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Tilting at Windmills

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November 28, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

QUOTE OF THE DAY....Chris Hayes on the almost insane level of candidate deconstruction practiced by the modern media:

Myself, I'm currently working on two stories, one about a crucial little league team defeat John Edwards suffered in 4th grade that taught him hard lessons about resilience and competition and 5,000-word profile of an advertising exec from Duluth who roomed with Mitt Romney at Harvard for a week while his own dorm was under construction.

Kevin Drum 1:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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The thing I love about the media's "deconstruction" of candidates is how good they're at it!

I mean, who went into the polling booth in November 2000 without being fully aware of how rigid, self-righteous, bellicose, dismissive, arrogant, intransigent, and stubborn Bush was, and how it would define his performance as President?

Oh, wait a minute here...

Posted by: frankly0 on November 28, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

He has to be kidding. Somebody is going to pay him for those articles. Talk about meaningless.

Maybe somebody would pay me for an article about how meeting Hillary Clinton for 2 seconds in a receiving line changed my life forever.

Posted by: corpus juris on November 28, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

He has to be kidding.

Uh, I think he is.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 28, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

All I want to know is when they all stopped beating their wives or husband.

Posted by: JeffII on November 28, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Hayes says it's "almost insane" to report that Hillary Clinton clerked at a law firm run by attorneys with ties to the Communist Party.

Here's a hypothetical question:

If Rudy Guiliani had clerked at a law firm with ties to the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan, would it not be proper to report that fact? I think it would be totally apprpriate reporting.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 28, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Since we're currently in the midst of a "war on terror," the better analogy would be if Giuliani had been associated with an organization that had ties with radical Islamic fundamentalists.

[pause]

Oh, wait -- just exactly who are Giuliani's corporate clients anyway?

Posted by: Ara on November 28, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Hayes says it's "almost insane" to report that Hillary Clinton clerked at a law firm run by attorneys with ties to the Communist Party.

Ya. Who cares if this happened 35 years ago?

If Rudy Guiliani had clerked at a law firm with ties to the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan, would it not be proper to report that fact? I think it would be totally apprpriate reporting. Posted by: ex-liberal

Ya. Who cares that we're talking about questionable business contacts that he's worked for in the last, ah, two years?

BTW, that's appropriate.

What is it with wingnuts, can't any of them spell? I mean, egbert/charlie at least admits to being home schooled.

Posted by: JeffII on November 28, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

He has to be kidding. Somebody is going to pay him for those articles. Talk about meaningless.
Posted by: corpus juris

Ah, he was joking there, corpse.

Posted by: JeffII on November 28, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

That's now what 'deconstruction' means, incidentally.

Not that anybody really knows *what* it's supposed to mean...

Posted by: Winston Smith on November 28, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Doe this mean that Kevin is going to pen some scurrilous article about Inkblot's potty training?

INKBLOT FOR PRESIDENT '08

Posted by: optical weenie on November 28, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

They have their story, and they're running with it. The facts, or any sense of proportion, or self-awareness, or public service, will just have to wait.

If by magic the staff, and alumni, of every J-School, were switched with the staff, and alumni, of every MFA creative writing program in the country, I don't think anybody would notice.

Things on balance would probably improve, insofar as the quality of the actual writing would improve.

On the tombstone of the Republic will be the epitaph "Killed By A Story Arc".

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on November 28, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

So, "Giuliani had dropped out of Air Force ROTC, citing a slight hearing impediment, and told colleagues that Vietnam did not meet the Catholic definition of a "just war.")"

Does he think Iraq is a just war? How can he? Especially since the Pope has declared it not to be and Rudy is a big believer in obedience to authority (according to the Newseek article). The article goes on at length about Rudy's Roman Catholic upbringing and scholarship. How does he square support of the war in Iraq with Aquinas's teachings? Shouldn't the author of the article be asking these questions?

