The soft belly of Hardball.

Stayed up late last night to read the Chris Matthews profile in the NYT magazine, a rather astonishing document, all things considered. Matthews comes off as a loud, crafty, needy, insecure, boastful toad who’s every bit the sexist shitheel you suspected he was, only utterly unaware of it. I say “all things considered” because the NYT generally doesn’t truck with this sort of thing. Here’s the lede:

Whenever Chris Matthews says something he likes, which happens a lot, he repeats it often and at volumes suggesting a speaker who feels insufficiently listened to at times. “Tim Russert finally reeled the big marlin into the boat tonight,” Matthews yelled — nine times, on and off the air, after a Democratic debate that Russert moderated with Brian Williams in late February at Cleveland State University. Matthews believed that Russert (the fisherman) had finally succeeded in getting Hillary Clinton (the marlin) to admit that she was wrong to vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution in 2002. “We’ve been trolling for that marlin for what, a year now?” Matthews said to Russert.

Comparing Hillary Rodham Clinton to a big flopping fish will do nothing to stop criticism — from Clinton’s presidential campaign, among others — that Matthews and his network, MSNBC, have treated the former first lady unfairly. But this didn’t keep Matthews from bludgeoning the marlin line to death in the postdebate “spin room.” “Russert caught the marlin; he got the marlin,” Matthews shouted to a school of downcast reporters who had been hanging on every canned word of Clinton’s chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn.

The spin room is a modern political-media marvel whose full-on uselessness is perfectly conveyed by its name, but Matthews appeared in his element. He wore a dreamy smile, walking around, signing autographs. As he went, Matthews seemed compelled to give his “take,” which is how he describes his job each night at 5 and 7, Eastern time, on “Hardball” — “giving my take.”

It goes on from there. It doesn’t get nicer. Matthews has bugged me for years and enraged me for most of them, but by the end I almost felt sorry for him. The era of the cable shoutfest is waning, and he hasn’t figured it out yet. The appeal of listening to two or three blowhards is pretty thin in ideal conditions, and when you can surf on your laptop to eight or nine smarter amateurs’ “take,” or watch the considerably more entertaining “Daily Show,” it goes utterly flat. And when you’re sitting with your laptop in front of the TV, and the comparison is right there in your face, it’s even less appealing. This gets it, I think:

Cable political coverage has changed, however, and so has the sensibility that viewers — particularly young ones — expect from it. Matthews’s bombast is radically at odds with the wry, antipolitical style fashioned by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert or the cutting and finely tuned cynicism of Matthews’s MSNBC co-worker Keith Olbermann. These hosts betray none of the reverence for politics or the rituals of Washington that Matthews does. On the contrary, they appeal to the eye-rolling tendencies of a cooler, highly educated urban cohort of the electorate that mostly dismisses an exuberant political animal like Matthews as annoyingly antiquated, like the ranting uncle at the Thanksgiving table whom the kids have learned to tune out.

Nothing illustrated Matthews’s discordance with the new cable ethos better than an eviscerating interview he suffered through last fall at the hands of Stewart himself. Matthews went on the “The Daily Show” to promote his book “Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation and Success.” The book essentially advertises itself as a guidebook for readers wishing to apply the lessons of winning politicians to succeeding in life. “People don’t mind being used; they mind being discarded” is the title of one chapter. “A self-hurt book” and “a recipe for sadness” Stewart called it, and the interview was all squirms from there. “This strikes me as artifice,” Stewart said. “If you live by this book, your life will be strategy, and if your life is strategy, you will be unhappy.”

Matthews accused Stewart of “trashing my book.”

“I’m not trashing your book,” Stewart protested. “I’m trashing your philosophy of life.”

(Can I just say that a book titled “Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation and Success” will probably be in Hell’s library. The only book I want to read less is “Big Russ and Me.” Or anything by Mitch Albom.)

Funny how these things change, how you go to bed in the summer and wake up and it’s autumn. The temperature’s the same but the wind has just a hint of north in it, the slant of the light is just a little different, and you know a new season is coming. Being able to feel those changes early on is a good skill to have, but once you get to a certain level of success, the world conspires to keep you in the dark. I once read a story about Bill O’Reilly’s sexual-harassment problem, and someone described the thin-air culture of national-TV anchors, how they go through their life trailed by squadrons of young women — interns, assistants, relentlessly ambitious climbers — whose job it is to make sure these hothouse flowers stay happy, hydrated and at the top of their game. They go, essentially, to a Graceland-without-walls, with the entourage saying, “Yes, boss” at every turn. No wonder they can’t feel the air.

