EVERYBODY LOVES A CHARADE: Howard Dean says what the New York Times does!

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015

Part 5—Everyday people push back:
Paul Krugman’s portrait is sad but true in today’s New York Times.

At the end of his latest column, Krugman looks into the future. As he does, he employs a key word:

“Pundits will try to pretend that we’re having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead.”

The key word there is “pretend.” We’ve been using that word all week. Here’s why:

In an astounding amount of our public discourse, our “journalists” seem to be pretending. Sometimes, they pretend that they’re discussing real issues. On other occasions, they pretend that they’re telling us what they think.

In our view, a lot of pretending seems to exist in Jo Becker’s front-page report in today’s New York Times. The exciting piece, which was instantly famous, is 4400 words long.

In it, Becker pretends to examine past conduct by Candidate Clinton.

The last two mornings, we’ve watched the gang on Morning Joe pretend to discuss this front-page report. Yesterday morning, they all acknowledged that they hadn’t yet read the exciting report which they were pretending to discuss.

In our view, Becker does a lot of pretending in her long “news report.” So did Willie Haskell-Geist as he ridiculed the absurd idea that the New York Times, of all publications, could possibly have an anti-Clinton animus.

Mika and Joe also pretended to find that idea absurd. These are the wages of twenty-three years of silence by our top corporate pseudo-liberals.

Alas! All next week, we expect to discuss Becker’s front-page pseudo-report. We also expect to review the palaver churned on Morning Joe, where Howard Dean’s unusual comments went to the remainders bin.

Uh-oh! Yesterday morning, Dean made some unusual comments about the glorious Times! He didn’t seem to know the rules—comments like his are not allowed when high-ranking pundits pretend to discuss the news.

Dean said the things you mustn’t say about the New York Times! As a result, he fought off complaints from Times reporter Jeremy Peters, who pretended to be offended by Dean’s offensive remarks.

In the part of the segment shown below, Scarborough pretends to be offended by Dean’s remarks. To watch the fuller exchange, click here:
DEAN (4/23/15): First of all, I haven’t seen the story and neither have you, right?...I will say, there is an epidemic of really sloppy reporting that goes from the top to the bottom...I’d like to see what all the facts are here, because so far we haven’t really seen—

SCARBOROUGH: Why don’t you read the story before accusing the New York Times of being sloppy?

DEAN: Because in general, the New York Times has been sloppy, particularly their political writers. I use the New York Times as an example in journalism classes, because by the fifth paragraph in any political story—we can probably find one right here, whatever the political story on the front page is. By the fifth paragraph, they’re substituting their judgment for news.

SCARBOROUGH: Howard, I just got to say. I consider you a good friend of mine. I think it is unbecoming for you to come on this show and, and to just reflexively attack everybody who tries to bring up any information that goes against what you want people to hear about Hillary Clinton.

DEAN: They did it to George W. Bush! That’s what they do.
To state the obvious, that is what the New York Times does! In 2008, we spent a week on the topic when they somehow got it into their heads that Candidate McCain was having a steamy sex affair.

To read those reports, click here. But that is what the New York Times does. They do it all the time!

Let's review:

The rest of the gang was pretending to discuss a report they hadn’t yet read. Spoiling the fun, Howard Dean made some accurate statements.

He didn’t seem to understand—within the business, you aren’t supposed to make accurate statements about the New York Times. Rachel, Chris and Joan won’t do it. Yesterday, Howard Dean did!

Next week, we expect to review that front-page “news report.” We’ll also take a fuller look at the pseudo-conversations which occurred when Mika, Willie and Joe pretended to voice their heartfelt concerns about the deeply troubling things they hadn’t yet actually read.

For now, we’ll only say this:

Over the course of the past several decades, everyone within the guild has obeyed the rules Dean broke. They’ve agreed to withhold the basic truth about the ridiculous work of the Times, especially about its long, peculiar war against both Clintons and Gore.

Rachel won’t discuss it with you; she's too busy clowning. Hayes won’t tell you. Joan Walsh spends most of her time folding Matthews’ ascots.

None of those people are going to teach you how to push back against the terrible, ludicrous people who type for the New York Times.

On Sunday, Bruni and Dowd wrote ridiculous columns about Candidate Clinton. As they did, they kicked off the new charade, in which the press will pretend to discuss our election for the next nineteen months.

Bruni pretended that he was “confused” by the least confusing term on earth. Dowd continued the visibly crazy gender-lunacy she has directed at Democrats for the past twenty years.

Your favorite “liberals” have never pushed back against any of this. Within the business, such pushback isn’t allowed.

Grasping stars like Rachel Maddow will not defend your interests. More specifically, they won’t criticize the ludicrous work done by this empty “newspaper.”

Climbers like Maddow have always played you. Last Sunday, some others pushed back.

In comments, an assortment of “everyday Americans” pushed back against the clowning of Bruni and Dowd. There certainly weren’t enough of these people. Too many people simply can’t see that these famous columnists are typing away with no clothes.

