Monday, February 20, 2006

There's Something About Mary

Generally I avoid the Sunday morning political wankfests like the plague anyway, but I particularly avoid Press The Meat, due to my low tolerance for Father Tim's fulsome nonsense and wink-and-a-nod conspiratorial countenance. It's impossible for me to watch even two seconds of this show and not think about how he's in on it all. He's not an objective observer or commentator, he's part of the problem.

And yet, swamp thing Mary Matalin's bravura flackery for Good Dick Hunting got major buzz on the internets today, so I decided to catch the MSNBC rerun tonight while dicking around with a couple of Kreutzer etudes. (I find that having mindless background noise going while I'm practicing pieces and scales and such actually helps my concentration, in an oddly dissociative way that's hard to describe, but that most musicians (especially guitarists) understand. Once you have acquired the basic positions and fingerings of a piece, it's actually easier to develop intermediate muscle memory when you're not obsessing and hovering over it. So I'm big on watching Letterman while playing a Bach violin partita or some such. I am considering getting a life eventually.)

And when it comes to mindless background noise, MTP certainly fit the bill. Particularly ironic is that Li'l Russ devoted the first portion of the telecast to a one-on-one with Michael Chertoff, rehashing everything that went down with Hurricane Katrina last summer. I say this is ironic because I believe that it is actually Katrina that serves as the lodestar in pinpointing Dick Cheney's sense of humanity, his moral compass.

It simply cannot be overemphasized that in a time of immense crisis, when hundreds of thousands of his countrymen truly needed him, he could not be counted on even to cut his fucking fishing trip short. I know about technological advances; I understand that they have state-of-the-art equipment even out in Jackson Hole. That is not the point, and people who claim not to grasp it are simply being disingenuous. When confronted with an enormous disaster -- particularly one that had been anticipated, and one which everyone had been duly warned about -- a real leader steps up and asks, "What can we do to help?". He does not pretend to play a git-tar and dawdle for three whole days; nor does he keep fishing for five whole days.

Suffice to say, that one event tells you everything you need to know about what kind of a man Cheney (and Bush, for that matter) is; his handling of the hunting accident just reinforces that conclusion. Leave it to our intrepid media to dutifully ignore that pattern.

Anyway, Mary Matalin, she of the tiresomely high-profile marriage to fellow circus geek James Carville. Where to start? Pretty much everyone has already unloaded their snark on her appearance, and it was indeed unfortunate, a style that may best be described as Walmart Dragon Queen, somewhere between Katherine Harris and Cruella DeVil. About the only thing missing was a coat made of Dalmatian puppies. Just really unpleasant to look at, in stark contrast to Maureen Dowd, who was pleasant and understated in both appearance and demeanor. MoDo seemed to understand right away that there was nothing to be gained by trying to keep up with Matalin's histrionics, and was content to let Matalin dig her own hole (shudder).

But that's mean and cheap, and by golly, we're about the substance here at the Hammer. So let's look at some of that substance:

MR. RUSSERT: Initially, there was—seemed to be an attempt to blame Mr. Whittington. Was the vice president part of that? Aware of it?

MS. MARY MATALIN: Absolutely not. When I spoke to the vice president Sunday morning, he made it more than clear that it was his fault, no matter what the conditions, no matter how much the shared risk. That this should not be blamed on Harry. What happens here is that’s not the first account. That’s the wire account of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. The very first account, Katharine Armstrong just lays out the facts, and she includes in there how apologetic the vice president was at the immediate scene.

What happens as these stories go from the local to the national is you stop giving out facts. You stop answering questions, and you start making denials. “No, Cheney wasn’t drunk.” “No, it wasn’t Cheney’s fault.” So as it progressed through the week, that’s what happened.

If you go back to Katharine Armstrong’s original description, given in context to locals who understand the frequency of hunting accidents, unfortunately, the culture of Texas, through the eyes of a person who actually saw, who has an expertise, there was no fault described. She laid out the facts: what Mr. Whittington had done, what the vice president had done, and included, clearly, the vice president’s immediate reaction which was profuse apologies.

