Supplemental: Scholar addresses Baltimore club!

THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2014

Baltimoreans unveil their concerns: We’ve returned from a chic luncheon address to the ladies of The Hamilton Street Club, one of Baltimore’s great institutions.

In the group’s former stable turned salon, Baltimoreans unveiled their concerns.

We were pleased to see that a number of ladies were willing to volunteer the thought that Maureen Dowd is perhaps just a bit overwrought.

Yesterday, the New York Times expressed that thought in a slightly different way. The paper announced, at the bottom of page A25, that Maureen Dowd is “off.”

We were even more struck by a conversation before the luncheon began. One of the Hamilton Street gang had read today’s earlier post. She had even clicked through to our post from last November about the substantial rise in test scores among the nation’s black, white and Hispanic students.

Why hasn’t the public heard about this? This person was puzzled by the fact that she has constantly heard a different narrative, in which our schools are stagnant and failing, in which nothing has worked.

It doesn’t take a lot of prompting to get us talking about this matter; we regard it as the greatest mystery of modern pseudo-journalism. That said, we were struck by this woman’s sense of surprise concerning the facts she hasn’t heard. She has constantly heard a different narrative, a gloomy narrative which flies in the face of those basic facts.

Again, we regard this as one of the greatest mysteries of post-journalistic culture. Why are people constantly told that nothing is working within our schools, when our most reliable test scores tell such a different story? Why is it that even liberals and progressives refuse to report this good news?

We were pleased to meet a person who was troubled by this state of affairs.

The so-called “new kids on the lawn” could correct the record, of course. What a shame! That these Ivy grads are too busy reciting the tales their owners seem to prefer!

To review the score gains by our American kids, go ahead: Just click here. Why aren't those score gains ever reported in our major newspapers?


NEW KIDS ON THE LAWN: Their technical work!

THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2014

Part 3—What ever happened to standards: As the so-called “worst generation” of journalists exits the stage, they are often being replaced by eager young Ivy League kids.

These replacements come from the finest schools, though you wouldn’t necessarily discern this fact from their frequently horrible work.

In some settings, these bright young kids are simply accepting the broken norms of their establishment news orgs. At the Washington Post, Philip Rucker (Yale 2006) recently became head spear-chucker in his newspaper’s never-ending jihad against the Clintons. At the same newspaper, Catherine Rampell (Princeton 2007) found herself worried by Chelsea Clinton’s “lucrative speaking career”—a lucrative career from which Chelsea Clinton reportedly hasn’t kept a single red cent.

In such cases, the so-called “new kids on the lawn” seem to be getting themselves in line with their owners’ preferred story lines. Elsewhere, though, we’ve often been struck by the lousy technical work which ensues when major news orgs hand the reins to very young Ivy League kids.

Very quickly, let’s consider the way the so-called “new kids on the lawn” have discussed some basic public school issues.

Last November, we discussed some woeful education reporting in The Atlantic, a storied American publication. To review our critique, you can just click here, then click once or twice more.

For today, let’s consider who did the reporting in question, which we think was rather inept.

The report in question was written by Julia Ryan, Harvard 2013. That’s right! Ryan graduated from Harvard in June of last year. By November, she was bungling basic education reporting for a storied publication.

What made The Atlantic think that Ryan was qualified to interpret the basic statistics which come with the public schools beat? We don’t know, but Ryan’s editor was Eleanor Barkhorn, Princeton 2006.

This was her official bio:
THE ATLANTIC: Eleanor Barkhorn is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Education Channel. She previously edited the Sexes and Entertainment channels. Before coming to The Atlantic, she was a reporter at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville, Mississippi. She graduated from Princeton University, where she majored in American literature and wrote her senior thesis about Oprah's Book Club. For her first two years out of college, she taught high school English with the Teach For America program.
Ryan was straight outta Harvard. Barkhorn was seven years outta Princeton, where she wrote her senior thesis on Oprah’s book club.

However gaudy their diplomas may have seemed, Ryan and Barkhorn didn’t seem ready to create an informed discussion of the nation’s most basic educational statistics. In fairness, this problem extends all through the mainstream press corps, which tends to stick to familiar themes of educational decline, even in the face of the most reliable statistical evidence.

People from the finest schools putter around on the public schools beat, failing to identify the groaning conflict between our rapidly rising NAEP scores and the gloomy, teacher-hating scripts which dominate elite discourse. Despite their gaudy Ivy degrees, these young journalists don’t seem able (or willing) to do the most basic reporting, which would undermine the elite press corps' most favored educational themes.

We’ve often torn our hair over the work of Motoko Rich, the New York Times’ education reporter. Rich, who can’t be called a “new kid,” is said to have been summa cum laude at Yale in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, Dana Goldstein (Brown 2006) is a full-fledged education writer at various liberal publications. According to the leading authority, she’s a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation and a Puffin Fellow at The Nation Institute!

