Three weeks ago, President Obama's economic team posited a job creation package (what is now referred to as an economic stimulus package) costing "just over" $775 billion, made up of roughly two-thirds spending and one-third tax cuts.
Since then, consumers of mass media have seen an unending parade of berserk Republicans, Obama supporters with buyer's remorse over supporting a pathologically reasonable neophyte, and pundits speculating that maybe the Obama presidency is failing before our very eyes. Two weeks ago, the biggest spending bill in history, an absolutely
critical piece in the current economic puzzle, was, according to virtually everyone on television, on the verge of collapse -- for
good or ill, depending on which channel you were watching. The
Republicans were so much craftier in their use of procedure and media!
President Obama seemed passive and disengaged! EVERYTHING WAS FALLING
APART AND OBAMA'S PRESIDENCY MAY BE OVER!!!!
What emerged from conference last night is a $790 billion bill made up of roughly two-thirds spending and one-third tax breaks. In other words, for all practical purposes exactly what President Obama asked for.
This is a reminder that our media culture needs some dire outrage every night to make all those promos and rile up their small, specialized audiences. A key core competency of the Bill O'Reillys and Kieth Olbermanns -- and even the more respectable professionals out doing their stand-ups in front of the White House -- is the ability to see the moment with a total lack of perspective.
In her whiny and unaware post mortem of the campaign with conservative radio host-turned-filmmaker John Ziegler, Sarah Palin brought up something we don't talk a lot about here in the Land of Opportunity. Apparently unaware that America is supposed to be a classless society, she went right to the "C" word when discussing Caroline Kennedy's media coverage:
Palin questioned whether (Caroline) Kennedy's bid for the Senate "will be handled
with kid gloves," and if so, "we will perhaps be able to prove that
there is a class issue here" when contrasted with the scrutiny of her
campaign. Kennedy, of course, is trying for an appointment to be one of
100 rather than running for vice president, and has drawn critical coverage for a series of halting interviews.
Palin is delusional through the interview, forgetting key aspects of her media treatment such as: she only talked to the media a few times and when she did she didn't make any sense.
She blames the media for that, which is fascinating since the kind of questions she fumbled were not hard-hitting. (Imagine a Mike Wallace ambush: he jumps out from behind the shrubbery, shoves a microphone into the nefarious evildoer's face, and barks, "What newspapers do you read?") But when Palin made her point about social class she was dead on, and way more accurate in her depiction of the media than is the standard right-wing ideological complaint.
The right can't come to grips with two simple facts: the media are all over the map ideologically and not all bad coverage is the result of ideological bias.
But class is a different thing. Class is, in large measure, what determines the tone of one's media coverage. Class is a pervasive factor in the media, and we almost never talk about it.
If you look across the newsrooms of the big dailies and TV nets, your'e looking across workplaces where there's near-uniformity of social class. Everyone went to the same schools, and they have the same circle of friends and make the same over-sized paychecks. Their isolation from everyday life is extreme (remember Connie Chung covering an earthquake in San Francisco from the back seat of a limousine?), and their attempts to make up for it (e.g., the "man in the street" interview) are farcical. Another seldom-talked-about aspect, given the dominance of TV news, is that everyone involved in the elite media is pretty, and pretty people have an easier time in life than not-pretty people.
Part of Palin's problem with the media was social class. There are those on the left who say she's elite herself because she and her husband earn an elite income of nearly $250,000 a year. But class long ago separated from income in the United States; that's why Donald Trump will, no matter how rich he is, be forever a short-fingered vulgarian. Even a cursory class analysis shows that Palin's claims of middle-classiness seem more like climbing than pretentious humility. We have people like Palin in Kentucky, and no matter how big their house is, everyone knows they're hillbillies.
Consider the facts: Palin went to five different colleges, none of them academically
demanding. She was a beauty queen. She and her husband have been
seasonal workers -- fishermen some times of the year,
oil field workers during other times -- in industries that require long
separations from home and family. She's got a son who had a few scrapes
with the law and went into the Army and a daughter who was knocked-up
by a high school dropout. (Palin protests that he's not a dropout
because he's working on his GED. You have to drop out of high school
before you can get into a GED program, and the fact that she believes
getting a GED is not dropping out confirms her hillbilly worldview.) She's governor of a state where one of the main political
issues is whether government should require people to have their trash
professionally disposed of, or whether they should be trusted to load
it up into their pick-up trucks and dispose of it properly themselves.