I imagine reading Sunday’s NYT magazine will be like having a broken window in the house in January, however. At least at the Matthews’.

OK, I’m running late and trying to get to the gym while simultaneously listening to a “Fresh Air” podcast that explains the national economic meltdown in simple terms. I am but human, and so I’m going to cut one activity short — this one. Enjoy this bloggage, which finds the roots of Indian curry and Mexican mole in medieval Islamic cuisine. Mmm, mole.

Back in a bit.

Posted at 9:47 am in Media |
 

41 responses to “The soft belly of Hardball.”

  1. del said on April 10, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I remember Stewart’s interview of Matthews well. Stunning, it was. Stewart likened Matthews book to Machiavelli’s Prince . . . and when he intimated that it was nihilistic and described it as a “recipe for sadness” he nailed it.
    It strikes me as the bookend to Weingarten’s description of the Great Zucchini as a young man who clings to guileless and naive ways as a recipe for happiness.

  2. whitebeard said on April 10, 2008 at 11:27 am

    This “It can be amusing if slightly painful to watch Matthews’s facial expressions and body language on the set of “Hardball” when others are talking; he will, at times, bounce in his seat like a Ritalin-deprived second-grader who is dying to give an answer but has been admonished too many times for interrupting.” from the NY Times Magazine article, describes my take on Matthews and prompts me to leave my place near the TV set, because it is painful for me to watch ( I am not amused at all) and cringe at his eventual, extremely loud, repetitive, outlandish rhetoric. Give me Keith Olbermann’s calm, carefully crafted cynicism any day of the week. But, who am I to talk, I have not stared into a live microphone (before lapel mikes were invented, so it dates me) for almost half a century.

  3. Danny said on April 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Mess-NBC is unwatchable.

  4. Dorothy said on April 10, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Chris Matthews is what my dear Grandma Josephine would have called “Mr.-I-Love-To-Hear-Myself-Talk.”

  5. Harl Delos said on April 10, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Give me Keith Olbermann’s calm, carefully crafted cynicism any day of the week.

    In preference to Chris Matthews? Absolutely. But “any day of the week” isn’t “every day of the week”. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC would be great as a weekly half-hour, or possibly as a weekly hour, but as a weekdaily hour, it’s too much.

    Is “weekdaily” found in any dictionary? Apparently not. I always thought it odd that a “daily” newspaper might publish 5, 6, or 7 days a week. If one coins “weekdaily” to mean 5 days a week, what word could you possibly use to mean every day except Sundays?

    I’m not sure what FreshAir taught you – they’re often quite good – but the folks at MGoBlue say the economy will look up later this year:

    http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=6415

    Was it Truman that said if you lined up economists head-to-foot in a line long enough to reach the moon, they’d still be wrong? I generally respect the folks at Ann Arbor, but I’m more pessimistic than they are.

  6. Danny said on April 10, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Harl, if you substitute “weak” for “week” it makes more lexical sense in regard to Keith’s show.

  7. john c said on April 10, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve always thought the blowhard shows like Matthews get way more attention than they deserve. Their ratings are horrible, and very skewed to a particular niche. They get talked about in the media because, well, some media people are among that niche. And also because there are no real national newscasts like Cronkite anymore.

  8. del said on April 10, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Danny, no matter how the political and cultural winds blow in the future, Keith Olbermann has been a Voice in the Wilderness amongst the majoritarian demagogues (read: bullies) of his day.

  9. Jolene said on April 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I concede everything Leibovich, the author of the NYT piece and commenters here have said about Matthews. Apart from the obnoxiousness and childishness, it’s just plain sad that a man who is leading the life he is leading would be so pitifully insecure.

    Still, I have to defend him because I think he gets politics-as-a-game and politics-as-what-really-matters on a very deep level. When he asks whether you can “smell the English Leather” on Fred Thompson, he is talking about the non-rational elements of the appeal of political candidates that matter whether they should or not. Does anyone think Barack Obama would be doing so well if he didn’t have such a magnetic smile? Wouldn’t Hillary Clinton be doing better if she were better at speaking to large crowds?

    Attraction to political leaders isn’t so much more rational than attraction to the people we live with, no matter how much we wish it were. Matthews gets the importance of a candidate’s appeal at this level, and I think he is generally on target, if sometimes inelegant, in his “take” on these qualities.

