Bob Novak: "That's Bullshit...Goodnight, Everybody!"

What exactly prompted the Prince of Darkness to work blue on CNN's Inside Politics? A rare moment of candor? Some sort of misfiring synapse? Was he having a flashback to his testimony for the Valerie Plame grand jury?

Footage of the bizarre dustup between the Abbott and Costello of cable news, Novak and James Carville (almost certainly the model for mushmouthed Boomhauer on King of the Hill), is online here.

During a routine (read: strained and uninteresting) discussion of the senatorial chances of Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fl.), Carville mumbles something like, "He's [Novak] got to show these right wingers that he's got a backbone, you know. It's why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em that you're tough."

To which the The Teeth That Roared responds: "That's bullshit," waits a moment and then, like Boris Karloff getting off the table as Frankenstein's monster, sits up, wanders the stage briefly, and exits stage right.

It's showmanship at it's finest, really: Novak realized he wasn't going to top himself, so he said effectively said goodnight to the audience and went home (that, or a producer probably told him to get the fuck off the stage).

CNN has suspended Novak indefinitely. Which is no way to treat the guy who just delivered the only interesting bit of video on that flagging network since Jon Stewart called Tucker Carlson a dick on the now-cancelled Crossfire. And before that, it was what, Peter Arnett touring Iraqi baby milk factories like he was visting Willie Wonka's chocolate plant?

As televised liberal-conservative dust-ups go, this one doesn't quite hold a candle to the celebrated Bill Buckley vs. Gore Vidal cat fight during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. After wordsmith Vidal insisted that, no, really, the author of God and Man at Yale was a "pro-crypto-Nazi," Buckley (who famously signs his letters in National Review, "Cordially...") stopped speaking in his native Latin and declaimed: "Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in you goddamn face and you'll stay plastered." That's good stuff--and it was on broadcast TV for god's sake.

But we live in a fallen age, and our current small-screen commentators are midgets standing on the shoulders of dwarves. So to paraphrase the poet Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the only TV is good TV, so we take what we can get. (Yes, we take what we can get.)

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  • ||

    My threshold for taking a personal attack from a blowhard like Carville before snapping is probably much lower than Novak, so I don't see what the big deal is. Carville wasn't even pretending to make any sort of argumentative point.

  • ||

    But we live in a fallen age, and our current small-screen commentators are midgets standing on the shoulders of dwarves.

    Is gaius marius now posting on the main page? ;->

  • michael||

    I'm so tired of these left-right debate shows: original thought is amazingly vacant during all of their discussions.

    They all go something like this:

    Right-Pundit: You need to swear allegiance to the state. All of your civil and economic rights are belong to us. Fuck the democrats.

    Left-Pundit: You need to swear allegiance to the state. All of your civil and economic rights are belong to us. Fuck the republicans.

    Maybe Novak had that realization too ;-)

  • ||

    Carville as the inspiration for Boomhauer?

    No, he's much more likely to be the model for Dale.

  • ||

    Dang o 'publicans ...

  • Jeff||

    This for of two-party bitch-slapping has been the mainstream political MO for 8 years now. Why are we surprised when stuff like this happens. Jon Stewart's point on Crossfire was that these shows make matters worse by thier very nature. The Franken/Coulter tour a few years back proved without doubt that political discourse was on par with professional wrestling, both in content and relevence. The Ultimate Warrior's recent UConn Visit cemented that fact.
    I expect this current trope to devolve further into Punch & Judy-ness in the near future, with fervent hopes that the pissing matches and feces flinging become literal instead of figurative.

  • ||

    Sorry I missed this... Well who watches Communist News Network anyway?

  • ||

    Isn't Bill Buckley threatening to kick your ass sort of like Al Gore threatening to humiliate you in a rap showdown?

  • gaius marius||

    "He's [Novak] got to show these right wingers that he's got a backbone, you know. It's why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em that you're tough."

    too close to truth for comfort.

    Is gaius marius now posting on the main page? ;->

    lol -- in my more narcissistic moments, i like to think i've had some very minor impact on this forum, mr thoreau.

  • gaius marius||

    "Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in you goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."

    ah, the spirit of the sixties. why can't it come back to stay? oh wait... it has. ;)

  • ||

    This was so totally staged by Novak. As Murphy, the moderator, said, he told Novak before the show that he was going to ask him about the Plame affair.