Impressive diplomas to the side, have you ever seen these new and slightly older kids challenge the prevailing theme about our floundering public schools? Have you ever seen them push back against this ubiquitous, billionaire-favored theme with the most elementary statistical work?

(Concerning Gail Collins’ embarrassing groaners about public schools, let’s not even go there today. In theory, Collins is one of the Sam-and-Cokies whose groaning work on public schools these “new kids” should be challenging.)

A fresh young face and an Ivy degree do not guarantee expertise, journalistic skill or even basic forthrightness. Consider the disappointing work of Bryce Covert, Brown 2006.

At present, Covert is Economic Policy Editor at Think Progress, a progressive org. Before that, she was a contributor at The Nation and at Forbes Woman, where she wrote weekly blog posts on economics, politics and women's issues.

We were disappointed by Covert’s recent piece on the gender wage gap at The New Republic. Right from her opening paragraph, we thought she did a lousy job establishing a basic distinction—the distinction between 1) the gap in earnings between men and women and 2) the amount of that gap which may result from discrimination.

This is a very basic distinction. If you can’t (or won’t) explain it clearly, you’re likely to do very fuzzy work about the actual problems which exist in this area.

We thought Covert’s recent piece for The New Republic was extremely fuzzy. Looking back, the analysts found this earlier piece on the same topic, also for TNR.

We’ll admit it! Covert’s work in that April 2014 piece made several of the analysts cry.

According to current research, how much of the gender wage gap can be attributed to possible discrimination?

Everyone knows that women who work full-time (35 hours or more) earn only 77 percent as much as men earn, on average. But after you adjust for basic factors like type of employment, degree of seniority and hours worked above 35 hours, how much of that missing 23 cents might stem from discrimination?

That is a grindingly basic distinction in this important policy area. How many readers understood the answer which Covert provided, or seemed to provide, or may perhaps have meant to provide, in the murky passage shown below, which appeared late in her piece?
COVERT (4/29/14): There’s also research that points to discrimination as a factor in that 23 percent difference between men’s and women’s earnings. When economists examine the gap and control for all measurable factors, there remains a residual portion they can’t explain. For the Government Accountability Office, that portion was 20 percent. For economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, it was 41 percent. It’s in this unexplainable portion where discrimination may be leaving its mark.
Do you understand what that passage says? We can’t swear that we do. But simply from reading that text in normal ways, we assume it means the following:
What Covert’s text seems to say:
According to Blau and Kahn, 41 percent of the 23 cents can’t be explained in standard ways. According to the GAO, 20 percent of the 23 cents can’t be explained in such ways.
If that is what that passage means, then Covert is saying this: The part of the wage gap which may result from discrimination is currently set at anywhere from 4.6 cents on the dollar (GAO) to 9.4 cents on the dollar (Blau and Kahn).

Is that what Covert is saying? If so, why didn’t she say it? Beyond that, why didn’t editors at The New Republic insist that she clarify that passage, which is extremely murky in highly familiar ways?

Covert has an Ivy degree. Until next month, she’s under 30. But her work is strikingly murky, and it’s being published by major orgs which are supposed to be progressive and/or smart.

Why in the world is The New Republic putting such murky work into print? Is it possible that its Ivy-credentialed editors are just a bunch of underwhelming “new kids on the lawn” too?

Tomorrow: When new kids are cast in partisan roles. Also, as the new kids see themselves (two examples)

Supplemental: NBC News loves the children of fame!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 23, 2014

Chelsea’s circle of friends: Early this morning, we noticed two quick items in the news:

Maureen Dowd is lounging somewhere en vacance. Bill Clinton is in Australia, speaking at an AIDS conference.

One of the two is said to be “wantonly acquisitive,” quite possibly out of touch. Can you guess which one it is?

Whatever! As the press corps has blown up its latest jihad about the Clintons, we’ve remembered what happened in 2000, after two years of this sort of thing.

The liberal world has been very lazy about such matters in the past. If we might quote from Barney Fife, we think liberals ought to learn to nip these things in the bud.

With that in mind, we’ll offer one more reaction to part of the recent jihad about Chelsea Clinton. Dowd expressed the complaint in her recent overblown column, the one where she didn’t luv Bill:
DOWD (7/13/14): If [Chelsea Clinton] really wants to be altruistic, let her contribute the money to some independent charity not designed to burnish the Clinton name as her mother ramps up to return to the White House and as she herself drops a handkerchief about getting into politics.

Or let her speak for free. After all, she is in effect going to candidate school. No need to get paid for it, too.

There was disgust over Politico's revelation that before she switched to a month-to-month contract, Chelsea was getting wildly overpaid at $600,000 annually—or over $25,000 per minute on air—for a nepotistic job as a soft-focus correspondent for NBC News.
According to the Clinton Foundation, most of Chelsea Clinton’s speeches actually are for free. Dowd forgot to include that.