Posted by: Jose Padilla on November 28, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I've noticed Kevin's tendency to call a lot of things he disagrees with or finds distasteful "insane" or some variant thereof. He might want to consider a different choice of language.

I actually sympathize with critics of the media's lust for "up close and personal" stories with public figures, and especially with Presidential candidates. Most of these stories I regard as superficial and irrelevant. But how are their authors insane? It seems to me they know that large numbers of newspaper readers and the great majority of television news viewers would rather look at stories about individual personalities and personal crises than examinations of government process or policy issues. To the news-consuming audience, the kind of car Barack Obama drove in law school or how much weight Mike Huckabee lost is interesting; what Joe Biden did to pull together a crime bill in the 1990s is, well, less.

You don't have to like this reality. But reality it is. So, too, is the limited interest of many journalists covering the campaign in what government does. The campaign is a specialized field of news all its own, demanding journalists' full attention. Expecting journalists who cover campaigns for a living to write stories about a particular campaign's implications for public policy is a little like expecting Karen Hughes to manage public diplomacy at the State Department -- you shouldn't expect to see it done, and it would be amazing if it were ever done well.

Posted by: Zathras on November 28, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

To the news-consuming audience, the kind of car Barack Obama drove in law school or how much weight Mike Huckabee lost is interesting; what Joe Biden did to pull together a crime bill in the 1990s is, well, less. Posted by: Zathras

I see. It's important to dumb down an already borderline retarded political process by keeping the public as far away from and as in the dark as possible about what our politicians are doing or intend to do.

And some people still wonder why Shrub got more than Texas' electoral votes in 2000.

Posted by: JeffII on November 28, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Chris Hayes says it's "almost insane" to report that Hillary Clinton clerked at a law firm run by attorneys with ties to the Communist Party.

Most of the civil rights movement had "ties to the Communist Party" because, in the 1920s and 1930s, the American Communist Party was the only political party that advocated for racial equality. Pretty much any law firm that had anything to do with the civil rights struggle would technically have "communist ties" because of this fact of American history.

So I guess we need to reverse the entire civil rights movement because they relied on dirty filthy pinko commie faggots like Bayard Rustin, right?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on November 28, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

And I was all set to vote for Hillary until I found out her favorite TV shows include Grey's Anatomy, American Idol, and Dancing with the Stars.

Posted by: AJ on November 28, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne: Most of the civil rights movement had "ties to the Communist Party" because, in the 1920s and 1930s, the American Communist Party was the only political party that advocated for racial equality. Pretty much any law firm that had anything to do with the civil rights struggle would technically have "communist ties" because of this fact of American history.

Fair enough, but the ties were closer in Hillary's case. The firm she worked for was Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein. Robert Truehaft and his wife Jessica Mitford had both been members of the Communist Party at one time.

I don't think that connection invalidates Hillary's candidacy. In fact, I admired Jessica Mitford back in my liberal Berkeley days. As I recall, she was active in the Berkeley Coop, where we did our marketing. "The American Way of Death" is a terrific expose.

Nevertheless IMHO there is some value to knowing what Hillary's politics were like 35 years ago, particularly because she has tended to give ambiguous answers during debates and interviews.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 28, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Robert Truehaft and his wife Jessica Mitford had both been members of the Communist Party at one time.

Oh noes! Members of a party that doesn't believe in making poor people suffer for being stupid enough to be born poor? Please, pass the smelling salts.

Jesus. Why not just say "members of the boogie man party" and be done with it?

Posted by: craigie on November 28, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Nevertheless IMHO there is some value to knowing what Hillary's politics were like 35 years ago, particularly because she has tended to give ambiguous answers during debates and interviews.
Posted by: ex-liberal

That's right! The maddeningly center-right positions she's espoused ever since she was First Lady are just a cover for her nefarious plot to turn American into a workers' paradise!

Idiot.

