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November 25, 2007


I remember when Clinton was in office, how angry they would get when he would compromise or do something they agreed with. It absolutely infuriated them. They accused him of "stealing" their ideas!! Well except for the part about working together to accomplish effective change. He didn't steal that. That was his. But that's the part of leadership that they fail to recognize as anything more than a pain in the ass. He was effective. And they hate it when they are exposed.

He proved for the final most devastating time, that trickle down economics was a lie.

The continuing "Village" problem may be the very heart of things. Check out, for example, the complete line up for Meet the Press this morning. Or the hysterics which meet the poll showing that a majority of Americans believe some people in the government had specific warnings about 9/11 in advance.

I should say, I'm not a huge fan of a lot of things Clinton did. I think he used policies that postponed the eventual resolution of our financial house of cards (though he did pay down our debt).

But I can't deny he was a successful president. Apparently, the "experts" are still doing so.

What, you mean like he, and Mr Citigroupin Rubin and Dem congress repealing Glass-Steagall?


Yeah, we'd be better off now if he hadn't done that, huh?

EW - yes, a lot of the solutions proposed by the Clinton Administration did rely on labor arbitraging and financial sleight of hand that had the effect of avoiding hard decisions on certain issues, but Clinton did recognize that the first priority was to get at least the federal budget in line, and then work on issues of true productivity and investment to finance the American lifestyle. Had Gore been permitted to take office in 2000, I believe that there would have been an emphasis on transforming the economy to focus of alternative energy and biotechnology as a replacement for the internet bubble that gave Clinton some room to manouever.

OT, but somewhat similar to your Matt Bai experiences. I was sent on media training this week, as part of the work I am doing on native land claim issues, and the course focussed on effective messaging for all kinds of interviews, telephone, TV, radio, print - the course was given by a real media pro, had been a reporter, spokesperson, media trainer, academic, and he really knew his stuff. After the course, I went up to the instructor and told him I thought I had learned an awful lot (and I did!) - but I was surprised that throughout this whole course on messaging, there was no mention of the internet, blogs, using social networking sites and software, etc, and I was wondering what his thoughts were on using these new media. Well, it was a real DFH moment for me! He looked at me with a benign smile, put his hand on my shoulder, with a look in his eye like I had asked him whether he preferred Captain Picard or Captain Kirk, or maybe had invited him to take part in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. He said that he wasn't sure how all this Internet stuff was going to work out, and that his personal opinion was that "it might all turn out to be a flash in the pan", and therefore wasn't putting any emphasis on it! I should add that this guy is a real pro, he trains newly elected Members of Parliament on media techniques and other high level stuff! All I can say is, I think I felt a modicum of your pain with Bai.

He said that he wasn't sure how all this Internet stuff was going to work out, and that his personal opinion was that "it might all turn out to be a flash in the pan", and therefore wasn't putting any emphasis on it!

Is he still using quill pens on parchment? Sending messages via carrier pigeon? Using chalk on slate?
Jeebus, talk about not getting it!

(I've been at a convention most of the weekend: they now do registration online and send PR via e-mail. The number of electronic devices being worn and carried was astonishing - to anyone who doesn't hang out in places like this.)

Halperin helped me quit TV cold turkey after a 40+ year love affair.

Matt Bai is part of the up and coming generation of media weasels waiting in the wings to replace the current batch of fossils.

It is a strange thing that people don't change their opinions all at once, they only move over ever so slightly, shifting a little at a time, while keeping most of their opinions almost exactly as before.

The key shift here, is a big one: Mark Halperin is admitting a what internet bloggers have been pointing out for years, namely that the last 10 years of mainstream journalism have been execrable. The rest of his thinking is exactly as before,

This editorial is yet another piece of evidence why I stopped reading the NYT awhile ago -- my blood pressure couldn't take it anymore.

I think part of the problem that the Village just can't get a grip on was addressed in Gore's book Assault on Reason. The MSM has an unhealthy obsession with "balance" that drives them to false equivalences. They just can't seem to help themselves. If someone says the sky is blue, they feel compelled to find someone they can quote who says the sky is green. In this endless quest for balance, they turn their backs on objective reality. Indeed it seems that in their "he said/she said" world view there is no objective reality, just subjective ideological opinion. We really do need better science and critical thinking education in this country that everyone must take. When you drop a brick and a marble off the leaning Tower of Pisa, they really do hit the ground at the same time, no matter what politician says the brick will hit first.

