Supplemental: “Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which led to The Great Recession!”

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

And now, for the rest of the script: It’s a bit like New England weather! If you don’t like Maureen Dowd’s view, you can just wait a while.

On Sunday, July 13, Bill Clinton was letting his only child be drawn into “the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.”

“The Clintons keep acting as though all they care about is selfless public service,” the irate columnist thundered. “So why does it keep coming back to gross money grabs?”

The Clinton Foundation was “wasteful and disorganized,” Dowd said. As she closed, she said that Bill and Hillary Clinton “need to protect their daughter...from their wanton acquisitiveness.”

That was Sunday, July 13. Seven days later—it was now Sunday, July 20—Dowd composed a silly love letter to the same Bill Clinton. Her piece was based on a two-point jump in Clinton’s approval rating, achieved over seven years.

We were struck by the change in the columnist’s apparent viewpoint. We were also struck by a recurrent theme which appeared in the comments to her column.

We refer to complaints about the way Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall. This has become a familiar, scripted complaint from the left. The complaint popped up several dozen times in the comments to Dowd’s love letter.

A few examples:

COMMENTER FROM MAINE: That all sounds very nice and warm, Maureen. More milk-and-cookies myth-making around bedtime. Clinton did well and does have a Teflon personality. But conveniently, we all seem to forget that Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which led to The Great Recession...

COMMENTER FROM MASSACHUSETTS: I don't share in this taste. I think about DOMA and the repeal of Glass Steagall and all those scandals besides the Lewinsky one. I see Bill Clinton as having specific strengths, I don't find the whole package appealing.

COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK CITY: Revisionist history is wonderful. In our fantasy Clinton didn't dismantle Glass-Steagall, didn't pass NAFTA, didn't sign DOMA. He was such as nice cuddly guy. We are idiots and we deserve what we get.

COMMENTER FROM WEST OF THE GWB: And while the stock market soared, the irrational exuberance did not end well, especially after Bubba took care of his Wall Street backers by eliminating Glass-Steagall and deregulating derivatives trading.

COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: Maureen leaves out the big one: the New Democrat cozying up to corporations and banks, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, deregulation, repeal of Glass-Steagall, leading directly to all the excesses and banking crimes and the real estate bubble and crash. The actual main cause of the Great Recession was, yes, folks, Bill Clinton.

COMMENTER FROM FLORIDA: I believe he lit the fuse and got out of town. As a globalist (NAFTA) he is as responsible for our state today as his successor. Teaming up with Gingrich and Gramm to repeal Glass-Steagall lit the fuse of our downfall. These were the greatest policy failures of the last half-century.

COMMENTER FROM OHIO: Does Bill Clinton really get a pass for NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the prohibition of regulating financial derivatives? These were positives for corporatism and negatives for the 99% and for real, stable, and sustainable economic growth.

NEW JERSEY: People have short memories. Clinton was surely a master politician...But he single-handedly ended the influence of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the Congress—welfare reform, Glass-Siegel ended, NAFTA...
Inevitably, it was left to a professor to wax most eloquent on this topic. The professor (of Arabic) wrote from Colgate:
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: [H]istory may not be as generous or as forgiving to former President Clinton as it may appear now.

And this may not be because of the “women, the cheesy behavior, the fund-raising excesses, the self-pity, the adolescent narcissism, the impeachment, the charges of racially tinged insults against Obama in 2008.” Nor is it because of Hillary. It is because of two decisions, one domestic and the other international.

The domestic decision is the agreement former President Clinton made with congressional Republicans during his administration, which set the stage for the passage of one of the most sweeping and destructive banking deregulation bill in American history: The lifting of all restraints on the operation of the giant monopolies within the financial system, which led to the devastating economic crisis of 2008.
Some commenters seemed to think that Clinton has repealed Glass-Steagall all by himself. Others said he had joined with congressional Republicans—Newt and them—to accomplish this task.

Like you, like these commenters, we aren’t experts on the repeal of Glass-Steagall. To see Paul Krugman seem to say that this didn’t produce “the 2008 implosion of Wall Street,” you can just click here.

We aren’t experts on this topic. We do have a bit of expertise concerning the growth of scripted overstatement as the basic building-block of the American discourse.

Because we’re skeptics concerning script, even when it comes from the left, we decided to look up the vote which repealed Glass-Steagall.

Bill Clinton didn’t do it all by himself! Nor did he do it with Newt alone. The vote in the Senate was 90-8. The vote among Senate Democrats was 38-7 in favor of repeal.

We don’t know why people voted the way they did. But these are some of the famous Dems who voted to repeal Glass-Steagall:

Senator Kennedy
Senator Biden
Senator Harry Reid
Senator John Kerry
Senator Daschle
Senator Byrd
Senator Durbin
Senator Leahy
Senator John Edwards
Senator Murray
Senator Wyden
Senator Levin
Senator Sarbanes

Seven Democrats voted no; they were joined by Senator Shelby, the Alabama Republican. But a wide array of major Democrats voted in favor of repeal, including Ted Kennedy.

