Thursday, March 25

Forget It, Jake

John Dickerson, "WTF Did Biden Just Say? A brief history of bad language in Washington". March 23

William Saletan, "Trick or Entreat? Was the bipartisan health care summit a fraud?" March 24

MY abject distain for local Channel 8 news was tempered last week, as CBS was covering college hoops and my Poor Wife had to get her ten-to-the-hour weather updates from Channel 13, which is the top-rated local news, evidently because its anchor team most closely approximates a troop of circus performers.

And 13 was touting its sponsorship of the upcoming Susan B. Komen walk, which meant a promo in which those same anchors had removed half the clown makeup, and were shouting at half-volume, because the one they employ for people with twenty defecating dogs, or toddlers let loose on highways* would be unseemly when blowing one's own horn. 13 Cares! was the tagline, which really tended to underscore, at least for the somewhat partisan viewer, how little 13 seemed to care about reporting larger issue of healthcare with something approaching accuracy. You may say I'm a dreamer.

And without further ado, here are back-to-back Slate columns:
Joe Biden has proved that even after a year of debate over health care reform, not everything had been said. At a White House signing ceremony for the legislation, the vice president turned to the president and said, as he embraced Obama, "This is a big fucking deal." The remark was intended to be private but was picked up by the microphone at the podium.

Let us now resolve that among the unenumerated duties of the vice president is to occasionally uncork an expletive in public. This is not Biden's first time. At a ceremony announcing funding for his beloved Amtrak, he was greeted by a former colleague as "Mr. Vice President." He replied, "Give me a fucking break." Biden's predecessor famously used the same epithet in an exchange with a senator.* [sic] And Vice President George H.W. Bush, when asked how he did against Geraldine Ferraro in the vice-presidential debates in 1984, said, "We tried to kick a little ass."

Biden's remark may have been inappropriate for polite company, but it was apt. It summed up precisely the nature, scope and impact of the legislation better than any of the 627 words he had just spoken. He lavished such praise on the president, Obama was forced to stare at the floor just as my fabulous and accomplished children do when I tell everyone how fabulous and accomplished they are.

Yes, Reader, the author of this piece is old enough to be a parent and doesn't mind you knowing this.

That asterisk, by the way, leads to an explanation that Dickerson had, in his original draft, confused a Cheney expletive, tossed at an opponent on the Senate floor, with the microphone-overheard "major league asshole" from Candidate Bush in 2000. Maybe it's just me and my galloping senility which are shocked, but that Bush thing got a lot of play back then. The remark was made to Cheney, and it may not be too surprising that someone would reverse the attribution a decade later, but forgetting Cheney's Fuck you!, which was first denied, then celebrated, seems more like an example of the sort of Press scrutiny the Bush/Cheney administration got at the time.

Anyway, alert readers may have noticed that I have little problem with that Late 17th century (at least) expletive of uncertain etymology, though I avoid employing anything stronger than "damn" in what bodice-clutching Slate reporters like to call "polite company", not that I'm invited there very often. I'm pretty sure that fucking has been a settled issue since Norman Mailer shocked polite company with fug over sixty years ago, and that the Nixon tapes confirmed that politicians occasionally indulge, just like real folks. Biden now stands accused of saying healthcare legislation is "a big fucking deal"? It is a big fucking deal. What was he supposed to say, "Capital achievement, wot?" Give us a fucking break. It was picked up by a microphone. Let's kill those, and imprison the owners.

And I dunno about you, but as far as I'm concerned, Biden's "give me a fucking break" on being addressed--who knows in what comic seriousness or inborn obsequiousness?--as "Mr. Vice President" by an old colleague (also overheard by the spinsters of the Press) is the highest achievement of this administration so far.

But it's another day, another pressing political issue at Slate, as William "The Solution To The Abortion Question Is For Everyone To Agree With Me" Saletan tries some mouth-to-mouth on the month-old corpse of that Bipartisan Health Care Summit:
A month later, health reform has passed without a single Republican vote, and Democratic aides are boasting about how their bosses used the Feb. 25 meeting to outsmart Republicans. "Behind the scenes, Obama had, in fact, already settled on a strategy," Politico reports. "He would invite Republicans and Democrats to a summit, to give them one last chance at compromise, knowing they wouldn't budge. And privately, he had decided that his favored approach was a comprehensive bill."