Posted by: JeffII on November 28, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK
…like 35 years ago….ex-lax at 4:12 PM
Let's take, for example, you, whose claim of having been more socially conscientious 35 years ago is supposed to be meaningful to your work as an RNC hack today? Nope, the McCarthyism and war mongering you exhibit today stands on its own. Posted by: Mike on November 28, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

There are a lot of dentists in Park Ridge where Hillary grew up.

Posted by: Luther on November 28, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

So I guess we need to reverse the entire civil rights movement because they relied on dirty filthy pinko commie faggots like Bayard Rustin, right? posted by: Mnemosyne

If you are referencing George Carlin there, I think the phrase was "commie fag junkie."

Posted by: JeffII on November 28, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

craigie: [the Communist Party is] a party that doesn't believe in making poor people suffer for being stupid enough to be born poor.

Communism is not good for poor people. People the world over have died trying to escape communism.

-- Poor people in North Korea would do anything to go live in South Korea.

-- Poor people in East Berlin risked their lives crossing the wall. Many were shot to death.

-- After the communists took over South Korea, hundreds of thousands sailed rickety boats to escape. Many drowned in the attempt.

-- Millions have fled Cuba since Castro took over, even though many escapees died in the attempt.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 28, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK


george w. bush was born on 3rd base....and he thinks he hit a triple.

Posted by: the ghost of ann richards on November 28, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Fair enough, but the ties were closer in Hillary's case. The firm she worked for was Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein. Robert Truehaft and his wife Jessica Mitford had both been members of the Communist Party at one time.

So was Lucille Ball. Better throw away those DVDs of "I Love Lucy." Again, a LOT of people joined the communist party in the 1920s and 1930s. It was not particularly remarkable, especially during the Depression.

Of course, you also had the people like David Horowitz join during the 1960s, and yet I don't hear you complaining about how it marked him forever.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on November 28, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

"insane level of candidate deconstruction" - practiced on everyone except George W. Bush, you mean....

Let's see - how rough was the media on a lazy, arrogant, coke-sniffing, alcoholic, bisexual deserter who didn't have a real job the first 40 years of his life??? Hm-m-mmmmm

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 28, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne: Again, a LOT of people joined the communist party in the 1920s and 1930s. It was not particularly remarkable, especially during the Depression.

Sure. My father was more-or-less a fellow traveler at that time. But, Treuhaft and Mitford didn't leave the American Communist Party until 1958.

Of course, you also had the people like David Horowitz join during the 1960s, and yet I don't hear you complaining about how it marked him forever.

That's a great example. I don't complain that David Horowitz is too liberal, because his words and behavior have made it utterly clear where he now stands.

Hillary, OTOH, has been coy about her positions during this campaign. So, in evaluating what kind of President she would be, I look at times in the past when her position was more evident. My guess is that she would be a very liberal President. YMMV.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 28, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, exie, according to Wikipedia, both Mitford and Truehaft left the communist party in 1958, a good decade before Hillary clerked for them:

"Feeling that in the current political climate they could do more for social justice outside the Party, and disillusioned by the development of Communism in the Soviet Union, Mitford and Treuhaft resigned from it in late 1958."

But, hey, why let the facts stand in the way of a good smear, right? Especially when you can smear people like Treuhaft, who worked tirelessly for civil rights throughout his career.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on November 28, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is that she would be a very liberal President.

You might want to look at the things she's done as a senator -- it's not like she has no record. Of course, looking at the actual facts won't allow you to continue living in your little fantasy world where Hillary is a far-left communist who will turn the whole country over to Stalin, so you'll never bother to do that.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on November 28, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

-- Poor people in North Korea would do anything to go live in South Korea. -- Poor people in East Berlin risked their lives crossing the wall. Many were shot to death. -- After the communists took over South Korea, hundreds of thousands sailed rickety boats to escape. Many drowned in the attempt. -- Millions have fled Cuba since Castro took over, even though many escapees died in the attempt. Posted by: ex-liberal

Yes, yes. We all saw Richard Burton in the Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

Why do you idiots on the right always bring this up? None of the countries you mention was ever communist or even socialist in anything other than name. They were/are authoritarian police states with fucked-up economies.