You can see where this is going already. The strategy is clear from the outset -- it's all the press' fault. They blew a picayune story out of proportion; they got their facts mixed up; they started a feeding frenzy; they operate in bad faith when it comes to Chimpco, because as we all know, Chimpco has been more than fair with them from day one.

In other words, it's all a big conspiracy. Except Mary has some trouble keeping her story straight on that account. Note in the excerpt above how she blames the "wire account" from the local Corpus Christi newspaper, the outlet Cheney's camp first approached with the story. Yet later, Matalin claims that the press strategy they chose was the best one possible because they felt a local outlet, which supposedly had some profound understanding of the hitherto alien cultures and mores of hunting folk, would give the story fairer play.

This was another extremely off-putting aspect of Matalin's entire appearance -- the sheer contempt and disdain she demonstrates for all things "Beltway", juxtaposed with her (and the Republicans') false idolatry for Bobo's World and its supposed mysteries. It's a transparent attempt to claim working class mores for themselves, when one has fuck-all to do with the other. I worked on my grandparents' dairy for years when I was a kid; killed chickens for dinner, raised cows and pigs for slaughter. Even went deerhunting once. And I've worked my share of blue-collar jobs. I have nothing whatsoever in common with Matalin and her fellow assholes, and I deeply resent their clumsy overtures at some wistful vestige of Americana.

The pretentious exaltation of all things small-town is just so transparently dishonest. There is nothing to exalt about a bunch of inbred politicos camping at the ranch of a donor who basically runs the county, to raise money while they get sauced and drive up and shoot fat birds that can barely fly. That is not sportsmanship; that is sadism. It's the American version of fox-hunting, a despicable practice that outlived its usefulness years ago. There's nothing wrong with actual hunting, but that is not hunting; it's merely killing.

MR. RUSSERT: But they were quoting her directly, and many suggested that she also told the papers that she had first thought that the vice president had had a heart attack, so maybe she didn’t see the whole event.

MS. MATALIN: She saw enough to be able to describe the—what happened and who was where and what happened immediately afterwards. Yeah, that’s the problem with this. That’s why—that is exactly why you’re—Tim, you’re going right to the point of why we wanted to have—rather than just throw something out there that night or the first thing the next morning, why we wanted to take our time. Speak to the sheriff so we’d have the voice of authority. Have Katharine be able to share with other witnesses, and she could be an eyewitness. That’s why we wanted to take our time because there were differing accounts, and there was mass confusion. And all—the whole first night was a very human reaction to get Harry and his family attended to.

That's another trope Mary leans a bit too heavily on throughout -- we're only human, you see. We're not alien Borgs like you unfeeling bastards who only care about stupid facts. We're real people, real Americans. Oh, say can you see....

Like her glow-in-the-dark king-size novelty flower broach, Mary's schtick wears thin real fast. Look, lady, when the (nominally) #2 person in this country's government goes on yet another taxpayer-funded vacation, and accidentally shoots someone, we have a right to know about it. It's that fucking simple. Everything else is window dressing. Cheney had both Secret Service and his own medical staff. There were more than enough people around to tend to Whittington and his family. There is simply no good, logical reason for them to have sat on this story as long as they did. Either Cheney was drunk, or they were scared shitless that Whittington was going to die during the night, and wanted to make sure they had their story straight.

Or both.

MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned “speak to the sheriff,” and this is another issue raised. The “Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said at least one deputy was turned away shortly after the shooting because security personnel at the Armstrong ranch were not aware of the agreement between the sheriff and the Secret Service.” What was the agreement? Why wasn’t the vice president interviewed that night after Mr. Whittington was brought to the hospital? Why wasn’t he interviewed by the sheriff that night? Why did they—we wait 14 hours for an interview?

