Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Liberal media, my tailfeathers (hypocrisy edition)

Okay, lemme start by being shallow. Because, as shallow as our media discourse has become, as long as I talk about anything of substance anywhere in this post, I'm still doing way better than, say, Maureen Dowd.

Why on earth does the entire political media establishment seem to think Fred Thompson, a bald, jowly, aging white dude with prominent crow's feet, is the sexiest thing in the universe? He is possibly the least attractive person running for president. I don't think attractiveness should have anything to do with who gets to be president, mind you, but why does everyone think this guy is good looking? Because he's on "Law & Order"? Being on TV does not make you handsome.

More importantly, why do Chris Matthews and others keep gushing about how "authentic" Thompson is? They present his "signature red pickup" from his senate campaign in the 1990s as proof of how "real" he is. Jamison Foser put it really well in Media Matters:

The pickup was, literally, a rented prop designed to help a wealthy actor/Washington lobbyist/trial lawyer play the role of salt-of-the-earth populist.

But Chris Matthews and the Beltway pundit crowd don't encounter many actual working-class voters as they stroll the dunes of Nantucket. A wealthy lobbyist/actor who rents a red pickup truck to play the role of a regular guy strikes them as "authentic" and "folksy." Mark Halperin wrote this week that Thompson won his first Senate race "after driving his trademark red pickup truck all over Tennessee."

It reminds me of the way these same rich pundits who like to pretend they're totally blue collar fell for yet another rich candidate who liked to pretend he was blue collar: George W. Bush. Remember how authentic and folksy everyone in the media seemed to find that multimillionaire son of a former president who'd gone to Yale as a legacy and never worked an honest day in his life? But, see, that didn't matter. He liked to clear brush! (Look; no one likes to clear brush. Not that a bunch of rich media guys would know that.)

And they'd always apply a double standard. The formula was always "John Kerry lives in a really expensive house! By contrast, Bush likes to clear brush on his ranch." As if those were not two different ideas. You can't contrast how much someone's house cost with what someone else pretends to like to do at his house. There would have been contrast there if, and only if, Bush's ranch had been really cheap. (It wasn't. Rich guys' pretend cowboy ranches never are.)

Now, because Fred Thompson rents a pickup just long enough to be photographed in it and then drives away in a luxury car afterwards, he's "authentic."

Meanwhile, John Edwards, who genuinely grew up poor but became rich later, is a big phony:

And what of another wealthy Southerner who used to be a trial lawyer? One who doesn't rent props to hide his good fortune? The pundits channel Holden Caulfield and declare John Edwards to be a big phony. Just this week, Bill O'Reilly ("I have no respect for him. He's a phony and is in the tank for special interest to damage this country. Edwards is going nowhere, but deserves to be called out."), Dennis Miller, and Tucker Carlson ("Is Edwards an appalling phony, I guess is my question?") described Edwards as "phony."

The rich trial lawyer/lobbyist who rents a red pickup, not to drive, but to use as a prop? The media tell us he's folksy and authentic. And the rich former trial lawyer who doesn't hide his good fortune? He's a phony.

And why is John Edwards a phony? Because he doesn't pretend to be poor. See, if he faked poverty, he'd be authentic, but because he doesn't pretend to be poor, he's a phony. Following this? Well, it only gets dumber.

Because, see, John Edwards is a phony because he advocates policies that would benefit poor people.

If you don't think that makes any sense, think about the apparent rationale that leads journalists to conclude that Edwards is a phony: his policy proposals to fight poverty. He's rich and wants to fight poverty, so they say he's a phony hypocrite. As we have explained, that simply isn't what "hypocrite" means -- it isn't as if Edwards is running around saying everybody should be poor, then going home at night and swimming in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck. That would be hypocrisy -- and that isn't what Edwards advocates at all. He wants to combat poverty. Hypocrisy is generally considered one of the most damaging qualities a politician can exhibit. Political reporters certainly behave as though that is the case. And yet they demonstrate an absolutely stunning lack of understanding of what hypocrisy actually is.

Got it? If you're not actually poor, but want to help poor people, you're a "hypocrite." Anything other than naked self-interest is hypocrisy.

See, all those rich Republicans who want to cut taxes only for themselves and other rich people, while running around posing for photos in rented pickups they pretend to own? That's "authentic."

Now excuse me while I go beat my head against a wall.

Hosted by KEENSPOT: Privacy Policy