Dowd seems to have advice for others concerning every part of their lives. Today, we’ll focus on the part of that passage dealing with NBC News.

“There was disgust over Politico's revelation?” Dowd forgets to say where this disgust occurred.

That said, Chelsea Clinton has been making decent pocket change if Politico’s report was accurate. We don’t know why NBC would have paid her that much, or why they would have hired her at all.

But then, NBC News seems to enjoy hiring children of fame. Let’s take a look at the record.

For what it’s worth, Clinton is one of three presidential offspring employed by NBC News. Jenna Bush is still a special correspondent for NBC's Today Show and a contributor to NBC Nightly News. Ron Reagan is still an MSNBC contributor.

Children of candidates get hired too! Meghan McCain was an MSNBC contributor for a while. Since last summer, Abby Huntsman has been the token not-that-conservative conservative on The Cycle, MSNBC’s 3 PM daily program.

A further guess:

If Ronan Farrow had been Ronan Sinatra, NBC would have hired him even sooner. In the mornings, Mika Brzezinski is carrying a well-known last name too.

Also, Willie Geist Jr.! And what about Luke Russert? Remember Maria Shriver?

We don’t know why NBC News does so much famous-name hiring. Some of the current people seem perfectly competent. Some of them, possibly not.

Nor do we know how much money these other children of fame get paid. Do you?

But ever since Chairman Welch established that comical Nantucket Irish Catholic Circle, NBC News has been involved in various species of odd hiring.

By established rules of the guild, you’re not supposed to notice or discuss such things. Except when a narrative starts blowing up, almost nobody does.

NEW KIDS ON THE LAWN: And the culture they're choosing to join!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 23, 2014

Interlude—Worst works of the past generation: Journalism’s “worst generation” is hobbling off the stage.

As the various Sam-and-Cokies depart, they are largely being replaced by bright young 20-somethings from Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Sometimes, the big new orgs are willing to slum. They’ll hire a youngster from Brown.

For ourselves, we’re constantly struck by the horrible work these “new kids on the lawn” are producing. Given their stardom at the finest schools, we’re often struck by their lack of technical skill.

Beyond that, we’re struck by their lack of “fierce independence”—by the ease with which they assume established roles within their establishment news orgs. More on that impulse below.

In fairness, these young achievers came of age during a terrible time for journalism. Their elders have left them a terrible legacy—and this is the only type of national journalism these rather unimpressive young people have ever known.

How awful was the journalism of the new kids’ youth? As the press corps works to create its latest theme about the rapacious and out-of-touch Clintons, we’ve been thinking about two incidents from the years when these same demonic themes were transferred to Candidate Gore.

How bad was the work of the “worst generation?” Consider two examples involving iconic stars of this group:

Mary McGrory on health care: For many years, the late Mary McGrory was a pillar of the establishment insider press—a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist at the Washington Post.

She was perceived as a liberal. According to the leading authority on her life, McGrory had been “on Richard Nixon's enemies list for writing ‘daily hate Nixon articles.’”

By the late 1990s, McGrory’s hate had perhaps been transferred to the Clintons, even to Bill Clinton's chosen successor. This may explain the peculiar column in which she reviewed the first Democratic debate of Campaign 2000.

Candidates Gore and Bradley debated at Dartmouth on October 27, 1999. According to three major journalists, 300 members of the press corps hissed and jeered everything Gore said as they watched on TV screens in an adjacent press room.

(Over the course of the next month, this astonishing conduct was described by Salon’s Jake Tapper, by the Hotline’s Howard Mortman and by Time magazine’s Eric Pooley.)

During this debate, Gore and Bradley battled at length about their respective health care proposals. In this debate, health care emerged as the major policy difference between the dueling Democrats.

On CNN, Kate O’Beirne, a leading conservative, praised the erudition of the two candidates. “Both were completely conversant on the issues, impressively so,” O’Beirne correctly said.

O’Beirne thought the pair were impressive. But this is the way McGrory began her column in that Sunday’s Post:
MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.

Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station.
As the column continued, so did the insults. And good lord! As McGrory started her next column, she was still talking about Gore’s wardrobe, including that troubling three-button brown suit:
MCGRORY (11/4/99): The debate coaches they chose for their encounter at Dartmouth tell you pretty much all you need to know about their campaigns. Vice President Al Gore picked a feminist philosopher, an erstwhile columnist for trendy George magazine named Naomi Wolf. Former senator Bill Bradley chose the Democrats' legendary horse-whisperer, David Burke, onetime staff sage for Teddy Kennedy and later news chief for two networks.

In a recent George column, Wolf wrote that Gore "should let his defenses down and let his inner oddness out." That might have been what he was doing when he took his painful public search for himself on stage. We're told she was responsible for his distracting new suit, a three-button brown affair that caused much nostalgia for navy-blue serge.
In fact, no one ever said that Wolf was responsible for Gore’s “distracting new suit.” Plainly, the suit had greatly distracted McGrory, if no one else.