That said, some everyday people have heard enough, even if Rachel hasn’t. From New York City, a reader of Bruni’s drivel said this:
COMMENT FROM NEW YORK CITY: The meaning of “everyday Americans?” This, in the Sunday edition of the most important op-ed page in the world? With so much at stake? I don't get it.
Others thought that important newspaper wanted to be something else:
COMMENT FROM NEW MEXICO: If you want to criticize her, pick something substantive. Her credentials deserve better than nitpicking over her eating at Chipotle and driving in a “Scooby van.” Does the NYT really need to be the People Magazine of politics?

COMMENT FROM FLORIDA: When I saw the security camera footage of Sen. Clinton in a Chipotle, I knew the media had lost its collective mind...How can we take the news media's stewardship of our election process seriously if they can't stop acting like they are TMZ?
Quite a few commenters made a foolish request. Foolishly, they asked Bruni to focus on matters of substance:
COMMENT FROM NORTH CAROLINA: How many daze (pun intended) left until the presidential election and how many pundits’ columns do with have to endure outlining their personality traits? Who cares?

COMMENT FROM CALIFORNIA: Let's assume that everything Bruni says about the potential nominees is true. What then do we learn about them? Precious little. Reading Bruni won't help you to understand anything about their politics, their plans and agendas, their understanding of the many serious problems that Americans, of the everyday kind and all others, must deal with...If you want to know what's wrong with the way journalists write about American politics, read columns like this one.

COMMENT FROM ARIZONA: This is just another tedious look at a viable candidate who happens to be a very qualified woman, but is taken apart by various NYTimes columnists for superficial issues like her gender, her age, and the goofy name of her bus. Where are the substantive discussions about the real problems that plague us in 2015?

COMMENT FROM WISCONSIN: Frank, you and your colleagues are not helping matters by focusing on the theater of the campaign and not on the issues. It is a long campaign, and I am sorry that we have this sort of system for electing a president. But it is made more exasperating by columns like this one and others.

COMMENT FROM NEW YORK: As John Lennon sang: “Just give me some truth.” Please no more personality driven columns. We need a discussion of the issues first and foremost.
Commenters, please. Fat chance! Upper-end slackers like Bruni and Dowd don't care about matters of substance!

Many readers tore their hair at the thought of reading such columns for nineteen more months. Others lobbed the nastiest insult of all. They said Bruni’s column made them think they were reading a column by Dowd:
COMMENT FROM MASSACHUSETTS: Frank, I thought I was reading a continuation of Maureen’s column until you finally got to comparing presidential candidate debut weeks across both parties...But what your column, as well as Ms. Dowd's, has done for me is this: get already good and fed up with campaign coverage.

COMMENT FROM VIRGINIA: Bruni, why don't you talk about the issues instead? You're just as bad as Maureen Dowd in your focus on trivial campaign stuff.

COMMENT FROM VIRGINIA: Good grief, now Mr. Bruni proclaims that he doesn't know what Hillary meant by saying she would work for “everyday Americans!”...Next up, must reading for me: Maureen Dowd's Granny Get Your Gun. I am quite sure that her guns are loaded with acid galore, with an added coating of poison.
Beneath Dowd’s column, many readers complained about her reference to Obama as “a feminized man.” Others complained about the relentless repetition of her Hillary-hatred.

One reader tried to be clever. Given the craziness of the target, this will never work:
COMMENT FROM CALIFORNIA: Surely this must be a prank by the editors. It is inconceivable that Ms. Dowd could actually write yet another column bashing Hillary Clinton. It just cannot be that Ms. Dowd has no one and nothing else to blow curare darts at except Mrs. Clinton. The "Bash Hillary" column by Dowd has become a never-ending Mobius strip that we all have ridden in circles for years now. This must be a belated April Fools' Day prank by Dowd.
Actually, it’s a long-running rat-fuck by the peculiar life-forms who run the New York Times. They’re terrible people, if they’re actually people at all. But they do have a great deal of power.

They’ve been running their assorted rat-fucks for decades now. For twenty-three years, they’ve had an unexplored, unchallenged animus against the Clintons and Gore.

Everyone knows that this is the case. But Willie, Joe and Mika also know that they must pretend. They must pretend it's utterly silly to suggest such a thing!

It’s very, very, very rare to see someone like Dean speak up. Your darling Rachel won’t tell you the truth. Walsh and Hayes know they must be quiet.

Four cycles back, this gave us George Bush. The growing self-parody that is Dear Rachel is willing to do it again.

Tomorrow: What Gladstone thinks she’s been hearing

Supplemental: At Salon, the children are not all right!

THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2015

But neither are the professors:
It’s very hard for people to grasp the sheer incompetence of our upper-end press corps.

Beyond that, many people don’t understand the extent to which the upper-end press is willing to dissemble and lie about its own conduct and attitudes.

Our journalists are incompetent and dishonest. These problems are very clear when our scribes try to discuss, or pretend to discuss, the coverage of Hillary Clinton.

Consider two recent examples.

Over at Salon,
one of the youngsters expressed concern about the possible coverage of Clinton. But uh-oh! Along the way, Elias Isquith offered this peculiar account of the press corps’ relationship with the newly-declared hopeful:
ISQUITH (4/13/15): [W]hile many of my colleagues are worried about dealing with the notoriously media-phobic Clinton, I’m not particularly concerned with how the former secretary of state will treat the press. I’m much more worried about how a grumpy press will cover the campaign.