    So then Novak jumps up and storms off the set the first time Carville gets off the slightest zinger. And thus, Murphy has to tell the audience, "Well, I was going to ask Bob about the Plame controversy, but he's not here."

    And lo and behold, CNN suspends him, and now no one will be asking him about Valerie Plame on the air for weeks.

    Give me a freaking break.

  • ||

    CNN has suspended Novak indefinitely.

    ...Because using a reference to bovine fecal matter to say someone isn't being truthful is threat to our Republic, nay, Western Civilization as we know it.

    The idea there are certain words that inherently damage our society is a nonsensical superstition that ranks up there black cats, Santa Claus, and God. Would Novak be in as much trouble if he used the phrase "That's B.S" or some childish variant (i.e. "That's bullroar.") rather than the full phrase? How about if he just said that Carville was lying Why not? You are saying exactly the same thing. Why is "shit" such a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing to say in public? Why should we be offended by this?

    The truth is that shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits are just words. They can't really hurt anyone. It's the priggish morons obsessed with their primitive notions of right and wrong who are the problem. I would rather have a culture where people are allowed to say what they think and feel than any civilization that demands everyone communicate in colorless, "clean," baby-talk.

  • ||

    Whoops... forgot a question mark. They're so lazy.

    "How about if he just said that Carville was lying?"

  • ||

    "stopped speaking his native latin" killed me. thanks fonz!

  • ||

    "This for of two-party bitch-slapping has been the mainstream political MO for 8 years now. Why are we surprised when stuff like this happens."

    I'm not. In face, I predict that by the end of my lifetime, we'll see open violence between the parties. It's almost ironically apropos that the talking heads embraced the whole red/blue color scheme to symbolize the two sides. Those are the infamous colors of the Crips and Bloods, and street gangs are fast becoming the perfect analogy for the two political parties. They just haven't started shooting at each other... yet.

  • ||

    Ewwwww... make that:

    "In fact, I predict..."

    Come on latte! Kick in already, goddamn it!

  • norbizness||

    As a drunk myself, I can confidently state that Novak was a little tipsy. An inspiration to the inebriated semi-workers of America.

  • Phil||

    I'm sure that Brent Bozell and James Dobson will start the letter-writing campaign to fine Novak and CNN for their on-air profanity will begin any minute now. No, wait . . . now!

  • ||

    Joe-I nominate your Buckley/Gore analogy as the best one-liner in the Hit and Run section ever.

  • ||

    I see Carville wandering around Old Town Alexandria pretty regularly. He is one of those people who just talk constantly. He's quite nice, but a bit too sociable for the DC area. It comes off a bit strange. I think the condition is known as logorrhea
    Novak could have just as easily said "That, sir, is Obfuscation!" and not caused such a stink.

  • gaius marius||

    Jon Stewart's point on Crossfire was that these shows make matters worse by thier very nature.

    to take this a step too far:

    would i get anyone to dissent from the observation that there is a marked increase in the unintellectual vitriol and entrenched radicalization of political debate over the last thirty years? and a corresponding lapse of civility and manners and meaningful debate?

    and, if not, would anyone dissent from the observation that similar conditions -- particularly in combination with a bankrupting militarism -- have been prerequisite to social schisms that end in violence -- ie, civil wars? we could observe that similar conditions can be seen to have arisen in the political clubs of 18th c france, or 2nd c bc rome, or 5th c athens -- of which plutarch could write:

    There was a certain Hyperbolus, of the township of Perithoedae, whom Thucydides also speaks of as a man of bad character, a general butt for the mockery of all the comic writers of the time, but quite unconcerned at the worst things they could say, and, being careless of glory, also insensible of shame; a temper which some people call boldness and courage, whereas it is indeed impudence and recklessness. He was liked by nobody, yet the people made frequent use of him, when they had a mind to disgrace or calumniate any persons in authority. At this time, the people, by his persuasions, were ready to proceed to pronounce the sentence of ten years' banishment, called ostracism. This they made use of to humiliate and drive out of the city such citizens as outdid the rest in credit and power, indulging not so much perhaps their apprehensions as their jealousies in this way. And when, at this time, there was no doubt but that the ostracism would fall upon one of those three, Alcibiades contrived to form a coalition of parties, and, communicating his project to Nicias, turned the sentence upon Hyperbolus himself. Others say, that it was not with Nicias, but Phaeax, that he consulted, and by help of his party procured the banishment of Hyperbolus, when he suspected nothing less. For, before that time, no mean or obscure person had ever fallen under the punishment, so that Plato, the comic poet, speaking of Hyperbolus, might well say --

    "The man deserved the fate; deny't who can?
    Yes, but the fate did not deserve the man;
    Not for the like of him and his slave-brands
    Did Athens put the sherd into our hands."



    with hyperbolus gone, of course, the problem remained unsolved and the insane alcibiades proceeded to wreck athens for good, with civil unrest and the terror of the thirty befalling the city in 404 bc.

    none of this to say that the second american civil war begins tomorrow at 1pm. but the probability of a course of events leading to one, it would seem to me, creeps higher and higher every year.

