Slacker Friday

Slacker Friday

The week in politics, media and Sarah Palin.


My new Think Again column on the relative dearth of women and progressive perspectives on Sunday morning gabfests is called “Networks to Women: Never on Sunday” and it’s here.

I’ve got a newNationcolumn called “’Cutthroat’ Crybabies” about the White House press corps silly fights over Helen Thomas’s seat here.

I wrote an letter to the editor in response to The Nation’s editorial "Free Gaza," and that’s here.

Now here’s the man.


Hey Doc:

"An’ all these voices keep on askin’ me to take them/To Grand Central Station."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: Need Her So Bad (Ainsley Lister)—I am taking bids now on a project by which displaced sharks are repatriated to the fountains outside of BP headquarters over which I will erect a banner on which I will explain how much I love New Orleans.

Part The First: Dear DNC, They are writing your ads for YOU. Also, please remember this when the greasy homunculus runs for president in 2012.

Part The Second: Yeah, no shite, SHERLOCK. Which leads me to wonder whether or not this country would have the balls to establish a series of these inquiries about the activities of various government entities in the years 2000-2008, even 38 years after the fact. Actually, I don’t wonder about that at all. Of course, some Serious People are afraid that British fee-fees may be HURT by the truth. Folk memory? After 38 years? Jesus wept.

Part The Third: Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Republican party has a candidate in Alabama who is clearly INSANE.

Part The Fourth: By a factor of about eleventy billion, Andrew Ferguson is the best writer produced by the early days of Mr. Murdoch’s startlingly advertising-free little political fanzine, and one of the best ones working in any magazine anywhere. But as soon as I read his lengthy fluffing of the dazzlingly unlikeable Mitch Daniels, I said to myself, "Well, I’m a stranger here along the docks of Blogistan, but I know one person who’s coming down the alley with a pipewrench in his hand." Here he IS. Gaze in awe.

Part The Fifth: Two of my favorite people are making me SNEEZE. Turns out I’m very allergic to certain kinds of straw.

Part The Penultimate: THIS is an interesting development, and probably is the start of something in the world of politics, but sportswriters will tell you that the notion of subjects’ speaking only in a self-selected media universe happened in sports years ago. Witness the handpicked participants in Tiger Woods’ "remorse" press conference a month or so back.

Part The Ultimate: This week, there was a faint, twinkling moment in which I harbored the notion that Parson Meacham might not be completely beyond, well, redemption—in the journalistic sense, anyway. There he was, on the panel of Bill Maher’s show along with Dr. Maddow and Bill Frist, the latter of whom apparently has climbed out of the politician’s remainder bin. Anyway, Frist was bloviating on about one thing or another, and reminding people why they’d got so sick of him in the first place. And the Parson, gently, but unmistakably, made a snarky reference to the absolute nadir of Frist’s public career—his execrable long-distance meddling in the prolonged death of Terri Schiavo. I’m not even sure Frist heard it. (Dr. Maddow appeared to be trying to calculate exactly now many IQ points she had on her fellow panelists.) But I did. And I gave the Parson a little bit of a golf clap for his efforts.

Then I saw this week’s edition of the Parson’s struggling magazine.



First of all, why would you willingly offer space in a respectable publication to Karl Rove? (No linky, Karl. Go beg for food.) It’s not like there aren’t other conservative commentators in the Parson’s rolodex. This is a man who never has drawn an honest breath in his entire public life. His public career has been wholly dedicated to cheating and deceit. He isn’t to be trusted on anything at all. Why give a by-line to a career ratfucker, Parson?

And then there is the Palin thing.