    But he is also passionate about the idea that things matter. I have heard him refer numerous times, for instance, to the lack of knowledge of history of the people who “thought it would be a good idea to take the U.S. military into Arabia.” And when he says this, he is really mad, which, in my view, any reasonable should be.

    So, yeah, he has a lot of faults, and I wish he would grow up. But at least part of his sloppiness and general over-the-topness, comes from a place of real understanding of what drives people and of what’s important.

  10. Danny said on April 10, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Del, the allusion you make to John the Baptist doesn’t hold up well for Olbermann. For one, there is a very long line of media personalities who are critical of the current administration. It more like a Voice in the Chorus than a Voice in the Wilderness. Secondly, he is not humble; his ego is more over-the-top than even Matthews’.

    Whereas, you get the sense that part of Matthews’ on-air persona originates from deep-seated insecurities, there seems no such “chink” in Olbermann’s armor. He is clearly unburdened by introspection, and unclouded by the critcial self-analysis that would result. In short, he is a true believer in his own “gravitas.” When he looks in the mirror, he never finds a furrowed brow staring back.

  11. Jolene said on April 10, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Danny, I second what you’ve said so elegantly about Olberman. The self-righteousness is just overwhelming. Also, I must have missed the show when he was calm. Whenever I tune in, he seems to be on the verge of a stroke.

  12. nancy said on April 10, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    I know what you’re saying about Matthews, Jolene, and I think it’s important. It’s very easy to wash your hands of “politics,” but you should never forget that politics is how policy gets made in this country, and if you’re going to posture yourself as above it all, you’re not going to be part of that conversation.

    As a person who generally says what she means and expects others to do the same, I weary of the gamesmanship of politicking, and I think that’s what puts people off. That “Fresh Air” podcast was terrifying, particularly the part about how these derivative OTC securities are entirely free of regulation, thanks to a bill attached to an omnibus spending bill in 2000, approved on the literal eve of the Christmas recess. Its sponsor (Phil Graham) doesn’t understand it, members of Congress don’t understand it, and it could very well push us further into recession or even depression. It wasn’t debated, no one held hearings, it just slipped through.

    As far as Olbermann, I’ll give him this: He is a mainstream-media voice pushing back against the flood of lies coming out of Washington, and by doing so, he speaks for a lot of viewers. Savvy news sources figured out a long time ago that when you say something, reporters are supposed to quote you straight-up and hold the “bias,” even when everyone involved knows you’re lying through your teeth. If Olbermann says, “Lying through their teeth today, top Bush adminstration officials said,” etc., it violates j-school rules, but it’s very satisfying for lots of people to watch.

  13. Sue said on April 10, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    The only problem I have with Olbermann is that he comes across as a scold. I also think that he might confuse the importance of the message with the importance of the messenger, if he gets much more popular; he’s on the edge of that now, in my opinion. My favorite news program is the Daily Show, but that’s because I have usually done my homework by watching a few news shows and reading (mostly online, sorry) some newspapers. Unfortunately, Daily and Colbert are currently on my bad list because they did not immediately invite Nancy to appear when she broke the plagiarism story. I avoid ALL the serious blowhards. They just make me angry.

  14. Julie Robinson said on April 10, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Dorothy, your grandma had it on the nose. But I’d apply it to almost every TV “news”caster. Since Dad was a radio newsman I’ll admit considerable bias. My take on TV news is to just plain turn it off, and listen to the radio, and read my newspapers.

  15. john c said on April 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    I’ll offer this observtion on just how bad local TV news in Detroit is. I am a heavy news consumer – three real newspapers a day and at least two more perused online, plus NPR on the radio and CNN for big events. Recently I was in charge of publicity for an event and it was suggested we invite the local television stations. I had to LOOK UP exactly what the local television stations are. And I’ve lived here for 8 years!

  16. del said on April 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm

  17. Dexter said on April 10, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    It’s always pile-on time when someone criticizes Chris Matthews. I’m a regular on Congressional Quarterly’s Craig Crawford’s Trailmix blog; Matthews is uniformly called “Tweety” there, and daily admonished as racist, sexist, and unfair, and worse, much worse.
    I don’t know why people who hate a journalist so much continue to watch him/her.
    I cannot stand Rush Limbaugh and it’s torture to listen to that goddam blowhard son-of-a-bitch, so I avoid him at all costs.
    Same with O’Reilly and Hannity and Chris Wallace and others, mostly at FOX News.
    But back to Matthews…could it be he is a hard-hitting journalist who gets the best and most out of his guests, who has faults , yes, but who also gives his all to let us know a deeper understanding of daily news?
    Stewart and Colbert for news? You have to already know the news before they make any sense. Olbermann is great alone or with one guest, but nobody can make a panel discussion jump out of the TV like ol’ Tweety. I watch him every night; he does not “get old”.

