Back in the days when wooly mammoths were denying the theory of climate change, doctors endorsed Lucky Strikes, and a news cycle lasted 12 hours, the late great columnist Arthur Hoppe devised a surefire method for dealing with complaints from readers.
“I’m very sorry ma’am,” Old Chronicler Hoppe would mellifluously intone, the moment he heard a caller start to caterwaul about something he’d written. “We’re going to have to cancel your subscription.” Click.
The time when journalists could scornfully disdain their audience has long since passed, of course, in a century when the Wild West, worldwide web makes everyone her or his own news hen or hound, and the consumer, not the producer, has the upper hand in the information exchange game.
Yet those underpaid working stiffs still laboring for wages in the barren vineyards of daily journalism (and whose news organizations lack the kind of erudite and eloquent readership commentariat to be found at Calbuzz) must be forgiven for thinking longingly of Hoppesque halcyon days each time they have to bite their tongues as ignorant derision, foul-mouthed abuse and other crudities of the online mob greet a well-wrought and reasoned piece of their professional prose.
And so today, in honor of the day-in-day-out self-discipline exercised by members of the ever-shrinking MSM in an ever-expanding non-MSM universe, our prestigious Little Pulitzer Committee presents the Art Hoppe “Tell Me If This Sounds Like a Phone Hanging Up” Award for Saintly Patience and Professional Forbearance to Dan Morain, ace op-edder and editorial writer for the SacBee.
Morain and the Bilderberg Group: Morain has been repeatedly, sometimes savagely, flamed in recent weeks, subjected to a series of coarse, cloddish, lowbred and loutish attacks in response to his opinion pages Actual Reporting.
Most recently, it was a profile of Steve Schmidt, dramatic foil of Sarah Palin in the HBO docudrama “Game Change.” that drew the ire of the flat earth crowd, many of them brain surgeons and rocket scientists who frequent Conservatives4Palin, which had posted several thuggish attacks (“Steve, you’re quite the punk”) against the Sacto-based consultant that Morain cited in his piece.
“I guess the gay community supports one another – strongly,” one scholar commented on his piece, capturing the overall clever tone of several hundred responders. “The only other addition to your article would have been a bold ‘BARF ALERT’ in the header.”
Days before, Morain editorials on childhood vaccinations and L.A. Mayor Tony V. drew similar yahoo throngs perfecting the craft of web-based projectile vomiting; it was a column last month, about a proposed initiative to require labeling of genetically modified foods that is sponsored by an Illinois
snake oil salesman “osteopath and entrepreneur,” which generated the greatest outpouring of bellowing and braying, however. So great was the bedlam that his boss, Stuart Leavenworth, took to print to recount the affair and stand up for his guy:
The Organic Consumers Association – a Minnesota-based group whose political arm has given $95,000 to the initiative – put Morain’s photo on its website and labeled him as a “minion of Monsanto,” a leading manufacturer of GMOs. The Web page then urged followers to inundate The Bee with responses, which they did.
Some of the messages were reasoned and impassioned rebuttals to Morain’s column, which we welcome. Many others simply echoed the talking points of the OCA – that Morain had been bought off by the biotech industry and should be fired or silenced. Others were even worse.
“I hope you get cancer you corporate sellout scumbag,” wrote one Mercola supporter, named Dan.
“You will be punished in many ways, by eating, writing, and lack of knowledge of the Bilderberg Group who wants to kill all of us including you,” wrote another person, named Carol.
Sheesh. Confirming the wisdom of the judges who honored him with The Hoppe, Morain delivered a characteristically short and stolid acceptance speech:
“Part of the deal, I guess.”
Sketchy etchings: Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the 48-hour Etch-a-Sketch feeding frenzy triggered by Mitt Romney’s chief
nitwit spokesman is that the question of who actually invented the damn thing remains an unsettled issue. (Our money’s on the Italian guy).
Beyond that, what seems most striking is how many among the rarefied pundit class are basically missing the point.
Sure, comparing your candidate to an Etch a Sketch calls attention to his political record as a serial flip-flopper and right-wing poseur. But that brand of analysis, while displaying a tremendous instinct for the obvious, simply skims the surface: The whole Hall of Fame for Toys flapdoodle resonates for existential reasons that are far more fundamental, and far more dangerous for Mittens. To wit:
1-The guy’s got no base. Besides Ann and the kids, his 1% buy-out pals and the Mormon church (more below), who is really invested in Romney’s presidential effort, or has any connection that goes beyond the operational?
Think of any other presidential-level politician who faced a media firestorm in recent years – Clinton with Gennifer, Bush with the DUI, McCain with his lobbyist love interest, Palin with her entire life, Clinton with the draft, Kerry with the Swiftboaters, Obama with Rev. Wright, Clinton with Monica – and every one had a chorus of hardcore boosters and lifers who pushed back in the press. Not our Mittens, as First Read correctly notes:
This is what happens when you don’t have a solid base of support that can serve as a cocoon of protection during the toughest of times. Successful presidential candidates had grassroots supporters rushing to their defense, even in the toughest of political times. Romney — right now — doesn’t have this. In fact, it was notable during yesterday’s “Etch A Sketch” controversy that we didn’t see many prominent conservatives railing against media bias or unfairness. Instead, they were either standing on the sidelines or piling on. And that’s a problem for Romney.
