THEY KNOW WHAT YOU WANT: Maddow outlines the big giant Asia trade deal!

TUESDAY, JULY 7, 2015

Part 2—She doesn’t make it sound good:
Friend, how much do you know and understand about the TPP—about the so-called Trans Pacific Partnership?

How much do you know and understand about trade legislation in general?

For ourselves, we’d say, “Not much.” But then, we have a ready excuse—we watch The One True Liberal Channel, whose hosts make very little attempt to explain such tedious topics.

In the case of the TPP, this insouciance produced an odd phenomenon in the past week or two. Famous hosts on The One True Channel were praising President Obama for his “best week ever”—and they were including the “important trade legislation” which had passed the Congress as part of that glorious week.

That trade legislation wasn’t the TPP itself, although at one point it wasn’t entirely clear that the talker Chris Matthews knew that. Still, the legislation in question was part of the process which may yet produce a TPP, and it was being hailed on The One True Channel despite its peculiar provenance, which went almost wholly unexplained.

How strange! In fashioning his best week ever, Obama had passed the trade legislation despite massive opposition from his own party. The bill in question had passed the House due to the joint efforts of Obama and John Boehner, a fellow who is normally ridiculed on The One True Channel.

As cable hosts presented the bill as part of that best week ever, they didn’t mention the peculiar vote counts which had occurred. In the congressional voting, the bill had been opposed by 158 of 186 Democrats in the House and by 31 of 44 Democrats in the Senate. These vote totals went unmentioned as cheerleaders served us our nightly porridge on the corporate cable channel designed for rubes like us.

Why would Obama support a bill which so many Dems opposed? What were the actual merits of this bill?

What are the potential merits and demerits of the actual TPP, which might emerge in the end? For ourselves, we can’t tell you much about questions like those. But then, we have that excuse.

Over the next two days, let’s consider the lazy way this topic has been covered on MSNBC’s flagship program, The Rachel Maddow Show. For today, let’s consider the way the program’s host described the potential “Trans Pacific Partnership” way back in early May, when we were all still young.

It was Thursday evening, May 7. President Obama had flown to Oregon. He was going to speak about the proposed trade bill the next day.

This produced Maddow’s strongest attempt, in the past several months, to discuss the proposed trade deal. Needless to say, she started her segment with some of her wonderfully whimsical humor about her own “fascinations:”
MADDOW (5/7/15): Here in the U.S. tonight, President Obama has just flown to the great state of Oregon.

Nothing to do with owls attacking joggers in that park in the Oregon state capital.
Nothing to do with that state’s Republican Party chairman running a side business in which he asks members of the general public to mail him their urine.

Nothing about the still inexplicable girlfriend scandal that drove that state’s once very popular governor out of office. Nothing to do with any of those stories. Nothing to do even with Oregonians being obsessed with the carpet at the Portland airport.

The president’s visit has nothing to do with any of the truly strange news stories out of Oregon over the past few months that have made the state an object of national fascination, or at least an object of my fascination.

Now, President Obama’s visit to Oregon tonight is because he is going to Nike.
The president’s visit wasn’t about the owls, the urine or even the girlfriend scandal. Nor had those pointless events made Oregon an object of national fascination, though people like Maddow will often have a hard time drawing distinctions between themselves and the external world.

Instead, the president was going to Nike. Maddow now explained why, and shared a bit of her political insight:
MADDOW (continuing directly): Nike. Nike’s headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon. Nike’s a very large company. It has about 26,000 employees in the United States.

But the number of employees they have overseas just completely dwarfs their workforce at home.
Yes, they’re headquartered in Oregon and they’ve got 26,000 American employees, but they’ve got a million people working for them overseas, in contract factories where the pay and the labor standards are generally terrible.

And that kind of business arrangement, where even iconically American products get made overseas because it’s more profitable to have the work done in places with terrible wages and terrible labor standards, that age-old dynamic which has killed off huge swaths of working-class and middle-class American jobs over the last few decades, that dynamic, many people worry, will get even worse than it is now if this big 12-country Asia trade deal goes through, which the president favors.