  18. Danny said on April 10, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    But back to Matthews…could it be he is a hard-hitting journalist…

    Only by doing great violence to the English language and the agreed upon meaning of words.

  19. Edward Carney said on April 10, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    The following quote is the one you are thinking of and is usually ascribed to G. B. Shaw:
    “If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.

    >Was it Truman that said if you lined up economists
    >head-to-foot in a line long enough to reach the moon,
    >they’d still be wrong? I generally respect the folks at
    >Ann Arbor, but I’m more pessimistic than they are.
    >Harl Delos

  20. Danny said on April 10, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Actually, Nance, “lots of people,” would more accurately refer to Fox News, not Olbermann or Matthews.

    CABLE NEWS RACE
    NIGHT OF MARCH 13, 2008
    VIEWERS

    FOXNEWS O’REILLY 2,979,000
    FNC HANNITY/COLMES 2,280,000
    FNC GRETA 1,896,000
    CNN KING 1,640,000
    FNC HUME 1,530,000
    CNN COOPER 1,417,000
    FNC SHEP 1,392,000
    CNN DOBBS 1,057,000
    MSNBC OLBERMANN 1,001,000
    CNNHN GRACE 605,000
    MSNBC HARDBALL 507,000

    CABLE NEWS RACE
    TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2008

    FOXNEWS O’REILLY 2,987,000
    FNC HANNITY/COLMES 2,407,000
    FNC GRETA 1,851,000
    FNC SHEP 1,734,000
    FNC HUME 1,610,000
    CNN DOBBS 1,259,000
    CNN KING 1,165,000
    CNN ELECTION 1,147,000
    MSNBC OLBERMANN 993,000
    CNN COOPER 973,000
    CNN BLITZER 955,000
    MSNBC GREGORY 721,000

  21. Harl Delos said on April 10, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    In short, he is a true believer in his own “gravitas.”

    About 15-20 years ago, Rush Limbaugh was repeating a theme every day for a month or more, saying the most significant difference between a liberal and a conservative was that liberals were humorless.

    And many liberals are. They take themselves so seriously. But many conservatives are humorless as well, and neocons are even more humorless.

    Olberman does not believe in his own gravitas. It’s just that Olberman keeps a straight face, even a stony face, while Jon cracks up at his own jokes. Not that I object to Stewart. His laughter is often funnier than his jokes, and that’s really saying something, as Stewart is widely considered by other comics as being the funniest guy on television.

    Olberman and Matthews were doing primary results coverage together back in February, and they were talking to Texas State Senator Kirk Watson, an Obama supporter. Matthews kept demanding that Watson list some of Obama’s legislative accomplishments, and Watson was having a brain fart. He couldn’t think of anything, and Matthews kept beating him up.

    Finally, Olberman said, “In defense of Senator Obama, and also in context, can you name one accomplishment of the United States Senate in the last seven years?”

    Matthews said, “That’s a broader question requiring a larger preparation” and Olberman replied, “Yeah, you don’t have an answer to that, either.”

    Shortly after that, Olberman said, “In two weeks, Chris and I will have complete coverage of the primaries in Ohio and Texas, at which I’m expecting a written reply to my question.”

    Matthews replied, “Why do you think they call it Hardball?” and Olberman said, “But this isn’t Hardball. We’re doing the election results.”

    If you think that exchange was about Obama versus Hillary, you’re very much mistaken. Olberman is as disgusted with Matthews as the rest of us are.

    Olberman doesn’t take himself any more seriously with politics than he did when he was doing sports; it’s just that he doesn’t take the emporer’s new clothes seriously. Like most of us, he can’t understand why we’re still wasting the lives of our young men and women in Iraq when, by the President’s proclamation, we won five years ago. The Smothers Brothers are off the air. It’s up to Keith Olberman and Reverend Wright to tell us the truth: that America doesn’t look very good when we don’t wear the white hat.

  22. Harl Delos said on April 10, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    The following quote is the one you are thinking of and is usually ascribed to G. B. Shaw:“If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.

    I’m familiar with that quote, but it’s not the one I was thinking of. What I quoted came later, and was much in the same vein as “If a man says something in the forest, and there’s no woman there to hear it, is he still wrong?” and I still think Truman was the one who said it. Possibly it was Kennedy, but Truman really had fun joking about economists. Shaw, on the other hand, was an economist.