  • ||

    Would it have been better if Novak had said, "Jim, you ignorant slut"?

  • ||

    The whole "SHOW" was done to raise the declining ratings of CNN!
    It`s Show Business!

  • ||

    Gaius-Yes, to a point. I'd suggest that you didn't comment on a major factor in the downfall: Alicabades, besides being a turncoat and general slimebag, had ambitions to empire. That, as much as the breakdown of civility in the polis, caused problems.

    Also, while discourse is, without a doubt, ugly these days, I'd suggest that it is not terribly out of line with the past. The Founders themselves were known to resort to demagoguery and invective.

  • Phil||

    Number 6: Not to mention duels, and beatdowns on the Senate floor. Which makes me wonder why gaius would restrict his thesis to the last 30 years. Why not the last 50? Or 75?

    Am I the only one who remembers Nixon's sliming of Helen Gahagan Douglas?

  • ||

    Re: "The truth is that shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits..."

    You're exactly right, Akira.

  • ||

    Nixon is clearly a towering figure in the history of the slimification of American politics, but the question remains: was he the cause, or the effect?

  • Franklin Harris||

    "This was so totally staged by Novak. As Murphy, the moderator, said, he told Novak before the show that he was going to ask him about the Plame affair."

    Nice to see you got the memo from the DNC, joe.

  • ||

    And yet, despite all this, FOX News Channel still kicks CNN's ass in the ratings. Go figure.

    Buckley is my goddamn hero.

  • ||

    Actually, Franklin, I posted a comment to that effect on a site called "The Poorman" before I saw that spin anywhere else.

    But it's good to see that other people are picking up on this obvious explanation.

  • MP||

    gaius, you optimist. I suggest that the perceived rise in rhetoric is simply a function of capitalism working on all cylinders. Intelligent discourse doesn't sell as well as rhetoric, because it is not as entertaining. However, at the individual level, the expanding wealth of information increases the day to day level of intelligent discourse among us. The Public Choice problems that become ever worse due to their own feedback loop are more a nature of the groupthink that equates government to "problem solver" than a function of rhetoric.

  • ||

    Isn't Bill Buckley threatening to kick your ass sort of like Al Gore threatening to humiliate you in a rap showdown?
    joe- That depends, is Gored Vidal really big or a skilled martial artist? Otherwise we get something like a baseball fight.

    ...Because using a reference to bovine fecal matter to say someone isn't being truthful is threat to our Republic, nay, Western Civilization as we know it.
    Akira- It isn't your or my place to determine what is a threat to Western civilization. That is for gaius marius to do.

  • keith||

    They just haven't started shooting at each other... yet.

    Lord, Oh Lord, let it start soon!

    It'd certainly help CSPAN in the ratings. Plus, you know, CSI: Congress.

    As for the general decline in the quality of American discourse, political or otherwise, I think that it was ever especially lofty is a myth. We simply get to peer into the process more frequently now. But politics the world over is a treasure trove of adults calling each other "fag" and trying to prove that someone or other's wife is a whore.

    As for a perceived decline in the quality of American reporting on politics (or anything else): it's what happens when you have to feed a 24/7 beast. No fact checking, no time for eloquence, and an eventual shift away from reporting the news to mounting a freakish sideshow. What's sad isn't that this has happened; what's sad is that even normally intelligent people often believe what they hear, if for no other reason than they still labor under the notion that an international news organization like CNN, like Fox, like the NY Times or Newsweek, is somehow still honorable and reliable. Or at the very least, still checking their facts and not getting all their stories from "Us" and "Batshit Crazy Larry's Blog o' Political Punditry."

  • ||

    Heh. That big maroon book on the desk in the video looks suspiciously like Who's Who in America.

  • ||

    But politics the world over is a treasure trove of adults calling each other "fag" and trying to prove that someone or other's wife is a whore.

