SONGS SUNG BLUE: Laurence Tribe said Stefanik was right!


So did Maureen Dowd: Perhaps understandably, the New York Times played a bit of catch-up last week as it struggled to report the events of Tuesday, December 5.

We refer to the December 5 congressional hearing in which three university presidents were asked to testify—were widely said to have been "grilled"—about antisemitism on their campuses.

Discussion of the hearing quickly went viral. The presidents were widely hammered for one particular part of their testimony—for the part in which they were repeatedly asked whether "calling for the genocide of Jews" violated their schools' codes of conduct.

During the course of the hearing, it was never entirely clear why that particular question was being asked. The presidents responded in ways which were widely described as "evasive."

With lightning speed, this part of the hearing became a major political event. Perhaps understandably, the Times didn't seem to see the tsunami approaching in its initial December 6 report.

That first news report was written by Anemona Hartocollis. In print editions, it appeared on December 6 beneath a rather mild headline:

University Presidents Say They Are Acting Against Antisemitism on Their Campuses

In her report, Hartocollis quickly reported that the presidents had been "hammered" throughout the hearing "by Republican House members who claimed that the universities themselves had sown seeds of bias on campus against Jews." 

That said, and perhaps understandably, the role of that repeated question about alleged calls for genocide was only mentioned near the end of this next-day, full-length report.

By December 7, the Times almost seemed to be playing a bit of catch-up. By now, an unmistakable storm had blown up around the way the presidents had responded to that repeated question. Below, you see the headlines which appeared above the Times' Day 2 news report:

Print editions: 
3 University Presidents Criticized for Remarks on Antisemitism

Online edition: 
College Presidents Under Fire After Dodging Questions About Antisemitism

Online, the headline now accused the presidents of dodging that repeated question. On December 9, the Times again reported on the topic in its print editions. Above that report, the online headline (accurately) says this:

Questioning University Presidents on Antisemitism, Stefanik Goes Viral

It was Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) who had repeatedly asked that question. By now, the basic lay of the land was perfectly clear:

Stefanik's questioning had indeed "gone viral," just as the Times now reported. On Sunday, December 10, the headline on the latest print edition report was now saying this:

Penn’s Leadership Resigns Amid Controversies Over Antisemitism

The hearing had become a major big deal. So it went as a hearing run by the five-minute rule turned into a major political event. 

Last Saturday, C-Span re-aired its videotape of the lengthy hearing. We offer links below.

We watched the vast bulk of what aired. When we did, we were mainly struck by how thoroughly uninformative the lengthy hearing had been. 

What's actually happening on those college campuses? To what extent are students at those three universities being subjected to the antisemitism described by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) at the start of last Tuesday's hearing?

On their face, those are very important questions. We were struck by how little information was produced by the hearing, which ran for roughly four hours and twenty minutes before mercifully reaching its end.

Today, we call attention to one set of reactions to the hearing—to a set of reactions we would describe as a song sung blue. 

By the time of that December 9 news report, it was clear that Stefanik's repeated question about "calls for the genocide of the Jewish people" had in fact gone viral. The presidents were being widely derided for the way they had responded, or perhaps had failed to respond, to that repeated query. 

There was little doubt about those facts. The song sung blue to which we refer was reported in this part of the December 9 New York Times news report:

KARNI (12/9/23): Ms. Stefanik’s aggressive appeals to the far right typically delight Republican hard-liners. But in the hearing, Ms. Stefanik achieved the unthinkable, prompting many Democrats and detractors of Mr. Trump to concede that an ideological culture warrior with whom they agree on nothing else was, in this case, right.

Laurence Tribe, the constitutional scholar and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, said on social media that he was “no fan” of Ms. Stefanik. But, he added: “I’m with her here. Claudine Gay’s hesitant, formulaic, and bizarrely evasive answers were deeply troubling to me and many of my colleagues, students, and friends.” (He declined to comment further on Ms. Stefanik.)

According to Annie Karni's report, many Democrats had conceded that Stefanik "was, in this case, right." Laurence Tribe was cited as an example.

Through his frequent appearances on MSNBC, Tribe has become a major figure in present-day blue tribe punditry. As a general matter, we agree with Tribe when he says that the responses by the three presidents were "hesitant and formulaic," even perhaps "bizarre." 

