Jon Benet Whiz Wit

by digby

Atrios points me to this WaPo dispatch from Iowa revealing that Dukakis lost the 88 election because he didn't serve beers to real men the proper way and that our next president must be somebody we can eat a pizza with. As Atrios points out, these people actually think they are speaking for someone other that their own little cadre of journalistic misfits when they set forth these vapid observations as if they're some sort of window into the the deepest desires of the voters.

I don't know what goes on in the campaign buses and planes personally, but I've read a lot of accounts. And from what I can tell, the only thing anybody cares about is fun and food --- what they eat, what the candidates ea, the symbolic value of their food choices and how they reflect on the candidate's character and ability to govern.

Remember this, from Somerby?

Carlson goes on, at considerable length, about how Bush “bond[ed] with the goof-off in all of us” on that plane. Persistently, she portrays the press corps—and herself—as if they were feckless teen-agers. On the plane, “[Bush’s] inner child hovers near the surface,” she writes. And not only that; “Bush knows how to push the buttons of your high school insecurity.” But then, “a campaign is as close as an adult can get to duplicating college life.” Bush “wasn’t just any old breezy frat brother with mediocre grades…He was proud of it,” Carlson writes, approvingly. This seems to explain the press corps’ preference. “Gore elicited in us the childish urge to poke a stick in the eye of the smarty-pants,” she writes. “Bush elicited self-recognition.” Yes, those sentences actually appear in this book, and yes, they seem to be Carlson’s explanation of Gore’s lousy coverage. “It’s not hard to dislike Bush’s policies, which favor the strong over the weak,” she writes. “But it is hard to dislike Bush.”

Carlson spends little time on those Bush policies, “which favor the strong over the weak.” By contrast—as noted in Thursday’s HOWLER—she spends lots of time complaining that the Clintons would subject her to tedious policy chatter. It is perfectly clear that “the goof-off in Carlson” has little interest in such major tedium. In India, she falls asleep when Mrs. Clinton limns health care, and she can’t understand why Candidate Bill Clinton, in 1992, would talk to her about welfare reform. Talking to Bush is much more fun. “As he propped his rolled-up sleeves on the seat back in front of me, his body leaning into the conversation, he waggled his eyebrows up and down like Groucho Marx, mugging across the aisle,” she relates. You’ll probably think that we’re being unfair. Read this book and you’ll see that we aren’t.

No, Carlson spends little time on Bush’s policies, though it’s clear who she thinks they favor. For example, she briefly mentions Bush’s legislative approach after the 2002 elections. “After his big win in the midterm elections in 2002,” she writes, “Bush lurched further in the direction of protecting those who have against those who don’t.” But she spends much more time discussing the way Bush provided better food on his plane. Mmmm! “There were Dove bars and designer water on demand,” she recalls, “and a bathroom stocked like Martha Stewart’s guest suite. Dinner at seven featured lobster ravioli.” Apparently, Bush’s policies reflect the tastes of “those that have” even when dinner bells chime.

"a campaign is as close as an adult can get to duplicating college life"

Well, that certainly explains the obsession with how candidates drink their beer and eat their pizza. But it's quite daft, nonetheless.

Jamison Foser has a good piece this week about what I call "Jon Benet journalism." This is when the cable gasbags spend hours upon hours bemoaning the tawdriness and impropriety of some tabloid scandal caught on tape --- while obsessively showing the footage on a loop over and over again. Purely in the interests of informing the public about how awful it all is, don't you know. ("Pedophilia is terrible, terrible! Roll that tape of Jon Benet in that skimpy outfit in case any pedophiles out there might have missed it the first 5,762 times we showed it! Isn't it just terrible what some people will do?") His post is about how Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson have been relentlessly pushing these Obama drug and Islam stories under the guise of exposing how awful smears are.

Mark Penn used the word "cocaine" twice, a week ago -- in response to Matthews' prodding. Tucker Carlson has used it on his show nine times since then; Matthews has used it 12 times on Hardball. And the two have used the name "Hussein" in connection with Obama 11 times this week.

It's hard to believe that this is "helping" either Obama or Clinton, which would seem to be the purpose. (His left-handed stuff about Hillary the Witch killing "baby Obama" in his crib is just unbelievable.)