EW, if you're wondering why you had to use the other clue-by-four to smack Halperin's idiotic ass, it's because Paul Krugman took yours to smack at him first:


Go read. It is a thing of beauty.

The only substantial failure during the Clinton presidency was the Republican coup attempt. That would have to wait until passage of the Patriot Act.

We managed to get someone on the moon and back using a sliderule. [Amusingly, sliderule is underlined in red because the word processor fails to recognize it.] Simply because something worked in the past doesn't mean that it is the best technology. The dinosaurs that developed wings survived better than those who roared their way into extinction.

That teacher who fails to teach politicians to open their minds to new technology, whether for communication, design, fabrication is failing to give them the tools they'll need to represent or understand their constituents.

Halperin and Bai?

"Have laptop, will suck"

There's just no way - short of these guys coming to this blog and opening their eyes - that the "Access"-Age Reporters are going to transition into Reality-based, fact-citing, story-line reporting, insight-generating Journalists - without cascading through a series of self-serving, but cloudy, Denials of Complicity.

To the subscribers of today's New Media, having the 'interpretive stenography' skills of Halperin and Bai comes across as nothing less than journalistic flatbacking, not one shred different than that paragon of Access Journalism, Judy Fucking Miller.

The Access Reporters competed with each other to signal that they 'bought' the Cheney-spin-line fantasy first, and then - when they got tapped to take dictation - they embellished on the spin - so that they might be told they could get back in line, again.

Now that the fantasy of BushCo Omnipotence is substantially separating from the concensus of the Reality Journalists, won't it be interesting to see which of the Access Journalists keep servicing the spin.

How dismal.

To make an 'unsuccessful-Presidency' equivalency argument between Bush and Clinton based on the logic that "good campaigners do/don't neccessarily make good leaders," while ignoring the effectiveness of that campaigner/leader's policies, is as bad as believing a 'threat-equivalency' argument that misses the nuclear difference between Pakistan and Iran.

Today's issues are too complex and too important for the 'fantasy stroking,' knee-pad wearing, round-mouthing Access Jounalists of the MSM.

"We really do need better science and critical thinking education in this country that everyone must take." Boy, howdy; do we ever. Education is the closest thing to a magic bullet that we possess for the across the board ills we face. Fucking morons like Norquist and the tax cut/greed first Republicans are drowning that infrastructure too.

Apropos of all this discussion, did anyone see Meet the Press today? Carville, Matalin, Shrum and some other Rethug, with Russert acting like it was the f****** Algonquin Round Table - for all the "insights", they may as well have taped these guys having brunch at the Mayflower Hotel, it was all about perceptions and framing and who's hot/who's not, and not a single hard question.

Regarding Russert; just exactly how the hell did he get to where he is and become so exalted? Really, wasn't he basically a political hack with a law degree who never practiced law? I mean, seriously, he is basically an earlier version of George Stephanopolis, except without the lofty accomplishments before joining the media. (And before you all start chirping, that was meant to be dripping with sarcasm).

bush and bill, equal failures ???

let's see

Hillary is the Democratic frontrunner for the democratic Nomination

and george herbert walker bush has been on television FUCKING CRYING about how georgie porgie has ruined jeb bush's chances of ever being presnit


looks like bill and george had exactly the same fucking problem

has this guy been on this planet the whole time he was writing about ???

Wow, what amazing comments on this thread.
So Halperin is finally realizing that a political campaign may not be the best predictor for determining how someone will run a huge government bureaucracy in a diverse society in a globalized economy.
Glad he's started to glimpse the flaws in his assumptions.

The 'money quote' for me was this by EW: he couldn't identify good governance if it looked him in the face.
Good governance is not necessarily a good 'story'. The few times that I've glimpsed it, it appeared to be mostly routine, relatively boring, and generally requires humans who can make complex calculations, sythesize huge amounts of disparate information, listen carefully, and make decisions.

How that translates into the kind of 'box office' required by the economics of current media conglomerates escapes me.
It may be worth noting that Halperin is writing this the week after Rove started at Newsweek (with a thud).