As a general matter, we agree with Tribe's assessment of the presidents' responses to Stefanik's repeated question. But when he seems to say that Stefanik actually got this one right, we'd call it a song sung blue.

Professor Trube was hardly alone in awarding Stefanik the win. In her column in Sunday's New York Times, Maureen Dowd joined in:

DOWD (12/10/23): On Tuesday, the presidents of Harvard, M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania put on a pathetic display on Capitol Hill when they were asked if calling for genocide against Jews counted as harassment.

It depends, they all said. Penn’s Elizabeth Magill offered a chilling bit of legalese. “It is a context-dependent decision,” she told Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican from upstate New York.

Not since Bill Clinton was asked about having sex with Monica Lewinsky and replied, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” has there been such parsing.

It’s hard to be on Stefanik’s side, given that she epitomizes the grotesque transformation of the Republican Party to an insane Trump , but she was right to pin down the prevaricating presidents.

The presidents had been so bad that Dowd cited Bill and Monica! But here too, the high-profile New York Times columnist awarded Stefanik the win.

How about it? Was Stefanik "right to pin down the prevaricating presidents?" Did Stefanik do any such thing? Did it make sense for Tribe to say that he was "with [Stefanik] here?" 

And by the way:

Why did each of these tribunes make a point of saying that they didn't much like being "on Stefanik's side?" Why did an array of blue tribe pundits make statements much like that?

In our view, the statements by Tribe and Dowd were a pair of songs sung blue. In our view, the presidents performed very poorly in response to Stefanik's repeated question—but in our view, Stefanik's performance was probably that much worse.

Who the heck is Elise Stefanik, and why were Tribe and Dowd making those comments about her?

The answer takes us deep inside a flailing tribe's latest song sung blue. It takes us inside the latest fail by our blue tribe's unhelpful elites.

Tomorrow: Who is Elise Stefanik?

C-Span shows it all: C-Span offers videotape of the entire hearing. For the first three hours and 35 minutes, you can just click here. 

For the subsequent 43-minute session, C-Span gives us this.


  1. "Who is Elise Stefanik?"

    Yet another Right-wing piece of shit, doing everything in her power to assure corporations and the rich get fat tax breaks.

    1. I think Bob's question is: Is she yet another Republican politician caught-up in Putin's Kompromat, or a useful idiot going along for the ride?

  2. Dr. Tribe is the Science. Anti-intellectual Somerby hates the Science.

    I am Corby.

  3. Corby is the real antisemite.

  4. Claudine Gaye and Sally Kornbluth have not resigned.

  5. I never agree with Stefanik. However this is because progressives have equivocated on this issue and let Stefanik take the high ground.
    I never agree with Dowd because she is not serious and so not subscribe to the Times because they employ her.

    1. Maureen Dowd boiled the choice between Gore and Bush down to that between the "pious smarty-pants" and the "amiable idler," and made it perfectly clear which of the presidential candidates had a better chance of getting a date. "Al Gore is desperate to get chicks," she said in her column.

      Thanks for nothing, Maureen Dowd.

    2. It just reminds me how to professional world has so many people in it that really never progressed past a high school mentality or state of mind. From clueless middle managers ruining their companies' productivity in their attempts to remain relevant to journalists that seem to comment on surface level aspects only. These people never did their homework. And they've managed to coast through life and be successful, to the horror of those of us who are effective and productive.

    3. I’m neither effective nor productive, but they horrify me, too.

    4. Last comment is a bit hard to unravel.

      But anyone that's worked at mid-size to larger companies sees the development of these sort of "cool kids" cliques, typically made up of ineffective people that possess "alternative" skillsets such as charisma and politicking, brown nosing.

      Corporate America could potentially slash 1/3 of the workforce and actually increase productivity. This is not an exaggeration... at some companies it would be more like 50%.

    5. Failing upwards has been a fundamental flaw in society for a long time.

      The lack of democracy within corporations has also been a fundamental flaw for a long time.

    6. Hmmm was almost ready to agree with you. I think you mean well when you say "lack of democracy" but what corporations really need is that production teams be truly agile and self-governing. This doesn't always look the same as democracy, but close enough I guess.

    7. Agile and self governing sounds like a good start.

      Our goals are similarly aligned, let’s move forward.

