Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode #780: No Fair Remembering The Clinton Surplus



“The real question about the Bush tax cuts, then, is not, can we afford them? The real question is, Why are they so small?”
-- David "The Man Who Swore There Would Never Be Deficits Again" Brooks, 


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Dispensing an Unlimited Supply of Lies, Racism and Treason, 24/7/365




I Am The Liberal Media




Friday, February 16, 2024

A Solemn Promise From Me To You

You know, at the end of the day this is really just a small blog out here in the exurbs of media respectability.  Couple dozen or a few hundred readers a day, about which, after 19 years of dong this, I remain amazed and truly grateful.  

And our Professional Left podcast has a weekly listener total that's a mere fraction of The Bulwark's total haul.  And after 14 years, we are also truly grateful for each and every one of you.

We do not enjoy (and never will enjoy) the tens of millions dollars in free publicity and co-sponsorships from major cable news and print media outlets that made The Bulwark's huge listener base possible, so on behalf of our literal mom-and-pop media empire I can't promise you that we will ever be able to hire 30 staffers and production assistants and a dozen writers so that we can crank out three podcasts a day along with ten YouTube short and six newsletters, mostly telling you stuff you already know. 

Nor can we promise you that very soon not a day will go by when you will fail to see an employee of The Professional Left seated at an MSNBC Zoom panel, glaring back at you from your teevee, every hour on the hour.

Can't promise any of that.  

But what I can solemnly promise is that we will never, ever have Chris Fucking Cillizza on as an honored guest as we conduct the latest of twenty different thought experiments and gaming outs and bitch sessions and prattling claptrap roundtables about Joe Biden stepping aside.

Never, never, never, not ever.

And that is a driftglass promise from me to you.  


I Am The Liberal Media




In Which David Brooks Takes His Readers on Yet Another Blathering Meander Through The Crumbling Sepulcher of Both Siderism

Not so long ago I wrote a thing about the Very Serious Conservative Thinkers' obsession with "-isms", and that David Brooks has been the worst of them.

For decades, this has been Brooks' way of separating himself and his Imaginary Republican party and his Fairy Tale Conservative movement from the grim and grubby and racist realities of the actual Republican party and the actual Conservative movement.  In fact, this has been Mr. Brooks' Great Project, and if you are a longtime reader of this lil' blog out here in the exurbs of respectability you may have come across this description of Brooks' Great Project by some 100% unemployable Liberal degenerate several thousand posts ago:

...it is now painfully clear that Mr. Brooks is engaged in a long-term project to completely rewrite the history of American Conservatism: to flense it of all of the Conservative social, political  economic and foreign policy debacles that make Mr. Brooks wince and repackage the whole era as a fairy tale of noble Whigs being led through treacherous hippie country by the humble David Brooks.

In his mighty war against the encroachments of reality, deflecting Republican perfidy with a series of strategic -isms has been one of the Very Serious Conservative Pundits' signature moves.  When the outward sign if the inner rot of the Republican party was George W. Bush, the failure was not attributed Republicanism or Conservatism, but to Bushism.

When it was Tom DeLay, the problem was Delayism not Republicanism, not Conservatism.

Gingrich?  Gingrichism.

Palin?  Palinism.

See how this works?  It's nothing more than the "No True Scotsman" fallacy dressed up in a Reagan mask.

And so when it became clear that the Republican party was in the process of giving itself over, gladly and raucously, to Donald Trump, my lovely and talented wife planted her flag for all to see, because we knew this was coming.  

Don't You Dare Call It 'Trump-ism'

The Media is attempting to separate the Republican Party from Donald Trump. Who voted for him again?

And now we come to the core of David Brooks' professional and ideological problem, which, it turns out,  is actually pretty simple.  His party is dead.  It's been dead a good long while, as is the movement to which he devoted his entire life.  And the Republicans  with whom he shared political confidences have betrayed themselves as liars or cowards or traitors of some rancid slumgullion of all three.

But Brooks' whole job is being an expert on politics.  Specifically, Republican politics.  And not just just the surface stuff which any amaetur Liberal midwestern blogger can plainly see: the New York Times and the Atlantic and PBS and NPR and Yale and on and on and on ain't pay top dollar for those scraps.  Brooks is supposed to be the man with the skinny.  With a jug of the Pure Quill.  The man with exclusive access to the deep recesses of the Conservative soul: those mystic Republican secrets that lie hidden from us peons behind the polite chatter at exclusive Beltway cocktail parties.  

But if the party is dead, and there are no secrets, what then is the plan for our man Brooks?

