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One-man human centipede Grover Norquist, author of the anti-tax pledge that Republicans all have to sign in order to eat at Congressional cafeterias, said a very funny thing on a CBS morning show yesterday.
Tsk tsk, how improper. Thank you for disapproving of that uncivil comment, CBS lady.
(Quick tangent: is it me or is Charlie Rose starting to look more and more like some kind of Death of News Anchors from the Discworld?)
And on some level, she should, because it’s silly. She could have done the equivalent of a 360 dunk by pointing out Fox News has been screaming about Obama promising socialism and to take all of the money from the rich, a campaign platform that is a bit more expansive than “I’m not Mitt Romney”, but we live in a fallen world.
On another level, though, it doesn’t matter. What Norquist is doing is just an extension of what Romney’s campaign was premised on: just lie your fucking head off all the time. And guess what? It works. The Romney campaign lied its fucking animatronic zombie-eyed heads off and the media slurrrrrrped it up. Of course they’re saying now that Romney was pushed too far to the right by a rabid Republican party, which not only contradicts the “Romney has successfully re-branded himself” smegma they were slinging a couple weeks ago but happens to not be true; Romney’s share of the popular vote was very close to what the basic measures of the economy predicted he would get.
It’s clear what the basic strategy is: say what’s most opportune at the moment, and rely on media coverage to fart out enough of a smokescreen (like the stinky and sad “fact check” saga that played out) so that in the end it doesn’t matter. Norquist’s “poopy head” is just extending this past the election; say Obama ran a dirty and hollow campaign enough times and in enough ways and the question of just who really ran a good or bad campaign will become a dense banal cloud that no one can see through.
There’s something else going on here too, though, and it’s just utterly devastating to the typical centrist view of how media and political discussions more generally operate. A view like Jon Stewart’s Read the rest of this entry »
Matt Bai is living proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. His parents figured out how to bone and unleashed dangerous centrist spawn on the world nine months later.
In truth, though, Mr. Clinton and Ms. Warren speak to different audiences and reflect inescapably divergent perspectives on how to confront the epic challenges of globalization and inequality.
Mr. Clinton is the president who made the sustained case to Democrats that they had to be pro-growth and pro-Wall Street, not just to get elected, but also to build a more modern economy. He was the one, as spokesman for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, who told Democrats again and again that they couldn’t succeed as a party that loved jobs but disdained the businesses that create them. Mr. Clinton transformed welfare, balanced the budget and declared an end to the liberal era of government, which is why a lot of conservative-leaning independent voters would re-elect him if they could.
As a Harvard law professor during the Bush years, Ms. Warren, who is now a candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, came to represent a rebuke of such Clintonian expedience. Her indictment against the excesses of Wall Street and the abdication of centrist Democrats became popular among a new generation of old-style economic populists (most notably John Edwards and then Mr. Obama), who often cited Ms. Warren’s arguments in making the case that the party had to reverse course from the Clinton years and rein in a business community that was prospering at the expense of the middle class.
HOLY BALLS ARE THESE NOT CONTRADICTORY. Bill Clinton is not for a fucking financial collapse. Elizabeth Warren is not for incontinent irresponsible spending. Clinton is not in favor of letting credit card companies fuck over their customers. Warren is not for cutting off business from financing and capital.
THESE APPROACHES ARE, IN FACT, COMPLEMENTARY. Without strong oversight and strict rules, the financial system just doesn’t fucking work, does it. And if the ability of the financial system to provide capital to businesses is shunted, the economy doesn’t fucking work, does it. But I’m sure Clinton wants the former outcome and Warren wants the latter.
THESE APPROACHES ARE COMPLEMENTARY BECAUSE THEY ARE RESPONDING TO DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS, LIKE ADULTS. Would Warren have opposed balancing the budget and paying down debt in the late nineties? Is Clinton opposed to expanding food stamps and unemployment insurance right now? Is there anything contradictory in any of this?
THERE’S A GHOST OF A POINT HERE, BUT BAI FUCKS IT UP BY TRYING TO BE DAVID BROOKS AND INFANTILIZING IT. And it’s not one he spends a full clause on. “Mr. Clinton is the president who made the sustained case to Democrats that they had to be pro-growth and pro-Wall Street, not just to get elected,” end quote. Hmm that’s an interesting point maybe the Democrats have to take finance cash in order to win what are the causes of this situation what are the consequences Mr. Bai? Mr. Bai? Why are you putting that brightly colored plastic block in your mouth? Why won’t you tell me about the powerful structural factors that determine the political phenomenon you’re talking about? Why are you talking this bullshit about “competing worldviews” that you know is so abstract it isn’t even a gross oversimplification?
BAI’S INFANTILIZATION RESTS ON A CENTRIST POLITICAL AGENDA THAT IS NEVER EXPLORED IN THE PIECE ITSELF.