New Hampshire Democrats scored the debate a draw. O’Beirne, the editor of National Review, praised the erudition of the two candidates.

McGrory? She never bothered explaining the facts about the two health proposals. Inside the mainstream establishment press, a different type of disease had taken hold.

This is the kind of journalism which was in vogue when today’s 20-somethings were young. You’d almost think that fiery young people would want to push back against this kind of thing from their elders.

We see few signs of any such fight from today’s “new kids on the lawn.” That said, let’s consider another part of the legacy they have inherited:

Mark Shields and the execution: Eight months later, in June 2000, the mother of all capital punishment cases crossed the desk of Governor/Candidate Bush.

In those eight months, the mainstream press had staged a series of scam-ridden jihads against Candidate Gore. They had taken turns pretending that it was Gore who introduced Willie Horton to the American people. Most recently, they had pounded Gore when he dared oppose Candidate Bush’s high-profile proposal to partially privatize Social Security.

Now, though, a horrible capital punishment case had crossed the governor’s desk. It concerned the pending execution of Gary Graham, a convicted murderer.

Uh-oh! The court case in which Graham had been convicted had been a Texas classic. There was essentially no evidence convicting Graham of the crime, and he had been “defended” by one of the worst of the sleeping, drunken, “public-interest” lawyers for which the Texas system was famous.

But so what? In June 2000, on the day of Graham’s scheduled execution, Governor Bush held a press avail, at which he said he was sure that Graham was guilty as charged. On that basis, Bush had decided not to delay the execution or challenge the (very shaky) verdict.

How did the press corps treat this case—a case which had received world-wide attention? One day after Graham’s execution, Jim Lehrer asked Mark Shields about the case—and Shields praised Bush for the way he had acted.

Shields was a major figure in the insider mainstream press. We still regard this disgraceful exchange as one of the most remarkable moments in modern press corps history:
LEHRER (6/23/00): Now on to other matters. Governor Bush, the capital punishment issue—is that going to dog him from now on?

SHIELDS: Well, Jim, this is a perfect example. It’s an important issue, don't get me wrong. But a perfect example and sort of the quiet time of a campaign, when folks who have a cause—and the cause obviously being the abolition of capital punishment, a growing cause in the country—grab an opportunity to make this into a media event, which was done in Texas, put it on the spotlight, put him on the spotlight. That was intended. But I think the cause is to get this as a full-fledged debate. I think they did.

I thought, as somebody who has mentioned on this broadcast, that George W. Bush— The doubts voters have about him is that he fills the chair, whether he’s big enough, whether he really has the heft to be president. I thought this was probably the finest moment of his campaign as he explained his position. He did it as, outside of a press conference, in a suit and tie, with appropriately serious words and manner. And I thought ironically that it worked for him politically without being overly analytical.
Bush never explained the basis on which he said he knew that Graham was guilty as charged. In a press avail on his plane, it seems that no one asked him to do so.

Years later, it became painfully apparent that no serious review had ever accompanied any of these Texas executions. But in that exchange, you see the framework which emerged from the mainstream press in the wake of this very high-profile case.

In an astonishing comment, Shields said that Bush’s statement about the pending execution “was probably the finest moment of his campaign.”

What was so great about Bush’s statement, in which he didn’t explain his confidence in the (very shaky) Graham verdict? Incredibly, Shields said that Bush had worn “a suit and tie” when he made his statement. Beyond that, he had delivered his remarks “with appropriately serious words and manner.”

Years later, it became clear that no serious review of the Graham case had ever been conducted. But so what? During Campaign 2000, Shields was thrilled by the fact that Bush wore a tie that day and didn’t crack any jokes.

This continues to strike us as one of the most remarkable moments in modern press corps history. And make no mistake—Shields was working from a script which prevailed elsewhere in the press.

As Lehrer continued his segment this night,
he turned to conservative Paul Gigot. Like Shields, Gigot praised Bush for his “sober demeanor” during his announcement, for the fact that Bush had “sounded like Mark said, like a grown-up.”

Shields and Gigot were hardly alone in this approach to Bush’s decision. On the June 23 Washington Week program, Richard Berke of the New York Times gave voice to the same sorts of judgment.

“I was really struck watching Bush on TV yesterday when he talked about this at a press conference,” Berke said. “He was very sober about talking about this case, and it was quite a contrast to his past comments about death penalty cases where he was accused of being rather cavalier about the death penalty.”

No jokes this time from Bush!

Predictably, this approach to Bush’s performance had surfaced first in Frank Bruni’s reporting. On June 21, the Timesman began to script his colleagues about the upcoming execution.

According to Bruni, Bush’s “challenge” in dealing with the Graham case would be “to demonstrate, through the tone of his voice and the set of his jaw, that he feels the full weight of his responsibility. And it is to show, through his bearing and his choice of words, that he comes by his steadfast position in support of the death penalty after extensive soul-searching and careful thought.”