Now, if Halperin can figure out what good governance looks like , and figure out how to explain the significance of a water district budget, or examine who a candidate might actually appoint to run an agency, perhaps his writing would improve. If he can figure out 'what good government looks like' -- irrigation lines, dam turbines, FDA inspectors, cops on patrol... all the daily minutia that is required in a very complex, technically challenging society, then perhaps he'd be better able to assess who might be skilled at moving things forward.

I'm with Harold: I think this is a big deal.

He also totally missed the point of Ben Cramer's What It Takes. What it takes to win a presidential election, we find out, is someone who is utterly willing to give up everything important to their soul.

"sliderule" was underlined in red because it's two words, not one. See Wikipedia.

Boy these guys can't drop the "Clinton did it too" meme, even if it doesn't fit.

Halperin is beyond pathetic:

A hundred years after Mark Hanna and Wm McKinley and Mark Twain, seventy-five after H.L. Mencken and Will Rogers, forty-five years after a photogenic Kennedy defeated Nixon, thirty years after Nixon's dirty tricks squads, and seven years into the Cheney/Rove presidency, and Halperin is just discovering that what sells during a campaign may be diametrically opposed to what makese a good president and that it may be wrong for America?

With that level of ignorance and inability to learn from history, I suspect Halperin wouldn't pass today's test for US citizenship. He certainly should be given his walking papers as a political "journalist".

earlofhuffington, I'm reasonably certain that I'm at least as frustrated and fed up as most of us.
But it appears that Halperin has (finally) recognized that the work he's done to pay his bills is both: (1) fraught with error, and (2) very socially and politically damaging.

Am I angry about the damage, and his contribution? Of course.
Does he still need to gain clarity and clear the mindrot from his head? Hell, yes!

But any time people seriously examine their impacts on others (and I count myself in that category), and then publicly express, "I really blew it, but I'll try to do a more thoughtful job starting today..." That takes guts, and I suspect that Halperin had a Dark Night of the Soul before he wrote that OpEd, so at least he's trying to figure out his errors and improve.
Progress is seldom fast enough, but it's always a small miracle.
I wish Halperin well.
I hope that from 'inside the narrative' he can help rethink and reshape how we look at candidates, what is reported about them, how voters can make decisions that are more likely to produce better governance.
I think his OpEd shows a man who would now be less susceptible to being punked by K-k-k-karl Rove and his minions and their ilk.
I wish him well, for all our sakes.

Awww, the fall is when Halperin waxes, wanes and whines, isn't it?

Seems like just a year or so ago, when he was out sales pitching his book (with John Harris) that he divined that the reason GWB got unstinting war backing on the front pages of the NYT for years is that the press was all wildly liberal.


The Halperin who, in January of 06:
...was so bowled over by Bush's rhetorical flourish that he announced, "That is the kind of answer and vision that will get a man's approval rating back over 53% any day now."

and who in June of 06:
was warning Democrats about their bleak prospects for electoral gains this year: "If I were them, I'd be scared to death about November's elections,"

and who, in his Oct 23, 06 piece for The Note, was informing the world at large about:
How the (liberal) Old Media plans to cover the last two weeks of the election
which included his bewilderment over why political journalists might not join in on daily conference calls between Rush Limbaugh and Ken Mehlman, despite receiving invitations.

Krugman pretty much flushes the dead mouse down the toilet without much wasted effort.

BTW - having followed the links, I don't know the "Marcie" in Peanuts, but I'd have to say EW reminds me a bit of Kate Martin, with the Center for National Security Studies.

I disagree with the notion that Halperin is engaged in honest self-assessment or that he's apologizing for his inferior and misleading prior work.

Rather, he is using the form of it to hit Clinton and aid Bush, by suggesting that Bush's failures are of the same order of magnitude as a bright, competent, curious and involved CEO (who couldn't keep his zipper up - like his hero JFK). That's not honest regarding Clinton, Bush or Halperin's prior work: it's blatantly dishonest.

The "professional apology" has come a long way since J&J did the right thing after a nut poisoned a few bottles of Tylenol twenty-five years ago. Then, their corporate behavior was exemplary. As a consequence, they saved their brand and their reputation.

The current crop of "disaster/apology consultants" nominally teach how to do that. They don't. They teach its appearance, while admitting nothing, they adequately disclose neither the problem nor its fix. Hence, we get needlessly extended scandals at eg, HP. The CEO eventually quietly slinks away with tens of millions to keep their mouth shut. Even J&J no longer does it the old way.