And so President Obama, mark my words, clearly has something up his sleeve here, because he has gone to Oregon tonight. He’s doing a DNC fund- raiser there tonight. But he is going to Nike headquarters tomorrow and it is at Nike where he’s going to give his speech tomorrow about why people should support his very controversial Asia trade deal.
Maddow wasn’t making this “very controversial trade deal” sound very good. She described an “age-old dynamic which has killed off huge swaths of working-class and middle-class American jobs over the last few decades.”

According to Maddow, “many people worry” that this dynamic will only get worse if this giant trade deal goes through. For that reason, she said Obama “clearly has something up his sleeve” in his trip to Oregon.

“Mark my words,” the cable savant said. Sure enough! The analysts did!

Why did Maddow feel so sure that Obama had something up his sleeve? As she continued, she explained. It had to do with Nike:
MADDOW (continuing directly): Nike is the poster child for why people are freaked out about that deal. Nike is the poster child for why labor and Democrats and people on the left and people in the center are opposed to that trade deal in considerable numbers.

So there must be something up his sleeves, right? This is, this is too obviously counterintuitive, right? It would be like him announcing the approval of the Keystone pipeline at the site of a pipeline spill, right?
It doesn’t make sense for him to go to a company that’s sent all of its jobs to Vietnam to make a case for a trade deal that will make it easier for American companies to send all their jobs to Vietnam.

So it can’t be what it seems like. Something’s going on here.
According to Maddow, Nike’s international practices made it “the poster child” for liberal and Democratic opposition to the proposed trade deal. According to Maddow, endorsing the deal at Nike headquarters would be like endorsing Keystone at the site of an oil spill.

As she continued, Maddow gave herself a minor out. She also summarized the state of liberal opposition to the proposed trade deal:
MADDOW (continuing directly): The president is due to speak at Nike tomorrow, and we will see. Maybe it’s all as obvious as it seems. I think that we should expect some sort of surprise announcement tomorrow from the president, just given the place where he’s going to be making that speech. The president is due to speak at a DNC fund-raiser tonight in the meantime.

And you know, this trade issue is a divisive one in Democratic politics. Some Pacific Northwest Democrats like the powerful Senator Patty Murray of Washington, she supports the president on the trade deal, even though she’s willing to buck him from the left on other issues.

Other Pacific Northwest Democrats like Peter DeFazio of Oregon, he’s against the president on the trade deal. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the trade deal when she was in the Obama administration as secretary of state, but she’s now being much cagier about the issue now that she is running for president.

It was also an interesting consolidation of some of the loudest and most popular voices on the left side of the Democratic Party today, which is where that interesting dynamic is between the president and the left.

Today, President—excuse me, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for new populist economic policies from the Democratic Party.

Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio getting together. Hmmm.

So there’s interesting stuff going on, right? There’s a bit of a roiling going on in Democratic politics in general and specifically tonight.

President Obama is clearly going to drop something unexpected tomorrow on this big economic issue. Nobody quite knows where Hillary Clinton is going to land on that issue. Nobody quite knows where Hillary Clinton is going to land on a lot of issues as she keeps up her run for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama.

So there’s a little unexpected and sort of exciting drama in Democratic politics for once.
As she finished her discussion, Maddow sold us our nightly dose of “excitement” and “drama.” She didn’t tell us to “Watch this space”—although, as matters turned out, it was probably just as well.

Unless we’re missing something somewhere, this represents Maddow’s most thorough discussion of the proposed trade deal in the past several months. She presented the most basic possible outline of the trade debate of the past several decades, with liberals and Democrats generally saying that deals of this type have “killed off huge swaths of working-class and middle-class American jobs.”

It’s very, very, very rare to see Maddow address such mundane concerns. We suggest that you gaze on those words, enjoying them while you can.

That said, Maddow's discussion of international trade was extremely rudimentary this night. Let’s be candid:

If you get your news from this joke-laden show, you have very little real understanding of this proposed trade deal. We’ll flesh that point out tomorrow.

Maddow’s discussion was rudimentary—but she’d also made a prediction. Once the joking was done, she had said it was clear that Obama had something up his sleeve in his journey to Oregon.

There was no way you’d go to Nike to announce support for a giant trade deal! “So it can’t be what it seems like. Something’s going on here!”