Bruni took this same approach on Friday morning, June 23. “When the moment of Mr. Graham’s execution finally arrived, Mr. Bush did not merely issue a written statement but spoke to a crowd of reporters in a solemn voice that contradicted his often light-hearted nature,” he wrote. “His facial expression and his words matched his tone.”

That said, was it true? Had Bush actually “come by his decisions after extensive soul-searching?” Did he have a substantial basis for the judgment he expressed?

In subsequent days, Bruni failed to ask Bush how he had reached his judgment about the Graham case, given its extremely lean set of facts. For years, lawyers had slept in Texas courtrooms. Now, reporters were sleeping on Bush’s plane—and pundits made repellent statements on our most august “news” programs.

This is the world in which today’s replacement journalists came of age. In a slightly different world, you’d almost expect this next generation to rebel against this repellent misconduct from their elders, in which towering figures like McGrory and Shields talked about nothing but clothes.

We see few signs of any such fight in the young people who are serving as “the new kids on the lawn.” Briefly, let’s return to yesterday’s example:

In the past week, Catherine Rampell wrote two columns about the attacks on the personal wealth of the Clintons. A new jihad was blowing up, as occurred again and again in the case of Candidate Gore.

Rampell is Princeton class of 07. We’ve seen one reference in which she’s described as Princeton Phi Beta Kappa.

On the surface, Rampell is “first in her class.” But on the merits, her columns on this subject were embarrassing groaners. And sure enough! As her first column ended, this “new kid” came down exactly where her establishment owners are:
RAMPELL (7/15/04): If there is any objection I have to [Chelsea] Clinton's speaking gigs, it's not the size of her paycheck. It's the possibility that her hosts and employers are hiring her in order to buy influence with a possible future president (Clinton Mere), an aspect of Chelsea Clinton's lucrative speaking career that for some reason has not been emphasized in most media reports. This possibility is particularly troubling given the family's resistance during the 2008 primaries to releasing information about donations to the Clinton Foundation, where Clinton's speaking fees reportedly go. When it comes to the Clintons, exposure is easy to come by; transparency, less so.
That highlighted passage is striking. According to the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton hadn’t banked a single dollar from her “lucrative speaking career.” The fees in question have all been donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Nor has she spoken to the types of corporate groups which might seek corrupt deals with a future president. According to the news report from which Rampell was working, Chelsea Clinton has spoken to such groups as The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach. Like her overwrought employers, Rampell was now expressing shadowy fears about the future favors such groups might seek to extract.

These new kids don’t seem inclined to push back against the journalistic culture they’ve inherited.

They came of age during a time of disgraceful, corrupt mainstream journalism. But so what? Everyone in the liberal world has agreed that this era can’t be discussed. Even after four years at Princeton, an unimpressive youngster like Rampell may not even realize what sort of culture she’s buying.

Tomorrow: More work from the new kids on the lawn

We think of Willa Cather: We’ve thought of Willa Cather and My Antonia as we’ve perused Rampell’s work.

In a brilliant passage from her famous autobiographical novel, Cather described her contempt for the native-born Black Hawk boys who saw the vibrant beauty of the community’s immigrant girls, but were too weak and too conventional to act on their own desires.

From late 19th century Nebraska, we offer one short excerpt:
CATHER: The Black Hawk boys looked forward to marrying Black Hawk girls, and living in a brand-new little house with best chairs that must not be sat upon, and hand-painted china that must not be used. But sometimes a young fellow would look up from his ledger, or out through the grating of his father's bank, and let his eyes follow Lena Lingard, as she passed the window with her slow, undulating walk, or Tiny Soderball, tripping by in her short skirt and striped stockings.

The country girls were considered a menace to the social order. Their beauty shone out too boldly against a conventional background. But anxious mothers need have felt no alarm. They mistook the mettle of their sons. The respect for respectability was stronger than any desire in Black Hawk youth.
That full passage is well worth reading. Cather details her contempt for the Black Hawk boys, whose “respect for respectability” kept them from acting on their attraction to the vibrant immigrant girls.

Cather almost seems to be describing our own “new kids on the lawn.” In the case of mainstream hires like Rampell, they’ll utter a few tiny unconventional peeps, then rush back to the tortured narratives favored by their employers.

Cather: “So that was what they were like, I thought, these white-handed, high-collared clerks and bookkeepers!”

We recommend the entire chapter from which these clips are drawn.

Supplemental: “Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which led to The Great Recession!”

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

And now, for the rest of the script: It’s a bit like New England weather! If you don’t like Maureen Dowd’s view, you can just wait a while.

On Sunday, July 13, Bill Clinton was letting his only child be drawn into “the rapacious, gaping maw of Clinton Inc.”

“The Clintons keep acting as though all they care about is selfless public service,” the irate columnist thundered. “So why does it keep coming back to gross money grabs?”