    I'll thank you not to refer to Mike Huffington that way.

  • ||

    none of this to say that the second american civil war begins tomorrow at 1pm. but the probability of a course of events leading to one, it would seem to me, creeps higher and higher every year.

    I know that I'm known on these boards for my uplifting optimism ;) but I agree with Gaius on this one. The first Civil War just didn't start when Lincoln became president.* It was a flare up in a long slow combustion starting at the Constitutional Convention that continues to smolder to this day. Only the issues have changed, but the attitudes are the same: I'm right, you're wrong, and I'm going to get the government to do something about it. Civility, like earth, is subject to erosion. When you have competing visions of how this nation should be run and how its citizens should act, you can expect it to wear down to nothing fast.

    Differing opinions, lifestyles, and forms of government are fine things when people have the freedom to pursue their individual happiness. However, humans can't stand the idea of anyone threatening to pop their bubble-boy existence by acting or thinking differently than they would. Therefore they will bring down the almighty power of the state upon those who dare live their own lives, and in a winner-take-all political system such as ours, the perceived stakes get higher each election.

    It's not legal abortion, handgun ownership, gay marriage, taxes, Grand Theft Auto, medical (or recreational) marijuana, or even Novak saying "bullshit" on CNN that threaten to plunge this nation into chaos, destruction, and death. It's us and our pointless tribalism and primitive will to dominate one another that will do this nation in. Everything else is just political window dressing.

    I just hope I'm nice, safe, and cozily dead by the time the musket balls start flying again.

    * Before this turns into another tedious "who-was-right-in-the-Civil-War conflagration, let me say that I find both sides Union and Confederacy equally repugnant and undeserving of pride. Yes, the North trampled all over "states rights," but that doesn't erase the fact that the South treated human beings as chattel and used the concept of independence to justify their ethnic caste system. Yes, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and censored opposition newspapers, but so did Jefferson Davis. Who is really the "American Lenin" as one libertarian sci-fi author called the former? There is enough shit on both sides of the conflict and a11 resulted in over 500,000 Americans dead and a century of bitterness and racial resentment. I don't care who was "just," because in the end, both sides were wrong.

  • gaius marius||

    Intelligent discourse doesn't sell as well as rhetoric, because it is not as entertaining.

    god help us, proletarian economics may be guiding the national dialogue, mr mp.

    As for the general decline in the quality of American discourse, political or otherwise, I think that it was ever especially lofty is a myth

    i would never say that it was particularly lofty -- especially in america, which has always been a fairly vulgar and barbarized outpost of western civilization. but would we not say that the last thirty years -- dating back to around the time of the watergate disillusionment -- has been a steady process of deterioration in manners and discourse among the ruling elite? might this not also be linked to the proletarianizing of a wing of the management class in the 20th c?

  • ||

    Ah, that takes me back. I recall someone
    describing it as a dustup between Count Vidal and
    Lord Buckley. Good stuff.

  • gaius marius||

    When you have competing visions of how this nation should be run and how its citizens should act, you can expect it to wear down to nothing fast.

    i think particularly dangerous, mr mackenzie, are the episodes where people quit viewing the ballot box -- and, more broadly, the political process -- as a means of managing the country well but as a weapon of revenge. the former is borne of a quiet shopkeeper's sensibility; the latter, an indulgent and blinding passion.

    i see much more of that emotionalism creeping into the public debate where such displays were once unthinkable.

  • ||

    The ballot box, and the rest of the functions of government, gaius.

    Our federal government is, at this time in history, dominated by people who believe that the primary function of government is to serve as a forum for waging ideological warfare, that the secondary function of government is to enrich and empower themselves and their associates, and that the pedestrian duties it is responsible for carrying out are of tertiary importance.

  • John||

    What we don't know is what the producers of the show were saying in Novak's ear at the time. That may have been what he was reacting to.

    And Carville gets to go on a profanity-laced, taking-the-name-of-God-in-vain tirade against Tucker Carlson without consequences, but if Novak calls it like he sees it he gets an indefinite suspension?

    That's bullshit.

  • MP||

    Our federal government is, at this time in history, dominated by people who believe that the primary function of government is to serve as a forum for waging ideological warfare

    DNC/Liberals - "But that's a sacrifice we're willing to make as we patiently wait for the right people (us) to take over the reigns. Government should remain big, bloated, and powerful because someday the enlightened ones will use it to lead us all to Nirvana."