Why did people vote as they did? We have no idea.

But the claim that Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall is blowing up as an easily-memorized, all-purpose “progressive” script.

The story seems a bit more complex. As we keep becoming more like them, we thought you might want to know that.


NEW KIDS ON THE LAWN: The mice who aren’t inclined to roar!

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

Part 2—Rampell on the ramparts: Over at the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell is one of the so-called “new kids on the lawn.”

We’ll advise readers not to be fooled. First, a bit of background:

All across the mainstream press corps, an older generation of Sam-and-Cokies is finally leaving the stage.

They came of age during the era which gave rise to the TV political talk show. Arguably, they have been the worst generation, a possibility we’ll explore a bit more tomorrow.

All over the press corps, these mastodons are being replaced by younger, more attractive practitioners. At news orgs like the Washington Post, there seems to be a preference that such practitioners come from the finest schools.

Rampell, Princeton class of 07, is a visible part of this youth movement. She is now a twice-weekly columnist on the Post’s op-ed page.

Unlike the columns of some elders, Rampell’s pieces typically appear in the hard-copy Post. Her latest effort appears there this morning.

We’d call it a good example of a giant waste of time.

Rampell’s point of view today is extremely soft. No stylistic skill is on display—but then, why would someone of such tender years have developed a columnist’s writing skills?

To extend a famous phrase from Michael Kinsley, Rampell writes like a young person trying to sound like an older person’s idea of a young person. That said, there’s one thing you’ll never get from the Washington Post’s youth brigade:

These kids will not put up a fight. When the Post visits the finest schools, they know how to locate the trimmers.

It’s odd to think that the youngest columnists are the ones with the fewest teeth. As she starts, this is the way Rampell tiptoes into the discussion about the Clintons’ troubling speaking fees:
RAMPELL (7/22/14): Is it hypocritical for a really, really rich person to object to rising inequality?

I’ve been thinking about this in light of the derision the Clintons are facing for charging six-figure speaking fees while pontificating about income polarization and the plight of the poor.
Have the Clintons been getting derided for “charging six-figure speaking fees while pontificating about...the plight of the poor?” We’d have to say, that pretty much isn’t the discussion we’ve been seeing.

Example:

Right in the midst of this jihad—a jihad which has plainly been led by Rampell’s own Post—Hillary Clinton announced an initiative designed to help the nation’s low-income children. It was part of the Clinton’s Foundation’s “Too Small to Fail” program.

We’ve seen no one deriding Clinton for pontificating this way while accepting large speaking fees. We’ve seen no one say it was hypocritical for Clinton to mount this initiative.

In fact, almost no one in the mainstream press corps mentioned this announcement at all. The fact that Clinton was discussing the needs of poor children wasn’t mentioned in the hard-copy Post. Her announcement rated two paragraphs in the New York Times, at the very end of a wider news report.

In today’s column, Rampell doesn’t seem to be discussing the jihad of the past six weeks. In that discussion, the Clintons have been attacked for their “rapacious” conduct, for their “wanton acquisitiveness.” In the process, a string of extremely wealthy journalists have worried that we Americans might see Hillary Clinton as “out of touch.”

Rampell largely bypasses this discussion in today’s column. As she continues, she defines a somewhat different discussion—a long-running discussion which has been critiqued about a million times by now.

She also offers an odd assessment of Paul Krugman’s rapacity. This just isn’t good work:
RAMPELL (continuing directly): Other high-income, high-net-worth figures have been similarly mocked for expressing concerns about a growing income and wealth imbalance that benefited them. Among the targeted upper-crusters are Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, who said in a recent interview that “too much of the [gross domestic product] over the last generation has gone to too few of the people”; Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, who has advocated higher tax rates on high-earners such as himself and consistently decried rising inequality; and Paul Krugman, the Nobel-winning economist and New York Times columnist who will soon receive $25,000 a month from an institute that studies income inequality.

These economic elites aren’t alone in balking at rising inequality. A rare survey of 1 percenters found that nearly two-thirds believe “differences in income in America are too large,” according to research...
If Rampell has any expertise, it is supposed to lie in the realm of economics. This March, she came to the Post from the New York Times, where she had been writing the Economix blog.

Given this background, it’s slightly odd to see her link Krugman to Buffett and Blankfein on the basis of his new job at CUNY, which will pay him $225,000 per year. Does that make Krugman an “upper-cruster” in the Buffett class?

(Note: It’s a nine-month contract.)

$225,000 would certainly be a mountain of money to us! But within the American context, it doesn’t even place Krugman anywhere near the one percent, let alone in the class of people like Buffett and Blankfein.

This is lazy construction by Rampell. But as is true with many of these so-called “New Kids on the Lawn,” her technical work is often amazingly weak.

As she continues, Rampell discusses a tired old charge—the claim that people like Buffett are “hypocritical” when they advocate policy changes which would harm their own high-income position.

