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Slacker Sunday | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Slacker Sunday

I did a "Think Again" column about the Supreme Court decision oncampaign spending called "Court Disposes, Media Yawn" and that's here.

And here's my Nation column on Game Change.

And here's Charles.

CHARLES PIERCENEWTON, MA.

Hey Doc --

"Here by the sea and sand/Nothing ever goes as planned."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Is You Ever Seen A One-Eyed Woman Cry?"(Earl King) -- One team represents the city. The other team'squarterbackgrew up there, and his father was the home team's only real legend foranawfully long time. This year's Big-ass Football Game is proof positivethatJesus loves New Orleans almost as much as I do. Almost.

Short Takes

Part The First:

I don't know if y'all missed it, but here's the instant take on theSOTU.

And, in other news from the home front, here's something I wrote a whileback describing the futility of the campaign being waged bySenator-electMcDreamy. Pretty funny, I think, and it's hard tobelieve people don't come to me for investment advice.

Part The Second:

There's never a tumbrel around when you needone.

Part The Third:

My pal Neiwert arranges for a publicevisceration in the vain hope that it willmatter to either Mommy's Little Historian, or to the various dim peoplewho take him seriously. At this point, I figure, Robert Paxton probablywishes he'd gone into the lumber business.

Part The Penultimate:

It is important to remember that the White House spent almost an entireyear trying to win over thistwit. Which brings us to...

Part The Ultimate:

By any reasonable standard, the president of theUnited States walked into a banquet room filled with the elected eliteofthe opposition political party and, frankly, made all of them look likesecond-rate callers to a micro-rated afternoon-drive radio talk show.Thesepeople simply...had...nothing. Slogans. Doctrines detached fromevidence.Rhetoric unmoored from reality. A nine-page binder with wide margins, asthough an entire political party was trying to fool a seventh-gradehistoryprofessor. To call this gathering an intellectual desert was to insultsand. There is an argument to be made -- and bothDigby andSteve made it well--that any real politicalgain from this exercise would be dissipated in the aftermath, bothbecause the people in question stopped being embarrassed by anything,including themselves, at least 20 years ago, and because the coverage ofthe event would be resolutely "even-handed." In fact, the whole thing islikely to mean damn-all come November.

I take that point and, indeed, the coverage of the event did seem tolargely overlook the fact that the president de-pantsed the Republicancongressional delegation. My lord, these people looked stupid, andnasty,and monumentally unprepared for any task more complicated than choosingproduce. Talking about lobbyists, I thought Jason Chaffetz was going tocry, and Marsha Blackburn is a very underrated wingnut loon. (Watch out,Michelle! The tea-party crowd has a new crush.) And can we please put asock on all this talk about Mike Pence being a "policy intellectual?"JesusH. Christ on a luxury yacht, this is the guy whooncecompared a marketplace in Baghdad to an Indiana flea market. He has not,ah, improved in the three years since. In fact, these clowns ought toconsider themselves lucky that it was calm, reasonable,open-to-discussion Barack Obama who came to chat with them. Anybody less dedicated to the fiction that the national Republican party is somehow a reasoning entity would have been laughingtoo hard to answer more than one of these questions. There is no way,however, under the rules of conventional journalism, that one can write any ofthat. Tim Crouse identified this phenomenon back in 1972, when he was coveringthe Nixon campaign and realized that the daily reporters on the bus weresimply precluded by the rules of "objectivity" from pointing out thatthe Trick was telling outright and barefaced non-facts in his stump speech.I was raised in that tradition and I think, by and large, it is a goodone. Doesn't mean it's helpful to the body politic, though.

Whatever else, there is no longer an excuse available to anyone whoempowers these people with a vote next fall. It was all out there tosee.

Name: John Barker

Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Recently I was having a conversation with my son about efforts of the right to take over journalism in the same way they've taken over the courts. The arrests of James O'Keefe and friends had me reflecting on this a bit further and I realized there are actually at least four

levels in the conservative "news" food chain.

* Fox News, the gold standard of conservative "journalism." They take everything that starts below and use the fact that it originated elsewhere to give it a veneer of respectability.

* Right wing pundits, who frequently give a shout out to Andrew Breitbart for smears that they cite on their own shows, providing a conduit from the world of flakes and crackpots to the country's leading "news network."

* Breitbart TV, Newsmax.com, the Drudge Report, and other "alternative media" web sites. Some of these sites, notably Breitbart, operate under multiple names to give the impression that this is a large, grass roots movement as opposed to a small number of ethically challenged operatives who feed smears to the bigger fish. Drudge has become a premium outlet, almost another step in the hierarchy that bubbles this stuff up from the world of tinfoil hats to the evening news. After all, Mark Halperin is famously on record as saying "MattDrudge rules our world."

* Idiots like James O'Keefe, brilliant, upcoming journalist for his undercover pimp "expose" of ACORN and now just toxic enough for the higher levels to avoid due to his arrest in Senator Mary Landrieu's office. The food chain needs pawns like this guy. If they put together enough misleading stories their stock will rise high enough to move them up a notch and make them revered examples of the power of the alternative media. If they make a big enough mistake there's probably more to the story than we know and anyway he's not MY employee.

The reason I lay all of this out is because of the undercurrent of plausible deniability throughout. If someone steps too far out of line and gets nabbed by the law or raises the public ire he's just an individual actor.

Plausible deniability actually came into the public consciousness during the Iran-ContraAffair during which it was discovered that there was a deliberate strategy to keep President Reagan far enough from the decision making process to insulate him from possible damage. It was a successful attempt to continue the "ends justify the means" attitude of the Republican party without getting horribly burned as they did in Watergate.

Which is why Iran-Contra should have been prosecuted to the hilt, along with anything that smells of major scandal. I have little doubt that Fox News and the entire misinformation hierarchy will be willing to call for that standard should there be a whiff of misdeed within the Obama Administration. Failures pre 9-11 and the run up to the Iraq war are different, of course. That's all in the past and we're better off to just move on. Naturally. Drudge said so.

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