The Lonely End of the Rink


George Zornick here -- we're a little light today, since yesterday's post went up late and Eric is flying to Virginia for tomorrow's panel on "The Fall & Rise of American Liberalism: Media, Race, Religion..." at UVA (details here).

McCain Suck-up Watch: Josh Marshall flags this AP story about a DNC ad that uses clips of John McCain's 100-year Iraq war statement. Here's how the piece begins:

The Republican National Committee demanded Monday that television networks stop running a television ad by the Democratic Party that falsely suggests John McCain wants a 100-year war in Iraq.

So, for the AP, not only must a story about the ad contain McCain's objection, it comes before readers even learn what's being discussed -- and the writer accepts the assertion that the ad is false, and writes that into the lead. As Marshall notes, "[W]hat the McCain campaign is pushing for here is a standard in which any negative ad targeting McCain must be delivered with the McCain camp's own spin included in order to be within bounds -- a standard few politicians, to say the least, have ever been granted."

Brian Williams is frightened and confused. Here, the NBC Nightly News anchor notes the The New York Times' declining circulation numbers and connects them, with heavy disdain, to ... what appears in the paper's Sunday travel and style sections. "I must admit that on Sundays it becomes a tough paper to figure out." The stories he cites were about flea markets, newlywed gays, retro bars in Brooklyn, nudist camps, a wedding announcement where the groom wore sneakers, essays about dating, and parents buying a sex chair. You know, a style section in a New York-based newspaper.

What, then, does he like to see in his Sunday paper? "On the other hand, one sparkling piece of journalism (which touched on a lot of themes frequent readers of this space will recognize) was by Peggy Noonan in this weekend's Wall Street Journal." Williams says Noonan's work "must be considered an early favorite" for next year's Pulitzer for commentary. The piece in question:

Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama's problem. America is Mr. Obama's problem. He has been tagged as a snooty lefty, as the glamorous, ambivalent candidate from Men's Vogue, the candidate who loves America because of the great progress it has made in terms of racial fairness. Fine, good. But has he ever gotten misty-eyed over ... the Wright Brothers and what kind of country allowed them to go off on their own and change everything? How about D-Day, or George Washington, or Henry Ford, or the losers and brigands who flocked to Sutter's Mill, who pushed their way west because there was gold in them thar hills? There's gold in that history. John McCain carries it in his bones.

And I bet he hates nudist camps and Reeboks at weddings, too.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Lisa LaFlame

Hometown: Los Angeles

Dear Eric,

Saw the LA Times Festival of Books panel Saturday afternoon -- if only the various televised presidential debates (I use that term loosely) were as insightful. You and Arianna Huffington did an excellent job of articulately and respectfully rebutting everything said by David Frum and Dan Schnur. It's amazing to me that despite all the evidence piling higher by the minute, nobody on the right will admit that this administration's policies are an utter failure, one with disastrous consequences. As Arianna said that day, sometimes there aren't two sides to a story. It's bordering on comedy except that with increasing numbers of dead troops and Iraqi civilians, it's absolutely not funny.

I also have to say that I think you and Arianna are both right, as regards William Kristol. You said you didn't think he intentionally lied, while she did call him a liar. I think in the beginning, being such a True Believer of the neo-conservative doctrine as set forth by the Project for the New American Century, Kristol thought he was being truthful. However, these days, the guy can't actually still believe this junk he spews forth, so he just has to be lying. Also, Frum insulted the intelligence of the panel audience and every American in his smug insistence that even as we clamor for more dialogue on health care, jobs, ending the Iraq war, and the economy, what we're all actually concerned about is who wears a flag lapel pin. So disgusting.

Name: Merrill R. Frank

Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC

Dr., I think the Newark Star-Ledger reviewer, Elaine Margolin, meant John Gibson instead of Charles Gibson when listing a litany of conservative commentators on radio and TV.

Though, after his performance moderating that last debate, they might as well have had John. Questions from Bob Gibson would have been more interesting.

Name: Piet Martens

Hometown: Belmont, MA


"The Boys in the Bubble": so true and so to the point. Keep up the good fight!

Piet Martens

Name: John

Hometown: Washington, DC

Eric, so you just happen to be speaking at UVA on Wednesday afternoon? And Bruce just happens to be playing at UVA on Wednesday night? Hmmm... You sly dog. I'm trying to find a way down there myself, but I don't think it will be possible. So if you get in, please shout a little louder for me. Thanks!

Name: Albuquerque Liberal

Hometown: Albuquerque, NM

Don't fret.

He's up there "chasing all them silly New York girls," just like "spirits in the night"

Great to hear the man not afraid to use the "L" word about his compadre, though.

A little weepy myself since people my age are starting to take that next journey.

Oh, well. "Tonight, you's are just both gonna have to settle for Rock 'n Roll."

Name: Jim Kruidenier

Hometown: Amherst, MA

Eric --

Your instincts about Father Knows Best are sound. As an older baby boomer, I can remember watching the show when it was, well, new, and -- allowing for the fact that little kids aren't infallible critics -- man, was it boring. Earnest, yes; well-meaning, yes; but easily the most boring of any of the programs back then (the ones that I saw, anyway, so I'm not including Omnibus and things like that). Robert Young followed that up with a show -- can't remember the name -- in the early '60s, where he was a famous novelist returning to his little hometown, solving a different problem for someone each week (kind of like Route 66 without the change of scenery and the 'vette). That was really boring too, and lasted a year.

Then came Marcus Welby, M.D. I think most would agree this was, well, the most boring doctor show ever. To be fair, it centered on a family practice and so missed the drama that's kind of inherent in an emergency room or neurosurgery, but still ... and the show was also characterized by a steady diet of the AMA's prevailing wisdom of the time, from always paying your bills, no matter how huge and no matter how poor the client, to the good doctor breaking up a marriage so that the young man could go and "satisfy his needs," I think the phrase was, when his wife became disabled.

I think I remember reading that Robert Young was a heckuva nice guy, always considerate of everyone who worked on the set and on his shows. Maybe that wasn't the place to build good television from, I don't know.

I wanted to point out to that the White House bowling alley, cited by Mr. Zornick in his summary of a Newsweek article about Obama, isn't that historic. Richard Nixon took out the White House swimming pool (put in by FDR, I think) and had the bowling alley put in instead -- because he didn't really like to exercise. Should a new president care to restore the pool in 2009, that would be both a return to an older White House and a way to say that FDR is better remembered than RMN.

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