I’ve written about this once before already, but there’s something about Hillary Clinton that brings out the worst in the media. It’s as if her association with the relatively calm and peaceful 1990s causes those who were journalists at the time to succumb to their worst instincts. Her presidential campaign’s launch is less than 48 hours old, but you can see the embrace of frivolity happening already.

Take New York magazine’s new cover story on whether she’s “good at running for president,” for example. As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan rightly pointed out, the piece is like a “platonic ideal” of superficial, horserace journalism. Clinton’s policy views and record as secretary of state are essentially ignored...
To his credit, Isquith voiced concern about the press corps’ instinctive reactions to Clinton. That said, we were thoroughly puzzled by his attempt to describe those reactions.

“It’s as if her association with the relatively calm and peaceful 1990s causes those who were journalists at the time to succumb to their worst instincts?” We have no idea what that might mean, or why the young salonist would say something like that.

Isquith seemed completely unaware of the poisonous history which exists between the press corps he may hope to enter and the Clintons. After voicing his concern about possible press corps reactions, he stated a generic complaint, pounding New York magazine for writing a “horse race” piece.

Isquith is in his fourth year out of Bard. Like many of the youngsters at Salon, he seemed completely clueless about this particular topic.

Sadly shaking our heads, we clicked over to New York magazine. At that site, Jason Zengerle had written a perfectly defensible piece about Clinton’s skill, or lack of same, as a candidate.

At one point, Zengerle did something unusual. He suggested the press corps might have an animus toward Candidate Clinton!

He even suggested that the press corps’ negative coverage might tip the race against Clinton. No really—here's what he said:
ZENGERLE (4/5/15): [C]overing the regular Clinton is often a drag. She’s been around too long, and reporters know her story too well, to get much of a thrill from it; even if she were a fresh face, her particular political talents don’t lend themselves to a riveting narrative. The Republican strategist Stuart Stevens likens political skill to figure skating: “It’s an endeavor entirely judged by a jury with no empirical metrics.” Alienating the jury is a dangerous thing. “I am in the Bill Clinton camp on this,” Stevens says. “For multiple reasons, Obama has been judged differently by the jury than Hillary.”

In small ways, Clinton could repair the relationship. Most important, the same charm offensive she waged on the Obama White House could work on the press pack, too.
But it’ll need to be an effort sustained not only in Washington but also in the dog days of Virginia and Colorado, Ohio and Florida.

If she can’t, that will only encourage reporters to cover her critically—maybe even, as Clinton and her allies suspect, more critically than they do other politicians—which in turn could be enough to tip the race in favor of her opponent...
Could Candidate Clinton tame the press corps with a charm offensive? We can’t answer that question.

That said, Zengerle was prepared to picture Clinton receiving inappropriately critical coverage. Like Isquith, he did little to fill in the background, which stretches all the way back to early 1992, when the New York Times invented the Whitewater pseudo-scandal.

As he continued, Zengerle tried to offer one piece of background. When he did, we marveled at the general incompetence surrounding such discussions.

Good lord! Zengerle actually spoke with Professor Sides about the negative coverage of Candidate Gore! But when he did, Professor Sides said this:
ZENGERLE (continuing directly): If she can’t, that will only encourage reporters to cover her critically—maybe even, as Clinton and her allies suspect, more critically than they do other politicians—which in turn could be enough to tip the race in favor of her opponent. “To the extent that the news media wants to dissect her, that could affect perceptions of her if that kind of criticism is a sustained feature of news coverage,” says Sides. He points to Al Gore’s experience in 2000, when the press’s repeated hyping of a series of small misstatements and minor exaggerations by Gore increasingly led voters, even Democrats, to conclude that he was untrustworthy. “Can we say that had Gore been perceived as honest in October, as he was in July, that that would have given him the race?” asks Sides. “Not necessarily. But it could have.”
It’s a rare day when anyone discusses the press corps’ hostile treatment of Gore. That said, we were struck by the sheer incompetence of Professor Sides’ presentation, which Zengerle left unchallenged.

Good grief! Reading the statement by Professor Sides, a reader would think that Candidate Gore was attacked as dishonest at some point after July 2000.

In fact, the basic theme of Campaign 2000—AL GORE, LIAR—was firmly locked into place by the press in the spring of 1999.

That all-caps headline appeared in the New York Post in June 1999, when Candidate Gore made his formal announcement. But the theme was already several months old at that time. It had already been widely bruited all through the mainstream press corps.

These professors today! Assuming he was quoted correctly, Professor Sides offered this clueless thought:

“Can we say that had Gore been perceived as honest in October, as he was in July, that that would have given him the race? Not necessarily. But it could have.”

To us, that seemed to make little sense. And so we decided to look it up! For all Gallup data, click here.

Sure enough! In late October 2000, Gallup showed Candidate Bush with a clear advantage over Candidate Gore in the area of honesty. At that very late date, 47 percent of voters said they considered Bush to be the more honest and trustworthy candidate. Only 33 percent said they favored Gore in this area.

Unfortunately for the future of the world, the numbers had been the same in late July 2000. At that time, 49 percent of respondents said that Candidate Bush was more honest and trustworthy. Only 34 percent favored Gore.

Absent this perception, would Candidate Gore have reached the White House? Quite possibly so! That said, the press corps pounded away at this theme for twenty straight months, starting in March 1999. From week one of that campaign, this constituted the basic framework for the coverage.

