By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Beneath contempt

I realize this doesn’t exactly qualify as a news flash. But White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s performance yesterday, which I caught on television last night, struck me as yet another example of a certain type of political rhetoric that is so phony it ought to be held up and ridiculed on every occasion.

And though I’m not prepared to quantify it, it seems to me that it’s the sort of thing engaged in far more often by Republicans — or at least those Republicans whose reason for being is to promote the fortunes of George W. Bush — than it is by Democrats.

The subject: U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s announcement that he’ll try to lead a filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Rick Klein captures it in today’s Boston Globe:

Seizing on the fact that Kerry demanded a filibuster from the economic summit — held in Switzerland’s posh Steigenberger Hotel Belvedere — the Republican National Committee press release labeled Kerry and Kennedy the “Davos Dems.” One Capitol Hill wag tagged their Quixotic move “the Swiss Miss.”

Asked at the White House about the filibuster threat, White House press secretary Scott McClellan chuckled. ”I think even for a senator, it takes some pretty serious yodeling to call for a filibuster from a five-star ski resort in the Swiss Alps,” he quipped.

Got that? Kerry is working at the world economic conference, doing whatever it is a senator might do at such a gathering. And the spokesman for Bush — who is known for occasionally attending such events himself, as of course he should — immediately mocks Kerry as though he had merely gone on an expensive ski trip. The “rich, elitist, out-of-touch liberal” trope rides again!

Now, if people want to mock Kerry for launching a filibuster that will likely be futile, that’s fine. I laughed along with everyone else at David Kirkpatrick’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times, in which he wrote, “Democrats cringed and Republicans jeered at the awkwardness of his gesture, which almost no one in the Senate expects to succeed.” (Not exactly a model of objectivity, though.)

But McClellan’s putdown is so contemptible because it is inherently dishonest. The media have got to stop going along with this stuff.

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  1. Steve

    This is nothing compared to what you’ll see when Al Gore announces his candidacy for president in 2008. Should Hillary announce she’s running, this will seem like a flea on an elephant in comparison.This is the sport of our current news media. I don’t know how or why we will see a change in this behavior.

  2. Adam

    I’m sure the administration was very upset that it couldn’t somehow throw windsurfing into the mix.If only all politicians could be real men, out clearin’ brush on the ranch.

  3. Steve

    Oh and one more thing – if you’re discussing this subject, you cannot neglect The Howler. The conclusion of yesterday’s incomparable column: “Polite presentation of information and fact play almost no role in our public discussion. If there’s one thing we’ve proved in eight years at THE HOWLER, we’d have to say that we have proven that.”Sad but true.

  4. Anonymous

    “inherent dishonest(y)” from a politician? I’m shocked! Shocked, do you hear! Humor from a Republican? Outrageous! Talk about your “tropes”….

  5. John Galt

    Loathsome dialogue and depraved indifference to truth is at the root of this administration and its party. Unfortunately, the indolence and general malaise of the Washington press corps has fed this pipeline of fallacy. The citizens remain pretty much in the dark as to the stature of the nation and their quality of life relative to the other 97% of the global population.

  6. Wes

    Indeed. The sloth of the press, plus the disingenuous media, share a large part of the blame. This White House has stunk from the second its occupants arrived in DC. Those highly paid to observe, inform and record have done us all a disservice.

  7. Mitch

    The real tragedy here is that Dems aren’t climbing over one another to lead the filibuster charge. They “cringed” when Kerry and Kennedy showed some balls? Really? To employ an oft-used internet phrase, WTF?

  8. WES

    Ditto on the WTF??? Realizing that Alito was 2nd choice behind Harriet (You the bestest gob’ner ever).

  9. Anonymous

    You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet…Wait to you see the run up to the punishment of Iran. The media will be first on-board. Just like the run-up to the Spanish-American War. Hearst and Pulitzer. Nothing new with media collaboration with the powers-that-be.Americans love war. And it makes good

  10. Anonymous

    The Eagle-Tribune editorial on Monday cited McClellan’s quip as if it were a good one-liner … but then again, you’d expect such disingenuous nonsense from them.

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