Tuesday, 15 April 2008 15:46

Hamsher, Moulitsas, Marshall: State of Denial

By not referencing the Smith piece, Hamsher can keep her readers misinformed and thereby attack Kennedy on false pretenses, replies Jim DiEugenio.

Evidently, Jane Hamsher did not like my Open Letter to her and Markos Moulitsas. Especially after Lisa Pease wrote about it on the blog Booman Tribune, thereby publicizing it throughout the Internet. That blog was one of the very few to stand up to Hamsher, Moulitsas, and Joshua Micah Marshall and both their idiotic attacks on Caroline Kennedy and their cover up for Gov. Paterson and his shameful choice of Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton's seat. For right around when Lisa did this, Hamsher responded to my essay on her site.

As the reader can see, she did so in the same over the top, shrieking style that she used in her off-the-wall attack on Caroline Kennedy. Incredibly, she never once refers to Chris Smith's extraordinary essay on the subject, which I noted in my previous article The Caroline Aftermath. Even though Smith's piece is, by far, the best reporting on the subject yet to appear. And the only report that is truly investigatory in its nature. In other words, it is not just commenting on events from the outside—it is actually digging into them to find out what really happened from the inside. This is the essence of investigative journalism. And it is the way you really enlighten your readers and actually empower them. As I noted in part two, this has been a serious failing of the blogosphere so far. It was typified by former Time Magazine correspondent Matt Cooper in his summing up piece at Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo (posted on 1/22). Which can only be called so agenda driven and fact averse that it could have been written for the New York Times. But this is what happens when, like Marshall, you hire former MSM reporters who don't want to, or even know how to investigate. When you work for a publication like Time, you get paid not to find the truth. Let alone print it. After all, in the whole Valerie Plame scandal—which should have been an impeachable offense—Cooper took his leads from Karl Rove. And if you analyze that shameful episode, Cooper was maybe one bar above Judy Miller in his journalistic lineage. (Josh, don't get any ideas from this. And Matt, please don't give him Miller's phone number!)

By not referencing the Smith piece, Hamsher can keep her readers misinformed and thereby attack Kennedy on false pretenses. She leads it off by again repeating the falsity that it was Kennedy's idea to go upstate to Syracuse. From there she's off to the races. And she even misinforms her readers on the end game. As I noted, the clear implication of Smith's piece is that Kennedy withdrew because she was tired of being exploited for media exposure by Gov. Paterson. She could not say that of course. So her camp said it was personal reasons and offered up Ted Kennedy's condition. Incredibly, Hamsher scores her for this! Jane, Joshua, Markos! Pay attention now: You should have been doing what Smith was doing. Then you could have found out that Paterson's media blitz at her expense was a bit much for her.

But alas, Hamsher, Marshall and Markos can't do that. Why? Because the second villain in a play, usually does not expose the first. Smith's piece exposes just how clownishly Paterson handled this whole affair. I, for one, have been around a long time. Longer than Josh, Jane, or Markos. I do not recall ever witnessing such a circus over an interim appointment to a senate seat in my life. Actually, nothing even comes close. And as Smith reveals, the underlying reason seems to be that Paterson needs to run for office next year. And this is something that is obvious from what proceeded. Usually New York politicians do not run strongly in the more rural upstate region. So what did Paterson do? He sends Kennedy up there first to meet the mayor of Syracuse and he tells her not to talk much with the press. Then when she drops out, he appoints Gillibrand, another upstate politician to the seat. Duh! Yet the Three (and a half) Amigos—Hamsher, Marshall/Cooper, and Moulitsas—couldn't discern that for their readers. Because if they did, it would point out that the main reason this all happened is that Paterson's follies helped create the whole mess. Obviously, the way it should have been handled was that Paterson should have accepted calls from each interested politician in New York. He then should have made his choice in a matter of a couple of weeks. He didn't have to look at polls, but the ability to hold the seat plus one's Democratic credentials in a blue state should have been important. The two most logical choices should have been either Kennedy or Andrew Cuomo. But I'm talking logic here. The last word I would apply to the approach these three took in this sorry episode is logical.

Let me point out some examples in addition to the fallacies I mentioned above. Hamsher does not mention my name in her post/rant. And she links to my Open Letter by burying it under a hyper-link named "overwrought paeans to Kennedy's superlative abilities." That's being fair, isn't it? Who would want to read such an essay with that rubric applied to it? My original essay centered on Moulitsas' nutty charge that implied that all political families are equal in quality and achievement. So I gave a short history lesson in how it was wildly wrong to say that somehow the Kennedy family was even remotely like the Bushes or Rockefellers. Moulitsas was relying on the reader's ignorance of history to inflame them. Which is exactly what alternative journalism is not supposed to do.