Our journalists kept inventing bogus statements, kept insisting that Gore had made them. Rather plainly, their disgraceful conduct sent Candidate Bush to the White House.

Based on what Zengerle wrote, Professor Sides seems to have little idea about the actual shape of that campaign. In fairness, neither does Zengerle, who is older than Isquith.

The American public has never been told about the press corps’ astounding behavior in that history-changing campaign. Thanks to folk like the three we’ve named, voters will never learn what happened. The public won’t be on alert for similar conduct this time.

Are these life-forms actually human? We’ve asked that question for many years. We still can’t give you an answer.


EVERYBODY LOVES A CHARADE: David Leonhardt enacts the code!

THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2015

Part 4—Sanitization and silence:
In fairness, Frank Bruni and Maureen Dowd are different types.

Presumably, Bruni was simply dissembling in last Sunday’s column. By way of contrast, Dowd has been visibly out of her mind for a very long time.

No, Virginia! Presumably, Bruni wasn’t “confused” by Candidate Clinton’s campaign in the ridiculous way he alleged. On the other hand, Dowd will go to her grave shouting the gender-crazed screed which defines her visible lunacy:

Democratic women behave like men! Democratic men are like women!

Bruni and Dowd are different types. One was dissembling, one is insane. But each was working from familiar scripts which may decide our next White House election.

As such, their ludicrous columns in the Sunday Review constitute the official start to our nation’s newest charade, in which the “press corps” will pretend to discuss our endless 2016 presidential campaign.

Within the guild we describe as “the press,” everybody loves this charade! That includes David Leonhardt, 42, a major figure at the Times who grew up with all the advantages.

Leonhardt is a dissembler today, but he had all the advantages. He wonderfully prepped at The Horace Mann School. He graduated from Yale in 1994.

In 2011, he was named editor of the Times Washington bureau. In 2013, he became managing editor of The Upshot, a new venture in which the Times pretends to offer in-depth reporting.

In the March 19 hard-copy Times, underneath the Upshot rubric, Leonhardt pretended to publish his thoughts about the factors which will decide next year’s White House election.

In the process, he displayed his fealty to the code of silence which surrounds the workings of the national press. He made one further point crystal clear:

Leonhardt loves a charade!

Alas! If we the people hope to understand the actual workings of the press, our knowledge will never come from people like Leonhardt. Let’s review the things he said as he enabled his guild’s new charade.

Even as he started, the well-bred fellow was playing it dumb. Sillily, he reviewed various gaffes and mini-scandals which didn’t decide past elections:
LEONHARDT (3/19/15): Ronald Reagan said that most pollution came from trees and plants. Bill Clinton’s introduction to many American voters involved accusations of adultery. George W. Bush used a vulgarity to describe a journalist when he didn’t know he was being taped. And Barack Obama said Americans’ interest in guns and religion stemmed partly from economic bitterness.

Remember those gaffes and mini-scandals? They prevented precisely zero of the candidates from becoming president or being re-elected. They’re a useful corrective to the punditocracy’s focus on supposedly game-changing, image-defining stories. Many of them fade—replaced by other gaffes and mini-scandals—while political fundamentals, like the economy and demographics, largely determine elections.
It’s true! None of those gaffes or mini-scandals determined the outcome of a White House campaign.

In September 2000, Candidate Bush was overheard dropping an A-bomb on Adam Clymer, a New York Times reporter. Despite this minor mini-scandal, he did end up in the White House!

Leonhardt had established an obvious point—not every alleged gaffe or mini-scandal will defeat a candidate. On this basis, he said he’s largely a skeptic about the importance of gaffes in deciding elections.

What does decide a White House campaign? In the following passage, Leonhardt listed the basic factors which play a role in every campaign. He also stated a fatuous truism:
LEONHARDT: The fact is, no one knows entirely what determines presidential elections. The rate of economic growth in the year leading up to the election clearly plays a central role. A war or a true scandal, like Watergate, can too. Some analysts also believe in something called the “time for a change” model, which holds that parties struggle to win three or four consecutive terms; others think the data for such a theory is weaker than it first seems.

Yet after you take into account of all these factors, there remains an element of mystery about presidential elections. The simplest way to summarize this mystery is to say that campaigns matter. And if campaigns matter, even those of us who are skeptical of gaffes—who are right to tune out the cable-television obsession with them—should be wary of dismissing them.
According to Leonhardt, certain basic factors affect the outcome of every election. The state of the economy matters. A giant scandal, or a war, will also have an effect.

Even so, “campaigns matter,” the analyst thoughtfully said. As he continued, he illustrated his point with reference to two recent high-profile campaigns.

In the passage which follows, we learn two basic facts. David Leonhardt loves a charade—and he obeys a code of silence:
LEONHARDT (continuing directly): Think about Al Gore in 2000. Someone could make a legitimate attempt to explain his loss without talking about the campaign itself. The economy was slowing sharply by late 2000, and he won the popular vote anyway. But the better reading of 2000 election, to my mind, also factors in Mr. Bush’s apparent lead in likability, fair or not, over Mr. Gore. Similarly, Mr. Romney may have been hurt by his image in 2012.