The nether end of disaster consulting has reached its apogee with Cheney/Rove, who apologize for nothing, investigate nothing, publicly disclose nothing; instead of fixing what we all consider "the problem", they reward those who caused it.

Halperin is engaged in the latter, and its not funny. He should take ten or fifteen Tylenol, half a bottle of Johnny Walker, and think about another line of work.

earlofhuffington, I had thought about Halperin's conduct in the way that you describe, but decided to be gracious, as I'd just solved a nasty problem and was in a generous mood. Besides, EW's take-down addressed his errors fully ;-)

Agree that 'apologia' have become devalued since J&J.
But CheneyRoveScooter and the rest of the cabal don't even grasp the value of a devalued apology; which I interpret as additional evidence that they've lost touch with reality.

Unfamiliar with Halperin's background, which Mary lays out in such loving detail ;-)
You may well be right; nevertheless, in the past few weeks, I've seen a number of blog posts expressing vehement (sometimes hilarious) disgust over why 'horserace journalism is toxic.' Now, weeks into this much-needed conversation, Halperin's chiming in.
He finally claims to recognize the problem with horserace journalism.
EW has pointed out additional -- serious -- flaws with other parts of his logic, and let's hope he reads her and takes her analysis to heart (!)

Whether he got to this place by silent, tormented struggle -- or whether he was merely being expedient and tripped himself up -- is actually of no interest to me.
What matters is that he can't go back again; this was a Rubicon of sorts, and long overdue. He has to figure out how to do a better job of reporting on campaigns. Or not report on them at all. (If he's smart, he'll take two weeks to analyze why Paul Krugman's writing is sheer genius, but a start would be to read EW and call to make sure he grasps every point she's made in her post.)

I decided to give the man the benefit of the doubt; maybe I'm just in a good mood b/c I finally solved a nasty bug ;-)
But he can't fall back on horserace journalism again, and that's progress.
How he got there is actually no concern of mine.

Halperin has not boxed himself in or committed to a fundamentally different kind of journalism. He can "cover" horse race instead of substantive issues at will.

His purported new direction comes via the ever popular sport of defaming Clinton (who hasn't been in office for seven years), and by extension, his candidate spouse, by adhering to the currently popular false equivalence, a version of the Rovian meme that, "It's only politics; they both do it; no harm done; what great sport it is to watch". Which is demonstrably false and makes us witless observers while truly bad actors empty the candy store.

For actors such as Rove and Cheney, and many journalists who cover them, rules, restraint, professional conduct are not necessary lubricants that keep society civil; they are weaknesses to be exploited.

I hope that Halperin has seen the light on the road to Damascus. But like Hillel's farmer, being told that the Messiah has come to town, I'll finish plowing my field before dropping everything to follow him. His claims may be false and I have children to feed; if he's the One, he would be the first to esteem good sense instead of blind optimism.

BTW, Arianna Huffington has little in common with the earlofhuntingdon, except a desire to see progressive politics return to Washington.

Didn't Tip O'Neill make the observation in Man of the House back in 1987 that gee, Jimmy Carter's crew was real good at getting Carter elected but not so hot at governing?

Being consistently right about people like Halperin and Klein is small compensation for the fact that these cretins have a much bigger megaphone than you. There's too much hack work among mass media outlets - getting basic facts wrong, passing along spin uncritically, taking candidates at face value - for it to be a coincidence. At some point we need to say they reflect the standards of the outlets they work for.

Is that hysterical = funny, or hysterical = crazy, wrought with emotion?

Or is it a two-fer?

Mauimom, hysterical = two-fer, but more heavily weighted to the 'funny' end of the spectrum.

earlofhuff, I actually think that Halperin can't go back again to horserace reporting. Not after an OpEd in the NYT. He may not be 'boxed in' to any specific mode, but he can't repeat the error of his ways without risking public scorn, ridicule, and condemnation. I view that as all for the best.

I think your point about how false equivilences and the 'everyone does it meme' are sideways smears at the Clintons is excellent, and I agree with you.