As everyone knows, that is an utterly silly charge. We’ve seen it refuted a million times by various writers on line, always in more convincing fashion than Rampell is able to muster.

Meanwhile, readers must tolerate Rampell’s latest insistence on cramming Kim Kardashian (and even Snooki) into this discussion. Perhaps that’s designed to makes her prose read “young.”

Rampell has now devoted two columns to the jihad concerning the speaking fees of Chelsea Clinton and her better-known parents. Today’s column strikes us as hopelessly fuzzy and largely off-point.

In last week’s effort, Rampell wasted inordinate amounts of time on the appearance fees of Kardashian and Snooki. In the process, she failed to detail the basic facts about Chelsea Clinton’s appearances.

We’re sorry for showing you this:
RAMPELL (7/15/14): Likewise, upon learning that Clinton Fille pulls in $75,000 per speaking engagement, the New York Times's Maureen Dowd asked, "Why on earth is she worth that much money? Why, given her dabbling in management consulting, hedge-funding and coattail-riding, is an hour of her time valued at an amount that most Americans her age don't make in a year?"

To which my reaction is: Since when do you need talent or skills to be a well-paid celebrity?

Lest there be any confusion, most compensation—but especially compensation that's accompanied by a flock of flashbulbs—is determined not by some intrinsic measure of worldly achievement or moral worth but by what the market will bear.

Witness famous-for-being-famous reality star Kim Kardashian.

Kardashian vastly out-earns Clinton and more accomplished public figures such as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The new Mrs. Kanye West charges $100,000 per appearance, according to the fine celebrity journalists at OK! Magazine, and at those gigs no one even expects her to deliver prepared remarks on eradicating waterborne illnesses or racial tensions. (In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if her contracts explicitly forbid such pontification.) On some occasions, Kardashian has commanded as much as $500,000, her reported payout for attending the recent Vienna Opera Ball. It's not clear what talents Kardashian possesses that make her "worth" $500,000 per appearance, except maybe a talent for identifying people willing to pay her $500,000 per appearance.

It's more than that, of course. Hollywood celebrities like Kardashian—and political personalities like Clinton or Sarah Palin—can command big appearance fees because the organizations hiring them derive some value from the appearance, too.

Several years ago, I did a back-of- the-envelope calculation to determine why nightclubs might be paying "Jersey Shore" starlet Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi the head-scratchingly high fee of $25,000 merely to drink, dance and socialize for a few hours. It turned out that once you took into account the extra revenue streams that Snooki's name brought in - from cover charges, bottle service and publicity in glossy magazines—her attendance might actually have been worth several multiples of what she charged clubs.

The exact numbers probably no longer hold up today, since in recent years Snooki's star, if not her tan, has faded. But the same principles apply to other celebrities and political scions getting big bucks for appearances on TV and red-carpet events.

After all, having a brand name like Chelsea Clinton keynote your conference or college lecture series can attract better attendance, bigger donations and more press coverage.
Has Chelsea Clinton ever keynoted a college lecture series? We know of no such reporting.

Flights of fancy to the side, Rampell took a peculiar approach in this column. Rather than report the fact that several philanthropic organizations had detailed the way that Chelsea Clinton is a draw, she went on and on about the star power of Kardashian and Snooki.

As she wasted everyone’s time in this manner, Rampell failed to mention basic facts about Chelsea Clinton’s speaking appearances. And she ended her column with her heart in her throat.

It all comes out the same in the end! This is the way the obedient child closed her wandering column:
RAMPELL: If there is any objection I have to Clinton's speaking gigs, it's not the size of her paycheck. It's the possibility that her hosts and employers are hiring her in order to buy influence with a possible future president (Clinton Mere), an aspect of Chelsea Clinton's lucrative speaking career that for some reason has not been emphasized in most media reports. This possibility is particularly troubling given the family's resistance during the 2008 primaries to releasing information about donations to the Clinton Foundation, where Clinton's speaking fees reportedly go. When it comes to the Clintons, exposure is easy to come by; transparency, less so.
According to the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton hasn’t kept a single dollar from her “lucrative speaking career.” According to the Clinton Foundation, most of her speeches are given for free, a fact Rampell didn’t cite.

According to the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton only speaks to do-gooder groups, another fact that got cast aside so we could learn more about the past economix of Snooki.

Rampell did report that Chelsea Clinton donates all her speaking fees. Question: Did you even realize that Rampell said that?

Rampell’s statement is buried inside her discussion of her fear that Chelsea Clinton’s fees are being paid to drive future corrupt bargains. What tricks might The Jewish Federation have up its sleeve? Rampell is concerned!

All across the mainstream press, the so-called “worst generation” is hobbling toward the door. At news orgs like the Washington Post, they are being replaced by obedient younger models who arrive from the finest schools with a sorry collection of skills and a genuine lack of fight.