All of which brings us to the political implications of Mrs. Clinton and her email account. It’s highly unlikely to deny her the nomination or be the defining issue of the 2016 campaign. It may simply fade away in coming months. But it does create a real issue for her and her advisers—their first big challenge of a long campaign.

She lost the nomination to Mr. Obama in 2008 in part because some voters were tired of the Clinton drama: the secretiveness, the pitched battles, the “why would they do that?” stories. This time around, Mrs. Clinton may not face any threatening candidates, but she will need to do more subtle battle with that image. And she likely won’t have the benefit of drama-filled primary victories that seem to wipe away the earlier messiness.
When Leonhardt recalls Campaign 2000, he says that Candidate Bush’s “apparent lead in likability” may have tipped the scales.

(Something like that is almost certainly true. Predictive models that year said that Candidate Gore would win by roughly five points.)

When Leonhardt recalls Campaign 2008, he says that Candidate Clinton lost to Candidate Obama “in part because some voters were tired of the Clinton drama.”

(That statement is plainly true, in part because our brilliant fellow inserted the phrase “in part.”)

By now, Leonhardt had discussed the basic factors which affect the outcome of every campaign. He had also cited some candidate-specific factors which may have played roles in Campaign 2000 and Campaign 2008.

He had cited the role played by the economy, the role played by major scandals and wars. He had discussed the possible role of gaffes and “mini-scandals.”

He had discussed the possible role played by “likability.” He had discussed the possible role played by a candidate’s personal or political history.

Along the way, he even turned to his wife. Her non-professional ruminations made her husband’s phony analysis even more transparently faux.

What follows appeared in the hard-copy Times. Due to the newspaper’s laziness, it doesn’t appear in the on-line version of Leonhardt’s presentation:
LEONHARDT: My wife and I once watched a short film about the history of presidential advertisements, at the Newseum in Washington. When it was over, she remarked how often the more charismatic candidate wins: the younger Bush over Gore and Kerry, Clinton over Dole and the older Bush, Reagan over Mondale and Carter. Some of this pattern is circular, because the presidency bestows charisma, yet much of it seems real.
To likability, please add charisma! Charisma can affect the way the public votes too!

By now, Leonhardt had discussed a long list of factors which may affect the outcomes of our campaigns. That said, there was one obvious possible factor he’d absent-mindedly skipped!

This omission was mandated by the tenets of Hard Pundit Law. Absent-mindedly, Leonhardt forgot to discuss the possible role played by the national press corps!

Can we talk? It takes a deeply disingenuous person to list the factors affecting Campaign 2000 without discussing the national press.

Leonhardt is that person! He also managed to discuss Candidate Clinton without referring to the bad blood which existed within the national press during Campaign 2008.

Right there at his own newspaper, Maureen Dowd—the paper’s most influential columnist—was savaged by the public editor for her gender-trashing of Candidate Clinton during that strange campaign. In this passage, Clark Hoyt refers to a news report about sexist attacks on that particular candidate:
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 Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, [William] Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.

...the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton—in 28 of 44 columns since Jan.—left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.
“By assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, [Dowd] went over the top this election season,” Hoyt eventually judged. This conduct, and so much other conduct like it, slipped Leonhardt’s mind as he reviewed the various factors affecting the way people voted.

Leonhardt isn’t dumb. The fact that he isn’t dumb helps us see that he also isn’t obsessively honest—that he was dissembling in his analysis of the upcoming campaign.

Dating to 1999, we’ve repeatedly shown you how this works. Relentlessly, a code of silence surrounds the actual workings of the mainstream American “press corps.”

Fellows like Leonhardt will never tell you about their guild’s actual workings. Leonhardt put this code on loud display in this grindingly phony piece, in which he pretended to review the factors affecting Campaigns 2000 and 2008.

Can we talk? A long, peculiar history exists between the national press corps and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Right from the start, the New York Times has played a key role in that long, peculiar history.

For twenty months during Campaign 2000, that peculiar history spilled over into the ludicrous coverage directed at Candidate Gore. The New York Times played a leading role in that behavior too.

These matters all slipped Leonhardt’s mind.

Last Sunday, that peculiar history was rebooted. Bruni wrote a column which was laughably fake on its face. Dowd resumed the “gender-laden” lunacy she has directed at major Dems, and especially at Hillary Clinton, over these many crazed years.

A code of silence obscures an important fact—this conduct by these terrible people changed the outcome of Campaign 2000. At this point, you’d have to be out of your mind not to understand that fact. But no one, not even Digby, is willing to stand up and say it.

Now, they’ve started up again. Last Sunday, ridiculous columns by Bruni and Dowd launched their new charade. This new charade could easily send a Republican to the White House.

Leonhardt went to the finest schools. Even Digby won’t tell you the truth.

Tomorrow, we’re going to show you who will. We’ll suggest that we the people should emulate their behavior.

Tomorrow: “Everyday people” push back

Supplemental: Something Professor Dyson missed!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 2015

Professor West on Fox:
We’ve never exactly understood Cornel West.

We’ve never read his books. We’ve never heard anyone try to explain what it says in those books.

Last weekend, in the New Republic, Professor Dyson published a lengthy, aggressive critique of Professor West’s conduct during the Obama years.

You can decide what you think for yourselves. We were struck by something Dyson missed.

