Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why Won't Dems Agree to A Fox "News" Sponsored Debate?

I don't know.

But maybe this is a reason:

Yesterday, the far-right side of the blogosphere was delirious with joy over Dennis Miller’s two-minute diatribe on Fox News condemning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. At last count, I found over 400 conservative blogs praising the attack, characterizing it as the most devastating take-down in political monologue history.

You can watch the clip for yourself, but I have to admit, if this is the most insightful, stinging criticism the right can come up with, Reid should be fairly pleased. Miller’s rant had four basic parts to it:

1. Reid is physically unattractive.
2. Reid’s voice is “whinny” and unpleasant to listen to.
3. Reid’s rhetoric on the war has been “bleak.”
4. Reid is irrelevant (specifically, he has “delude[d] himself into thinking that he matters”).

No, I can't imagine why Democrats would question Fox's professionalism on something like this. Can you?

Tom Schaller is Unbelievably Awesome

FERGUSON'S FACT-LESS CHECK OF GORE. In Sunday's Washington Post, Weekly Standard senior editor Andrew Ferguson had a little hit job on Al Gore's new book, built around Gore's citation of an Abraham Lincoln quote which, according to Ferguson, has been falsely attributed to The Great Emancipator. Here's how Ferguson opens the piece:

You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver.

Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88. [emphasis added]

Well, Mr. Ferguson, the answer to that is quite easily to be found on p. 282 of the book where, in the endnotes, Gore provides the citation. (The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Macmillan: 1950, Andrew Ward, ed., page 40.) Is Ferguson so manipulative that he is using the endnote/footnote difference to mislead the readers into believing there is no sourcing whatsoever in Gore's book?

Or is Ferguson so damn lazy he didn't even bother to notice that Gore's book includes endnotes? Though I'm willing to give Ferguson the benefit of the doubt (he can email me at schaller67@hotmail.com to clarify), either way it looks bad for him. And if his point is merely to dispute Gore's use of The Lincoln Encyclopedia as a source or, worse, that the publisher's stylistic choice of endnotes rather than footnotes is intended to obscure the sourcing of the quote, are these complaints really worthy of space in the Post's Sunday section?

As for the Post's editors, did they, too, fail to fact check Ferguson's "not using footnotes" assertion which, had they done so, they would have discovered it to be true merely in the very misleading, endnote-v-footnote definitional sense?

To borrow a phrase from Ferguson, his piece and the Post's editing of it turns out to be a rather "sprawling, untidy blast" of misinformation.

Makes one wonder what the criterion is to make "senior editor" over at the Standard, eh? If all of this is not galling and ironic enough for you, the Post's choice for title of the op-ed is ... wait for it ... "Fact Check."

UPDATE: The Post has up a correction now ... though, as a commenter notes, it's hardly a complete one.

Republican Pseudo Populism. Fading.

Peter Beinert has an op-ed in the Washington Post today. And it kinda sorta makes sense, even if it's conclusions are not terribly groundbreaking.

As an aside, I tend to read Beinert's columns like I read those of David Brooks--with interest but still looking for the subtle incongruities beneath the parts I find myself agreeing with. With Brooks it's the illiberal notions he's purposely cloaking in genial tones. With Beinert it's more a matter of uncritically passing off some myth or piece of conventional wisdom.

His topic today is Republican "populism", which he says is in iminent danger now that the GOP has held the reigns of power for the past couple of decades, and as a result, has become the government elite it has long claimed to battle for the benefit of Real Americans. And now, Beinert says, the movement's populism is turning against itself. Like in the case of immigration for instance, where the party's nativist grassroots is in conflict with the party's corporatist cash cows and smoke-filled room decisionmakers. Add the problems presented by an unpopular president and an unpopular war, the party's in a fix.

Now, while I appreciate Beinert's upbeatedness here, the point really is that the Republican Party is not and has never been in any real, meaningful sense, populist. I can't tell if Beinert recognizes this and just doesn't make hay out of it, or if he recognizes that Republican "populism" has been rhetorical rather than substantive for four decades, or if he in some way believes that the Republican Party has genuinely been the populist party all these years, and now, regrettably, having dethroned and replaced the country's governing elite, it's balking at going all the way to challenge and dismantle the corporate elite, too.

See what I mean?

Most troubling is Beinert's assertion that the Bush Administration's NSA spying and other civil liberty violations is to be regarded as "populism". Fortunately, Beinert acknowledges that this scheme finally failed in 2006 and likely won't work next year either. And Beinert puts down in print the conundrum that is the Bush Administration, and the conservative movement's, "war on terror" politics: without actual events and catastrophes confirming the threat, the party's electoral prospects will be undermined and the work needed to craft something like a policy or governing agenda all the more put off. And without a galvenizing issue, the party's faux populism is fracturing the party.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.