THIS may be the most singularly credulous piece of national reporting I’ve ever read. I believe that this author regularly comes home having purchased a bag of magic beans. I sincerely believe she could be mugged through the mail. I am in awe of this piece of work, if only for the almost limitless vista of simple common sense that it chooses to ignore in its plucky search for a coherent narrative. This is not journalism. This is Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Let us all open our hymnals and turn to page 1. Sarah Palin is a self-evident twit. This is obvious in almost every single public pronouncement that she’s made since 2008. She has not gotten smarter, more politically deft, or, if most polls are to be believed, more popular generally in the two years since that happened. She knows virtually nothing about any major issue; witness her performance in the wake of the presidential address on the crisis of the Gulf, in which her complete lack of knowledge about any aspect of what she was talking about gobsmacked, of all people, Bill O’Reilly, whose gob is not easy to smack, not that somebody shouldn’t have tried years ago. And this was concerning an issue on which John McCain assured the nation that Palin knew more than anyone else in public life.

If you’re going to argue that she’s a "king—or queen—maker," and you cite her endorsement of Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman as exhibits for the defense, you really are obligated to point out that it’s likely that the personal fortunes of both those women played a bigger role in their having won primary elections in California than did their anointment by Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods. (You might also want to mention that her record in congressional races is pretty spotty, and that, last week, when she endorsed Terry Branstad for governor of Iowa, her fans revolted and Branstad jumped as though he’d seen a snake.) If you’re going to argue that attitudes on abortion may be changing, you really should take into account the nearly four decades of legal and political assault—and the three decades of armed terrorist assault—aimed at "changing minds" on the issue. That is, if you’re doing journalism, and not writing from a cave on Patmos.

When Palin talks about anything of substance, there is no evidence that she knows anything about verbs, let alone the topic at hand. So the idea that her spiritual life is any deeper than her political philosophy—and that includes what I, in my constitutionally protected opinion, believe is that complete fairy-tale about the dark night of the soul that Palin experienced after finding out she was pregnant, an episode that this piece finds so revealing—requires a offer of proof far beyond her simple say-so. That video of her being prayed over by Rev. Thomas Muthee didn’t just give "the left"—oh, God, no—"the willies." It shook up mainstream (or, perhaps, "lamestream") Christians as well. This was not because these people distrust public prayer. This was because the Rev. Muthee is a pretty good facsimile of a public LUNATIC. The man is an actual WITCH-HUNTER. This might have been worth a sentence or two.

And, if you’re trying to make the case that Palin’s appeal to a fringe group of American Protestantism represents a sea-change in "feminism," you might at least remark upon the fact that an awful lot of the women to whom Palin is a role model seem to be upper middle-class white people with disposable income and a lot of time on their hands—like the woman from Colorado Springs "with four grown daughters" who has the time and money to travel "a thousand miles" to hear Palin try to get from a subject to a predicate without turning an ankle. Must be nice.

That Palin an idol to a group of people whose religious ideas are, shall we say, a bit unconventional requires that the journalist exercise at least a modicum of skepticism, if only to demonstrate that the journalist was not, at the time of the interview, unconscious. For example, when someone—a marketing executive with a Palin fan-site to pitch, mirabile dictu!—tells the journalist that, "The anointing on her is so strong," then the journalist should at least point out that the Christian marketing executive has the same amount of empirical proof behind that assertion as does the guy who says he saw a UFO over his barn. Or the journalist could decide not to use the quote, because it’s plainly batshit. We are not required to give various ignorama the benefit of that much of a doubt just because they happen to be good at making noise.

And then, inevitably, we have this passage: "Palin has her faults, but the left is partially to blame for her ascent. Its native mistrust of religion, of conservative believers in particular, left the gap that Palin now fills." That is all my balls, lady. It is not the fault of The Left that there are people in this country so bone-deep ignorant that they’ll follow a transparent grifter because they see in her a vessel for their own personal religious and cultural neuroses. It is not the fault of The Left that an entire political party has lost its mind. It is not the fault of The Left that it has not made sufficiently nicey-nice to political preachers and their easily sheared flocks. And, not for nothing, but most of the people that I know who distrust "conservative believers" do so because the latter have been committed for decades to crackpot religion and retrograde social policy that, in combination, have hurt far more people than they’ve ever helped. When did my business get so utterly corrupt? I’m telling you, THIS is by far vastly more believable reportage.

Editor’s Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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