At one point, Dyson challenges West for saying that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are “ontologically addicted to the camera.” In response to that criticism, Dyson offers this:
DYSON (4/19/15): The hypocrisy in such claims is acute: West likewise hungers for the studio, and conspicuously so. There he is on CNN, extolling his prophetic pedigree. There he is on MSNBC, discussing his arrest in Ferguson while footage of the event rolls. There he is in the recording booth making not spoken word or hip-hop, but a grimly earnest sonic hybrid of speech and music, and saying, “If I can reach one young person with a message embedded in a sound that stirs his or her soul, then I have not labored in vain.” There he is in The Matrix sequels, doing something he’s become tragicomically good at—playing an unintentional caricature of his identity.
Whatever! As Dyson notes, a lot of people may sometimes seem to be “addicted to the camera” (though perhaps not ontologically). We were struck by Dyson’s failure to describe Professor West’s appearances on Fox.

Forget about West on CNN! Below, you see him on Fox, last October, with his brother and friend, Sean Hannity.

Professor West was promoting a book. For purposes of pondering, we’ll show you a fairly good chunk of the discussion.

In this first chunk, West seems to vouch for Hannity’s overall good intentions. To watch the whole session, click here:
HANNITY (10/22/14): Here now to discuss the very latest revelations out of Ferguson, author of the brand-new book—there you see it—Black Prophetic Fire, our friend, Professor Cornel West, is with us.

How are you, my friend? Good to see you. Enjoy having you in studio.

[...]

HANNITY: You've been a critic of Barack Obama. Every election season—this drives me crazy. I'm a conservative. I think we're all children of God. I don't like racism.

WEST: You and I agree—you and I agree with that. We surprise a lot of people because they want, “Brother West, why is it that Sean Hannity is your brother?”

I said, “Yes, he is my brother. We might agree on 12 percent of—”

HANNITY: We were hugging on the streets of New York!

WEST: “He is my brother. Why? Because we're human beings, we're wrestling with what it means to be human.” But at the same time, we can have our disagreements, and it's very real because when it comes to wealth inequality, when it comes to prison-industrial complex, when it comes to the plight of our children, we're concerned about it, but we have different ways of going about it.

HANNITY: Different approaches.
As a general matter, we’re strongly in favor of outreach to the other tribe. Even for us, this vouching for Hannity’s good intentions seemed a bit extreme.

As the conversation continued, Hannity played tape of Democratic Party campaign ads, past and present. We thought West’s level of agreement with Hannity became even more surprising:
HANNITY: Let me show a history of Democrats in election years using the race card. And then I'm going to show you what they're doing this year. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you don't vote, you let another church explode. When you don't vote, you allow another cross to burn.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On June 7th, 1998, in Texas, my father was killed. He was beaten, chained and then dragged three miles to his death all because he was black. So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.
AL GORE: They are in favor of affirmative action if you can dunk the basketball or sink a three-point shot! But they're not in favor of it if you merely have the potential to be a leader in your community! Don't tell me we've got a colorblind society!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to put y'all back in chains.
JIMMY CARTER: An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say no to the racist agenda of Chris McDaniel and his Tea Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: All right, that's the past. Here's this election. You got a poster put out: “Kay Hagan doesn't win, Obama's impeachment will begin,” and it’s leaflets that are being put in predominantly black neighborhoods. And the same thing in Atlanta. You can see it right there. You got these two little girls, posters in Georgia evoking Ferguson in an effort to get out the black vote.

Does that disgust you as much as it does me? That disgusts me.

WEST: Well, I think, as you know, I have a disgust in some ways with both parties. The Republican Party has always struck me as too mean-spirited when it comes to its attitudes towards the poor. And the Democratic Party's too milquetoast, just too empty in terms of not taking a stand. But we just have to be clear, there's one standard: Stay in contact with the humanity of folk across the board. No racist appeals.

Willie Horton? Jesse Helms? We got both parties—

HANNITY: But every year, isn't this to gin up the black vote, to create a false narrative? You know, isn't bearing false witness one of those big commandments that we read about?

WEST: It's wrong. It's wrong. But there's no doubt, I think, black brother and sisters will vote disproportionately for a Democratic Party because they still see in the Republican party too many folk, when they talk about black people, it's a matter of black people themselves bearing all the responsibility or most responsibility as opposed to some of the societal institutions.
A bit later, the buddy-buddy part of the segment really got ramped up. Professor West’s book got promoted again as the two gents considering getting a room:
HANNITY: Are these ads similar to what you condemn in the Republicans?

WEST: I condemn both of them. We have to have a higher standard. Where is the integrity, honesty, decency across the board?

HANNITY: When are we going to do an event together? I want to be on stage.

WEST: You let me know.

HANNITY: I'm in.

WEST: You let me know.

HANNITY: All right. The book is called Black Prophetic Fire. You look at Malcolm X—

WEST: Frederick Douglas, Ida B. Wells, the great Ella Baker, and Malcolm and Martin. A lot of great tradition.

HANNITY: No better speaker than Martin Luther King.

WEST: Oh, yes. And he was on fire with love.

HANNITY: All right, good to see you, Cornel. Thank you, professor.
We saw this interview in real time. We found it somewhat surprising.

We’ll guess that Dyson didn’t know about this non-CNN appearance. The liberal world is rarely aware of what transpires on Fox.