Turns out the plan is a dull, endless cycle of Denial, Grief/Bargaining, Both Siderism, then back to Denial again and so forth.  On and on and on.  World without end.

Think of it this way.  Brooks is standing on a stage in a large auditorium.  The auditorium is full.  On the stage next to Brooks is a corpse on a table. A long-dead corpse that is stinking up the place.  And Brooks' job is to interpret on the corpse's activities to the audience as if the corpse were a lively, active, cunning person.  

So first Brooks pokes the corpse with a long stick.  The he breaks into the political equivalent of the Dead Parrot sketch.

See!  It moved!   It moved!  It's not dead.  It was just shagged out from a prolonged bout of Palinism, but it's fine now.  In fact, I predict it's going to leap up from that table and launch an awesome Conservative renaissance any minute now.

And the audience waits...and waits...and then the corpse's leg falls off.  Rotten.  Full of worms.

Then Mr. Brooks comes over all shocked and confused.   The Grief/Bargaining begins.

This happened most notably after Donald Trump nearly swept the field on Republican Super Tuesday in 2016 after David Brooks, political expert, had assured everyone that such a thing was impossible. 

 Brooks spent his next New York Times column practically begging his bosses not to fire him for being a clueless hump.   He also went on the now long-defunct Charlie Rose Show and repeated most of his mea culpa there.  Of course, since that show is long gone, your average blog might only have a dim and distant memory of this.  But being a recovering pedant on the subject, I watched the whole damn thing and transcribe the relevant portions, so here you are.  

Brooks:  I messed up big time in not knowing Trump was coming.  And so when something like that happens  you take a look at yourself and you think "What did I miss about America?"  And...I'm...too much in the Acela corridor.  I've gotta get out.  That's one thing.  …  Believe me, I travel every week, but I'm at a college here...so I'm always within the bubble.  And so I've gotta get out.  But then the other thing is, like, I've achieved way more career success than I ever thought I would, so it's time to take some chances on the spiritual realm, on the personal -- the emotional realm...

But because he absolutely cannot help himself, just 20 minutes later Brooks was already making the transition from Grief and Bargaining, to Both Siderism, explaining that, really, Barack Obama is the one who set the tone for all this acrimony because Obama refused to compromise with David Brooks’ Republican Party:

Brooks:  I think what Barack Obama taught us, it's not enough to be a skilled politician. He came in wanting to transcend every line you could imagine and create a governing majority. But his policies that he came in with were orthodox Democratic policies. So you have to have a set of policies that cuts across lines.  That's a little from column A and a little from column B.

At this point, Rose and Brooks both damn well knew they’re lying, but to the Beltway media maintaining the “Blame Both Sides” lie is always and forever more important than the facts.   

So back in 2016, Brooks found out the Republican party was -- OMG!! -- full of Republicans…traveled around the country like Albert Brooks in Lost in America, touching Indians and gaining wisdom…and came back transformed and, finally, able to see the Republicans party clearly.

Right?

Nah!

This is from Brooks is trolling me again, just last week when he once again re-re-rediscovered the Republican party!

I thought I was beyond shockable, but this week has been profoundly shocking for me. I spent the bulk of my adult life on the right-wing side of things, generally rooting for the Republican Party, because I thought that party best served America. People like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump chased me out of the Republican orbit (gradually and then all at once), but I have still held out the hope that my many friends on the right are kind of like an occupied country. They have to mouth the Trumpian prejudices to survive in this era, but somewhere deep inside, the party of Reagan still lives in their souls.

And then came the inevitable smug, condescension:

My progressive readers are now thinking: Have you not been paying attention? Donald Trump has owned this party for years. If he told them to kill the immigration compromise because he needed a campaign issue, they were going to kill that proposal.

To which I respond: I don’t think you quite understand what just happened...

So, having once again shockingly re-re-re-rediscovered the fundamental toxicity of the Republican party (even as more of its decomposing limbs plopped loudly to the floor in front of God an everybody), and having dismissed those of us who have actually been right about the Right all along as insufficiently savvy to "understand what just happened", where do you suppose Mr. Brooks goes next?

If you guessed that he dove right back into his Both Siderist Happy Place, because I entitled this post "In Which David Brooks Takes His Readers On Yet Another Blathering Meander Through The  Crumbling Sepulcher of Both Siderism", well aren't you the clever one!  Because, yep, that is exactly where Mr. Brooks has gone. 

Except now Brooks goes one step further.