The New York Times gives a similar account…

The Wall Street Journal agrees…

So does the Washington Post…

Of these four accounts, only the Post reports any sincerity in the cross-party outreach, and that sincerity, partial at best, is Obama's alone. As for Reid and Pelosi, the Times account suggests their participation was a diversion. At the meeting, Reid denied that Democrats were talking about using budget reconciliation to bypass a filibuster. "No one has talked about reconciliation," he told Republicans. "We as leaders here, the Speaker and I, have not talked about doing reconciliation as the only way out of all this."

Well, if the mass-market Inside Baseball Beltway reporters all agree on a theme, I guess the matter's settled. Q.E.D. Jimmy Carter Brand™ cardigans for everybody!

Y'know, I know everybody at Slate was busy celebrating the imminent removal of the imminent threat that was Saddam Hussein, but someone might have noticed that political grandstanding and legislative maneuver got us into that seven-year-and-counting disaster. What excuse there was for not noting at the time the howls of Bipartisanship Equals Treachery! coming from the Right, except for the fact that the howling is so constant few can pay attention and not go mad, I can't begin to figure.

For us, "as reported by Politico" is enough to resolve the question. But, sheesh, let's grant that the whole thing was a charade. So what? Republicans have been claiming a real concern for healthcare reform for a year now, and they were demanding the bill be scrapped and a new beginning made. And saying so paints them in the most favorable light; what they were really doing was salivating over a Democratic defeat and Republican landslide in November, and that's being nice about it. And they had their hand called. That there was no bipartisan approach possible on this Plane is entirely the doing of Republicans, who have shown, without dispute, except possibly at Slate, that they would vote in unison against Sunrise or the Ten Commandments if there was a hint Barack Obama would benefit from them. I've been suspicious about these guys since I saw my first Impeach Earl Warren billboard, and even I'd be surprised if it turns out they are so far gone en masse they can no longer figure out that every issue has at least two sides.
Is this story false? It's hard to believe four news organizations would independently concoct it. But it's also hard to understand why the reporters' obvious sources—Democratic aides—freely told it. Don't they see how bad it makes their bosses look? Aren't they embarrassed?

I don't think so. I think they're proud of it. That's why they're telling the tale to one reporter after another. When you've been in politics too long, shrewdness becomes more important than earnestness. You'd rather get credit for suckering the other side than be accused of having been suckered by them. So you reduce the summit to a stunt. You exaggerate your boss's gamesmanship and minimize his naiveté. Better to be thought a liar than a fool.

Jesus wept.
That's too bad. One of Obama's best qualities—a quality he shares with George W. Bush—is his overall sincerity.

Jesus fucking wept.


* Two episodes of highway-toddling escapees in the past week, and they've been quite instructive. First, the infants in question are inevitably described as being "clad only in a diaper", as though decent parents dress theirs in morning jackets and prom dresses. Second, it's always noted that Child Protective Services have been Called In, and all children in the home removed temporarily to government care (unless somebody at the house once smoked a joint, in which case everyone's headed for state receivership of some sort or other), but the actual dispensation of the case is never reported. In the first incident last week, a reporter was on the spot checking the screen door successfully for an absent or malfunctioning lock, and then later to interview the (Hispanic) uncle who showed up to fix it. You may compare--the "news" people sure aren't going to do it for you--the coverage earlier this month when the boat-encrusted Hamilton county ice at Morse reservoir proved no match for seven- and four-year-old sisters who, fortunately, were wearing more than diapers. That one was a miraculous rescue tale, with God in a major role.


Julia Grey said...

My 20-month-old son once opened the front door at 6 a.m. and wandered out into the neighborhood while I was still asleep. I didn't know he could get out of his bedroom, much less unlock the front door. Clever boy.

I almost got arrested for that myself, and the fact that my dishes hadn't been washed the night before seemed to have a lot to do with the sniffy first responding officer's zeal to see me off to the pokey. Thank heavens she was over-ruled.

I think the only thing that saved my bacon was that they would have had to figure out what to do with my 4 year old daughter in the meantime and they couldn't spare the manpower or something.