2-The guy has no guts. To us, the most telling anecdote about what kind of person Romney is comes from “The Real Romney,” the biography by Boston Globers Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. At one point, they describe the events that led to the creation of Bain Capital, the company where Mitt got the experience he assures us is all he needs to fix the economy in a jiffy. At the time, his boss, Bill Bain, wanted him to leave his comfy consulting gig and boldly branch out on behalf of the team:
And so Bain made his pitch: Up to that point, Bain & Company could watch its clients prosper only from a distance, taking handsome fees but not directly sharing in profits. Bain’s epiphany was that he would create a new enterprise that would invest in companies and share in their growth, rather than just advise them.
Starting almost immediately, Bain proposed, Romney would become the head of a new company to be called Bain Capital. With seed money from Bill Bain and other partners at the consulting firm, Bain Capital would raise tens of millions of dollars, invest in start-ups and troubled businesses, apply Bain’s brand of management advice, and then resell the revitalized companies or sell their shares to the public at a profit. It sounded exciting, daring, new. It would be Romney’s first chance to run his own firm and, potentially, to make a killing. It was an offer few young men in a hurry could refuse.
Yet Romney stunned his boss by doing just that. He explained to Bain that he didn’t want to risk his position, earnings, and reputation on an experiment. He found the offer appealing but didn’t want to make the decision in a “light or flippant manner.” So Bain sweetened the pot. He guaranteed that if the experiment failed Romney would get his old job and salary back, plus any raises he would have earned during his absence. Still, Romney worried about the impact on his reputation if he proved unable to do the job. Again the pot was sweetened. Bain promised that, if necessary, he would craft a cover story saying that Romney’s return to Bain & Company was needed due to his value as a consultant. “So,” Bain explained, “there was no professional or financial risk.” This time Romney said yes.
There you have it. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Mitt wants – no, demands – that life forever after be delivered on a silver platter, and pronto – no risk, no worry, no chance of failure, no sleepless nights. Just like, you know, the rest of us.
3-The guy’s afraid of who he is. Besides money and his family, the most important thing in Romney’s life is the Mormon Church, but he’s in the closet about it. In his failed 2008 bid, Romney gave one speech about his religion, a pile of platitudes that used the word “Mormon” once and shed exactly no light on the implications of what he believes and why.
Mormonism has been at the center of his life, from his grandfather’s historic role in the church to his own multimillion dollar tithings. Putting aside the fact that his wife’s family was not allowed to attend the couple’s wedding ceremony in the church, along with all the secret and secretive practices of LDS, the crucial fact is that voters have no information about how being Mormon informs and shapes his views on contemporary public policy issues, from Prop. 8 to race relations. From Frank Rich’s terrific piece on this:
In Romneyland, Mormonism is the religion that dare not speak its name. Which leaves him unable to talk about the very subject he seems to care about most, a lifelong source of spiritual, familial, and intellectual sustenance. We’re used to politicians who camouflage their real views about issues, or who practice fraud in their backroom financial and political deal-making, but this is something else. Romney’s very public persona feels like a hoax because it has been so elaborately contrived to keep his core identity under wraps.
The questions are not theological. Nor are they about polygamy, the scandalous credo that earlier Romneys practiced even after the church banned it in 1890. Rather, the questions are about the Mormon church’s political actions during Mitt Romney’s lifetime—and about what role Romney, as both a leader and major donor, might have played or is still playing in those actions. To ask these questions is not to be a religious bigot but to vet a candidate for the nation’s highest job. Given how often Romney himself cites his faith as a defining force in his life, voters have a right to know what role he played when his faith intersected with the secular lives of his fellow citizens.
Next up: Mitt looks in the mirror and sees no reflection.
Reading list: For those who’ve been vacationing on Saturn since January, here’s everything you need to know about the GOP race in five easy-to-read graphics.
Timm Herdt is the big dog on California’s most interesting congressional race.
God bless George Skelton.
The Bee’s got the political equivalent of the Final Four tourney bracket.
Chief Wahoo Club special: How can you lose when Carlos Baerga endorses you?
Read of the week: How Russia’s Paris Hilton became a working class hero:
During the first years of Mr. Putin’s presidency, Ms. Sobchak made herself into an avatar of Moscow’s over-the-top, oil-fueled high life. She dated millionaires, posed topless for Playboy and lustily embraced the materialism of the age, making no attempt to hide her distaste for the poverty of ordinary Russians…
At some point last year, that changed. In October, she turned a video camera on Vasily G. Yakemenko, the minister of youth affairs, in an exorbitantly expensive Moscow restaurant, noting in her starlet’s purr that while socialites were expected to drink Champagne at $45 a glass, government officials were a different story.
The video became a sensation. Mr. Yakemenko’s spokeswoman called Ms. Sobchak a “cheap prostitute,” and she began to clash with television executives over her desire to interview opposition figures like the blogger Aleksei Navalny.