SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2023
Wallace's favorite friend speaks: For starters, we're inclined to view Ron DeSantis as a demagogue and as a bully.
On the other hand, we're inclined to see Nicolle Wallace as being perhaps a bit "demagogue adjacent" herself.
Long ago, even before Covid, we noted Wallace's description of the way she understands her role as "a political communicator." By her own account, it involves making statements she knows to be inaccurate, thereby forcing the people she opposes to explain what's wrong with her claims.
(To recall one such instance, you can just click here.)
So runs the instinctive demagoguery for which our tribe now seems to be grateful. In Wallace's case, it comes to us from someone who once used her formidable skills to demagogue on behalf of everything our blue tribe opposed.
Today, Wallace uses those same skills to feed us the porridge we like. She'll often be joined by her friend Tim Miller, the self-described former Republican hit man.
Today, we love love love these talented people. We love them for reciting the inaccurate claims our blue tribe wants to hear.
Yesterday's program began with a claim which was ridiculous even for Wallace. With an air of high excitement, she launched this pleasing claim:
WALLACE (2/10/23): It is 4 o'clock in New York. Like a high-speed collision, a pair of exceedingly consequential stories breaking this afternoon. Intersecting in real time at the center of today's convergence, an emerging tension between Vice President Mike Pence and the United States Department of Justice.
Incredibly, one of those "exceedingly consequential" matters turned out to be the fact that the FBI had conducted a search of Pence's Indiana home, where they had found exactly one (1) document with classified markings.
Given the nature of recent events, that was about as consequential as the presence of squirrels in Pence's trees.
That said, Wallace was selling the cable food product known as high excitement. Soon, she added this:
WALLACE: This was a so-called "consent search," which means it's one that was agreed to by both sides, without the need for a search warrant issued in advance. But Donald Trump's vice president was not exactly eager to welcome the investigators. The New York Times has reported this: Negotiations on such a search were a source of, quote, rising tension between the two sides.
Was that an accurate statement? Is it true that Pence "wasn't exactly eager" to permit a search of his home—a search that could uncover as many as one (1) classified document?
It's the sort of claim our blue tribe loves, but was it "completely accurate?"
We don't know exactly how "eager" Pence may have been. But in this morning's print editions, the New York Times reports the matter as shown:
HABERMAN AND THRUSH (2/11/23): The search, while the result of an agreement with the Justice Department, has engendered suspicion and anger within the small circle of advisers close to the former vice president.
Mr. Pence’s team had been quietly negotiating the terms of a search when reports of the talks were leaked to the news media. His aides blame the Justice Department, and that experience is likely to influence future interactions related to the department’s inquiry into Mr. Trump, said a person familiar with the situation.
We can't vouch for the accuracy of that account. But does it suggest that Pence "wasn't exactly eager" to permit a search of his home?
It doesn't suggest that to us, but Wallace may tend to embellish. More generally, traditional journalists know what we the people need, but our cable stars know what we want.
(To review the earlier report from Haberman and Thrush which Wallace was quoting, you can just click here. That report also doesn't suggest the conclusion Wallace supplied.)
No, Virginia! The fact that the FBI found one (1) classified document in Pence's home wasn't an "exceedingly consequential story." That's just the kind of tribal food product Wallace sells us every day, using her formidable skills to convince us of her sincerity.
In fairness, it may be that Wallace is completely sincere in the conclusions she voices. It's just that you, as a serious citizen, can't exactly believe the things she tells you day after day.
At the start of yesterday's second segment, the highly erudite Andrew Weissmann very politely shot Wallace's opening premises down. This takes us beyond what we've cited above, but if you want to see him perform that service, you can click here and proceed to hunt about.
For ourselves, we move to the program's second hour, after the forty-plus minutes Wallace and her "favorite reporters and friends" burned away on Nothing But the Possibility of Pence Sending Trump to Prison.
Now, Wallace's topic was Ron DeSantis, who we're inclined to regard as a bully and demagogue. More specifically, the topic was DeSantis' position on the College Board's Advanced Placement course on African American history.
(At this point, none of Wallace's guests were journalists, so she merely said that she would be speaking with "some of our favorite friends." Democracy dies in the manifest dumbness of such pathetic remarks.)
Early in this new discussion, Wallace turned to Danielle Holley-Walker, dean of the Howard University Law School. Holley-Walker is a good, decent person, but she proceeded with what we regard as an extremely strange presentation.
As she started, she commented on DeSantis's criticisms of the College Board's AP course. Where should public school curriculum come from?
