Aggressive ignorance in the pundit class is facilitated in a number of ways: from above (Russert gets to be Jack Welch's pool boy) most importantly, but also from below, from the mistaken impression that Russert asking John Edwards about his haircuts, or fumbling his Hillary Clinton Gotcha! (we say he can't believe what he says; we don't say he's smart) are examples of him doing his job. The fact is that Russert could not actually do his job (that of "journalist", charitably defined, we mean) if he believed haircuts to be serious matters, or was incapable of distinguishing between the declarative and the rhetorical (it may have been lost in the hubub, but the Mystery Quote did not condone or defend torture; Bill Clinton merely restated the ticking-time-bomb argument). Russert asks those questions not because there's some theoretical interest in the answer, but because the frame runs thus: Democrats are Limousine Liberals, Democrats aren't tough on defense, Democrats play to constituencies which are outside the mainstream of American thought and can thus be exposed during these See The Wheels Spinning moments. The difference between Russert and Les Kinsolving is quantitative, not qualitative.
(In fact we have to ask whether Russert actually believed he was setting up a Gotcha! moment--what Gotcha! is there, really, in what someone else said?--or if he was, as we think more likely, just trying to wrong-foot her. If Senator Clinton is in a rested, relaxed state, how far does "here's a quote from 'a guest' on Meet the Press" get? Particularly when it's vaguely right-wing sounding, who is she going to imagine the Mystery Guest will turn out to be?)
It may be a little tougher to defend the idea with strictly wingnut punditry, in no small measure because Jonah Goldberg gives every impression of being even stupider than he gives every impression of being. Still, as we have argued before, you cannot simultaneously hold ideas like "assault weapons should not be banned because they aren't really assault weapons" or "there's no scientific consensus on global warming" or "Fred Thompson is a viable candidate" and make it to middle age without being killed while attempting to cross a busy street. The skill sets are mutually exclusive.
And so we approach the third installment of what we hope is Michael Medved's trilogy on what American history would look like if explained by the reanimated corpse of a Confederate drummer boy to a group of small children who'd just ingested large quantities of nutmeg. "The Founders Intended A Christian, Not Secular, Society" follows last week's classic "Slavery? The Coloreds Never Had It So Good!" and the previous "The Indians All Died Of Smallpox, And That Huge Pile Of Bison Skulls Was Put There By Jesus After He Built The Grand Canyon."
I don't think this really merits a response, any more than his review of, say, Father of the Bride 6: The Rebridening would. Like most semi-rational people and certain members of his own family, I've had as little to do with Medved as I possibly could. There was a brief attempt to impress him upon the unsuspecting warm-blooded and able-to-feed-themselves public in the 1970s with that Golden Turkeys thing, which found enough of an audience that it created the James Lileks People Who Are Desperate To Feel Superior To Carpeting demographic. This he parlayed inexplicably into a gig as the inexplicable host of PBS's inexplicable decision to replace the departed middlebrow duo of Siskel and Ebert with the no-brow duo of Medved and Jeffrey Lyons. All of this was later explicaled, as Medved was outed yelling "Stop tape!" so he could appropriate a bon mot Lyons had dropped. Medved may very well be the only person for whom paid whoring for the Right is a moral step up.
What I didn't know before today is that the adjective besotted author of:
The ludicrous indignation about Senator McCain’s recent remarks remains an expression of both ignorance and intolerance, and a mean-spirited refusal to recognize the simple truth in his statements.
entered Yale at sixteen. And yet now, forty-four years later, he's struggling to complete his home-schooling GED. "How much better can ya eat?" a wise man once asked.