Two months earlier, during Ferguson: Two months earlier, West had appeared on Hannity’s program in the first few days of the Ferguson episode.

These high-ranking professors today! Here’s part of what was said:
HANNITY (8/12/14): Let's see if we can find some agreement.

WEST: I come from people who have been terrorized and traumatized in the United States, American terrorism. Michael Brown and his precious mother—

HANNITY: A kid was killed. Do you know what happened?

WEST: —another instance of American terrorism coming at an innocent, young, precious black brother.

HANNITY: Why did you rush to judgment? Because the police say he was reaching—I wasn't there, and you weren't there. You can't call it terrorism if you're not there.

WEST: Because when you kill an unarmed, innocent brother, how in fact could it be anything else?

HANNITY: Hang on!

WEST: What could he have done to warrant being shot like that?

HANNITY: If you're reaching for the gun of the police officer, you're no longer unarmed.

WEST: His hands are up. He's shot 10 times.

[...]

HANNITY: Let me ask you something. Do you believe people are innocent in America until proven guilty?

WEST: They should be.

HANNITY: That police officer is assumed innocent?

WEST: He should have a fair trial.

HANNITY: And you just called him a terrorist and convicted him without the benefit of a trial.

WEST: Because the bullet came from someone, and it—

HANNITY: You don't know the circumstances. Do you? You weren't there.

WEST: You got a good point. It's hard for me to conceive—

HANNITY: He's assumed innocent.

WEST: He's assumed innocent. But a precious child has been killed.
Oof! Conservatives sometimes see us on Fox and judge that we aren’t “all that.”

(In our view, other parts of this August interview were constructive, were good for Fox viewers to see.)

EVERYBODY LOVES A CHARADE: Maureen Dowd’s twenty-year charade!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 2015

Part 3—The empress’s very old clothes:
On an individual basis, Frank Bruni may be the world’s nicest person. We have no idea.

As a journalist—especially as a political journalist—he has long been a rather bad joke.

It started in the fall of 1999. For reasons we’ve never seen explained, the inexperienced youngish scribe was assigned to cover Candidate Bush for the New York Times.

Quickly, the fawning appeared. In September of that year, Bruni wrote a fawning, 1800-word profile of the candidate’s “almost preposterously charmed quest for the Republican Presidential nomination.”

The reporter started by praising Bush’s preposterously charmed footwear.

“When Gov. George W. Bush of Texas first hit the Presidential campaign trail in June, he wore monogrammed cowboy boots, the perfect accessory for his folksy affability and casual self-assurance,” Bruni wrote at the start of his preposterously silly report.

“But when he visited New Hampshire early last week, he was shod in a pair of conservative, shiny black loafers that seemed to reflect more than the pants cuffs above them.”

What did those shiny loafers “seem to reflect?” To answer that question, just click here. Prepare for preposterous fawning!

By late November, Bruni was setting world records in two journalistic categories—inanity of observation and unfettered fawning to power. By now, Bush’s large lead in the New Hampshire polls was almost gone. But so what? On page one of the New York Times, “Panchito” started like this:
BRUNI (11/27/99): As George W. Bush loped through the headquarters of the Timberland Company here, he might have been any candidate in the hunt for votes, any pol on the path toward the presidency. He tirelessly shook hands, dutifully took questions and let a multitude of promises bloom.

But there was something different about Governor Bush's approach, something jazzier and jauntier. It came out in the way he praised a 20-year-old man for his "articulate" remarks, then appended the high-minded compliment with a surprising term of endearment.

"Dude," Mr. Bush called his new acquaintance.

It emerged again when Mr. Bush crossed paths with an elderly employee, and she told him that he had her support.

"I'll seal it with a kiss!" Mr. Bush proposed and, wearing a vaguely naughty expression, swooped down on the captive seamstress.

Mr. Bush's arm curled tight around the shoulders of other voters; he arched his eyebrows and threw coquettish grins and conspiratorial glances their way. It was campaigning as facial calisthenics, and Mr. Bush was its Jack LaLanne.
Three years later, this “Jack LaLanne” would lead the U.S. to war with Iraq. This might suggest the need for a more serious approach to the coverage of White House campaigns.

Bruni was utterly clownish that day in November 1999. According to his front-page report, Candidate Bush was “physically expansive and verbally irreverent, folksy and feisty, a politician more playful than most of his peers.”

The fawning continued through the piece, which ended with this observation by Bruni: “With every wink, hug and bit of effortless banter, he projects a spirit as mirthful as many voters would undoubtedly like their futures to be.”

Two months later, Bush lost New Hampshire to John McCain in a 19-point blow-out. Bruni’s powers of observation had perhaps been too jazzy and jaunty that day.

Bruni maintained his ridiculous conduct right through November 2000. At the crucial first debate between Bush and Gore, he thought Bush was doing so poorly that he later remembered “thinking that Bush was in the process of losing the presidency.”

That’s what Bruni remembered later. But he didn’t remember or say this until 2002, when he published a book about the Bush campaign. In real time, he wrote a piece in the Times in which he mocked Gore’s performance at the crucial debate!

In even a slightly rational world, dissembling and clowning of this type would get a person run out of the journalism game. At the New York Times, extended clowning of this type qualifies the artist in question to write a twice-weekly column.