    8. Another troll having a conversation with himself. For what purpose?

    9. Your supposition may suggest that your quest to find your special purpose has yet to begin.

  6. If Stefanik were a liberal Trump opponent, would media give more prominence to the fact that she’s a Harvard graduate?

    1. Oh, Christ. DiC is being a victim again I see.
      All the world is only victimizing DiC and his conservative DICK friends.

      Who the fuck cares where she graduated, dumbass? The subject under discussion is her ignorant behavior and the stupid way the media has been covering this entire mishegas.

    2. The media is giving prominence to the plagiarism scandal Stefanik is currently embroiled in.

      Media elites don’t want to associate incompetent loons like Stefanik with their favored higher leaning institutions.

      Did Stefanik arrive at Harvard as a nutcase devoid of integrity, or did she acquire those traits there? Harvard and its alums would rather keep this in the dark.

      It’s reasonable then to ask, why does Harvard accept students like Stefanik, who lack competency and integrity, and instead substitute those positive traits with performative partisanship?


      More interesting is the dynamic between Stefanik and the Democrat Rep Kathy Manning who was seeking her bipartisan support. If this is how people get treated when they attempt to work across the aisle, no wonder it doesn't happen more often.

  7. d in c - that's your take?? the bias of the liberal media in not noting that Stefanik is a Harvard grad.?? Not that they are giving her a pass on her sleazy questions pretending that anyone on these campuses is calling for Jewish genocide; or that in general she's a sleazy apologist for the ex-POTUS.

    1. No, Stefanik designated a cry for Intifada as being a tantamount to genocide. Not that this was an accurate statement, but that was the context.

      The college professors didn’t coherently address that claim, but did say that context clarifies speech. THAT is true. Gay said it is when speech turns into action that it is harassment. I’m sure they were told by the university legal reps to be as terse as possible.

      You have a slew of media and liberal luminaries with their hair on fire over this and all agreeing with Stefanik, but she’s the arch villain?

      None of this surprises me, and if you think for one minute that the reaction wouldn’t have been louder had conservatives been sitting in the place of those college presidents, you’re lying to yourself. If you think the anonymices wouldn’t have a completely different take, you’re delusional.

      This is the society we have now. We’re all about telling people what they can and can’t say. Bob and his gatekeeper overlords included. We’re all about suing, disenfranchising, demonetizing, banning, firing, etc.

      This is your side and mine.

    2. God is a figment of dim-witted imaginations.

    3. He’s has certainly taken up all the floor space in your head.

    4. if you think for one minute that the reaction wouldn’t have been louder had conservatives been sitting in the place of those college presidents, you’re lying to yourself.

      Which makes me wonder why it was that only northeastern elite university presidents were hauled before congress. No representative from the Dixie states where white supremacist student groups flourish I notice.

    5. I don't know, is there a problem with antisemitic pro-Hamas choices at these Dixie colleges? Logic matters.

      But I suppose when your only go to move is to play politics with every !@#%^ thing that comes along, everything is a nail for your hammer. Just seems like a silly way to carry about.

    6. The college presidents coherently explained that while some speech may personally offend them, speech in general is protected, and investigations that could lead to disciplinary action are reserved for conduct that involves bullying, harassment, or intimidation.

      This was all coherently, clearly, and straightforwardly expressed, Somerby is putting his thumb on the scale when he says otherwise.

      In fact the tables have been turned numerous times with this circumstance, so we don’t have to wonder; when right wingers insist on spewing their hate-filled speech, they are permitted by the government, as well as by college presidents.

      Notably, there’s no circumstance where right wing college presidents defend criticism of Israel.

      Cancel culture is nothing new, it’s been going on for millennia. The contemporary difference being that the powerful and the establishment Right are now more subject to it than in previous times. Boohoo.

      The society we have now is that as delusional right wing overlords lose power they increasingly cry and whine that they are victims.

      Hitler and his right wing minions could not handle losing power so they killed themselves; the amount of White male Americans committing suicide is startling. While our education institutions were busy with the business of social reproduction, they ignored the more primary need for developing a humane community.

    7. CC - "Bob and his gatekeeper overlords"

      I'm sincerely curious: Who, in your view, are Bob's "gatekeeper overlords"?