A. Making up a fight among Clinton and Warren makes it seem like “don’t fix the financial sector” is a viable political position within the Democratic Party, which puffs it up as a mainstream opinion instead of its actual existence as a whispy ghost on the fringes of acceptability.
B. By making up a huge fissure in the Democratic Party, it allows an implicit comparison to the Republicans, whose central story since Palin has been its war between moderates and looney tunes. Both Sides Do It! Partisan politics is tumultuous and eventful and exciting! The fact that Bai can’t find actual disagreements to make his point, the fact that he has to make shit up to make the point that politics is working out large disagreements with huge stakes, means that he’s a . . . big poopy head.
C. The mask slips at the very end and Bai starts to reveal his political preferences. In the guise of objective analysis, of course. “Is Mr. Obama, at bottom, the Clintonian candidate who tried to hammer out a “grand bargain” on the budget with Republicans, or is he the more traditional Democrat who skewers Wall Street bankers as “fat cats” and pretends he can fix inequality with gimmicks like “the Buffett rule?” ” The use of pejorative terms for one side of that “objective” question indicates where Bai stands, of course, but it goes even deeper. By ridiculing the perfectly-sensible-on-both-policy-and-moral-grounds Buffett rule for not single-handedly fixing income inequality, he denigrates the very idea of both the sensible rule and treating income inequality as a complex problem which will need a toolkit to take apart instead of a hammer. In other words, he’s denigrating the idea of being an adult about solving important problems.
How Bai has avoided SIDS this long I have no idea.
Scumbag asshole Glenn Kessler writes a column called “The Fact Checker” for the Washington Establishment Stooge Subsidized by Shady Education Materials Company. Why is he a scumbag asshole?
The occasion for the column, of course, is the recently concluded Lies-a-thon of a convention the Republicans held between marathon lap dances in Tampa. Every single substantive claim or reference to policy made by Paul Ryan was completely empirically false, fer instance. So of course someone who writes a column called “The Fact Checker” in the second most important newspaper in the country says that it doesn’t matter.
The Washington Post’s political coverage cannot induce embarrassment in its proprietors at this point, but let’s look at what would embarrass another paper should this piece have appeared anywhere else:
– It’s always like this! Because Zell Miller made a few claims about Kerry’s agenda in a speech at the ’04 Republican convention that extrapolated too much on old votes or statements. And that crazy Sarah Palin and her on-again off-again relationship with that bridge to nowhere. And Obama referenced McCain voting 90% of the time with Republicans while remaining silent about his 97% rate voting with Democrats.
Let’s start with that Obama thing first, because it illustrates just how goddamn mendacious this whole exercise is. Ask me if the next fucking sentence in that 2008 speech after the 90% reference makes Kessler look like a gaping asshole. Because I have the answer.
But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.
A C-average 8th-grader would be expected to understand the mistake Kessler’s making. How can you argue with such a person? They’re either too stupid to understand what they’re doing, too dishonest to care, or too lazy to give a fuck about it. Who the fuck thinks Kessler has any credibility or integrity after doing something like that?
Zell Miller was making claims about Kerry’s approach to the world. His Weltanschauung. This last convention lied non-stop about facts. Picking two among dozens of others, Romney said Obama raised taxes on the middle-class, when Obama lowered taxes on the middle class. Ryan contradicted the stated reasons of credit agencies for downgrading US credit. In a CBS interview afterward, he contradicted the words of the report as they were read to him. You should watch the clip of that interview if you want to see a sort of nightmare vision of a political figure’s refusal to acknowledge reality.
Doghouse Riley, The Best Pundit In America, makes a similar point about the Palin stuff.
Palin’s comments underlined a personal dishonesty so thorough that no one would trust her to make the proper change. This was a subject the Press, naturally, stayed the hell away from; her wardrobe grifting got some play, but also the required faux-balance pushback. When she told Katie Couric she read “all” newspapers it was taken as evidence that she couldn’t name any (possibly true, extemporaneously, anyway), but not so much as evidence that she’d lie to anyone about breakfast, if she felt she needed to (“C’mon. She’s a politician!”).
Ryan, on the other hand, simply misrepresents inconvenient facts in order to push his apodictic Randian certainties on the rest of us, and those certainties collapse the moment facts are applied. That’s an exponentially greater lie than Palin’s fictional bio (or Marco Rubio’s), and several orders of magnitude more consequential.
Bieberdamnit I wish I could write like that.