  • ||

    I really wanted to see a chair fight. Maybe someday.

    I always thought Bob Novak was picked to be on CNN because he is the embodiment of every lazy stereotype about conservatives, right down to the archaic 3-piece suit. (80s conservatives that is, when the network was founded). The supine, strange Alan Colmes provides the same service on Fox, but as the liberal stereotype.

  • ||

    Nixon is clearly a towering figure in the history of the slimification of American politics

    Yeah, you'd never catch the Kennedys saying anything bad about anyone. Or their pals the Daleys or the teamsters.

  • ||

    So someone should give Colmes and Novak a show together.

  • ||

    As a 14 year old neophyte political junkie, I watched all the convention coverage I could that year. ABC was definately the best that year and convention watching has never again been as good as in 1968.

    But, as I remember it, Vidal uttered his insult yet again and Buckley leaned over and across Howard K. Smith and swung a left handed haymaker that did not connect only because Howard pushed Bill back into his chair.

    This was television's finest hour.

  • ||

    Of course Novak should be suspended for saying a bad word. Think of all the preteens watching Inside Politics that are now emotionally distressed.

    Seriously, I like Joe's theory on this one.

    And these shows - like professional wrestling - are "entertainment" only. The only reason I'll occasionally turn on the McLaughlin Group is to see Eleanor Clift getting beat down.

  • ||

    "And Carville gets to go on a profanity-laced, taking-the-name-of-God-in-vain tirade against Tucker Carlson without consequences, but if Novak calls it like he sees it he gets an indefinite suspension?"

    That was John Stewart. CNN didn't suspend him, because he doesn't work for CNN. He was a guest.

  • ||

    RC, the "everybody's doing it" defense for Watergate is so factually untrue and morally vacant that I'm not even going to refute your regurgitation of it.

    Just calling attention to it will do.

  • ||

    Mickey Kaus today points out that the book on Carville's desk was ... wait for it... "Who's Who in America."

    You don't think that perhaps Novak left because they were going to ask him about his claim that you could find Valerie Plame's identity in "Who's Who"?

  • ||

    would i get anyone to dissent from the observation that there is a marked increase in the unintellectual vitriol and entrenched radicalization of political debate over the last thirty years? and a corresponding lapse of civility and manners and meaningful debate?

    As the stances of left and right continue to become indistinguishable, we will continue to see those on either side continue to become ever more vitriolic in debating what method is used to split a hair.

  • ||

    Geeze.

    One of these days I'll start previewing things and editing for clarity.

  • ||

    Joe said: Our federal government is, at this time in history, dominated by people who believe that the primary function of government is to serve as a forum for waging ideological warfare, that the secondary function of government is to enrich and empower themselves and their associates, and that the pedestrian duties it is responsible for carrying out are of tertiary importance.

    I agree, but would switch numbers 1 and 2. The ideology is usually more about demagougery and the desire to get elected.

  • ||

    Nick Gillespie,

    One of the most amusing and well written Hit and Run writings I've seen in a while, and that's pretty impressive considering the high quality of writng at Reason. Bravo to you and everybody else over there.

    Akira MacKenzie,

    Some of the best and most informative writing in the comments section in a long time. I especially enjoyed your thoughts about "cuss" words. I agree; they are just words which symbolize other thoughts. If we as a society didn't react so hysterically to them, they would lose all of their "negative" power. "Fuck" would become just another vocalization like "AHHHHH" when we are mad or surprised. Anyway, well done, Akira.

  • ||

    "CNN has suspended Novak indefinitely."

    I've written a few Employee Assistance manuals.

    That's definitely management code for:
    "We see in-patient rehab and a 12-step program in Mr. Novak's future."

    He's probably calling Rush right now, for a referral. Maybe we'll get to see him do his "making amends" step on-air.

    Or better, a few rounds of self-flagellation with the cat-o-nine-tails, courtesy of his Opus Dei buddies.

  • Phil||

    Yeah, you'd never catch the Kennedys saying anything bad about anyone. Or their pals the Daleys or the teamsters.

    I'm not certain joe claimed any such thing. Oh, wait . . . I am certain he didn't claim any such thing. Were you trying to dispute somehow that Nixon was a slimer par excellence, or were you just engaging in one of your frequent bizarro tu quoque/excluded middle ravings?