BTW, you forgot the Soviet Union, the PRC, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, etc., etc., etc.

Also, while the popular theme in the West amongst poorly informed mouth-breathers like yourself is that all these Koreans (and before this, Russians and E. Germans) were/are all willing to die trying to get to the West, the fact of the matter is most of them can't hack it here.

Go back and Google the troubles many of the Eastern Bloc and Soviet emirges experienced when they first got to the West where they had to actually work for a living. Read of the difficulties for folks in the east during the first five years of so of German reunification.

This experience was not universal, but having grown up in a corrupt system that taught and encouraged dependency and secretive behavior, it was a pretty tough time for many of the early arrivals. Same is true for N. Koreans who make it south, unless they have family it can be a nasty adjustment.

Finally, Cuba probably would have become a "normal" country about two decades ago if it weren't for our stupid policies. We're happy to buy cheap shit from China by the literal boat load, but we still can't buy Cuban cigars because of people like you and all the fucking annoying Cubans who have been here since the 60s. But just you watch, all the presidential candidates will go down to Miami and either dry hump of be dry humped the collective Cuban community for a couple hundred thousand votes when this bloc should have been told to go fuck itself twenty years ago.

Posted by: JeffII on November 28, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII: None of the countries you mention was ever communist or even socialist in anything other than name. They were/are authoritarian police states with fucked-up economies.

I thought "Authoritarian police state with fucked up economy" was the definition of communism. :)

Seriously, Jeff, all the woulda, coulda, shoulda doesn't mean much. We can do a fair measurement of communism by comparing countries that got split into communist and capitalist parts: Germany, Korea, PRC vs Taiwan and Hong Kong. In every case the capitalist economic engine left the communists in the dust.

Or, look at countries who economy faltered after they adopted communism or socialism, like Cuba and Zimbabwe.

Or, look how much better off Eastern Europe is now that they're free from communism.

The idea of a communist state that preserves freedom and works well economically sounds swell, but it doesn't work in the real world.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 28, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Ex-liberal, your moral squalor is astounding.


You barge in comparing members of a Communist party in the West to Nazis. Except that Nazis actually, you know, advocate murdering Blacks, Jews, and so on. Not like that's ever happened in this country.


JeffII correctly points out that North Korea, etc. was never Socialist except in name, and so you then start yammering on as if JeffII (et al.) said he was Communist.

Seriously, Jeff, all the woulda, coulda, shoulda doesn't mean much. We can do a fair measurement of communism by comparing countries that got split into communist and capitalist parts...

Goddamit, you jackass, I'm sick of you just making shit up and putting it in people's mouths. Do you listen? THOSE.COUNTRIES.WEREN'T.SOCIALIST. Stalin was a thermidorean fascist. Hence, no, genius, you CANNOT make a fair comparison between an occupied & plundered part of country, and its heavily-aided, internationally connected other part, and call that a fair comparison between economic systems.


And saying authentic Communists aren't comparable to Nazis is not the same thing to, you know, being one.

Posted by: James R MacLean on November 28, 2007 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of that, how millions of Iraqis have fled Iraq since your little adventure there? A hell of a lot more than did during the period 1978-2003, that's certain.

Posted by: James R MacLean on November 28, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

It's like that brilliant "intuitive" paper handed in by the cleverest guy in the room with no footnotes or sources. He gets a D and realizes that he's reached his ceiling, and starts going to the library.
Or he doesn't, and goes into speculative journalism.
I mean, has anyone EVER seen a thorough, well-sourced article by Brooks, Friedman or Dowd, et al?

Posted by: Steve Paradis on November 29, 2007 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK
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