    Truman’s best-remembered quotation about economists was that he was looking for a one-handed economist, because that way he couldn’t say “On one hand this, but on the other hand that”‘ That’s not really Truman’s, though. A number of times when Truman said that, he credited Herbert Hoover with the quip.

    Truman also said that economists and weather forecasters are the only people who can make an abundant living without ever being right.

  23. Sue said on April 10, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Humorous Liberal: the late, great Molly Ivins.
    Humorous Conservative: the very much alive P.J. O’Rourke.
    Love them both.

  24. Linda said on April 10, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    From what I have seen of him, Matthews is hard to take because he takes himself and the Washington insider crowd so seriously. He views it as a little club he is privileged to be a part of, and sees its provincialism and elitism as perfectly legitimate. I disagree that he “gets” the emotionalism that makes politics work. He never understood, for example, the resentment that George W. Bush creates in a lot of people. He confuses his own emotionalism with objective reality–his resentment of powerful women, his jock-sniffing adoration of macho, powerful men–so much so, that it’s embarrassing to watch. So much is focused on that, that there is no focus on the real issues that we are grappling with, like war and the economy.

  25. Linda said on April 10, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    And as to your point, Nancy, about sensing the winds of change: I doubt that it would help Matthews. He is what he is, and maybe just can’t change.

  26. nancy said on April 10, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    True, but it might keep him from embarrassing himself by going on the air with Olbermann. They really have no chemistry together on the primary-night shows I’ve seen them on. He does have an audience, but it’s just not a very big one. He’s certainly not worth $5 million/year.

    God. Five million bucks. Astonishing.

  27. Danny said on April 10, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    It’s up to Keith Olberman and Reverend Wright to tell us the truth: that America doesn’t look very good when we don’t wear the white hat.

    Ummm…are you saying “white hat” in the sense of the pointy ones the KKK wore?

  28. Sue said on April 10, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Danny….

  29. joodyb said on April 10, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    change of subject, but there are some parents in eau claire wis who have one up on brian today:

    AP – An Eau Claire middle school principal says he made “an error in judgment” last week by not more fully discussing a teacher’s plan to tell seventh-grade students her sexual orientation during health classes.
    South Middle School Principal John Wallace said in a letter to parents of about 125 students in Stephanie Rowe’s health classes that parents send their children to school each day “trusting that we as their educators will make the best decisions as to how to instruct and care for them.”
    “On certain occasions, however, a decision is made that is clearly not in the best interest of the students and their guardians whom we serve,” Wallace wrote.

  30. Danny said on April 10, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Ooookay. I’ll be good.

  31. del said on April 10, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    >>Del, the allusion you make to John the Baptist doesn’t hold up well for Olbermann. For one, there is a very long line of media personalities who are critical of the current administration. It more like a Voice in the Chorus than a Voice in the Wilderness.

    But like John the Baptist, Danny, Olbermann was the first. But your point is well taken. Its okay for minority voices to be more strident. However, your FOX news ratings belie your argument as they reflect that the chorus is still heard mostly from the right.

  32. brian stouder said on April 10, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    “On certain occasions, however, a decision is made that is clearly not in the best interest of the students and their guardians whom we serve,” Wallace wrote.

    That really cuts to the core of the issue, joodyb. I think the real issue – the one thing I’m still pondering – is whether I lived up to the real duty entailed by in loco parentis.

    Honestly, it looks like I failed (the young folks and their parents) – but on the other hand, someone whose opinion I greatly value (and who wins pretty much every argument we have) says I’m being a pansy-ass about this all…and she rightly points out that (so far) NO ONE else who was there has echoed my misgivings.

    The choice at crunch-time was: a) state unequivocally “That’s it! We’re done! We’re outta here!”. thereby derailing (so to speak) the whole thing

    or b) acquiesce…which is the default choice, if you dither

  33. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 10, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    I liked Chris Matthews on that “Ants Marching” song, especially the live concert version.

    __

    __

    __

    what?

    __

    __

    oh, Dave Matthews. Never mind.

  34. basset said on April 11, 2008 at 12:03 am

    why is this bullshit important? why do you care what one hair-helmet said to, or about, another, anyway?