  • ||

    Akira, for a pretty thorough examination of the use of swears, check out this Volokh Conspiracy post from a few days ago:

    Orin Kerr on swearing

  • big dirigible||

    The "slimification of American politics"? The "second American civil war"? A "threat to Western civilization"? What is this, the Land of Bad Theatre Reviews?

    Surely we haven't forgotten the 1800 election, and the singing and dancing which came perilously close to making Aaron Burr our third President? The ridiculous log cabin motif of William Harrison's campaign? The press of 1862 routinely referring to the President as the "shambling ape"? Senators beating each other unconscious in the Capitol? Andrew Jackson returning a bullet to Thomas Hart Benton which he had carried in his arm for twenty years? Chester Arthur, the quintessential machine politician, actually becoming President? William Randolph Hearst, the "splendid little war," and the Yellow Kid? A bullet being "the only thing standing between that madman" [Teddy Roosevelt] and the presidency?

    The Republic survived all those adventures. The modern shenanigans hardly rise to the level of a spirited food fight.

  • big dirigible||

    "I would rather have a culture where people are allowed to say what they think and feel than any civilization that demands everyone communicate in colorless, 'clean,' baby-talk."

    Shakespeare? King James Version? Nabokov? Colorless??? Mindless rote profanity is a poor substitute for the craft of a skilled - or merely adequate - writer. I don't think I'd miss the streams of words that junior high kids consider "daring" were they to disappear.

  • B.D.||

    From now on, instead of "I call bullshit", I'm going to write or say, "I call Novak" (although, I might alternate it with Carville on occasion, if I forget).

  • gaius marius||

    As the stances of left and right continue to become indistinguishable, we will continue to see those on either side continue to become ever more vitriolic in debating what method is used to split a hair.

    agreed, mr mediageek. as they converge in viewpoint, differentiation will get louder and louder. it's very disturbing for an ideologue to see so much of himself in his "enemy".

  • ||

    RC, the "everybody's doing it" defense for Watergate is so factually untrue and morally vacant that I'm not even going to refute your regurgitation of it.

    Who is defending Watergate? I'm just saying that pretending Nixon had more blood on his knuckles than the Democratic machine of his era is just loony. Try to respond to what I actually say, joe.

    I'm not certain joe claimed any such thing. Oh, wait . . . I am certain he didn't claim any such thing.

    Try reading what joe actually wrote, and thinking about it for a moment. joe was saying that Nixon was far worse than any of his contemporaries when it came to mudball politics. I think that's horsecrap, and I'm not a particular fan of Nixon.

    Were you trying to dispute somehow that Nixon was a slimer par excellence,

    No, just that he is not at all unusual in his willingness to get dirty to seize and hold power.

    or were you just engaging in one of your frequent bizarro tu quoque/excluded middle ravings?

    WTF are you talking about? Excluded middle? Do you even know a what a syllogism is? If so, could you perhaps demonstrate what syllogism I proposed that is invalidated by an excluded middle term.

    Frequent bizarro tu quoque ravings? Show me two in the last month, Phil.

  • ||

    Novak stated in a speech to the Young Americans Foundation (or whatever that Bush Jugend group is called), which was carried on C-SPAN and which I watched, that he would immediately terminate any interview or conversation in which he was asked about the Plame case. This was the day before the CNN thing, on Aug. 3. He knew, because the anchor had told him so beforehand, that he was going to be asked about Plame. So he walked, making a lame attempt to seem outraged.

  • gaius marius||

    The press of 1862 routinely referring to the President as the "shambling ape"?

    this might be a little too close to 1861-5 to be reassuring, mr dirigible. :)

    Andrew Jackson returning a bullet to Thomas Hart Benton which he had carried in his arm for twenty years?

    and we shouldn't forget the secession crisis of 1828-32, which could easily have devolved into sectarian war. jackson was on the verge of mobilizing the federal army and marching into south carolina.

    more generally -- i wouldn't disagree that america, for the 18th and 19th c, was a barbarized fringe of the west. the engagement of englishmen and frenchmen with the frontier made andrew jacksons and thomas hart bentons a regular and unfortunate feature of american politics. that isn't an era we should feel good about finding easy comparisons to some two centuries later.

  • ||

    Let's see if this works. I'm trying to get italics to work but it doesn't preview.



    Mediageek, great phrase. Sounds like the runup to the Inquisition. (14th century Godwinism).

  • ||

    Hell, it didn't work. This is the quote that didn't go through.

    ...vitriolic in debating what method is used to split a hair.