These safe young replacements seem inclined to say the same sorts of things the worst generation has always said. On-line, their headshots suggest the dawning of a new day.

In the process, an older regime continues to motor along.

Tomorrow: The new kids at partisan orgs

Supplemental: Award-winning series postponed!

MONDAY, JULY 21, 2014

The Houses of Journalist County: Do Bill and Hillary Clinton have too much cash? Too many fancy houses?

Last month, these questions arose, prompted by a Q-and-A involving Diane Sawyer. During a thoroughly pointless interview with Hillary Clinton, the famous broadcaster popped these questions:
SAWYER (6/9/14): Tonight Hillary Clinton, 66 years old, lives on a schedule almost as taxing as a campaign tour. She and her husband, thanks to some big spenders, including Wall Street companies, are no longer the couple struggling for money. Reportedly, they can charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches.

It has been reported you've made $5 million making speeches. The president's made more than $100 million.

[...]

SAWYER: But do you think Americans can understand five times the median income in this country for one speech?
You could see that Diane was really concerned.

In the course of her answers, Clinton said that she and Bill Clinton “came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.”

The statement was accurate. But a two-word phrase (“dead broke”) was quickly extracted, and the pundits are still having their fun.

Was anything “wrong” with those questions? Not necessarily, no.

In truth, those questions had nothing to do with the subject of the book Clinton had just published. Beyond that, Clinton wasn’t a candidate in the presidential campaign which didn’t yet exist at that point (and still doesn’t).

For ourselves, we always find it odd when super-wealthy people like Sawyer ask questions like those, in which she seems to speak for the sensibilities of us “Americans.”

That said, there’s no reason why a wealthy journalist can’t stage a sensible discussion of a politician’s personal wealth. In our view, Sawyer’s questions didn’t produce that type of discussion. In theory, though, they could have.

For ourselves, we don’t think much of Sawyer’s work. On balance, we think she’s one of the obvious problems with modern American “journalism.”

Those questions by Sawyer led to shrieks about the Clintons’ massive wealth, including the troubling wealth represented by their two houses (plural!). But then, journalists have been clucking over the houses of various candidates dating to Campaign 2000.

These conversations have often been marked by apparent bad faith on the part of the press. In our view, the familiar bad faith started up again in the past month.

At one point, we became curious about Sawyer’s various cribs. Through a set of coincidences, we also stumbled onto the houses of Jacob Weisberg, who had started an extended critique of journalist wealth in 1986, when he was still a senior at Yale.

This led to our award-winning series “The Houses of Journalist County.” We had planned to start the series today, but we’re going to postpone for a few weeks as our research continues.

In this series, we want to explore the discussion which began with this 1986 piece by Weisberg in The New Republic. We also want to show you some of The Houses of Journalist County—the houses in which our leading journalists lounge as they help us see the troubling aspects of politicians’ homes.

In our view, this story often turns out to be humorous. For example, where does Sawyer find shelter with her husband, Mike Nichols?

Our research on that point continues. At present, though, these seem to be two of The Houses of Journalist County:
The Houses of Journalist County
On Martha’s Vineyard: Chip Chop, the 17-acre estate purchased for $5.3 million in 1995
On Fifth Avenue, New York: Penthouse purchased from Robert Redford for $11-12 million in 2002
Compare those perfectly sensible cribs to the deeply troubling Houses of Out-of-Touch County:
The Houses of Out-of-Touch County
In Chappaqua: White Dutch farmhouse purchased for $1.7 million in 1999
In Washington: Brick Georgian purchased for $2.85 million in 2001
In theory, wealthy journalists could conduct a serious discussion about the personal wealth of pols. But that isn’t what tends to happen in our journalistic culture.

Our view? When you start researching the wealth of our journalistic elite, you begin to realize something quite basic: Given the basics of human nature, serious journalism will never emerge from such rarefied aeries.

What will emerge is a whole lot of spin about various targeted pols. Also, silly piddle in which wealthy TV stars try to persuade us, the rubes, that they're really just like us.

The late Tim Russert turned this act of self-abnegation into an art form; he wrote books about his working-class boyhood in Buffalo from his $6.7 million summer home on Nantucket, where he hung with Jack Welch. On the way up, Brian Williams always mentioned the way he loves NASCAR.

They want us to see that they’re just like us! In that vein, here's the extremely wealthy Sawyer, seeming to play the same comical game in a recent profile in USA Today:
PUENTE (1/8/14): "Mike would say I'm the world's best sandwich-maker, which I believe I truly am," she says, adding that meatloaf sandwich is her specialty.

"I keep trying to perfect my mother's meatloaf recipe," she says. "I've always wanted to throw a party where everyone comes with their mother's meatloaf. Everybody could evoke their mother's memory through her meatloaf."
We’d have to say that’s the all-time classic. We’re surprised she didn’t say she makes mashed potato sandwiches, the kind Blondie used to make for Dagwood.

According to Sawyer, she has always dreamed of “throwing a party where everyone comes with their mother's meatloaf.” We couldn’t help wondering—what do you suppose has kept her from realizing this dream?