Obama spoke at Nike the next day. For better or worse, it was exactly what it seemed like.

On Friday, May 8, Obama delivered his speech. In Saturday morning’s New York Times, Peter Baker reported what he said.

Front-page headline included:
BAKER (5/9/15): Obama Scolds Democrats on Trade Pact Stance

President Obama on Friday lashed out at critics within his own party as he accused fellow Democrats of deliberately distorting the potential impact of the sweeping new trade agreement he is negotiating with Asia
and standing in the way of a modern competitive economy.

With the cutting tone he usually reserves for his Republican adversaries, Mr. Obama said liberals who are fighting the new trade accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, were ''just wrong'' and, in terms of some of their claims, ''making this stuff up.” If they oppose the deal, he said, they ''must be satisfied with the status quo'' and want to ''pull up the drawbridge and build a moat around ourselves.''

''There have been a bunch of critics about trade deals generally and the Trans-Pacific Partnership,'' he told an estimated 2,100 workers at the Nike headquarters here. “And what's interesting is typically they're my friends coming from my party.

“And they're my fellow travelers on minimum wage and on job training and on clean energy and on every progressive issue, they're right there with me. And then on this, they're like whupping on me.''

But Mr. Obama said that he had no political motive for supporting freer trade with Asia. ''I've run my last election,'' he said. ''And the only reason I do something is because I think it's good for American workers and the American people and the American economy.'' And so, ''on this issue, on trade, I actually think some of my dearest friends are wrong. They're just wrong.”
“The president's speech here on the sprawling campus of the sports apparel company represented his most expansive defense of his trade agenda since asking Congress to grant him negotiating power often called fast-track authority,” Baker further said.

Why was Obama saying these things? Why did he say that the giant trade deal would be good for American workers?

We don’t have the slightest idea—but then again, we have that excuse. Consider the chronology here:

On Thursday night, Maddow told us to mark her words. The president must have something up his sleeve, she all-knowingly said.

There was no way he’d gone to Nike to endorse a giant trade deal! De Blasio and Warren, she said!

On Friday, Obama spoke at Nike. Effusively, he endorsed the giant trade deal. He even said that some of his friends—presumably, people like de Blasio and Warren—were just “making this stuff up.”

The president had made big news that day—unless you get your news from the Maddow Show! That night, the program’s all-knowing savant and clown didn’t so much as mention what Obama had said. Nor did she mention his speech the next week, even after Obama specifically criticized Senator Warren, by name, over the ensuing weekend.

Tomorrow, we’ll see what Maddow did say the next week on her joke-laden corporate news program. But her viewers were never told about the speech Obama delivered at Nike. They weren’t told what he later said about Senator Warren. Her name wasn’t mentioned all week.

This is the way “the news” gets delivered on this joke-laden program. If we can say this without seeming snippy, it helps explain why we liberals are sometimes so clueless while Maddow’s so happy and rich.

Tomorrow: Maddow’s subsequent “coverage,” right up to the present


Supplemental: The New York Times defies belief!

MONDAY, JULY 6, 2015

Maureen Dowd goes there again:
Finally, it has happened! A Yale professor, David Bromwich, has criticized the New York Times for its fatuous treatment of a Democratic White House contender.

To read his piece, click here.

We’ve been asking the professors to do this for years! Tomorrow, we’ll review the issues at hand. We’ll also profile Sarah Lyall, the Philips Exeter/Yale graduate who wrote Saturday’s front-page profile of the young Bernie Sanders.

For today, we’re going to stick with the basics. Yesterday, the Times placed the pitiful Maureen Dowd on the front page of its Sunday Review once again.

Seventeen years later, inevitably, she started with You Know Who. Needless to say, her dateline was Paris, a famous place we'll always have along with Dowd’s derangement
DOWD (7/5/15): The turquoise tranquillity of the Côte d’Azur was rocked a couple of times during the Cannes Lions Festival, the advertising world’s rosé-soaked answer to the Cannes Film Festival.

Al Gore snubbed Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky, who was giving a speech for Ogilvy & Mather about how she became “patient zero” in the cyberbullying epidemic, was slated to sit in a V.I.P. box with the former vice president, who got an award for being a good brand.