Having tried and failed miserably to deploy the "-ism" of Trumpism to quarantine the Very Bad Awful Donald Trump (and the actual Republican base... and virtually every Republican elected official)  from Brooks' Awesome Imaginary Republican Party, Brooks is now, believe it or not, trying to morph Trumpism into something that would be acceptable at those exclusive Beltway cocktail parties by quarantining Trumpism ... from Trump.  


I think I detest Donald Trump as much as the next guy, but Trumpian populism does represent some very legitimate values: the fear of imperial overreach; the need to preserve social cohesion amid mass migration; the need to protect working-class wages from the pressures of globalization.

See, Trump the man is bad, but Trumpism versus Liberalism?  Well that's a horse of a different color!

The struggle against Trump the man is a good-versus-bad struggle between democracy and narcissistic authoritarianism, but the struggle between liberalism and Trumpian populism is a wrestling match over how to balance legitimate concerns.

As always, Brooks ducks the question of how these "legitimate concerns" of "Trumpian populism" are actually manifesting themselves in, say, the actual Republican party by hand-waving away the manifest corruption and incompetence and racism and derangement of the Republican party by blaming "Congress":

America is economically thriving but politically dysfunctional. We have the material, technological and military resources to remain the world’s leading superpower, but the current Congress is unable to make decisions about basic issues, like how to fix the immigration system or what role we should play in the world.

What do we have to do to rectify this situation? Well, a lot of things, but one of them is this: More of us have to embrace an idea, a way of thinking that is fundamental to being a citizen in a democracy.

That idea is known as value pluralism...

Then Brooks explains how terrible "monists" are using the examples of Maxists and Nazis:

Berlin had a word for people who think there is one right solution to our problems and that therefore we must do whatever is necessary in order to impose it: monists. Berlin was born in pre-revolutionary Russia and came of age in the 1930s, when two monist philosophies were on the march, Marxism and fascism. They claimed to be all-explaining ideologies that promised an ultimate end to political problems.

And...you can see where this is going, right? (with a little emphasis added.)

Today, monism takes the form of those on the left or right who see all political conflicts as good and evil fights between the oppressors and the oppressed. The left describes these conflicts as the colonizer versus the colonized. The Trumpian right describes these conflicts as the coastal elites, globalists or cultural Marxists. But both sides hold up the illusion that we can solve our problems if we just crush the bad people.

So if the Left and the Right are both equally bad as Marxists and Nazis were equally bad, who are the good guys?  Where are the heroes who will save us from the Extremes on Both Sides?  

Yes, once again, it's David Fucking Brooks and the Sensible Center to the rescue!

We pluralists resist that kind of Manichaean moralism. We begin with the premise that most political factions in a democratic society are trying to pursue some good end. The right question is not who is good or evil. The right question is what balance do we need to strike in these circumstances?

So, having bullshitted his way through the collapse of the Bush regime, and an eight-year Republican racist primal scream during the Obama administration, and the four-year near-death of our democracy under Trump, and three years of Joe Biden trying to hold this country together with his bare hands...Brooks is still exactly the same duplicitous, Pecksniffian, sanctimonious asshole he was 18 years ago.

Because Brooks' column today is literally nothing more than a slight reworking of the tantrum he threw back in 2006 when his very good friend and fellow Iraq War pimp, Joe Lieberman, lost fair and square to Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Democratic senatorial primary.  

Brooks has swapped "monists" for "DeLay and the net-root DeLays in the Democratic Party" and "pluralists" for "The McCain-Lieberman Party", but other than that...

The McCain-Lieberman Party begins with a rejection of the Sunni-Shiite style of politics itself. It rejects those whose emotional attachment to their party is so all-consuming it becomes a form of tribalism, and who believe the only way to get American voters to respond is through aggression and stridency. 

The flamers in the established parties tell themselves that their enemies are so vicious they have to be vicious too. They rationalize their behavior by insisting that circumstances have forced them to shelve their integrity for the good of the country. They imagine that once they have achieved victory through pulverizing rhetoric they will return to the moderate and nuanced sensibilities they think they still possess.

But the experience of DeLay and the net-root DeLays in the Democratic Party amply demonstrates that means determine ends. Hyper-partisans may have started with subtle beliefs, but their beliefs led them to partisanship and their partisanship led to malice and malice made them extremist, and pretty soon they were no longer the same people.

The McCain-Lieberman Party counters with constant reminders that country comes before party, that in politics a little passion energizes but unmarshaled passion corrupts, and that more people want to vote for civility than for venom...

 And thus it shall always be at The New York Times.

World without end.