Phenomenally wealthy “journalists” offer vignettes like that to make us think they’re just like us. At orgs like USA Today, other members of the guild type these stories up.

Our award-winning series, “The Houses of Journalist County,” won’t appear for another few weeks. That said:

Back in 1986, Weisberg started a discussion which could have been quite worthwhile. For that reason, the discussion never took off.

Today, he lives in The Houses of Journalist County. We’d say it shows in his work.

NEW KIDS ON THE LAWN: The intellectual legacy!

MONDAY, JULY 21, 2014

Part 1—What Dowd leaves behind: The generation of pundits now leaving the stage leaves behind a truly appalling intellectual legacy.

They’re the gang who invented “invented the Internet.” Before that, they invented the Whitewater “scandal.”

(They gave that famous name—Whitewater—to a whole political era. To this day, can you explain what Bill Clinton is or was alleged to have done wrong?)

Their technical incompetence is a thing to behold. Beyond that, they’ve been in thrall to big-money interests for as long as they’ve been in control.

Why do we Americans pay the staggering fees we pay for health care? Our pundits and journalists have sworn an oath that they will never tell us.

What do national test scores actually show? Our pundits have no earthly idea. Beyond that, they plainly don’t care.

(“What do national test scores show?” If we might borrow some language from Wittgenstein: No such thing is in question here, only how insider elites want the story told. See Philosophical Investigations, passage 1.)

Can we talk tom turkey just for a Manhattan moment?

If our engineers built bridges the way our journalists construct their stories, all our cars would be sitting in the nation’s rivers and bays. There wouldn’t be a bridge left standing. The word “bridge” would have disappeared from the language, due to its lack of use.

A large number of well-known people have played leading roles in the invention of this crackpot intellectual culture—a crackpot culture that is never discussed by The New Kids on the Lawn, the youngsters who are now replacing the wheezing old Sam-and-Cokies.

The new kids arrive with their hands in the till. They inherit, and have agreed to extend, a laughable intellectual culture.

(No one laughs at this laughable culture because we the people have come to accept so many of its bogus tales.)

A large number of people have played leading roles in the invention of this intellectual culture. Few have played a larger role than Maureen Dowd, whose latest example of weird behavior was on display in yesterday’s New York Times.

In a slightly rational world, yesterday’s column by Dowd really wouldn’t be possible. It’s a silly love letter to President Clinton, the rapacious fellow Dowd dumbly and dishonestly savaged exactly one Sunday before.

Except for the consistent dumbness, it’s hard to believe that these Sunday columns were written about (or by) the same person. We were amazed by how few commenters to Dowd’s new column noted her weird change in mood.

The love letter begins with a silly premise, and with disguised faint praise:
DOWD (7/20/14): At 67, he continues to be, as Anna Quindlen once wrote, like one of those inflatable toys with sand weighting the bottom—you knock him over and he pops back up.

As Hillary stumbles and President Obama slumps, Bill Clinton keeps getting more popular.

The women, the cheesy behavior, the fund-raising excesses, the self-pity, the adolescent narcissism, the impeachment, the charges of racially tinged insults against Obama in 2008, the foundation dishabille—all that percussive drama has faded to a mellow saxophone riff for many Americans.

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg center poll showed that Clinton was, by a long shot, the most admired president of the last quarter-century. A new YouGov poll finds that among the last eight elected presidents, Clinton is regarded as the most intelligent and W. the least.
For the meaning of “dishabille,” you can just click here. With your remediation achieved, you can continue reading:

Does Bill Clinton “keep getting more popular?” Not exactly, no.

Below, we’ll review Dowd’s attempt to work with statistics. For now, consider the well-disguised faint praise.

According to Dowd, Clinton is “the most admired president of the last quarter-century.” She fails to mention that there are only four such people—and one of them is the sitting president, who is still involved in partisan warfare.

There are only three such former presidents. In effect, Dowd is marveling at the fact that Clinton polled more favorably than either of the Bushes. In that competition, Clinton is the lump of potato in a very thin stew.

As she continues, Dowd performs a bit of mind-reading. After that, she goes to the heart of the silly claim around which she builds a whole column:
DOWD (continuing directly): (Clinton and W. both should have been more aggressive in catching Osama. But certainly, if Clinton had been president post-9/11, there would have been no phony invasion of Iraq, and Katrina would have elicited more empathy.)

A Washington Post/ABC News poll in May found Bill’s approval ratings rebounding to the highest they had been since early in his presidency.

Even some who used to mock his lip-biting have decided that warmth, even if it’s fake at times, beats real chilliness.
Presumably, “real chilliness” is a jibe at Obama (or at Hillary Clinton), although there’s no way to tell. But there you see this column’s basic premise:

Two months ago, a Post/ABC poll found Bill Clinton’s approval ratings “rebounding to the highest they had been since early in his presidency.”