But her invite got yanked.

The contretemps was a reminder that Gore’s prissy attitude toward l’affaire Monica helped cost him the election,
because he was so angry at Bill Clinton that he leashed the Big Dog, curtailing the president’s campaigning, even in the South. If Al had been less eager to put baby in a corner, there would have been no phony action on Iraq and plenty of action on melting glaciers.

Monica’s main bullies were not of the cyber variety. The Internet was just getting up and running. Her chief bullies were flesh and blood, a raffish president and feminist first lady who are now vying to be a feminist president and raffish first lad. They’re the ones who tried to paint her as a “narcissistic looney toon,” as Hillary put it to her friend Diane Blair.

Sidney Blumenthal, Hillary’s Doberman and email correspondent, led the sliming of Monica as a fantasist and stalker. Hillary’s friends do not regard Monica as a victim, but a predator. They think she let herself in for trouble when she took up with a married president who was a magnet for right-wing bullies.

Yet, as Hillary’s advisers said, being the victim of the Monica mess gave Hillary the impetus, and public good will, to start her own political rise.

In her speech at Cannes, Monica did say it hurt to be called “That Woman.” But other than that reference to Bill Clinton, she sticks to anonymous cyberbullies, which may be prudent, with Hillary out on the trail. And even if it’s a dodge, it’s nice to see the 41-year-old move out of her self-imposed exile, looking lovely, acting gracious and speaking out for a good cause.
There they were! Another 358 hiss-spitting words about “that woman,” You Know Who. Also, another complaint about the “prissy” Gore.

Simply put, Dowd’s can’t stop herself. Neither can the New York Times, who paired Dowd’s latest with this sad, disordered piece by Tim Kreider, an allegedly drunken man who doesn’t seem to like lower-class whites, who are less grand than he is.

If you want to understand the Times, we’d say that attitude is a key part of the profile. Returning to Dowd, let’s offer a few quick notes:

Dowd gives the clear impression that Gore had You Know Who’s invitation yanked last week. There is no evidence of that in the reporting of this pointless event.

Meanwhile, Miss Lewinsky has been taken by some to have said that she chose not to sit in the VIP box with Gore. Under the circumstances, that would be a sign of good judgment on her part, poisonous commentary-wise.

(It would also show good sense for Gore to avoid the pairing.)

Ignoring the lack of factual clarity, Dowd simply told you the version of the story she liked. From there, she continued her decades-old practice of gender-trashing Democratic men, who are all secretly women.

In Gore’s case, he was once “so feminized he was practically lactating.” On the Sunday before the 2000 election, Dowd pictured him singing “I Feel Pretty” as he admired himself in the mirror.

Yesterday, he was said to be “prissy” concerning Bill Clinton’s affair. Dowd will never stop writing such things, and the Times will never stop printing them.

(For the record: No, that actually isn’t the way George Bush ended up in the White House. The electoral situation confronting Gore was much more complex than that. In comments, it’s painful to see how easy it is to script the public to believe such things.)

It’s stunning to think that the New York Times keeps putting these cries for help in print. Even more amazing is the way they let their deranged star columnist complain about the people who “bullied” Lewinsky, “sliming her as a fantasist and a stalker.”

Dowd was very much one of those people! Among her three million real-time columns about That Woman was the demented late August piece directly comparing Miss Lewinsky to the famous Glenn Close character.

Below, we offer excerpts. Headline—“Monica Gets Her Man:”
DOWD (8/23/98): After the President's prime-time confession, the news media were abuzz about whether Mr. Clinton could repair his damaged relationships with his wife and daughter.

Suddenly, That Woman stamped her feet. Like the Glenn Close character in ''Fatal Attraction,'' Monica Lewinsky issued a chilling ultimatum to the man who jilted her: I will not be ignored.

She let it be known that she was wounded that the President had failed to apologize to her and had dismissed their grand, 18-month romance, their shared passion for books and laughs, as trivial—a mere mechanism for relieving Oval Office tension.

[...]