Look, I'm all for the authorities getting on parental cases for true reckless endangerment, but I find that I now take many of these "neglect" cases (in which a pre-rational kid manages to get away from their parents' direct supervision for 10 minutes or less) with a grain of salt.

(And don't the Scolds despise you just as much when you put a harness on your two-year old at the mall?)

The CAPTCHA is appropriate again: fumings

Murfyn said...

pay attention and not go mad
That would be a great name for a blog.

D. Sidhe said...

The "give me a fucking break" thing is kind of endearing. Of the things I don't much like about Biden, his occasional dumbassitude is not actually on the list, mainly because he's usually not being nasty at people when he does it. But it figures the dipshits in the media can't tell the difference between "Go fuck yourself" and "This is a big fucking deal". The words always seem to give them the vapors, never the intent. Honestly, the shit Bush and Cheney said that *didn't* include swear words was worse, if only because that's what got people killed.

-dg said...

I used to wander in the middle of the night and have nearly fatal misadventures as a young child. My parents rigged a net over my crib after the second time I got out to wander down the street in the snow. Disaster was averted because they were awakened by the cold coming in the open front door.

I was lucky then and even luckier when I was three and made myself a nice pitcher of martinis to celebrate the wee hours. The liquor was kept in a locked cabinet but the key was on a top shelf in the kitchen and this was no obstacle to an observant and energetic boy. My father heard the thump when I passed out and fell. I'm told that I was in a deep coma by the time we got to the ER to have my stomach pumped.

heydave said...

I don't have any rousing stories of my own or my children's nocturnal adventures, at least none that I'll share now. Perhaps I'm just too flabbergasted at the dishonest (fucking stupid?) slime oozing out of the Slate.

jrsutter said...

It is a big fucking deal and I intend to say it alot even though one of my students approached me or backed me into the corner next to the whiteboard depending on your perspective and said how "disappointed" he was with today's lecture since I said who cares if the health care is socialism considering the whole damn nation could use a little socialism, is run on something other than a market economy and that socialism is Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and every fucking time the banks, the car makers and goddamn Harley-Davidson under Reagan. But he was disappointed in my lecture. The one he interrupted twice. The first time yelling "socialism!" and the second time when I was explaining how it would be funded with taxes on the wealthiest. He actually said, "why should people who work harder get taxed more?" And I said, perhaps it would be a more fair way to keep the poor from actually eating the rich and that I doubted anyone was working harder than me to get through this fucking lecture without idiotic sophomoric interruptions parroted from radio talk shows. For some reason I just remembered that some preacher used to broadcast from Mexico--Father Divine? NO Gene Scott? NO. Well, that is about where these morons are getting their information about health care legislation. I don't care just keep it out of my fucking classroom.

I don't care of Joe Biden says "fuck" every third fucking word. These goddamn Nazi Republican sons of bitches will burn down the Democrats' offices and blame the Democrats for the fire.

Kathy said...

Ha! My too-year-old locked me OUT of our house one evening, when I was putting out the trash bin. She locked all the doors...I pleaded with her thru the sliding patio-door, but she ignored me, while chatting on the phone with her Dad. Luckily, I remembered the kitchen window (the one over the sink) latch was defective, and I managed to open it and crawl thru. My daughter was entranced, and wanted to crawl thru the kitchen window TOO. She wept when I said no.
(Next day I fixed the kitchen window latch).
The scary story was when we were wandering thru Fry's electronics and she simply vanished -yes, vanished- I ran around hysterically calling her name and asking strangers if they'd seen her...they helped the search. If any of us had looked UP, wed have seen her at the top of a stacked display, playing happily. A clerk climbed the mountain and brought her down. I'd have given him everything I owned, but he laughed and declined my purse. Next time I visited Fry's (a weekly adventure) the stacked display was enclosed. Smart Management.

Jay B. said...

That's too bad. One of Obama's best qualities—a quality he shares with George W. Bush—is his overall sincerity.

Every once in awhile, I have to own up to the fact that there are times when I feel like Robespierre wasn't entirely wrong when he said "To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is barbarity."

Anonymous said...

"One of Obama's best qualities—a quality he shares with George W. Bush—is his overall sincerity."

At this point we open the floor to examples of George W. Bush's overall sincerity.

Anyone? Is this mike on?