The statement is technically accurate. The poll showed Clinton’s approval rating at 63 percent. That’s the highest measured by the Post-ABC poll in Clinton’s post-presidency.

That said, this was only the seventh time the Post had polled Clinton’s popularity over that fourteen-year span. Four of those surveys were taken during the highly partisan 2008 primary campaign, when Clinton’s popularity among battling Democrats took a significant hit.

Does Bill Clinton “keep getting more popular?” Maybe! In January 2007, the Post/ABC poll had him at 61 percent. As such, Dowd built her love letter around a two-point gain in approval over a seven-year span.

Margin of error, anyone? Nor did Dowd bother consulting other polls, some of which have tracked this topic with much greater regularity. That would have been hard work!

In this one survey, Bill Clinton has gone from 61 percent all the way to 63! On that basis, Dowd is soon asking why he is “burning brighter now, when the spotlight should be on his successor and his wife?” She’s speculating about the reasons “we” have taken him from 61 all the way to 63!

Let’s be clear. For a partisan political figure, Bill Clinton does get darn good ratings! If a pollster asked our view, we’d go with “approval” too.

In even a slightly rational world, that couldn’t explain this sudden love letter about the former president. But we don’t live in a rational world. We live in a world whose intellectual horizons have been constructed, over the years, by powder-puff piffle like this:
DOWD: Except for L.B.J. and Nixon, ex-presidents tend to grow more popular. Yet Bill Clinton, wandering the global stage as a former president who may return to the White House as the husband of a president, plays a unique role in American history. (Newly released Clinton library documents revealed that Bill, believing it punchier, preferred to use “America” and “Americans” in speeches rather than “the United States” and “people of the United States.”)
The highlighted passage could only be pimped as a “revelation” in the brain-dead, utterly fatuous world Maureen Dowd has worked to create. Today, that brain-dead intellectual culture is being inherited by The New Kids on the Lawn.

At its statistical heart, yesterday’s column was silly. That said, the most striking thing about this column isn’t its utter silliness. It’s the manic turn its author took in the seven days since her last Sunday column appeared.

Does memory still play any role in the American discourse? Last Sunday’s overstated, dishonest column concerned “the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton, Inc.,” the hellhole into which Chelsea Clinton has supposedly been drawn, thanks to the grasping conduct of her rapacious parents.

Was that previous Sunday column about the same Bill Clinton? “The Clintons keep acting as though all they care about is selfless public service,” Dowd angrily complained that day, exactly one week ago. “So why does it keep coming back to gross money grabs?”

“They need to protect their daughter again, this time from their wanton acquisitiveness,” she wrote as she closed that Sunday piece. At length, she had suggested the possibility of corrupt conduct by the rapacious Clintons.

One week later, that poisonous, largely dishonest piece was replaced by a brainless love letter to the head of the clan. The previous column’s insinuations and insults were reduced to a single word:

The Clinton Foundation is “dishabille!” Aside from that, the eternal dumbness of a spotless mind was emitting sweetness and light.

Dowd’s generation is leaving the stage. Several leading figures now type their columns from Michael Bloomberg’s retirement home for aging narrative-drivers.

They leave behind an astonishing intellectual culture. That culture is defined by its utter fatuity, and by its rank dishonesty in service to preferred story lines.

No one did more than Maureen Dowd to create this intellectual culture. All week, we’ll look at the work now being done by The New Kids on the Lawn.

Tomorrow: Never trust anyone under 30!

Supplemental: The sounds of silence!

FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014

You do not criticize Dowd: Maureen Dowd wrote a column last Sunday trashing Chelsea Clinton. As she went on, she trashed Hillary Clinton too.

Dowd’s invective level was high. Her information level was low. In large part, the column was defined by the information Dowd chose to suppress.

Dowd has been like this forever. In 2008, she even got trashed by the Times’ public editor for “the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on [Candidate] Clinton—in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1.”

Maureen Dowd hates All Things Clinton. But when Media Matters pushed back at Dowd’s recent column, one commenter posed a question.

He accepted the fact that Dowd hates the Clintons. But since Dowd isn’t a conservative, he didn’t understand why Media Matters was challenging her work.

What does Maureen Dowd have to do with the conservative movement? With right-wing disinformation?

In comments, that reader kept asking those questions. Other readers of Media Matters didn’t know how to answer.

Luckily, we do.

What does Maureen Dowd have to do with conservative disinformation? Ever so briefly, let’s return to January 2000.

One week before the New Hampshire primary, RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson appeared on CNN. In a very familiar way, Big Jim let it rip:
NICHOLSON (1/25/00): I think the story, Bobbie, is why are Gore and Bradley losing to our Republican candidates? And the reason is that Al Gore cannot be trusted. The American people know they cannot trust this guy. He's claimed to have invented the Internet. He's claimed to be the object of the book, Love Story. He's claimed to have discovered the Love Canal.

He said the other day that he wrote the speech for Hubert Humphrey. None of that is true.

