"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Republicans and the code of self-protection

We now know that Tom DeLay is a crook. His smile for his mugshot photo didn't score him any points, I guess. It's nice that in America, still, a powerful wheeler-dealer like DeLay can get nailed if the evidence points that way.
It's interesting to see how Republicans behave when one of their own becomes totally cornered. When they can no longer parse and spin.
They become angry. They're like the dog in "Cujo."
When Michele Bachmann recently made some indefensible comments about Barack Obama's trip abroad, Andy Card became completely unhinged on TV with Anderson Cooper.
Cooper hosts "AC 360." It's an uphill battle over there at CNN where they still promote "objective journalism." I use quotes because today so many are skeptical about the "objectivity" ideal of journalism. Historically it has been synonymous with sound journalism. That's the model.
Many critics assert, however, that it's really only synonymous with "legacy" journalism.
Back when the media were so terribly exclusive - not that long ago - journalism had to be monetized in order to exist. Advertisers wanted calm waters. The people who wrote the news took pains to appear like they had no opinions. They found an imaginary midpoint between conflicting sides and wrote as if they were perched precisely at that midpoint.
Never mind that one side might be demonstrably nuts or ignorant, and the other side reasonable.
"Objectivity" seemed proper.
What the owners of media product didn't realize then, was that media consumers found this boring. One reason why newspaper websites are so boring today is that newspaper people are still locked into the old model.
The shackles have come off. We all want truth of course. The whole purpose of "talking points" is to use demonstrable facts to make a partisan point. But the phantom "referee" of reporter is no longer needed.
People resent "reporters" who feel it's part of their mission to not disclose their opinions. People would rather know a writer's opinions, or at least his basic perspective, than not know it.
The old model was condescending. It succeeded because the legacy media had almost no competition. It was adhered to because advertisers didn't want controversy detracting from their own message of "come spend!"
The sheer scarcity of media encouraged that bland tone too. There were limited avenues for rebuttal, a la "Floyd R. Turbo" of the Johnny Carson Show.
Ol' Floyd was a real tea partier.
Newspaper publishers are sticking with their old philosophy and acting bewildered about why their readers are turning away. Packing a website with Pablum-like stories won't get you anywhere.
And CNN is having to accept being a lower-tier news network because of its legacy philosophy.
Anderson Cooper does what he can to keep that network viable. It's the network that brought us the first Gulf War, remember? It's the network where you can catch Larry King interviewing the latest fallen celebrity seeking redemption. Larry is retiring.
When I saw Andy Card as a talking head next to Cooper on the screen - they were in different locations - I knew it wasn't going to go comfortably. The topic was Michele Bachmann's uninformed comments about the cost of Obama's trip. Card is a Republican like Bachmann. Card is the one who whispered to President George Bush that the 9/11 attacks were happening.
Republicans do not criticize other Republicans. (I think the apes had a similar code in "Planet of the Apes.")
When absolutely cornered, like Card was in this case, they become like that canine Cujo, all but foaming at the mouth (and maybe even some of that).
Of course they attack the messenger. Surely they could be more creative than that.
(. . ."And stop calling me Shirley." - Leslie Nielsen RIP)
Mr. Card became confrontational with Cooper. It got personal.
"Anderson, why are you flogging this story?" Card said.
I'm reminded of Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin in "The Naked Gun" saying "there's nothing to see here, folks, nothing to see."
I hope that what Card meant was that Republicans should be left alone to clean up their own messes. That's tough when a jury reaches a guilty verdict as with Tom DeLay.
Cooper should not have even bothered getting defensive in trying to hold his ground with Mr. Card.
Cooper said "Bachmann used our air time to make these accusations (of overspending for the India trip)."
Therefore, Cooper reasoned, it's proper fodder for a follow-up discussion and critique.
Would anyone dispute this logic? "Cujo" would.
"Anderson, it's not your air time," Card said, his voice raised.
Only in our dreams would Card say something reasonable like "you know, Anderson, sometimes people with partisan motivations get a little carried away and Republicans can be as guilty of this as anyone."
Bachmann had bought into assertions from the far right that Obama's trip was costing $200 million a day. Rush Limbaugh pumped up that story. You'd pump it up too if you had a $400 million contract to perform this kind of shtick for a particular constituency: the Floyd R. Turbo's.
Cooper asked Card if the likes of Bachmann had sought verification of the facts. Card couldn't spin so he became Cujo-like. All of a sudden it was Cooper who was irrational. Let's make Cooper a symbol of the arrogant big-time media, with "Anderson, it's not your air time."
Sarah Palin would whine about "lamestream media."
With Republicans, the end justifies the means. The end is to get elected to keep taxes down on the rich. There's no intent to really govern.
Republicans don't want people to like government.
DeLay was part of a Republican surge that blew its chance to prove my assertions wrong. Conservatives can't govern because they have no interest in governing.
Am I just blowing them off? No, because as I have written before, conservatives are a valued voice of restraint, to remind us of the limits of effective governing.
But Republicans absolutely cannot drive the train themselves.
Republicans use the language of austerity to get elected. Once in Washington D.C. though, they become members of the country club. We've already seen Rand Paul begin to back off from his zealousness about earmarks. Congressional earmarks are a drop in the bucket. If Republicans get feet of clay on this, we'll have nothing but "business as usual" in Washington just like I suggested all along.
Will the likes of Paul actually vote against raising the debt limit?
Government will only fundamentally change if this nation has a real crisis, something like a 1929 stock market crash. Government will then adjust just to keep the ship of state together.
And Democrats would do it along with Republicans. Because it's really just one big racket.
Don't fight it, Mr. Cooper.
Maybe Wikileaks can succeed in pulling the masks off all the charlatan politicians. But I don't think the lamestream media will.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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