On Friday (appearing in Saturday's print edition), the New York Times published its first column by Bret Stephens, the former Wall Street Journal columnist recently hired as a "conservative" voice. Its theme was that the political "hyperbole" about climate change doesn't match the underlying science — even if one trusts the underlying science. That alone was enough to send journalists into unhinged and often profane orbit.
Though it’s not clear whether the Democratic party will produce a post-presidential-election “autopsy report” like Republicans did in early 2013, there has been a lot of self-scrutiny among liberals since Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss. One example is Kevin Drum's Friday post written in response to a fellow liberal’s cluelessness. After New York Times columnist Paul Krugman claimed to be unaware that “affluent liberals…sneer at the Joe Sixpacks,” an amazed Drum declared, “I'm not here to get into a fight with Krugman, but come on. Sure, the right-wing media fans the flames of this stuff, but is there really any question that liberal city folks tend to sneer at rural working-class folks? I'm not even talking about stuff like abortion and guns and gay marriage, where we disagree over major points of policy. I'm talking about lifestyle.”
For the but-tell-us-how-you-really-feel file, this headline on a Friday post by Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum: “Fuck You, James Comey.” The post, of course, centered on the presumed effect on presidential voting of Comey’s October 28 letter which jump-started the Hillary Clinton e-mail story. “When an election is close…there are dozens of people, events, and movements that can make a difference of 1 percent or so,” wrote Drum. “But if we're going to choose one particular person who managed to hand the White House to a buffoonish game show host, it's FBI director James Comey, the guy who…provided the match that Trump used to light the country on fire.”
Conservatives are unwilling to let Hillary be Hillary where transparency is concerned, and “it drives them crazy,” believes Kevin Drum. In a post last Wednesday, Drum argued that whenever the right has “forced…openness on Clinton in an effort to destroy her,” it’s “done nothing except paint a portrait of a pretty normal politician,” a failure that’s left those conservatives with “bizarre levels” of “Clinton Derangement Syndrome.”
Plenty of journalists saw Hillary Clinton’s Thursday speech on Donald Trump and white nationalists as an attempt to further separate the GOP nominee from Republicans who aren’t #NeverTrump but are leery of voting for him. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones “propose[d] a different explanation”: that Hillary “was giving the press permission to talk about Donald Trump's racism." But Esquire’s Charles Pierce has no confidence that pundits and reporters will deal properly with the racism issue. The media, Pierce says, have "normalized [the] candidate" who "normalized hate groups."
Kevin Drum has been blogging for a long time, so it’s not surprising that he’s got a flair for clickbait. You have to admit that the Monday headline “Hillary Clinton Is One of America’s Most Honest Politicians” is quite an attention-grabber. Of course, whether or not it’s true is another matter. Drum commented, “All politicians lie sometimes. That includes Hillary Clinton. But...Hillary is one of the most honest politicians on the national stage...I know it's in their partisan self interest for conservatives to insist that Hillary is the world's biggest liar. But she isn't. Not by a long, long way. Republicans need to get the beam out of their own eye before they keep banging on about the mote in Hillary's.”
Much like Phil Mickelson took a big early lead in the British Open, Esquire’s Charles Pierce has taken a big rhetorical-excess lead in early blogging about Donald Trump’s VP pick, Indiana governor Mike Pence, calling him a “very strange and completely unreconstructed wingnut” whose paper trail contains “a rich deposit of sweet crude crazy.” Kevin Drum of Mother Jones described Pence as "not especially bright or quick on his feet, which means he might have trouble defending Trump's frequent idiocies and backflips. It should be fun to watch him squirm.”
If there were a restaurant called Clinton Scandals, Kevin Drum has an idea of what the house specialty would be. “Whitewater was a nothingburger. Travelgate was a nothingburger. Troopergate was a nothingburger. Filegate was a nothingburger,” asserted Drum in a Wednesday post. “The Vince Foster murder conspiracy theories were a nothingburger. Monica Lewinsky was Bill's problem, not Hillary's. Benghazi was a tragedy, but entirely nonscandalous…Emailgate revealed some poor judgment, but we've now seen all the emails and it's pretty obviously a nothingburger.”
New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait has contempt for both Donald Trump (“his appeal operates…at a sub-intellectual level”) and those who’ve voted for him (“the Republican Party turns out to be filled with idiots”). Still, suggested Chait in a Thursday post, Trump and his supporters have unwittingly clarified something important: the Tea Party movement is not and never was truly conservative, partly because its hostility toward government spending was selective (tea-partiers had no problem with programs they benefited from, but disliked programs perceived as benefiting minorities).
Universities have generated countless breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine. Then there’s the product of higher education that Kevin Drum discussed in a Saturday post: “The first concrete movement toward gender-neutral bathrooms started at universities. Now it's becoming mainstream. Good work, idealistic college kids!"
Drum remarked that some current campus obsessions -- “safe spaces, microaggressions, trigger warnings” -- might be considered “dumb,” but added, “I've always found it hard to get too exercised about this stuff. These kids are 19 years old. They want to change the world. They're idealistic and maybe too impatient with anyone who doesn't want to move as fast as they do. So were you and I at that age. Frankly, if they didn't go a little overboard about social justice, I'd be worried about them.”
Kevin Drum thinks he understands Hillary Clinton’s reluctance to release the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches, and it has more to do with attacks she might face during the fall campaign than it does with Bernie Sanders.
Drum believes it’s “vanishingly unlikely” that the speeches include “something genuinely damning,” but noted in a Saturday post that “when you give speeches to any industry group, you offer up some praise for the vital work they do. It's just part of the spiel. And Hillary knows perfectly well without even looking that some of that stuff is in these speeches—and it can be taken out of context and made into yet another endless and idiotic Republican meme. Remember ‘You didn't build that’? Sure you do.”
When a politician says that the mainstream media favor the other side, he or she almost always is a conservative Republican. Therefore, it was noteworthy when, this past week, Sanders accused the MSM of propping up the GOP; his argument, however, was unconvincing even to a reporter for a lefty magazine.
On Thursday, Tim Murphy of Mother Jones noted Sanders’s remark that “if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for,” the GOP would be “a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.” Murphy didn’t buy it: “A corporate media that obsesses over the issues Sanders obsesses over would certainly have some impact on the political landscape. But Sanders' dismissal of the Republican base seems to miss a far more obvious takeaway. People vote for Republicans not because they've been brainwashed, but because they actually like what Republicans…are proposing.”