But there is one thing that he did invent. He invented Willie Horton in 1988 campaign. He cannot be trusted.
Unfortunately, Nicholson was a good TV performer. On this show, he recited a standard list of bogus charges, all of them aimed at Gore.

You're looking at the script that sent George Bush to the White House. It got its start in December 1997, thanks in large part to Dowd and Frank Rich, who played giant roles in inventing a bogus claim:

Al Gore said he inspired Love Story!

It doesn’t matter that Clinton/Gore-haters like Rich and Dowd aren’t conservatives themselves. Dowd and Rich, and others like them, have played important roles in inventing and driving the hateful, misleading, inaccurate rhetoric that has fueled the RNC down through these many vile years.

By the time of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, it was hard to distinguish the rhetoric of the RNC from that of the mainstream press corps. Two weeks later, in March 1999, Campaign 2000 began, and the hatred was transferred to Gore.

Aggressive Clinton/Gore-haters like Rich and Dowd were especially helpful to the RNC/GOP cause. Rich and Dowd aren’t conservatives themselves—but that’s exactly what made them so useful to the right during Campaign 2000. Every time they opened their traps, they served the RNC cause.

Dowd’s relentless Clinton-hatred has endlessly served the interests of the right-wing disinformation machine. Why didn’t readers at Media Matters know how to explain that point?

In large part, they didn’t know because of the code of silence.

Within the establishment press corps, you do not criticize Dowd. Because of her popularity and her prominence, she’s a privileged being at the Times—and the New York Times plays an important role in journalists’ careers.

Beyond that, Dowd is deeply tied to powerful figures at MSNBC, another important engine of press corps careers. You do not criticize Maureen Dowd. Everybody in the press corps knows and follows that code.

Dowd wrote a rather dishonest column last Sunday. Among career liberals, we’ve seen no one criticize her for it.

The fiery Joan Walsh hasn’t said a word. Digby hasn’t said a word—and won’t.

Quite literally, the whole of Salon hasn’t said a word. What about the fiery figures on The One True Channel?

According to Nexis, Dowd has been mentioned on MSNBC just once since her column appeared. Rachel didn’t challenge the column. Lawrence and Chris didn’t challenge it either.

Chris Hayes didn’t challenge the column. The column has been mentioned by Jonathan Capehart and by no one else.

Capehart was guest-hosting for Steve Kornacki last weekend. In our view, his mention of Dowd was quite revealing, in two or three different ways:
CAPEHART (7/13/14): OK, so we can’t have this conversation about populism and bringing in Elizabeth Warren, who people hope will run for president, without talking about Hillary Clinton. And people trying to pit the two against each other.

And I don’t want to talk about Hillary Clinton’s wealth in particular. It’s a big issue Republicans are attacking her on. And there are all the stories about her speaking fees and those of her family. Even Maureen Dowd spends an entire column in the New York Times today talking about this.

Assuming Hillary Clinton opts to run for president again, how will these stories harm her connection with working class and middle class voters?

I mentioned Maureen Dowd’s column today. And she has this line here, “Hillary doesn`t see the disconnect between expressing grave concern about mounting student loan debt while scarfing six-figure sums from at least eight colleges and counting.”
“Even Maureen Dowd” was attacking Clinton! Can you imagine that?

According to Capehart, “Republicans” had been attacking Clinton about her wealth. In fact, it was Capehart’s employer, the Washington Post, which had been leading this charge.

Capehart will never tell you that, not in a million years. This standard dissembling has kept the public from understanding a basic fact about Clinton/Gore-hatred—the fact that this weirdly viral public disease has largely come from major figures within the mainstream press.

Beyond that standard type of dissembling, please note Capehart’s reference to Elizabeth Warren, whose politics we like. There's a key echo here:

Back in 1999, some liberals were hoping that Bill Bradley would get the Democratic nomination instead of Gore. There was nothing wrong with that preference.

But Bradley ended up repeating every slimy RNC charge in his attempt to defeat Gore, including the ridiculous charge about Gore “inventing Willie Horton” (see text of Nicholson statement). “Progressives” stood aside and let him do it. This helped send Bush to the White House.

It’s fine to support Elizabeth Warren, whose politics are superb. It’s fine to lobby for a contested Democratic primary race.

It isn’t fine to let Maureen Dowd spread her poison and her endless derangements around. She played a key role in sending Bush to the White House. In her free-floating craziness, she could certainly play a similar role again.

Joan Walsh could rather jump off a bridge than criticize or challenge Dowd. Nor has she ever breathed a word about Chris Matthews' disgraceful role in the two-year War Against Gore, back when Chris was making his millions in service to owner Jack Welch.

Walsh has never discussed that history. Fiery and fearless as Joan is, why do you think that is?

ARISTOTLE’S ERROR: Morning Joe moves the jihad along!

FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014

Interlude—A look at post-rational practice: Aristotle is said to have said that we, the so-called human beings, are the rational animal.