While she is not a stalker, since Mr. Clinton encouraged her interest for quite some time, she is certainly aggressive. Otherwise, as a mere intern, she could not have barged through all the protective layers around the President. And she was, according to the Tripp tapes, desperate to continue the relationship after the President had slithered away. I will not be ignored.

Monica has at least one special talent: she is relentless. It was the quality that got her noticed by Bill Clinton, and it is the quality that will prevent him from ever escaping her.

There is a sort of rough romantic justice here. It may be de trop to punish this President with impeachment or resignation. In his case, the punishment is the crime. Monica will never let him go. She will be center stage for the rest of his Presidency, doing a star turn at Congressional hearings, granting celebrity interviews, signing book and movie deals.

It will not be in the way she envisioned, but she will get to ride off into the sunset with her man after all. Monica Lewinsky is Bill Clinton's legacy. They are linked together forever and ever.
There’s more—there always was, and always will be—but you get the idea.

“They are linked together forever and ever?” As it turns out, that was a promise on Dowd’s part more than a prediction.

It’s easy to see that Dowd is some version of empty, lost, sad. It’s more important to notice the fact that the New York Times can’t see this.

Even seventeen years later, the Times insists on publishing this relentless dreck, which it rewarded in this case with its highest platform. In this case, the Times paired Dowd’s piece with that sad effort by Kreider.

The pieces are peas in a pod. Because we live in Baltimore, we know how silly and empty Kreider’s essay actually is. But even if you don’t live here, you should be able to see that.

The New York Times seems to be full of empty, lost, confused striving souls. Given the newspaper’s famous faux brand, it’s hard for people to see that.

Tomorrow: Kreider, Bromwich, Lyall and the soul of the New York Times

THEY KNOW WHAT YOU WANT: Barack Obama’s greatest week!

MONDAY, JULY 6, 2015

Part 1—As passed by Republican votes:
Last Wednesday, Digby joined the liberal crowd, singing the week’s liberal song.

Her piece at Salon started like this. To us, this seemed a bit odd:
DIGBY (7/1/15): Last week was a productive one for President Obama. His approval ratings are up, he passed a major piece of legislation, he gave a historic eulogy at Charleston’s Emanuel AME church, and the Supreme Court handed down two rulings that will leave lasting positive marks on his legacy.
“Last week was a productive one for President Obama,” Digby said.

“He passed a major piece of legislation,” she said. To us, that sounded odd.

Why did that sound odd? Because the major legislation in question received support from very few Democrats in either the House or the Senate.

The legislation had been aggressively opposed by many liberals and progressives. In the actual congressional voting, the bill was opposed by 158 of 186 Democrats in the House and by 31 of 44 Democrats in the Senate.

Rightly or wrongly, Obama had passed the legislation with mainly Republican support. This wasn’t just Obama’s bill. For better or worse, it was also John Boehner’s.

Credit where due! As she continued, Digby acknowledged this state of affairs.

In our view, she performed a bit of a two-step in the process. The legislation which made Obama’s week “productive” was in fact “depressing” for her:
DIGBY (continuing directly): And it seems that liberals in general are feeling pretty good about things too. While the horrifying events of Charleston threw everyone for a loop, the long overdue realization that it was time to put the Confederate Flag into the history books was a welcome reaction. And while the passage of the fast-track legislation over the objections of the progressive base was depressing, the left put up a good fight that showed a path to winning future battles. Two big, highly anticipated Supreme Court decisions were met a huge sigh of relief, in the Obamacare case, and buoyant euphoria, in recognition of the right for gays and lesbians to marry. Sometimes it’s good to be a liberal.
As it turns out, “the passage of the fast-track legislation...was depressing,” Digby said. She said liberals were feeling good because of those other events.

It seemed to us that Digby was cheerleading just a bit. On a week when the president passed legislation she found depressing, she found a way to play along with the liberal meme of the week, in which this had been Obama’s greatest week.

She toned that language down a bit, changing the president’s week to “productive.” In the process, she gave him credit for two judicial decisions he hadn’t authored—and she smoothed her way past legislation he aggressively pursued, legislation which made her own head hurt.