  • gaius marius||

    I'm just saying that pretending Nixon had more blood on his knuckles than the Democratic machine of his era is just loony

    i don't think that's a reasonable evaluation of the facts, mr dean. it is very common nro propaganda these days, but mr joe is effectively correct in his point. nixon was a quantum leap down the sewerhole.

  • ||

    "Would i get anyone to dissent from the observation that there is a marked increase in the unintellectual vitriol and entrenched radicalization of political debate over the last thirty years?"

    No - and yes. Seems to me this phenomenon is mostly due to the 'need' to have the airwaves not be empty for most of the day. The dialogue is not serious, but is indeed repulsive (and then only if you watch it.)

  • ||

    Perhaps the level of bile we see has precedent in distant Amrican history, but I stand firm in the belief that Nixon's shennanigans, and the politics since then, display a significant decline in civility and ethics compared to the period from the end of WW1 through the mid-60s.

    Perhaps what was once thought to be linear progress was just a brief divergence from the norm, but I don't think the project should be given up entirely quite yet.

  • ||

    joe - your comment on politics (your post at 11:27am) is a great argument for libertarian philosophy. If you can't trust your leaders to have your most basic needs in mind, how can you trust them to do anything?

    gauis - I am increasingly of the opinion that you are, indeed, crazy. America is the barbarian kingdom of the west? Sure, but what's your point? You have got to be the most pessimistic person I've had the pleasure of meeting. That you could claim that political rhetoric has somehow changed over the course of American history, is, yes, nuts. It is my opinion that part of our 'problem' is that the human race has not sufficiently changed, or as I would say, evolved.

  • ||

    While I can agree that Nixon is not the most civil of men, I would put LBJ and his assistants, Bobby Baker and Bill Moyers, at least as far down the sewer as Nixon even thought of being. When you compare Nixon to Teddy Kennedy, Nixon looks like a true gentleman and compared to Sen Byrd he is way up there as a gentleman. The real slimeballs these days are Cynthia McKinney, Maxine Walters, Sen Durbin, Teddy Kennedy, Sen Schumer. When you couple them will Ted Rall, Kos, Michael Moore, Keith Olberman, Jonathan Chait, Steve Lovelady, and the Hollywood illuminati, then you have really hit bottom.

  • ||

    Lowdog,

    Some leaders can be so trusted, and some cannot. It would appear to be wise to put more, not less, effort into the distinction.

    I'm sorry, dick, whose psychiatrist's office did Ted Kennedy have bugged? Which actors are on Ted Kennedy's Enemies List?

    Maybe the neo-cons should have OJ help them find the Real Slimeballs.

  • gaius marius||

    You have got to be the most pessimistic person I've had the pleasure of meeting.

    as simon schama said (and i may quote inaccurately), "history has a way of being harsh with optimism."

    That you could claim that political rhetoric has somehow changed over the course of American history, is, yes, nuts.

    i have difficulty believing otherwise, mr lowdog. the counterpoint is essentially to say that political rhetoric has been the same at all times everywhere -- and that clearly isn't true. the rhetoric of the elizabethans is much different than the rhetoric of mussolini. things have changed (and how!) on several axes, i suspect, and will continue to change even if those changes may fall into patterns.

  • gaius marius||

    pessimistic

    i'm also a cubs fan, if that helps contextualize me. :)

  • gaius marius||

    i wonder if mr dick is aware that he's tacitly defending nixon while he apparently cannot name a sleazy republican politician. lol!

    indeed, it's a wonder bill and hilly and al gore didn't make the list! they're still the mortal enemies over at the weekly standard, aren't they? or have they moved "towelheads" up to #1?

  • ||

    I'd be impressed with Novak if he called Carville out. Say, sabers at 6:00 a.m.? Nothing like a sword wound or two to make one more civil :)

    Drifting into the sideline of Buckley vs. Vidal, is it okay that I really like Julian and Creation but still think that Vidal is a complete loon? I get the impression that I'm not allowed to like authors or entertainers who aren't on "my side" of the political fence.

  • ||

    The real problem with modern political invective is that so little of it is even entertaining, which one would think would be the principal goal of a network dependent on viewer ratings to succeed. Where is the present-day version of John Randolph, who said of Edward Livingston, "He is a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks"? Who do we have to match Tom Reed, who commented on a couple of Congressional foes, "They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge"? If we have to listen to name-calling, at least it should be witty, imaginative name-calling rather than buzzword-bludgeoning.

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