  8. I don’t think David is a Russian agent.

  9. The Producer Price Index is negative.


    2. Anonymouse 1:21pm, you think the dust bunnies under your bed are Russian agents.

    3. To heck with dust bunnies. The Producer Price Index is negative!

    4. The Fed is planning to cut rates. The stock markets are rallying.

    5. I still am starting a GoFundMe for DiC so he can continue with his accustomed status of lifestyle and pay for his steak lunches the same amount he paid 5 years ago.

    6. I drive an EV, yet every morning I awake to still having to deal with gas.

      Our bodies were poorly designed.

    7. Be thankful that people's perception is that the Fed's solitary lever has any effect on inflation. I'll ride the train outta town.

    8. Due to technology and a fiat monetary system, it’s more significant than ever that the vast majority of what is called inflation is in fact mere profiteering.

    9. Looking backwards, the headline inflation rate has plunged from 9.1% to 3.1% in a year-and-a-half. Wow!

      Looking forward, the Fed predicts core inflation (CPE) to slowly drop to its 2% target in 2026. So the Fed expects that it will take a couple of years to wring that last percent or two of inflation out of the system.

      (Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is remarkably low while GDP growth is surprisingly robust.)

    10. "Looking backwards, the headline inflation rate has plunged from 9.1% to 3.1% in a year-and-a-half. Wow!"

      Awesome - next we can decrease it another 33% to get back where it was when Trump was president.

    11. 7:38 - The difference? Under Trump, we plunged into a deep recession. Under Biden, we pulled out of a deep recession.

    12. These new inflation levels about which you are so excited is great and exciting news and speaks to how well Biden has done. But the issue remains that these levels are still 50 percent higher than they were under Trump - and voters feel that. (As you know, as you feel it also.) It's still a political issue that has to be addressed. Right?

    13. I haven't heard Trump's speech calling for the Nationalization of the fossil fuel and food companies.
      Can you provide a link?

  10. Bob is correct here, it’s a somewhat odd turn of events that Tribe made a (perhaps offhand) comment in support of this traitor. Why did he agree with her? Was it for the same reasons She has attacked these Presidents?
    No light is shed here, because it’s just a gotcha from Bob, who has long hated Tribe for his attacks on poor Trump, which he can’t counter other than feigning smug boredom.

    1. That’s rather a stretch since Bob was criticizing Prof Ezekiel Emanuel and others for their shoot from the hip criticism of elite universities right after the terrorist attack.

    2. Whether I agree with either comment or not, I can clearly understand what 1:52 is conveying, while the 2:26 comment is as clear as mud.

  11. “In our view, the statements by Tribe and Dowd were a pair of songs sung blue. “

    Tribe is a liberal, I assume. Dowd may claim to be, but has written mostly attack pieces on Democrats. Her mocking of Gore and Clinton was well documented here by Somerby.

    What makes their statements “songs sung blue?” They both criticize the (presumably) liberal college presidents.

    Their views are not shared by 100% of liberals. How representative are they? And if they are agreeing with Stefanik, a Republican, doesn’t that show a willingness to be non-tribal, something Somerby constantly discusses? Also, how typical is it for liberals to criticize academics, something that Somerby frequently does here?

    Somerby also criticized the college presidents. Is his a “song sung blue”, since he is supposedly a liberal? Does he not agree with at least a part of Tribe’s criticism?

    Just recently, Biden is starting to criticize Israel’s response in Gaza. Is that a song sung blue, or will the inevitable charge of antisemitism that will be hurled at him also be a song sung blue?

    1. You understand what Somerby means by “song sung blue”?

    2. I think here he is using the song title as a metaphor for the shortcomings and mistakes of the "blue tribe".

      mh - what makes the statements of Tribe and Dowd “songs sung blue”according to Somerby is they were wrong to side with Stefanik and characterize her as "pinning down the presidents".

    3. The song is about how when you feel down, singing a song can lift your spirits.

      Struggling to see how that’s a metaphor for the shortcomings of the blue tribe.

      It does seem like one of the more significant shortcomings of the blue tribe is giving as much credence to confused souls like Dowd and Tribe as they do.

      Good on Somerby for noticing that, it doesn’t absolve him of either his other nonsensical criticism of the college presidents, nor of his apparent atrocious taste in music.