To us, that was a bit of a two-step. In fairness, that put Digby miles ahead of the liberal cable hordes, who plowed ahead as if Obama’s success with that fast-track bill had been a triumph for socialist labor.

On the One True Liberal Channel, Obama’s week was being hailed—and that “depressing” piece of legislation was widely treated as one of the triumphs. On Tuesday night, Al Sharpton had started his program like this:
SHARPTON (6/30/15): Thanks to you for tuning in. We start with President Obama—loose, energized and with momentum coming off what many are calling the best week of his presidency. Today a reporter asked him about it.

OBAMA (videotape): In terms of my best week—now my best week, I will tell you, was marrying Michelle. That was a really good week. Malia and Sasha being born, excellent weeks. There was a game where I scored 27 points. It was a good week.

SHARPTON: It was a light-hearted moment, but the momentum is real. The president signed a major trade deal. His Charleston speech was stirring, maybe even healing. Two Supreme Court rulings cemented his legacy on Obamacare and gay rights. We saw the White House lit up in rainbow colors after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
In Sharpton’s recitation, that “major trade deal” was treated as a triumph—as part of that “best week.”

(He also credited Obama for the Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. He said it cemented Obama’s legacy on the subject, even though Obama opposed same-sex marriage until 2012.)

To us, that sounded a bit like cheerleading. But so what? One hour later, a loud cable talker was pushing the same line:
MATTHEWS (6/30/15): Well, after last week’s powerful sequence of triumphs for President Obama on trade, health care and same-sex marriage, his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is looking to capitalize on his momentum and that’s making some on the right nervous. President Obama reflected on his successful run last week earlier today. Here he is.

OBAMA (videotape): So in many ways, last week was simply a culmination of a lot of work that we have been doing since I came into office. How am I going to spend whatever political capital that I have built up? You know, the list is long. And my instructions to my team and my instructions to myself have always been that we are going to squeeze every last ounce of progress that we can make when I have the privilege—as long as I have the privilege of holding this office.

MATTHEWS: Isn’t that great, that the president of the United States, even he has to make lists of things he tells himself to do every day, like everybody else is trying to do?
Like Sharpton, Matthews treated the trade deal as one of the president’s “powerful sequence of triumphs.” The “depressing” nature of the triumph escaped his notice too.

The next night, on The Last Word, David Axelrod continued the theme:
O’DONNELL (7/2/15): Where do you place last week, David, in the Obama presidency?

AXELROD: Well, you know, obviously, it was a strong week, you know, for a variety of reasons. He had worked hard on this trade bill that was thought to be dead, it came back. You know, but the other—

He said today, and I think he was right, that really what it was, was a culmination of a number of things. The affirmation of the healthcare act was a culmination of, you know, a six-year effort on his part and it was—and so it was very satisfying...
“Yes, it was a really good week,” Axelrod said. To him, the trade bill was part of the package. Lawrence didn’t complain.

Without any question, Obama had some major victories during the week in question.

The Supreme Court refused to overturn the Affordable Care Act; this preserved the major legislative act of the president’s tenure. And he did prevail on that fast-track legislation—the legislation which Digby said left progressives depressed.

Can we talk? If you were watching MSNBC last week, you didn’t hear much extended discussion of that “fast-track” trade legislation.

You saw Matthews and Sharpton add it to the president’s triumphs without further comment. Other hosts ignored the matter altogether.

You heard little discussion of what the legislation accomplished. You heard very little discussion of the fact that the bill had been passed despite overwhelming Democratic Party opposition.

In many ways, this was fitting. If you watch MSNBC, you probably have little idea about this legislation.

Unless you watch Big Ed Schultz, you haven’t seen it discussed a whole lot. You haven’t seen its merits and its demerits discussed or debated.

Last week, you saw the legislation hailed as one of Obama’s triumphs, but you saw little discussion of its substance. You saw your favorite hosts rush past the fact that the bill was passed with Republican votes, in the face of overwhelming Democratic opposition.

All week long, we’ll be asking a question. Why have you heard so little discussion about this legislation? It can almost seem like the cable gods are keeping us barefoot and clueless!

How much do you think you know about this trade legislation? Why have you heard so little about it on The One True Channel?

