I would sing one. And finally he said, "Well, I'll be! Who would ever have thought I'm sitting here singing with a jig and don't mind?"
To tender ears, we'll only say this—that is intended to count as a feel-good story. Charley Pride is a major unknown, and Faron Young is a major star. But Young agrees to accept Pride as an equal based on the content of his obvious talent!

For all we know, the story happened exactly the way Pride tells it. At any rate, Pride tells several wickedly funny stories as the film's profile continues. But as Burns ends his profile of Pride, we return to Brother Young, and we get to enjoy the ultimate denouement:
NARRATOR: Charley Pride would go on to have 29 number-one country hits and 12 gold albums, be indicted into the Country Music Hall of fame—and remain a lifelong friend of Faron Young.

PRIDE: We went into the Country Music Hall of Fame [clasping hands as if in prayer] together. Faron Young—one of my best, best friends there ever was.
So ends the profile of Pride, with the ultimate feel-good outcome.

Personally, we like that feel-good story! We like the idea that Faron Young may have grown as a person during the years in question. We like the fact that Charley Pride treasured his friendship with Young.

We like the part of Pride's persona which lets him speak and joke about "race" in the ways he does, blowing through apparent obstacles as he describes an astounding breakthrough career.

That said, we also note some positive elements in the Pride history which the Burns profile seems to skip in search of a few perfect tales.

Was Nashville growing in its treatment of race during the years in question? According to the Burns profile, Pride is first encouraged to come to Nashville by two musicians who see him singing in a bar in Helena, Montana.

Each of these musicians is white. Indeed, each musician is named Red! (Red Foley and Red Sovine, and let us say good for them.)

Was Nashville growing in its approach to race? Burns presents a perfect story in which Kiss An Angel Good Morning gives the lie to RCA's squeamishness about letting a black guy sing a love song.

The story has the perfect feel of the perfect squelch. But if RCA was so squeamish on this subject, how the heck did Kiss An Angel Good Morning ever get recorded and released in the first place?

We like the idea that various people in the country music industry were trying to move away from Jim Crow during the 1960s. But as we watched Country Music over the past two weeks, we often got the impression that Burns was himself a bit squeamish on the subject of race.

We think the film does a poor job exploring the role of race in the earlier years of country music. For example, in the 1940s and 1950s, did black Southerners listen to the Grand Ole Opry (and the Louisiana Hayride) on the radio?

Aside from a dreamer named Charley Pride, did black Southerners listen to and like Hank Williams? Did they buy Hank Williams records? Did black Southerners attend the Grand Ole Opry? Were black Southerners even allowed to do so?

It seemed to us that such basic questions were ignored as Burns tried to fashion a larger story about the inevitable triumphs of Americanism. Wynton Marsalis would get dragged out to say that "the music" was open concerning matters of race while the wider culture wasn't. But it seemed to us that Burns skipped past some basic questions, with the feel-good tale about Faron Young providing a preconceived outcome.

A very large industry grew in Nashville during the Jim Crow era. We would have liked to learn more about the way that industry actually functioned during its earlier decades.

Beyond that, "race" now plays a leading role in the tribal warfare which underlies our impending impeachment. And uh-oh!

Descendants of Merle Haggard's "white" Okies now inhabit one of our warring political tribes. Descendants of Charley Pride's "black" sharecroppers now largely inhabit the other.

What keeps these two groups split apart—one might say, divided and conquered? Tomorrow, we'll finally get to that intriguing Kevin Drum post, and we're going to tour the South with the young, wise Minnie Pearl.

Tomorrow: Never got above her raisin'