Holley-Walker offered this:
HOLLEY-WALKER (2/10/23): I think what it is demonstrating is this larger national trend of states having their government assert power over individuals and over institutions in a way that we traditionally think of as over-reaching and very disturbing.
So for example, with the African American AP course, that is something that would traditionally be left to academic freedom, to curriculum. So when the College Board came up with that curriculum, that would be the curriculum. And instead, we see the government reaching into our classrooms in a way that should really alarm people.
On its face, that seems like a very strange statement. According to Holley-Walker, if a bunch of unknown people at the College Board devise a curriculum for public schools, that should be the curriculum, full stop, with no further questions asked!
Instead, we currently see a second entity "reaching into our classrooms," Holley-Walker says. Very disturbingly, "the government" is now "asserting its power" over the public schools!
That's one of the strangest constructions we've seen since the Tea Party days! We refer to the time when a couple of regular people said they wanted the federal government to get its hands off their Medicare, which is of course a federal program.
We liberals mocked the lesser breed at that time. Medicare's a government program, we correctly said—but so are the public schools!
Good God! Should elected officials simply defer, with no further thought, to the judgments made by a bunch of anonymous people at the College Board?
The notion is utterly daft on its face. (So is the idea that public school teachers should be able to teach whatever they want, thanks to their "academic freedom.")
Every state defines the parameters of what will be taught in its public schools. You may not like what DeSantis is doing, but Holley-Walker's formulation seemed to make no sense at all.
Perhaps that wasn't what she meant! Later, she went there again:
HOLLEY-WALKER: We know that this course had been under development since 2007. There were a whole group of professors who were brought in, I think almost 30 professors, who really studied and looked carefully. These are all experts in African American studies.
I think my main question is, has [the] College Board treated any other AP course in the way that they are treating this course? So we know that there are courses in European history, there are course in world history, there are courses in Spanish culture, in Japanese culture, many other studies...
Has African American studies been singled out? And that is one of one of the central questions that has to be answered. Because really, this is about turning curriculum decisions, decisions that should be made by experts in the best interests of students, into a political football, and into a political football that really targets, targets African Americans, and so that is really the question that I have. Is there any precedent for this? Is there any other course that has been treated as a political football at the expense of curriculum that is studied by experts in the area?
Democracy dies in the dust when people like Wallace encourage their friends to offer such presentations. So do the electoral possibilities of the Democratic Party—and with them, progressive interests.
According to Holley-Walker, the curriculum of the public schools should be put in the hands of the College Board. The Board may decide to consult with a bunch of "experts"—experts of their choosing.
Once the Board has made its decisions, no one else should try to turn their judgments into "a political football." Parents of children should keep their mouths shut. So should the public officials those parents may have elected.
The professors have spoken, and that should be that! Anyone who disagrees is just creating a football!
That very strange claim takes us back to the dawn of the west. Plato said the power of the polis should lie in the hands of a philosopher king.
It almost sounds like a great idea, until you consider the basic problem. Who is going to decide who this ultimate "expert" should be?
Holley-Walker was suddenly back beside the Aegean, saying we should let a bunch of unelected people at the College Board select a group of unelected professors, and once those experts have reached their decisions, no one should feel they have the right to disagree or complain.
It's very, very, very hard for our tribe to stray farther afield. But in this age of cable propaganda, we'll surely continue to try.
We're inclined to regard DeSantis as a bully and a demagogue. That said, on this morning's Washington Journal, C-Span played videotape of DeSantis' explanation of Florida's objections to the original AP course.
To see those remarks, click here, then move to the 42-minute mark. We'll transcribe those remarks next week. We'll also show you what the state of Florida requires with respect to the teaching of African American history.
For today, our warning will come in the form of a guess:
We'll guess that, to a wide range of voters, DeSantis' remarks will seem to make a great deal of sense, as did his decision concerning what should be taught in Grades K-3 concerning gender identity.
We're inclined to regard DeSantis as a demagogue. Even so, we can't tell you that what he says on that videotape is obviously wrong. We'll guess it would seem to make a lot of sense to a wide range of voters.
By way of contrast, Holley-Walker's theoretic—We should just let the experts decide!—is about as implausible as it can possibly get. So it goes as our flailing blue tribe insists on dividing the cosmos into an Us and a Them.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our massively self-impressed, flailing blue tribe is just extremely limited.
Meanwhile, Wallace seems to be demagogue adjacent; she's certainly very wealthy. On the even more dangerous side, she has an extremely pleasing manner, and she seems to have a clear idea of what our blue tribe wants to hear.
The FBI came away with one (1) document. It was an exceedingly consequential, breaking news event!