But really the only point that needs to be made here is
SO WHAT IF THIS IS THE WAY THINGS ARE USUALLY DONE YOU FUCKING DOLT
THIRTY MILLION PEOPLE WATCH THIS FUCKING SHIT AND DON’T REALIZE THEY’RE BEING LIED TO
IT’S HARMFUL, IT SHOULDN’T BE ACCEPTABLE, AND PEOPLE IN YOUR POSITION ARE AMONG THE FEW WHO CAN CHANGE IT. STOP WALLOWING IN THE CULTURE OF POLITICAL OPERATIVES AND DEFENDING THE PRACTICES OF PEOPLE YOU SOCIALIZE WITH. DO WHAT FUCKING TEENAGERS KNOW IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
– Tone is more important! Bob Dole’s ’96 speech was much more acerbic. And Romney didn’t include in his speech all the lies that his campaign uses in their commercials. And anyway these things are just giant commercials, no need really for nitty-gritty details to intrude in them.
I summon Thers and Whiskey Fire’s many years of archives about tone and civility in politics. The big guns. Concern about tone is a cudgel centrists resort to when there’s no other argument to make. Because what effect does tone have? When Dole said that Clinton was taking money away from families so they couldn’t afford to pay the bills, what were the negative consequences? Mm-hmm. Meanwhile the negative effects of the kind of lying about facts the Republicans just spent three days doing prevents democracy from functioning in a competent manner. Why the fuck should tone matter instead of lying about facts? Kessler doesn’t say, for some reason. And why the fuck should it matter what tone anyone takes when they lie their fucking heads off? Kessler doesn’t say, for some reason.
In the meantime all this gibberish about not including the maximal amount of lying and lying being ok in this format because I said so that’s why is so fucking stupid and obsequious I can’t even force myself to type a response to it.
Really this is a prime example of maybe the biggest centrist media crime: confusing their role with being a political player. If the centrist media person’s job is part of the professional political establishment, it’s their responsibility to defend political institutional practices adopted for their own interests against scrutiny. If the centrist media person’s job is to report the facts about the professional political establishment in a way that serves the public good, it’s their responsibility to scrutinize political institutional practices and critique them when they’re deficient. Kessler’s irrational toadying makes it clear where he falls.
These are golden times for media centrists. Sinecures as far as the eye can see in multiple mediums, and the only thing you’re accountable to is how well you vomit the conventional wisdom. Easy peesy lemon squeezy.
Seeing this stuff for what it is and calling it out with inappropriate cussing and sexual imagery, on the other hand, is difficult difficult lemon difficult. You have to show how language choice and emphasis and tone and all these weird amorphous concepts conspire to advance a specific political effect or vision. Tough stuff.
But lo, like a Lady in the Lake clad in shimmering samite, fate has thrown a gift from her inscrutable depths: Republicans which are just balls-out crazy and no longer give a fuck about hiding their sociopathy. And when this unstoppable force meets the moist quivering sponge of centrist journalism, the latter can’t help but get swept away, exposing itself in the process.
Case in point, Time’s Michael Crowley, whose schtick is so obvious in response to Paul Ryan lying on every substantive point in his convention speech I can just quote individual words and phrases. From the first few paragraphs:
most famous cutting prosecutor
master cultural beacon for the middle class
[WHO GREW UP IN A 6,000 SQ. FT. MANSION – sorry]
grand ideas attention-grabbing address
drew rhetorical blood vivid fillip [JEEEEEEE-SUHS]
These meaningless fluff words from the first few paragraphs do not belong in a story recounting the most mendacious American political speech given in at least the past five years, and they were written from a place of cowardice.
The fact that a few more paragraphs down the actual lies were recounted with “fudged facts” language, in a manner that makes it seem like typical political practice, becomes much easier to discern and almost beside the point.
The centrist pundit cannot stop, of course, it’s a compulsion, a dark passenger borne of insecurity and ego, so last night after Romney’s speech Crowley went on Greta’s House of Pain. After a speech which featured snide jokes with literal lip-curls and birther shout-outs and a fucking call-and-response section where a stadium full of assdicks chanted “no” in unison, Crowley had this to say about Romney accepting the nomination:
It was more sorrow than anger . . . not an angry message, we’ve talked so much in that last few years about the anger out there, in the tea party and the primaries, yknow, all of us were at primary events were voters were just furious and they wanted to just stand up and yell and give speeches.
But the tone tonight was sorrow, not anger, “let’s do something that we don’t feel great about doing but the time has come, we gave the guy a chance . . . but it’s over”
Fuck you, Michael Crowley. Crichton might have given you a small dick in one of his books for petty reasons, but you deserve a far worse fictional fate:
Yet again, everything in the picture is in the article.
When reviewing Jonah Goldberg’s most recent effluvia (because of course Jonah fucking Myparentscoattailsaremadeofgoldberg needs to be reviewed in the Times) Joe Klein makes arguments that are not only more stupid than the ones he quotes Goldberg as making, but ones that are more socially pernicious. He uses cultural tropes that are more damaging than the ones he quotes his reviewed author making (again, this is Jonah Goldberg).