MS. MATALIN: The vice president was informed of the decision to be interviewed the next morning. The original request was that he be interviewed at 10 o’clock. He asked if he could move it up to 8 o’clock because he wanted to—shoot his day up to get to Corpus Christi to see Mr. Whittington. Now it took The Washington Post an entire week to speak to the culture of rural enforcement in a hunting area in south Texas. And it was through the voice of none other than the Democratic state party chairman.

This is rural law enforcement. They hunt from October till the end of February. There’s a presumption of accident. There was—everybody knows everybody down there. Somebody had talked to some ranch hand and said this is an accident. They never go screeching in there. Some deputy who had heard it another way went to some other border post, and nobody there wasn’t going to be allowed in to talk to anybody or let anybody in to see the vice president. That’s just national security. But the suggestion there by the press, not the locals, was that Cheney was covering up. That it’s always done this way. No, it’s not always done that way. If someone had done some reporting or even called the Democratic state party chairman, they would have learned it’s always done the other way where there’s a presumption of accident.

Notice that she provides absolutely no insight to Russert's question. Why did the Secret Service --by their spokesman's own admission -- turn the local sheriff away? She doesn't answer. Instead she recooks her previous trope about reg'lar folks knowin' best, that there was no point in "screeching" in, jes' another huntin' accident.

I don't know what kind of morons Matalin goes hunting with, but hunting accidents are not commonplace, and they're never taken lightly by law enforcement. Ever. For one, a fair percentage of the time there's either foul play, negligence, or intoxication involved. For another, it's just common sense. Even if everything's on the up-and-up, and everybody's story squares, and no crime took place at all, it's still up to the cops to make that determination. Certainly not the property owner, and certainly not the shooter.

Someone was grievously injured by a firearm discharge. Accident or no, it is up to the cops to make the determination as to what the fuck happened. It really is that simple, and anyone who doesn't realize this -- including Mary Matalin -- should proceed forthwith to their local police station and ask them for yourself. They do not say "oh, it's just another hunting accident", and if they do, they shouldn't be cops, period. There's no such thing as "just another" hunting accident, any more than there's "just another" auto accident. Hunters know this more than anyone else.

But again, I'm actually pretty sure that Matalin knows all this, because she has made sure to couch her snide little responses in this bullshit "heartland" boilerplate that's meant to reassure the base. It's all a big code -- "they" (the "media elite" and the "blue states") think you're rubes out in flyover country.

Sadly, it works. And you know what? They are rubes, as long as they keep falling for this shit. They believe that Mary Matalin understands their concerns. They think that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney give a shit about them. They think a "local gal" like Katherine Armstrong would piss on them if they were on fire. Sorry, folks, but they really don't share your concerns and your values. They're using you, because they know you'll keep falling for the code words, the "us vs. them" narrative.

So I dunno what to tell ya, heartland folks. You want to believe some troll that's been botoxed and spackled within an inch of her life, over your own lyin' eyes, knock yourselves out. Maybe suckers deserve exactly what they get, especially when they seem to want it so badly.

Of course, there's so much more to what transpired -- David Gregory's unnecessary apology to that useless tub of shit Scott McClellan; Paul Gigot dutiful bootlicking; MoDo's quick evisceration of the Dragon Queen's bullshit, replete with DQ's off-putting head-shaking and Gore-like sighing. Check out the rest of the transcript; it's all there, and most of it's to be expected.

What I find curious is that Chimpco's camp thought that this would be the most effective tack to take -- to send their most notorious flack to hump the same old "it's the press' fault" talking points. It reeks of desperation; it's an indication that they may be ever-so-temporarily thrown off their spin game.

If only there were an opposition party that could make truly effective use of the chronic disarray of the ruling claque.


Anonymous said...

I get bounced over here from DKos a lot lately and always enjoy. Adding you to my favorites.

Always to the point, and always good for a chuckle. What else could I ask for?

Heywood J. said...

Cool, thanks. Spread the word!