We’d call that a gross overstatement. How “rational” does the work of our nation’s “press corps” generally seem?

Were we observing the work of the rational animal when we watched the tapes from yesterday’s Morning Joe? In this early six-minute segment, Mika and Joe and the rest of the panel gasped about the vast sum Hillary Clinton was paid for her speech at The University at Buffalo last year.

They worked from the banner headline report in yesterday’s Washington Post. Less than three minutes in, Steve Schmidt had a complaint:
SCHMIDT (7/17/14): If this was a Republican candidate in the same position, this would be the dominant political headline. People would be shouting from the rooftops. It’s extraordinary.
In fairness to Schmidt, he was partly citing the drop in Clinton’s approval ratings since leaving the State Department. That said:

In yesterday’s post, we noted the press corps’ almost total disinterest in the very large speaking fees Rudy Giuliani received before becoming a candidate in 2007. The Republican got large speaking fees too. The press corps didn’t care.

With regard to “shouting from the rooftops,” did we mention the banner headline in the Washington Post from which this panel was working? Large parts of the press corps are shouting quite loud—for example, this outraged Morning Joe panel!

Moments later, Chuck Todd said he agreed with Schmidt about “the political tone deafness” of Clinton’s behavior. His remarks strike us as very odd. In context, they’re hard to defend:
TODD: I’m with Steve. All of this book tour; all of these decisions to go out and basically make your post-presidential money before you run for—before you actually are president? Which is really what’s going [on]. Ex-presidents make money like this, not candidates before they run.
From hearing that, would a viewer realize that the fee from Clinton’s speech was donated to a philanthropic organization? It certainly didn’t sound that way, and no one spoke up to offer that basic point of clarification. Viewers were simply left with the claim that Clinton was out there “making her post-presidential money” when she gave that speech.

Joe jumped in to agree with all points—and to gasp at the Clintons’ net worth:
SCARBOROUGH: And Chuck, you’re talking about all the money she’s making, ex-president money. As Steve pointed out, they are worth one hundred million dollars! Like, $275,000? That’s a ton of cash, unless you are worth $100 million. So why do it? Why not give the speech and then announce at the end of the speech, “I’m going to give this money back to SUNY-Buff for a scholarship fund for journalism, or for political science or for disadvantaged youth”—whatever! I don’t understand.
Would viewers understand that the money in question did go into a philanthropic fund? It certainly didn’t sound that way, and no one stepped up to tell them.

Meanwhile, from his gasping about the money, would viewers understand that Scarborough’s salary is reported to be $5 million per year?

No one said anything that was flatly inaccurate during this segment. But this conversation was grossly misleading. It was dominated by the information everyone agreed to leave out.

Were viewers ever told that the money from Buffalo was donated to the Clinton Foundation? Yes they were, though the disclosure arrived in a cloud of gorilla dust.

Right at the start, Mika introduced the general topic to the panel. In the process, she performed an act of left-handed disclosure:
BRZEZINSKI: Chuck, also Steve Schmidt, I want to ask about the Hillary Clinton story that we were talking about. And this is about the Washington Post report that SUNY Buffalo paid her $275,000 for a speech in October of last year.

The speech was under an hour, there were all sorts of other constraints in the contract. I think there’s another college that paid her $225,000—that’s UNLV.

Clinton has said that all of her college speaking fees go to the Clinton Foundation. But first, they go to the speakers bureau, in total.

What’s your take on that? First whiff of this story, it’s kind of shocking. $275,000 for an hour speech!
At “first whiff,” Mika thought the story was “kind of shocking.” $275,000 for an hour speech!

As we noted yesterday, Giuliani had been making speeches for $200,000 eight to ten years earlier. In that case, the press corps barely said boo.

Whatever! In that passage, you see the one place where viewers were told that the shocking fee in question went to the Clinton Foundation. But please remember what we have told you: When the guild had declared a jihad, ameliorating information must always arrive in a cloud of suspicion.

Brzezinski borrowed the slippery conduct by Philip Rucker which we discussed in yesterday's report. Clinton said that her college speaking fees go to the foundation, Mika said—failing to note that this arrangement was specified in the Buffalo contract.

“But first, they go to the speakers bureau, in total,” she rather strangely added.

That murky statement isn’t inaccurate. It just wraps the whole disclosure in twin clouds of distraction and suspicion.

Incredibly, that was the only time in the six-minute segment that the donation of the fee was ever mentioned. From this point on, everyone spoke as if the money in question was taken for personal use.

Rational animals, can we talk? Whatever this discussion was, it wasn’t “rational” conduct. And it certainly didn’t represent sound journalistic practice.

In fact, it was barely “journalism” at all—but so what? Gene Robinson made no attempt to clarify any part of this misleading discussion. But then, this is the way this guild has behaved for a very long time.

Tomorrow, we’re going to try to wrap up this week’s report. With apologies, it’s hard to get to all the ways the rational animals find themselves moved to perform.