The Clinton Foundation was “wasteful and disorganized,” Dowd said. As she closed, she said that Bill and Hillary Clinton “need to protect their daughter...from their wanton acquisitiveness.”

That was Sunday, July 13. Seven days later—it was now Sunday, July 20—Dowd composed a silly love letter to the same Bill Clinton. Her piece was based on a two-point jump in Clinton’s approval rating, achieved over seven years.

We were struck by the change in the columnist’s apparent viewpoint. We were also struck by a recurrent theme which appeared in the comments to her column.

We refer to complaints about the way Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall. This has become a familiar, scripted complaint from the left. The complaint popped up several dozen times in the comments to Dowd’s love letter.

A few examples:

COMMENTER FROM MAINE: That all sounds very nice and warm, Maureen. More milk-and-cookies myth-making around bedtime. Clinton did well and does have a Teflon personality. But conveniently, we all seem to forget that Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which led to The Great Recession...

COMMENTER FROM MASSACHUSETTS: I don't share in this taste. I think about DOMA and the repeal of Glass Steagall and all those scandals besides the Lewinsky one. I see Bill Clinton as having specific strengths, I don't find the whole package appealing.

COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK CITY: Revisionist history is wonderful. In our fantasy Clinton didn't dismantle Glass-Steagall, didn't pass NAFTA, didn't sign DOMA. He was such as nice cuddly guy. We are idiots and we deserve what we get.

COMMENTER FROM WEST OF THE GWB: And while the stock market soared, the irrational exuberance did not end well, especially after Bubba took care of his Wall Street backers by eliminating Glass-Steagall and deregulating derivatives trading.

COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: Maureen leaves out the big one: the New Democrat cozying up to corporations and banks, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, deregulation, repeal of Glass-Steagall, leading directly to all the excesses and banking crimes and the real estate bubble and crash. The actual main cause of the Great Recession was, yes, folks, Bill Clinton.

COMMENTER FROM FLORIDA: I believe he lit the fuse and got out of town. As a globalist (NAFTA) he is as responsible for our state today as his successor. Teaming up with Gingrich and Gramm to repeal Glass-Steagall lit the fuse of our downfall. These were the greatest policy failures of the last half-century.

COMMENTER FROM OHIO: Does Bill Clinton really get a pass for NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the prohibition of regulating financial derivatives? These were positives for corporatism and negatives for the 99% and for real, stable, and sustainable economic growth.

NEW JERSEY: People have short memories. Clinton was surely a master politician...But he single-handedly ended the influence of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in the Congress—welfare reform, Glass-Siegel ended, NAFTA...
Inevitably, it was left to a professor to wax most eloquent on this topic. The professor (of Arabic) wrote from Colgate:
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK: [H]istory may not be as generous or as forgiving to former President Clinton as it may appear now.

And this may not be because of the “women, the cheesy behavior, the fund-raising excesses, the self-pity, the adolescent narcissism, the impeachment, the charges of racially tinged insults against Obama in 2008.” Nor is it because of Hillary. It is because of two decisions, one domestic and the other international.

The domestic decision is the agreement former President Clinton made with congressional Republicans during his administration, which set the stage for the passage of one of the most sweeping and destructive banking deregulation bill in American history: The lifting of all restraints on the operation of the giant monopolies within the financial system, which led to the devastating economic crisis of 2008.
Some commenters seemed to think that Clinton has repealed Glass-Steagall all by himself. Others said he had joined with congressional Republicans—Newt and them—to accomplish this task.

Like you, like these commenters, we aren’t experts on the repeal of Glass-Steagall. To see Paul Krugman seem to say that this didn’t produce “the 2008 implosion of Wall Street,” you can just click here.

We aren’t experts on this topic. We do have a bit of expertise concerning the growth of scripted overstatement as the basic building-block of the American discourse.

Because we’re skeptics concerning script, even when it comes from the left, we decided to look up the vote which repealed Glass-Steagall.

Bill Clinton didn’t do it all by himself! Nor did he do it with Newt alone. The vote in the Senate was 90-8. The vote among Senate Democrats was 38-7 in favor of repeal.

We don’t know why people voted the way they did. But these are some of the famous Dems who voted to repeal Glass-Steagall:

Senator Kennedy
Senator Biden
Senator Harry Reid
Senator John Kerry
Senator Daschle
Senator Byrd
Senator Durbin
Senator Leahy
Senator John Edwards
Senator Murray
Senator Wyden
Senator Levin
Senator Sarbanes

Seven Democrats voted no; they were joined by Senator Shelby, the Alabama Republican. But a wide array of major Democrats voted in favor of repeal, including Ted Kennedy.

Why did people vote as they did? We have no idea.

But the claim that Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall is blowing up as an easily-memorized, all-purpose “progressive” script.

The story seems a bit more complex. As we keep becoming more like them, we thought you might want to know that.