On the other hand, Matthews nearly broke down and cried tonight at the horrible unfairness of the NY Times allegedly destroying Rudy Giuliani's candidacy. ( I know. What can you say about someone who has absolutely no self-awareness?) Here's Matthews just last month:

MATTHEWS: (angry) Michael, Michael, there's a big difference between what happened to Al Gore and John Kerry. John Kerry got hit unfairly by the Swift Boats attacking his service to his country. They conflated his opposition to the war when he came back which we can all argue about, and his service to his country which is not really arguable. They trashed him.

But in terms of Al Gore, he's the one who said he created the internet, he's the one who put out the word that he's the subject or the role model for Love Story, that he pointed the country's attention to Love Canal. He stuck himself into that story.

And when Marty Peretz's daughter wrote that story in Vanity Fair a couple of months ago, I'm sorry, she didn't make the case. Gore got himself in those problem areas by vanity and showing off an trying to make himself cool. But John Kerry got unfair treatment. I think it's a big difference guys.

Crowley: that may be so, but it's not how many Democrats feel.

CM: Well, why would expect a partisan to think anything more than partisan? That's what partisans think? Of course they think they were rooked. Everyone who loses an election thinks they were rooked and they blame it on the umpire.

Crowley: That's the audience they're speaking to.

CM: Yeah, well how about getting into the land of truth and understanding?

Oy. But Matthews isn't alone, by a long shot. Foser's post script at the end is amazing:

Last week, I noted that in October, Washington Post reporter Anne Kornblut telegraphed the coming media assault on Clinton during an appearance on Tucker. Here's what she said at the time:

KORNBLUT: I have to say we in the media are spoiling for a fight. Usually we are biased in favor of a good tussle at about this point. ... I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere between now and January 3, now that we know that's when the Iowa caucuses are going to be, to see some kind of reverse, some kind of Obama surge or an Edwards surge. Something that is going to knock Hillary down a few pegs. Whether it's a media creation, or something that actually happens on the ground. I would be shocked if there were nothing like that.

This week, Kornblut participated in an online discussion with Post readers, during which she was asked about that quote. Here's how she responded:

KORNBLUT: I wish we were that powerful! Bottom line is, we're not. I can assure you -- what is happening on the ground in Iowa, where I've spent a lot of time the last few months, is happening at the level of average voters here, who pay extraordinary attention and make up their own minds (albeit with the help of paid advertising). All I meant then, and still believe, is that Democratic voters do not like easy coronations and never would have just decided Clinton is the nominee without casting a single ballot. Most races tighten at the end, as this one is. And pretty soon, we'll know how it turns out.

That is pretty clearly not what Kornblut said in October.

No it is not. She either failed to comprehend what she had originally said (it was a direct quote) in which case she isn't very bright, or she thinks that people will accept that kind of cheap spin, which says a lot about her journalism.

The fact is that her original comments are not an unusual sentiment, as Foser documented in his original piece:

Gloria Borger: "We take people to the top of the mountain and then once we get them to the top of the mountain, it's our job to knock them down." [9/10/06]

Brian Williams: "[I]t does seem true over the years that the news media almost reserve the right to build up and tear down and change their minds and like an underdog." [9/21/00]

Howard Fineman: "We want a race, I suppose. If we have a bias of any kind, it's that we like to see a contest, and we like to see it down the end if we can. And I think that's partly the psychology at play here." [9/21/00]

Do you suppose they were all misspeaking or is that simply an obvious observation that even fools like those three can grasp it? Of course this is what the media does. Campaigns are entertainment to them, "the closest they get to being in college" again, hanging out with nerds and BMOC's and drinking beer and eating pizza. They aren't serious people but they are far more powerful that a lot of people give them credit for. Between the Kewl Kidz on the bus and the raving lunatic gasbags like Matthews, they shape the way these races are perceived and between their congenital immaturity and the willingness to be courted with Dove bars and juicy gossip, our politics suffer greatly for it. And over time, the country internalizes these stupid adolescent assessments of the candidates and we get stuck with an imbecile like George W. Bush because he kidded around on the campaign plane and gave them cute nicknames.

Everybody has to stay very vigilant to this because the playing field in this puerile game is tilted toward the kind of men these boys and girls apparently wanted to date or wanted to be in high school --- the macho, manly kind who all grew up to be Republicans.