I lived in a village for several years, and whenever someone overstepped the social boundaries, they were ostracized: no food, no social support, no clothing... they were 'on their own'. (And frankly, it is life-threatening for people from that community to be ostracized.) That may sound harsh to middle class Americans, but it drove home the fact that societies need some kind of internal mechanisms by which they protect themselves from members who cause too much danger to the group. The villagers took a lot of thought in distinguishing between someone who's made an honest mistake and wants to do better, and people who repeatedly violate accepted norms. Because for people on a marginal existence, the efforts required to repair damage and bring someone to a better level of contributing are quite expensive and risky. They have to be pretty damn sure the individual in question really is motivated to do better.
Anyway, I put Halperin in the first category; Rove in the second.
IMHO, Halperin is salvagable; Rove isn't.

My village would have worked with Halperin to help him become a better contributor to the community; but they'd have shunned Rove and NOT allowed him back in the community.
What concerns me -- if you think about this in terms of epidemiology or public health -- is that we've had a situation where toxic, corrosive behaviors have been lauded by an ignorant, myopic press. IMHO, that translates into all kinds of health-related impacts, on both the personal and social levels. And once set in motion, it takes on a dynamic of its own (kind of retrovirus-like).

But sometimes, the people who've screwed up the worst, and made the biggest mistakes can turn out to have more passion or energy in terms of putting things right again. That's what I would hope for Halperin and his fellow reporters, because the consequences of their covering politics as if it were the latest athletic competition are irresponsible and dangerous. If Halperin is motivated enough, and if he sees that his work could be more meaningful on a larger social scale, then I wish him all the best. And I say that as a pragmatist.

This has been a longish exchange, but you've made me 'think harder' and I really appreciate it. All best.

Halperin's spent the last few days being roasted by progressive blogs. A published OpEd in the NYT would no more constrain him than Bush's low approval ratings constrain his actions. If it worked that way, we wouldn't be where we are, and neither would Rove, Halperin, Russert and Co.

Authoritarians overdose on inconsistency where it promotes their views. They are ED drug addicts who admire "hardness and strength", not professional competence, practicality or the previously normal give-and-take of politics.

That's what makes the likes of Lieberman and much of the traditional media so vile. They sell a form of "bipartisanship" that is long past its "sell by" date. In fact, what they're promoting is abject capitulation to the administration's demands. That's as destructive and dysfunctional in government as in a family.

I would love it if Halperin and his publisher were to have an awakening on the road to Damascus, but I'm not holding my breadth.

Bingo: ...what they're promoting is abject capitulation to the administration's demands

Honestly, I often think that the media and DC are some kind of bizarro Cargo Cult more than they're anything else.
Claiming to 'hate' Big Govt, they're first to belly up and swill like snorting oafs.
The reporters need to recognize what government actually does look like, which is quite different from what the appearance of government is.

When I've seen 'gummint', it's looked a lot like some of my neighbors who test water, or teach, or take phone calls. Mostly boring. That just doesn't fit the economic constraints of A Big Story Every Day. It doesn't fit the needs of Big Media, which is always slavering for a 'story' that's going to make us all tune in. IMHO, the MSM got suckered by the economics that support their vanity and their lifestyles, and they got inflated egos, and they did a lot of damage. (By enabling, and even celebrating, rotten scoundrels like Rove, Delay, et al.)

Meanwhile, smaller local papers have been in trouble, readership has declined, and the kind of behavior that 'grabs eyeballs' and 'sells stories' has been consistently antisocial ("Smoke 'em out', GWBush).

That Halperin couldn't spot 'decent government' if it smacked him in the nose says more than I really needed to know.

It also explains volumes about how on earth he could fall for the swinish offal of a sinister creep like Rove. He needs to know what government looks like so he can write better.

I think we mostly agree ;-))))

You nailed Halperin. His article is a jumbled mess of confused musings without any sense of responsibility for his errors of judgement and observations. In fact he continues to make stupid observations in his comments about both Clinton and Bush.

It is interesting that Halperin now says he sees the error of the "horse race" coverage but he doesn't see the way through to any future way to cover elections. He has nothing to say about how to evaluate a presidential candidate from any other perspective than horseracing.

For my money Kucinich is the only candidte who can say he was right about Bush lying and the futility of the Iraq invasion from the first. Why? because he read he intelligence reports.

Kucinich is the only candidate who can say he got it right to vote no on the Patriot Act. Why? because he read it before he voted.

Kucinich is the only candidate who has impeachment right. why? Because he has read the Constitution.

Clearly, if you don't use horseracing as the campaign paradigm, the alternative is to use the ability to read. The candidates should be given reading material and tested by writing an essay about what it means. Then we can do a proper job interview.

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