NEW KIDS ON THE LAWN: The mice who aren’t inclined to roar!

TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2014

Part 2—Rampell on the ramparts: Over at the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell is one of the so-called “new kids on the lawn.”

We’ll advise readers not to be fooled. First, a bit of background:

All across the mainstream press corps, an older generation of Sam-and-Cokies is finally leaving the stage.

They came of age during the era which gave rise to the TV political talk show. Arguably, they have been the worst generation, a possibility we’ll explore a bit more tomorrow.

All over the press corps, these mastodons are being replaced by younger, more attractive practitioners. At news orgs like the Washington Post, there seems to be a preference that such practitioners come from the finest schools.

Rampell, Princeton class of 07, is a visible part of this youth movement. She is now a twice-weekly columnist on the Post’s op-ed page.

Unlike the columns of some elders, Rampell’s pieces typically appear in the hard-copy Post. Her latest effort appears there this morning.

We’d call it a good example of a giant waste of time.

Rampell’s point of view today is extremely soft. No stylistic skill is on display—but then, why would someone of such tender years have developed a columnist’s writing skills?

To extend a famous phrase from Michael Kinsley, Rampell writes like a young person trying to sound like an older person’s idea of a young person. That said, there’s one thing you’ll never get from the Washington Post’s youth brigade:

These kids will not put up a fight. When the Post visits the finest schools, they know how to locate the trimmers.

It’s odd to think that the youngest columnists are the ones with the fewest teeth. As she starts, this is the way Rampell tiptoes into the discussion about the Clintons’ troubling speaking fees:
RAMPELL (7/22/14): Is it hypocritical for a really, really rich person to object to rising inequality?

I’ve been thinking about this in light of the derision the Clintons are facing for charging six-figure speaking fees while pontificating about income polarization and the plight of the poor.
Have the Clintons been getting derided for “charging six-figure speaking fees while pontificating about...the plight of the poor?” We’d have to say, that pretty much isn’t the discussion we’ve been seeing.

Example:

Right in the midst of this jihad—a jihad which has plainly been led by Rampell’s own Post—Hillary Clinton announced an initiative designed to help the nation’s low-income children. It was part of the Clinton’s Foundation’s “Too Small to Fail” program.

We’ve seen no one deriding Clinton for pontificating this way while accepting large speaking fees. We’ve seen no one say it was hypocritical for Clinton to mount this initiative.

In fact, almost no one in the mainstream press corps mentioned this announcement at all. The fact that Clinton was discussing the needs of poor children wasn’t mentioned in the hard-copy Post. Her announcement rated two paragraphs in the New York Times, at the very end of a wider news report.

In today’s column, Rampell doesn’t seem to be discussing the jihad of the past six weeks. In that discussion, the Clintons have been attacked for their “rapacious” conduct, for their “wanton acquisitiveness.” In the process, a string of extremely wealthy journalists have worried that we Americans might see Hillary Clinton as “out of touch.”

Rampell largely bypasses this discussion in today’s column. As she continues, she defines a somewhat different discussion—a long-running discussion which has been critiqued about a million times by now.

She also offers an odd assessment of Paul Krugman’s rapacity. This just isn’t good work:
RAMPELL (continuing directly): Other high-income, high-net-worth figures have been similarly mocked for expressing concerns about a growing income and wealth imbalance that benefited them. Among the targeted upper-crusters are Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, who said in a recent interview that “too much of the [gross domestic product] over the last generation has gone to too few of the people”; Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, who has advocated higher tax rates on high-earners such as himself and consistently decried rising inequality; and Paul Krugman, the Nobel-winning economist and New York Times columnist who will soon receive $25,000 a month from an institute that studies income inequality.

These economic elites aren’t alone in balking at rising inequality. A rare survey of 1 percenters found that nearly two-thirds believe “differences in income in America are too large,” according to research...
If Rampell has any expertise, it is supposed to lie in the realm of economics. This March, she came to the Post from the New York Times, where she had been writing the Economix blog.

Given this background, it’s slightly odd to see her link Krugman to Buffett and Blankfein on the basis of his new job at CUNY, which will pay him $225,000 per year. Does that make Krugman an “upper-cruster” in the Buffett class?

(Note: It’s a nine-month contract.)

$225,000 would certainly be a mountain of money to us! But within the American context, it doesn’t even place Krugman anywhere near the one percent, let alone in the class of people like Buffett and Blankfein.

This is lazy construction by Rampell. But as is true with many of these so-called “New Kids on the Lawn,” her technical work is often amazingly weak.

As she continues, Rampell discusses a tired old charge—the claim that people like Buffett are “hypocritical” when they advocate policy changes which would harm their own high-income position.

As everyone knows, that is an utterly silly charge. We’ve seen it refuted a million times by various writers on line, always in more convincing fashion than Rampell is able to muster.