This leads to another illogical argument Hamsher uses. This one was borrowed from another blogger, this time from Americablog. This guy said that the blogosphere should not be blamed for the eventual appointment of the Blue Dog Gillibrand. The concept was: "if a politician is leaning towards a bad decision, he shouldn't be questioned about that decision lest he make an even worse decision." This blogger is a lawyer and he termed this doctrine "post hoc ergo propter hoc". Jane, it's not smart to use lawyers in a situation like this. All they care about is winning. Therefore he begins with a false assumption. Namely that Kennedy was a poor choice. Why is that false? Because no one is ever going to know what kind of senator she would have made. But, and this is a huge but: It is possible to make a very good guess. This is what I wrote about in part one: She comes from, as Paul Wellstone used to say, the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. For it was only after the murder of RFK that the party lost its compass and it began to get southernized by the likes of Carter and Clinton. Which culminated in the creation of the DLC. But in RFK's 1968 race, he was actively endorsed by both Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King. (King actually said RFK would make a great president.) Unless, you're talking Frederick Douglass, it does not get better than that. Unlike Gillibrand, there are no Republicans in her immediate family.

Second, as I mentioned in part two, she rejected the Clintonization of her party by endorsing Obama at a very strategic time. Third, she then helped in the search to get Joe Biden on as the Vice-President. So in a real sense, she helped forge a winning ticket of two non-DLC Democrats. Fourth, she would have certainly looked for advice from her uncle Ted Kennedy, and you don't get much more blue than that. So in actuality, we have a very good idea on where she would have stood in the senate. Hamsher, Moulitsas, and Marshall can't tell you that since it tells you how unfounded and false the whole basis of their campaign was.

The capper of course, is that we do have a good idea of who Kirsten Gillibrand is. And as I showed in part two, it's no comparison. Could anyone imagine Al D'Amato being at Kennedy's appointment conference?

Hamsher is also disingenuous about who she supported in the 2008 primary. It is true that her site, Firedoglake, did not formally endorse anyone. But it didn't' take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who Hamsher supported, and supported early. In a story in the Washington Post of 4/25/2007, it was revealed that Hillary Clinton was going to make her first guest blogging appearance at Hamsher's site. Hamsher understood that Clinton was not perceived as being friendly with the Netroots, so she was there to help her out. At Huffington Post, 1/5/08, she was clearly giving Clinton advice on how to overcome Obama's surprise victory in Iowa. Then she was appalled at how Clinton was letting Obama beat her in all those caucus states. She was also quick to blame any attacks on her as resulting from anti-feminism. She even had her picture taken with Bill Clinton, something I would never do. (And if I did, I would try to burn all the photos.) Who the heck would want another president who likes having someone like Dickie Morris—or Mark Penn—around the White House?? (By the way, Marshall thinks Clinton was high five material also. This is what I mean about the ignorance of youth.)

Finally, I have to comment on the techniques used by Hamsher-and the others-in this whole affair. After Hamsher started the charge, Marshall and Moulitsas jumped on board the three wheeled Conestoga. None of them noticed one of the wheels was missing, and they were therefore headed for a crash. Therefore, the drive was marked by misinformation, ignorance, illogic, and finally-as one can see from the link to her site—it devolved into what is called on the web, a "flame war". That is, the trading of cheap insults and baseless accusations. Which, of course, is the way Hamsher and Moulitsas started the whole thing. Like I said, in their newfound limelight, like mobsters, they take no prisoners. And in that winner take all contest, no comparison is out of bounds, no charge is too extreme. Therefore, people can write that those who think Caroline Kennedy's bona fides are beyond reproach are like those who way Fred Hiatt is a liberal. This is the Washington Post's editorial page editor. Again, this shows how ahistorical and anti-intellectual these people really are. Fred Hiatt, Ben Bradlee, and Kay Graham all had nothing but disdain for President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. (I analyzed the Bradlee angle in depth in my article "Ben and Jack, not a Love Story", Probe Vol. 4 #6, p. 30)) But these people don't understand what self-parody is. This is illustrated by the title of Hamsher's post in which she implies that anyone who thinks the whole process was a sideshow is somehow a victim of "groupthink". This is the woman who started the whole misguided rampage and now calls those who think she was wrong Stalinists! (I'm not kidding, check the comments.)

This, of course, is the opposite of what alternative, progressive journalism used to be. The kind I mentioned in part two, as practiced by Gilbert Seldes, Warren Hinckle and Art Kunkin. In those days, these kinds of cheap slurs were not accepted. Because they were not needed. The idea was that our side had both the facts and morality behind them. And the gradual accumulation of the former would forge the latter. Here it's the opposite. As I noted in part two, the unearthed facts expose the falsity and emptiness of the Three Amigos in this affair. And this is why they have to resort to name-calling. As it usually does, it completes the cover up of their role in this fiasco. And its one of the phases in the process of denial.

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