Amen

I Am The Liberal Media




Thursday, February 15, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode #779: The Jon Stewart Blowback


“Carry the battle to them. Don't let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don't ever apologize for anything.” -- Harry S. Truman



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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode #778: No Fair Remembering The 1965 Watts Uprising

“At a street corner meeting in Watts when the riots were over, an unemployed youth of about twenty said to me, "We won." I asked him: "How have you won? Homes have been destroyed, Negroes are lying dead in the streets, the stores from which you buy food and clothes are destroyed, and people are bringing you relief." His reply was significant: "We won because we made the whole world pay attention to us. The police chief never came here before; the mayor always stayed uptown. We made them come." Clearly it was no accident that the riots proceeded along an almost direct path to City Hall.... This is hardly a description of a Negro community that has run amok. The largest number of arrests were for looting—not for arson or shooting. Most of the people involved were not habitual thieves; they were members of a deprived group who seized a chance to possess things that all the dinning affluence of Los Angeles had never given them.”
-- Bayard Rustin, Down the Line: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin


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Monday, February 12, 2024

Why Never Trumper Persuasion Fails


If they had bothered to ask us (or, indeed, treat us like anything other that a smelly nuisance with which they were being forces to barely tolerate until the Republican party "fever" broke and they could return in glory) we could have told the Never Trumpers that their attempts to persuade their party base to, as I wrote 19 years fucking ago -- 

...grow opposable thumbs en masse, climb down out of the Stupid Tree and stop believing dangerously lunatic trash.

-- were doomed to fail.    That...

The only effect Reality has on these clowns is to make them feel ever more picked-on and angried-up.

Did I mention that I wrote all of that and about a million other words just like that four presidential administrations ago?

They were always doomed to fail because the Never Trumper theory of persuasion has always been based on first being able to regain the trust of the MAGA meatbags based on the fact that they share 98% to the same political DNA.   

In other words, continuing to shit all over us -- their new "allies" -- to prove their TrueConservative (tm) bona fides, while lecturing cranky Liberals like me that shitting all over us was absolutely necessary to Save Democracy!

Here's the script.

Recently-former Republican:  Donald Trump is a very bad man.

Current Republican:  I knew it!  You're one of those filthy Democrats!

RFR:  I'm not!  I'm not!  I swear I'm not!

CR: Bullshit.  Democrats think Trump is a very bad man.  You think Trump is a very bad man.  Do the fucking math!

RFR: No!  You've got it all wrong.  I agree, Democrats are depraved commies!  I have always said so!  Remember?  Remember when we got together at CPAC?  That drinking game.  Take a shot every time someone comes up with a new way of saying that Michelle Obama is a dude or Hillary is a lesbian.    


CR: Sorta.  I was pretty hung over. 


RFR:  Me too.  I fucking hate Democrats.  Hate 'em.  

 

RFR rolls up sleeve revealing a tat of Rush Limbaugh. 
 

RFR: Loved that guy.  Soo funny!  Never missed a show.  Remember "Rush Rooms"? 


RFR:  I named my second kid "Rush". 


CR: Well... 
  
CR smiles. 
 
CR: "Rush Rooms" were awesome.   Cigars.  Dudes.   "N"-words.  Awesome.

CR rolls up sleeve revealing a tat of a roll of toilet paper with scribbled writing on it.

CR:  Obummer's "Birth Certificate".   That fucking guy ruined this country.

RFR:  He was pretty awful.  You know I worked against him!  Twice!

CR:  And now we're got this retarded Obummer placeholder who cheated his way into the White House. 

RFR:  Yeah, about that.  Y'know Biden hasn't been all bad.  In fact...

CR:  I knew it!  I knew you were one of those filthy Democrats!

CR flee back to the comfort of NewsMax and FaceBook to tell all the other meatheads about his harrowing encounter with a RINO, DemonRat squish traitor.

See, every Never Trumper knows the ugly truth about the racist, paranoid, imbecile voters they spent decades gaslighting and grooming, which is why it's no surprise that this was Christie Christie in November 2015 -- 


-- and this is the Brand New Chris Christie, trying and failing spectacularly to coax Republican voters out of the sweaty, fascist embrace of Donald Trump, June 2023:


Their theory was that they could lure a few of the MAGA zombies back into the light, but only if they were able to move among the MAGA zombies without being attacked.  And to do that they needed to slather enough MAGA zombie goo on themselves to pass the initial smell test.  

Shitting on you and me was that zombie viscera.

But however much wingnut buddying-up they might do, and drinks-and-ratfucking nostalgia they might share, none of it was going to work, because they were always going slam face-first into the Fail-Safe, Jack Grady Problem.  