(We have that argument every now and then in Kentucky, and the people
who are against government trash removal tend to be the people who
dispose of their trash by driving out on a country road and dumping it
into a ravine -- which is not very classy.)
Caroline Kennedy, on the other hand, is upper class -- a fascinating study of the long-term effect of great wealth, given that her grandfather was viewed by the establishment as a nouveau climber unfit for polite company. Caroline, compared to most, has lead the friction-free life that most of us can only marvel at. She's been ushered through life by an adoring establishment. I'm absolutely certain her application to Harvard didn't receive the same scrutiny that mine would have, just for example. I'm guessing she didn't have to claw her way into the various law and foundation jobs that have occupied her since. And her comically easy rise in politics -- few even bothered to claim that she had anything going for her but her name -- is a disgraceful reversion to the English system of peerage that we fought a revolution to get rid of.
All of that said, I don't believe her media coverage has been any less devastating than Palin's. It's been less pervasive, given that she aspires to be a Senator rather than Vice President, but it's been just as deadly.
But Palin is right that Kennedy's coverage has been different, and that the difference has been a difference of class. Palin's coverage was loud and buffoonish because Palin was, in the eyes of the Ivy Leaguers at the back of the plane, loud and buffoonish. Kennedy's coverage, on the other hand, is delivered in the low, serious tones of the upper class, the way one talks privately about a well-liked equal who's embarrassing herself carrying on with the busboy.
Both Palin and Kennedy are jokes, they're just different kinds of jokes. One is Monty Python and one is Benny Hill, and all Palin can hear is the laughter aimed at her own pratfalls. She drops back into the right-wing refuge of blaming the media and declining to deal with reality, even though she instinctively understands that reality well. It is a class issue, and a smart politician would turn that into something marketable. Ronald Reagan did it. Reagan was far from high-class, with family dramas of his own and social inadequacies the likes of which the White House hadn't seen since Truman. But Reagan channeled whatever class resentments he had into something besides bitterness and self-pity.
Palin, it appears, isn't going to do that. For all the shots she's taken, she's a stint as head of the National Governor's Association and one good appearance on Charlie Rose away from redemption. But instead of getting serious, she wastes her time commiserating with ideological bozos like John Ziegler. That says to me that she hasn't got a clue.
Can we please stop referring to (Nicole) Kidman as an A-lister now? The Hours
in 2002 and Cold Mountain in 2003 were well received, but since then,
her resume has been pretty thin in terms of box office or critical
success. Surely other superlatives are more apt for now — “favorite
actress,” or “the lovely” — either would do just fine.
Seriously: you'd forgotten Australia was even a move, hadn't you?
MediaMatters gives it's Most Inane award to Cokie Roberts, daughter of the beltway and creature of the kind of clubby conventional wisdom that makes normal people want to scream. The award was bestowed for Roberts' hand-wringing over Barack Obama's choice of "somewhat odd," "exotic and foreign" Hawaii as a vacation spot.
More than 7 million tourists visit Hawaii every year, most of them Americans. A Hawaiian vacation is the lifelong dream of millions of landlocked midwesterners. And yet in her distorted beltway mind, Americans are so small-minded and ignorant that they conclude that Obama is somehow scary because he vacationed in Hawaii. What provincial rubes we are!
Clearly, Cokie Roberts thinks we're all idiots. It's nice we have the opportunity to return the compliment.
The AP is out with it's Top News Stories of 2008 list, which I have not read but am nonetheless offended by. Is it not just a bit premature, deciding the top 10 stories of the year before the year is over? What of the intrepid reporters who will file the obligatory "Poor Family's Apartment Burns Down Christmas Eve" tearjerkers on every TV station in the country? Does their work deserve no consideration?
So, without further ado, I'm going to guess what the top threestories this year are, without even looking:
Paris Hilton jailed
Was that this year? If it wasn't, I'll substitute OJ Finally Convicted.
Anyway, I'm going to look now at the list and see how I did:
Gas Prices go haywire
The Paris Hilton thing didn't make the list, but Sarah Palin did (#7) and that's almost the same.
Katherine-Jean Lopez at NRO thinks Sarah Palin should be Time magazine's Person of the Year. She suspects that liberal media bias is what's going to keep Time from doing that. If the media weren't biased, Time would have chosen Palin, losing Vice Presidential candidate, over Barack Obama, winning Presidential candidate.
Because there's nothing noteworthy in the election of the first African-Americna President.