In 2002, Ann Coulter cited Bruni as one of the “long-suffering friends who give me ideas” in the acknowledgments section of her ludicrous book, Slander. In 2011, Bruni was unveiled as a twice-weekly columnist for the New York Times.

Back in 1999, did Frank Bruni actually think that Bush’s shiny black loafers seemed to reflect more than the pants cuffs above them? Everything is possible!

That said, it’s very hard to believe that Bruni wrote last Sunday’s column in good faith—the column in which he said he’s confused by Candidate Clinton’s use of the rather common term, “everyday Americans.”

It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t know who that term refers to. It’s hard to believe that he really thinks that voters may find it off-putting.

It’s easier to believe that Bruni was starting the latest charade, in which very strange people at very large news orgs pretend to discuss our endless White House campaigns.

In fairness to Bruni, everybody loves a charade at newspapers like the Times! On Sunday, Bruni seemed to be starting the latest procession—but so did columnist Maureen Dowd, who has been visibly crazy for a very long time now.

In the high-profile Sunday Review, Bruni pretended that he was “confused” by Clinton’s use of a very familiar term. By way of contrast, Dowd returned to her craziest theme, in which she complains that Democratic women behave like men while Democratic men behave like women.

Dowd never stops pushing this lunatic theme. On Sunday, she pimped it again, extending the inveterate Clinton/Gore hatred she will maintain until stopped.

At the start of the passages shown below, Dowd is pretending to discuss Campaign 2008. The “feminized man” to whom she refers is, of course, Barack Obama.

When we the people tolerate this type of charade, we play an active role in our nation’s rolling demise. We enable the nation’s dismantling:
DOWD (4/19/15): Hillary saw the foolishness of acting like a masculine woman defending the Iraq invasion after she fell behind to a feminized man denouncing it.

[...]

Hillary always overcorrects. Now she has zagged too far in the opposite direction, presenting herself as a sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van, so self-effacing she made only a cameo in her own gauzy, demographically pandering presidential campaign announcement video and mentioned no issues on her campaign’s website.

In her Iowa round tables, she acted as though she were following dating tips from 1950s advice columnists to women trying to “trap” a husband: listen a lot, nod a lot, widen your eyes, and act fascinated with everything that’s said. A clip posted on her campaign Facebook page showed her sharing the story of the day her granddaughter was born with some Iowa voters, basking in estrogen as she emoted about the need for longer paid leave for new mothers: “You’ve got to bond with your baby. You’ve got to learn how to take care of the baby.”

She and her fresh team of No-Drama ex-Obama advisers think that this humility tour will move her past the hilarious caricature by Kate McKinnon on “Saturday Night Live” of Hillary as a manipulative, clawing robot who has coveted the role as leader of the free world for decades. But isn’t there a more authentic way for Hillary to campaign as a woman—something between an overdose of testosterone and an overdose of estrogen, something between Macho Man and Humble Granny?
This craziness follows several decades of same. During those decades, Dowd repeatedly bashed Candidate Obama as a “diffident debutante” while trashing Candidate Edwards as “the Breck Girl.”

She said Candidate Gore was “so feminized he’s practically lactating.” Her attacks on the wives and daughters of male Democrats attained its high (or low) point wither her poisonous attacks on the clothing, make-up and horrible hair of Candidate Dean’s doctor-lady wife.

Candidate Obama’s wife was a bit of a bossy black b-word. And then, there were the many months of gender-crazed attacks on Candidate Clinton in 2007 and 2008.

In June 2008, the public editor of the Times savaged Dowd for this poisonous, lunatic conduct—for “the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton.”

To read Clark Hoyt’s column, click here.

Hoyt spoke truth to lunatic power that day. That said, our favorite, highly-paid “liberal journalists” refuse to follow suit.

Maureen Dowd is a power within the business. Maddow and Hayes will never discuss her poisonous, lunatic conduct.

At some point, the charades of people like Bruni and Dowd constitute a basic challenge to us, the people. Like the famous child who famously noted his emperor’s famous lack of clothes, we are issued a basic challenge:

Are we able to see and describe what is right there before us?

Maddow isn’t going to help. Hayes will avert his gaze, as will Eugene and E.J. and Lawrence and Chris and the rest of the many charadists.

Joan Walsh isn’t going to help. Even Digby seems to lack the willingness to speak.

We the people are on our own. At some point, we must answer some basic questions:

Are we able to see the conduct of the Brunis and the Dowds for what it so plainly is? Are we able to see how faux it is? That it constitutes a charade?

Many of us aren’t able to see that. Like the citizens in that famous old story, we can’t see past the glare of authority. Thanks to the shine of Bruni’s loafers, we can’t see Dowd’s lack of clothes.

Here’s the more encouraging news:

In comments, more and more New York Times readers have been complaining about this gong-show charade. The rest of us need to stop looking to people like Rachel and Joan. We need to pattern ourselves on those commenters’ conduct.

On Friday, we’ll show you what some commenters said in response to Sunday’s two-headed charade. Tomorrow, we’ll explore an uglier story.

We’ll try to help you understand the depth of the current charade. We’ll show you what the august David Leonhardt chose to disappear.

Tomorrow: The thing you can never be told