Meanwhile, readers must tolerate Rampell’s latest insistence on cramming Kim Kardashian (and even Snooki) into this discussion. Perhaps that’s designed to makes her prose read “young.”

Rampell has now devoted two columns to the jihad concerning the speaking fees of Chelsea Clinton and her better-known parents. Today’s column strikes us as hopelessly fuzzy and largely off-point.

In last week’s effort, Rampell wasted inordinate amounts of time on the appearance fees of Kardashian and Snooki. In the process, she failed to detail the basic facts about Chelsea Clinton’s appearances.

We’re sorry for showing you this:
RAMPELL (7/15/14): Likewise, upon learning that Clinton Fille pulls in $75,000 per speaking engagement, the New York Times's Maureen Dowd asked, "Why on earth is she worth that much money? Why, given her dabbling in management consulting, hedge-funding and coattail-riding, is an hour of her time valued at an amount that most Americans her age don't make in a year?"

To which my reaction is: Since when do you need talent or skills to be a well-paid celebrity?

Lest there be any confusion, most compensation—but especially compensation that's accompanied by a flock of flashbulbs—is determined not by some intrinsic measure of worldly achievement or moral worth but by what the market will bear.

Witness famous-for-being-famous reality star Kim Kardashian.

Kardashian vastly out-earns Clinton and more accomplished public figures such as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The new Mrs. Kanye West charges $100,000 per appearance, according to the fine celebrity journalists at OK! Magazine, and at those gigs no one even expects her to deliver prepared remarks on eradicating waterborne illnesses or racial tensions. (In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if her contracts explicitly forbid such pontification.) On some occasions, Kardashian has commanded as much as $500,000, her reported payout for attending the recent Vienna Opera Ball. It's not clear what talents Kardashian possesses that make her "worth" $500,000 per appearance, except maybe a talent for identifying people willing to pay her $500,000 per appearance.

It's more than that, of course. Hollywood celebrities like Kardashian—and political personalities like Clinton or Sarah Palin—can command big appearance fees because the organizations hiring them derive some value from the appearance, too.

Several years ago, I did a back-of- the-envelope calculation to determine why nightclubs might be paying "Jersey Shore" starlet Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi the head-scratchingly high fee of $25,000 merely to drink, dance and socialize for a few hours. It turned out that once you took into account the extra revenue streams that Snooki's name brought in - from cover charges, bottle service and publicity in glossy magazines—her attendance might actually have been worth several multiples of what she charged clubs.

The exact numbers probably no longer hold up today, since in recent years Snooki's star, if not her tan, has faded. But the same principles apply to other celebrities and political scions getting big bucks for appearances on TV and red-carpet events.

After all, having a brand name like Chelsea Clinton keynote your conference or college lecture series can attract better attendance, bigger donations and more press coverage.
Has Chelsea Clinton ever keynoted a college lecture series? We know of no such reporting.

Flights of fancy to the side, Rampell took a peculiar approach in this column. Rather than report the fact that several philanthropic organizations had detailed the way that Chelsea Clinton is a draw, she went on and on about the star power of Kardashian and Snooki.

As she wasted everyone’s time in this manner, Rampell failed to mention basic facts about Chelsea Clinton’s speaking appearances. And she ended her column with her heart in her throat.

It all comes out the same in the end! This is the way the obedient child closed her wandering column:
RAMPELL: If there is any objection I have to Clinton's speaking gigs, it's not the size of her paycheck. It's the possibility that her hosts and employers are hiring her in order to buy influence with a possible future president (Clinton Mere), an aspect of Chelsea Clinton's lucrative speaking career that for some reason has not been emphasized in most media reports. This possibility is particularly troubling given the family's resistance during the 2008 primaries to releasing information about donations to the Clinton Foundation, where Clinton's speaking fees reportedly go. When it comes to the Clintons, exposure is easy to come by; transparency, less so.
According to the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton hasn’t kept a single dollar from her “lucrative speaking career.” According to the Clinton Foundation, most of her speeches are given for free, a fact Rampell didn’t cite.

According to the Clinton Foundation, Chelsea Clinton only speaks to do-gooder groups, another fact that got cast aside so we could learn more about the past economix of Snooki.

Rampell did report that Chelsea Clinton donates all her speaking fees. Question: Did you even realize that Rampell said that?

Rampell’s statement is buried inside her discussion of her fear that Chelsea Clinton’s fees are being paid to drive future corrupt bargains. What tricks might The Jewish Federation have up its sleeve? Rampell is concerned!

All across the mainstream press, the so-called “worst generation” is hobbling toward the door. At news orgs like the Washington Post, they are being replaced by obedient younger models who arrive from the finest schools with a sorry collection of skills and a genuine lack of fight.

These safe young replacements seem inclined to say the same sorts of things the worst generation has always said. On-line, their headshots suggest the dawning of a new day.

In the process, an older regime continues to motor along.

Tomorrow: The new kids at partisan orgs