Which, hey look!  I was writing about this exact problem about all the way back in 2018!  Right about the same time that I was getting blocked for pointing out such heresies by all those Never Trumpers who were, at the time, colonizing the "liberal" media, and who, thanks to their wall-to-wall coverage on "liberal" media,  had just launched a media corporation called [checks notes] The Bulwark:

From me, in August of 2018

Face Facts: The GOP Base Flew Past Their Fail-Safe Point Years Ago

...But other than profiteering from the theft of our authentic and hard-won Liberal vocabulary and making a great, public show of their synthetic piety it will make absolutely no difference at all.

No difference to the Left because our sweat and blood built the vehicle they are now taking for a joy ride.

No difference to the Beltway media, who are already happily re-calibrating the parameters of their branded version of "public discourse" to "debates" between Conservatives, moderated by Conservatives or Both Siderists, with nary a Liberal nor an inconvenient mention of political history prior to 2016 anywhere in sight. 

But most importantly, it will make absolutely no difference to that mob of reprogrammable bigots and imbeciles who are the actual source of the problem: the Republican Base.

It doesn't matter that they heeded you in 2012.  Adored you in 2014.  Cheered you in 2015.  As the Never Trumpers discovered, if you cross the Pig People's wires even slightly, they will cast you out like the dirtiest of dirty Libtards.

And why?

Because the only source of trust or authority which anyone on the Right ever had came from telling that mob of reprogrammable bigots and imbeciles exactly what they want to hear.  By pandering to their ignorance and racism.  By telling them that the voices in their head were real and that their paranoia was patriotism.   By telling them that over and over again, decade after decade.  And, to keep the whole, reeking farrago of Republican lies and madness propped up and delivering voted, by training them to reflexively ignore anyone who tells them anything that contradicts their prime directive...

And then I added the transcript from the movie Fail-Safe, but since then some helpful soul has uploaded it to YouTube, so here it is:


Back to that August 2018 post:

The reason the Republican base will never listen to reason is because they have been specifically ordered not to.

And who trained them to be such perfectly reprogrammable meatbags?

The Never Trumpers did.

And who spent the past few decades courting threats, derision and professional exile by trying to warn the Never Trumpers that training up an army of paranoid, racist golem would end very badly for everyone?

The dirty Libtards did.

And only now will you find recently former-Republican, recently-former National Review mope and current New York Times op-ed page employee David French staring into the abyss he created and finally figuring out that his Republican party is really, for-real dead.

And recently former-Republican, former Weekly Standard mope and The New York Times' longest serving useful Conservative idiot, David Brooks, staring into the same abyss and finally figuring out that his Republican party is really, for-real dead.

And just to complete the "David" trifecta, if he weren't already dead, I' sure we'd find David Broder staring into the same abyss, ruminating about the same thing, and wondering how Barack Obama let all of this happen.  

When I wrote, in 1,000 different ways, that Republicans had spent decades building a Doomsday Machine with no "Off" switch, I wasn't kidding.

And so, once again, we find the professional political experts and savvy insiders slowly beginning to figure out something us stoopid Liberals have been right about all along.



Burn The Lifeboats


Friday, February 09, 2024

Air Force One

OPEN ON:  Scene from Air Force One.

CUT TO:  Harrison Ford.

Hi.  I'm Harrison Ford.  I'm an actor.  In my movie, Air Force One, I play the president of the United States.  In that movie, I have several punchfights with Russian terrorists and, in the end, I win.

Because I'm an actor and it's a movie.

Some of you don't seem to understand this, so let me explain.  

In movies, presidents sometimes have punchfights with Russian terrorists, or fly fighter jets against alien invaders, or have running gun battles in the White House.

But in the real world, that's not what presidents do.

MONTAGE Joe Biden doing all of the following:

VO:

In the real world, our best presidents have always lead by listening patiently to all sides of complex problems, consulting the best minds, and then making tough decisions.  

They've stood with working men and women and worked hard to make their lives a little better.

They comforted the afflicted.  They helped us grieve our collective losses.  When they represented us to the rest of the world, they did it with dignity.  And they tried every day to remind us that we are all Americans and we are all in this together.

And by that measure, Joe Biden has been a damn good president. 

And yeah, he's my age.  He's an old guy.  He's a smart old guy.  He's a  tough old guy.  He's a decent and honorable old guy.

So this November, I'm voting for the old guy.

Because this isn't a movie.  This is real life.  Your real life.  Your family's real life.  And the stakes are too high for us to screw this up.


 

No Half Measures