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The Courtier Chronicles

From the Scrapbook.

Nov 17, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 09
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That hilarious, feigned concern for "our national discourse" from a man who does his best to degrade it on a regular basis is what separates a Nobel Prize winner from a run-of-the-mill ranter at the Daily Kos and makes Krugman our first Nixon Sore Winner laureate.

Rather Enjoyable

Even with all the excitement of the presidential election, THE SCRAPBOOK is gratified to report that life goes on. For example, Dan Rather's $70 million lawsuit against CBS is still wending its way slowly through the civil courts in New York.

The suit, for those readers who might not be following the gavel-to-gavel coverage, contends that a panel of outside experts, convened by CBS to evaluate a (discredited) 2004 story on President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, fatally damaged Rather's career by making him the fall guy for the whole disaster, ultimately leading to his retirement as news reader for the CBS Evening News.

From THE SCRAPBOOK's standpoint, the most enjoyable part of the lawsuit is Rather's contention that CBS assembled the panel, and cooked its conclusions, in order to "mollify the right" and curry favor with George W. Bush, who was running for reelection when the phony story was broadcast. As they might say down in Dan Rather's part of Texas, if you believe that CBS ever breaks a sweat worrying about conservatives in America, or earning points with any Republican administration, we have a bridge made of squashed armadillo shells we'd like to sell you.

The problem for THE SCRAPBOOK is not the particulars of the case--it has long been settled that the Bush/National Guard story, presented by Rather, was a lie based on lies--but which side to root for. Of course, we expect to see Dan Rather lose his preposterous lawsuit--and how nice it would be for him to pay the defendants' legal costs as well--but it sure is tough to conjure up sympathy for CBS. It was the self-styled Tiffany network, after all, that chose Rather to succeed Walter Cronkite in 1981--in preference to, say, Roger Mudd, who would have been a far less catastrophic choice--and it was executives at CBS who stood solidly behind Rather during earlier, equally outrageous, episodes of bias and misreporting. The network's current problems with Dan Rather are entirely its own fault.

So maybe we should settle for strict neutrality. Let CBS's ankles be pecked ad infinitum by Dan Rather, and let the 77-year-old Rather continue broadcasting on the HDNet cable network to his dozens of loyal viewers. The two parties to this ludicrous litigation deserve each other.

Erica Jong's Fear of Losing

Überfeminist author Erica Jong must be breathing a sigh of relief. In an interview in Corriere della Sera, and as noted in the New York Observer, Jong's fear was that "if Obama loses it will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will run in the streets, believe me. And it's not a coincidence that President Bush recalled soldiers from Iraq for Dick Cheney to lead against American citizens in the streets." Highlights, provided to the Observer's Jason Horowitz by Christian Rocca of Il Foglio include:

 "My friends Ken Follett and Susan Cheever are extremely worried. Naomi Wolf calls me every day. Yesterday, Jane Fonda sent me an email to tell me that she cried all night and can't cure her ailing back for all the stress that has reduced her to a bundle of nerves."

  "My back is also suffering from spasms, so much so that I had to see an acupuncturist and get prescriptions for Valium."

 "After having stolen the last two elections, the Republican Mafia .  .  ."

  "Bush has transformed America into a police state, from torture to the imprisonment of reporters, to the -Patriot Act."

Jong, who fancies herself and novelist Michael Chabon as the intellectual heirs to Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer, must be counting the days until the Inauguration--and the end of war, hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, and fascism.

A Dictionary of Political Clichés, Postelection Edition

In our last episode two weeks ago ("Flaubert Gets Updated for 2008," by Matthew Continetti), we encouraged readers to send in their contributions to our ongoing dictionary of political clichés. Here's what you came up with:

Change We Can Believe In. "A selective suspension of disbelief by a potential voter, which allows him to believe the message of a candidate that is specifically tailored to positions they already hold." (David Mayes,
Columbus, Ohio)

Folks. "A term that the Beltway/NYC crowd has picked up from the Obama campaign, apparently to refer to those whom they presume to be the great unwashed, and who are deeply in need of their spiritual guidance." (Mary Daly, Littleton, N.H.)

Swing State. "A geographical jurisdiction whose residents are forced to endure endless negative political advertisements and significant logistic hassles, including waiting in long lines of traffic while Secret Service and other police block off key arteries several times each day for presidential candidates or other politicos passing through to appeal for the six or seven votes that are actually up for grabs in the state." (Mason Blaich, -Albuquerque, N.M.)

And here are some more entries from the staff of THE WEEKLY STANDARD:

Close the Sale. The signing of papers that allow the guy from Illinois to take possession of the presidential limo, White House, and Air Force One.

Closing Argument. A lawyer's final summary of his case. Joe Biden's can last for hours and has been known to drive juries into mild catatonia.

First Class Temperament. Used to describe, well, you-know-who. The phrase comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes, who used it to describe FDR. If you use this phrase, you get Double Pundit Points: Not only is it the same thing that everyone else is saying, but it also suggests deep historical knowledge.

Green Jobs. Jobs held by the Jolly Green Giant, Oscar the Grouch, that chick from the original Star Trek, Pete's Dragon, the Green Lantern, Greedo, and the Green Arrow. We need more of these.

Ground Game. Marbles, hopscotch, jump rope, tiddly-winks, etc.

Mandate. When two straight guys go out to dinner and a movie (not that there's anything wrong with that!).

Resonate. Your argument needs to do this. It's no longer enough to persuade, cajole, or reason with voters. What's important is that you resonate. Here's how: Hold all campaign events in Luray Caverns, Va., an empty concert hall, or in the Alps.