Why have your favorite hosts ignored this major legislation? Is it too complicated to discuss? Could there be some other reason? Does the general avoidance of this topic fit some larger pattern?

We don’t know how to answer those questions. But we were struck by the discussions last week, in which this bill was treated as a triumph, with very few questions asked.

It almost seems like the cable gods may have stolen a line from the early Bob Dylan:

Progressives like Digby may (or may not) know what we the people need. But it almost seems like the cable gods think they know what we want.

For some reason, we don’t need to hear about that silly trade bill! To us, that avoidance seems to fit a pattern—a pattern which isn’t attractive.

Tomorrow: Rachel Maddow, early in May, describing a very bad bill

Supplemental: Joan Walsh and Chris and our discourse oh my!

FRIDAY, JULY 3, 2015

The fraudulence of Our Own Press Corps:
For fraudulence and sheer inanity, it would be hard to top yesterday’s piece by Salon’s Joan Walsh.

According to Walsh, the mainstream press is promoting Candidate Sanders. Below, you see the way her piece began. Her claims are absurd, even ugly, in fairly obvious ways:
WALSH (7/2/15): If only the great Michael Harrington had lived to see this. So many brave Americans fought in vain to spread socialism in the United States, but it’s advancing in the summer of 2015 thanks to an unlikely vanguard: lazy and apolitical political reporters who love horse races and hate the Clintons.

Yes, the MSM is making sure that socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is taken seriously in his uphill run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s surging in Iowa and New Hampshire, polls tell us, and attracting 10,000 people at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wednesday night.

This lifelong lefty who attended Madison is thrilled to see it—and yet a little cynical, too.

I mean really, folks: If Sanders had a chance to become president, Mark Halperin would be the first in line to red-bait him, rather than shaming Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Clinton supporter, into doing it on Morning Joe.
Is the mainstream press “working hard” in some way to “make sure that Sanders is taken seriously?”

That strikes us as a ludicrous claim. Walsh presents exactly one example—the claim that Halperin “shamed” McCaskill into “red-baiting” Sanders on Morning Joe last week.

It’s an ugly claim; it’s also manifest nonsense. This was the first Q-and-A in McCaskill’s stumbling, incompetent appearance on Morning Joe:
BRZEZINSKI (6/25/15): Joining us now from Capitol Hill, Democratic senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Claire, great to have you back on the show...

Joe and Halperin here. I’ll start.

Bernie Sanders is doing quite well in the polls. And I guess we’re wondering. We know you’re “ready for Hillary.” Do you think there’s any concern there?

MCCASKILL: No, I think the media is giving Bernie a pass right now. I very rarely read in any coverage of Bernie that he’s a socialist.

I think everybody wants a fight, and I think they are not really giving the same scrutiny to Bernie Sanders that they’re giving to certainly Hillary Clinton and the other candidates...
To watch the whole segment, click here.

McCaskill noted that Sanders identifies as a socialist in the first words out of her mouth. She said the press rarely mentions this fact, a demonstrably ludicrous claim.

In her second question, Brzezinski asked McCaskill about the “massive crowds” Sanders has been getting. McCaskill said “it’s not unusual for someone who has an extreme message to have a following.”

Scarborough jumped in at that point, saying this: “So you think Bernie Sanders has an extreme message?” In her answer, McCaskill noted again that Sanders is “a socialist.”

If “red-baiting” occurred in this session, that’s where the baiting occurred. Plainly, McCaskill wasn’t “shamed into” any such conduct.

As for Halperin, he hadn’t even spoken yet. McCaskill had already dropped two S-bombs on Bernie’s head.

When Halperin did jump in, he asked McCaskill an obvious question, given what she had already said: “Name three specific positions he holds that you think are too far left, too socialist, to be elected.”

McCaskill stumbled and fumbled around trying to answer the question. For better or worse, she isn’t a skillful red-baiter.

There will be a lot of aggressive red-baiting if Sanders wins nomination. We’ll hear that he honeymooned in the Soviet Union, that he wanted to hang with Fidel.

That said, Walsh’s piece was absurd, and even ugly, right from the start. It was also an obvious piece of propaganda—but then, that pretty much describes everything Walsh writes at this point.