  35. Dexter said on April 11, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Back when I was a kid, at least the wingers were entertaining. Sometimes I watched Joe Pyne. He was a character, and as a kid, sometimes he left me utterly aghast.
    He’s long-forgotten , I suppose, by anyone less than 55 years of age, but here’s a history lesson of today’s topic:

    http://classicshowbiz.blogspot.com/2008/01/joe-pyne-show-with-guest-anti-war.html

  36. michaelj said on April 11, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Hint of the north wind? Been reading John Crowlley?

    I think it’s fairly obvious that the ‘authorization’ required Shrub to return to Congress with some kind of proof before acting, and to allow el Baradei to provide whatever proof might be available. Given that Obama has voted Dem the way Clarence Thomas affirms Scalia, he’s full of shit on this issue.

    When you get right down to it, I think it comes down to people in Congress just not considering the idea that a President of the Nunined Snakes (no typos, that’s how W says it) would flat out lie his ass off. Despite the popular huzzah, it’s only partially about oil, in the grand scheme of war profiteering.

  37. michaelj said on April 11, 2008 at 1:40 am

    And Olbermann is relentless in his dislike of Hillary. He actually badgers his guests when they don’t buy into his attacks on her. But, I have to admit, unlike the Gigantic Head, Keith hasn’t waxed stupid on McCain’s Old Spice.

    Nothing to do with anything, but does anybody actually buy Barack’s story about his Granny and the N word? Stilted delivery, lame prose, unadulterated bullshit.

    There’s a real difference, though. Hillary and Barack might produce tall tales under campaign pressure. BFD (aside from the fact that Keith Olbermann will crucify Hillary days in a row and ignore Obama’s liberties). McCain, on the other hand can be told ad infinitum that al Quaeda are Sunni and Iran is the Shia heart, and he still convolutes the two. Next thing, he was riding that tank as a liberator at Auswich with Ron Raygun.

    This is bizarre on so many levels. Anybody that thinks al Quaeda in Mesopotamia has anything to do with Osama, or predates the US invasion, is delusional. Anybody that thinks the Shia we’re supposed to like, as opposed to that loose cannon al Sadr, didn’t spend years drooling on Kahmeini’s slippers in Teheran instead of, oh, I don’t know, fighting an insurgency against Saddam, well Doug Feith has a research job for you. Classified, though, but you get to meet Rumsfeld, that sexy man.

    The greatest draft dodgers the world has ever known are screwing with the lives of a volunteer army for personal profit. They’re making every effort to leave a Democrat with a briar patch, the way HW left Somalia and NAFTA for Clinton. (Clinton forged the labor and environment side agreements to NAFTA, but W abrogated both, something that seems to have evaded the conciousness of David Sirota and all of the mainstream press.)

    Dexter, I remember Joe Pyne. True whackjob. Hell, I heard Father Coughlin in person at the Shrine. Both guys were superior anti-semites, so it’s probably good their days are gone. These days, supporting the Badr Corps makes you a friend of Iraqi freedom (nurtured in Iran) and, I suppose, a friend of Israel. Mixed up, muddled up, shook up world.

  38. michaelj said on April 11, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Chris Matthews? Can’t he afford a speech therapist? Elides half the syllables. Randy Newman has him pegged. “Jesus, what a jerk.” Mr. Sheep.

  39. Sue said on April 11, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Brian, you did not fail anyone. This was thrown at you; you had no more information than any of the other parents who also did not speak up. I think you probably did not realize the extent of the reality the counselors were trying to convey until you were in the thick of it, and that has nothing to do with “dithering”. You kept the kids you were in charge of safe and let them know you were protecting them. I’m sure the other parents did too. If your school district is anything like mine, you would have been labeled forevermore as a wack-job parent if you had tried to stop it. Don’t feel bad. Your instincts are right on this. If there were any school district personnel on the trip that you are comfortable with, a low-key phone call expressing general concern might be in order. If they haven’t had any complaints, then you look like nothing more than a concerned parent. If complaints have been coming in, then you look like a calm voice in the storm. Either way you get your point across and keep communication open.

  40. brian stouder said on April 11, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Thanks Susan; I think that’s a good suggestion. Maybe I’ll informally sidle up to the principal, and see if she’s heard any reactions. I saw her upon our return, and (as she bustled out to get to a meeting) mentioned to her that I thought she might be hearing more about the expedition….

  41. Edward Eugene Baskett said on April 26, 2008 at 9:19 am

    I Call Him Christopher – My Letters to Chris Matthews of Hardball – Leave this peaches and cream guy alone! He has done nothing to bring forth such draconian ire. Read the extract from my book about him.