In this case, Walsh was pimping for Candidate Clinton. Down through the years, Walsh has been willing to pimp for various sides.

So has her mentor and benefactor, cable talker Chris Matthews.

In line with current corporate arrangements, Matthews currently pimps for the Democrats and their wonderful national leaders. Under previous corporate owner Jack Welch, he savaged Clinton, Clinton and Candidate Gore in reprehensible ways.

No one distorted and dissembled any harder in the mainstream press corps’ two-year push to send George Bush to the White House. People are dead all over the world because of the things Matthews did.

(He was more influential back then.)

Currently, Walsh’s mentor is paid to pimp on Our Own Liberal Side. That doesn’t mean he has any idea what he’s talking about. Consider the astounding exchange he conducted on Hardball last night.

We’ve often noted the amazing way Paul Krugman’s work is ignored by the rest of the mainstream press. Last night, discussing Obama’s economic greatness, Matthews produced the perfect example.

Matthews said he was “defending this president as a major force in history.” Incredibly, he posed the question shown below to a youngish, three-pundit panel.

He spoke first with Time magazine’s Jay Newton-Small. His question was extremely basic—remedial, even. It concerned a topic Krugman has discussed a million times:
MATTHEWS (7/2/15): Do you know economics? Do you?

NEWTON-SMALL: Of course.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you an economic question, because I don’t know the answer. That’s why I’m asking. It’s not a rhetorical question.

If you’d gone with an austerity policy like the Brits did—you know, like Cameron did over there, in the conservative party. Would this have gotten back the economy the way it has? If he had said, “I’m going to squeeze everything down, we’re going to stop spending, we’re going to tighten the belt.”

Would have worked, based on history right now?
Would an austerity program have worked after the economic collapse in 2008? How many thousand columns has Krugman devoted to this general topic?

We’ve often noted that Krugman’s work gains no purchase anywhere else—produces no wider discussion. Here was Matthews, saying he has no idea how to approach this topic—the topic Krugman has written about again and again and again.

Newton-Small was clueless too. So was Francesca Chambers, White House reporter for The Daily Mail:
NEWTON-SMALL (continuing directly): That’s a huge debate to have and clearly, Republicans would say no and Democrats would say absolutely. I’m sorry—Republicans would say yes, and Democrats would say—

MATTHEWS: But is there any anecdotal evidence of that, Francesca? That a tightened-belt, conservative policy, rather than his expansionary policy, would have worked? He had a policy. And it worked!

CHAMBERS: Well I will say, I agree. I think it’s difficult to get into counterfactuals here.

But it’s undeniable that the president had a really good week. He’s having a really good month. I mean, it is undeniable that the unemployment rate went down significantly since he took office, like he said today. It was nearing ten percent at the beginning of his presidency. Now, it’s down to five percent.
Michael Tomasky sat this one out, saying nothing about this super-basic question. At this point, Matthews rushed ahead to his next topic.

Would an austerity program have produced an economic rebound? Remarkably, Matthews stressed the fact that he didn’t know how to answer the question which has launched a thousand columns by Krugman.

Newton-Small and Chambers didn’t seem to have the slightest clue either. The two parties disagree, Newton-Small unhelpfully said. Chamber warned against exploring counterfactuals, then quickly changed the subject, turning to a discussion of Obama’s week.

Tomasky offered no thoughts. Matthews hurried away from the scene.

Krugman has written about this topic again and again and again and again. The faux nature of our “national discourse” is amazingly hard to compute or comprehend.

You’d never know it, but: We were unfamiliar with Chambers, a very personable young woman. So we ordered a team of analysts to run a background check.

Chambers graduated from Kansas in 2009. In 2008, she was editor of The Daily Kansan.

Here’s the part we found surprising—Chambers describes herself as a young conservative!

You’d never know it from the way she gushed about Obama’s week, month and career. But before she went to The Daily Mail, Chambers was “founder and editor and publisher of Red Alert Politics, a publication by young conservatives and for young conservatives, from the parent company of the Washington Examiner and The Weekly Standard.”

How faux is the discourse you’re handed each night? Chambers didn’t seem to know how to approach that question—but either did anyone else!