News & Criticism

The Passions of Richard Wolffe

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Contained within this Andrew Ferguson piece in the (no longer Rupert Murdoch-owned) Weekly Standard about obsequious mainstream media coverage of Barack Obama comes a welcome bit of LexisNexis deployment against triangle-headed Newsweek toff* and serial Keith Olbermann contributor Richard Wolffe. Who, Ferguson discovers, was lobbing love sonnets in George W. Bush's general direction as recently as four years ago:

One story Wolffe wrote to accompany Bush's second inauguration in 2005 carried the headline: "He's hands-on, detail-oriented, and hates 'yes' men. The George Bush you don't know has big dreams–and is racing the clock to realize them." The article added detail to this account of Bush's unbridled virility. "President Bush is by far the biggest agent of change in his own cabinet," Wolffe wrote.

Whether he's remaking his team or plotting his second-term policies, Bush's leadership style belies his caricature as a disengaged president who is blindly loyal, dislikes dissent, and covets his own downtime. In fact, Bush's aides and friends describe the mirror image of a restless man who masters details and reads avidly.

And then he called me Wolffy!

And so on, each layer thicker than the last.

Eight months later Hurricane Katrina hit, Bush's ratings tanked, and new orders came down. Wolffe now filed his dispatches for stories that declared: "Bush's leadership style and the bureaucratic culture combined to produce a disaster within a disaster…. It is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty."

Thank God Ralph Nader wasn't in charge

Speaking of Bush-era jock-sniffery from Manhattan's finest, in searching for that classic Vanity Fair photo spread of Dubya's virile cabinet just after 9/11 [possibly pictured], I noticed something peculiar about the mag's self-styled "huge archive of Bush-administration articles"—ain't nothing in it between October 2000 and September 2003, even though there are nearly 50 articles afterward. Did VF really not cover the Bush administration through September 11 and the Iraq War? I sure don't remember it that way….

For journo-pundits especially, but I think all of us too: Life really is better lived when you reserve your love for the deserving people you know, rather than the undeserving politicians you think you understand.

* A media pal of mine with more passports from the British Isles than I writes to say that Wolffe is "a Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jew. Don't assume all English accents betoken toffishness."

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  1. Isn’t “Richard Wolffe” the screen name of the douche who spams us with bullshit holocaust denial cut n’ paste mega-posts occasionally?

  2. If you liked “The Wolves of Self-Reliance”, you’ll love “The Wolffe of Self-Contradiction”.

  3. I noticed something peculiar about the mag’s self-styled “huge archive of Bush-administration articles” — ain’t nothing in it between October 2000 and September 2003

    They didn’t seriously purge their own archives, did they? Bush is such a colossal fuckup that people will go to any length to remove anything nice they said about him.

  4. Is that a picture of the Bush cabinet or an ad for the next Law & Order?

    Law & Order – CYA

  5. Life really is better lived when you reserve your love for the deserving people you know, rather than the undeserving politicians you think you understand.

    But politicians are noble; they live only to serve us. They don’t worry about crass and venal things like “profits”.

  6. Yglesias, Woffel, Ruttan, Dr. Krugman PhD (who has a PhD and Nobel, by the way), and Katrina vanden Heuvel should form a supergroup called The Sloppy Bottoms.

    I wonder what the set list would look like…

  7. 2 words:

    Boom roasted.

  8. It’s not a “Free Press.”

    It’s a drive-by fellatio service for the ruling class.

  9. “It’s not a “Free Press.”

    It’s a drive-by fellatio service for the ruling class.”

    But they do it for free…

  10. But they do it for free…

    It’s “free press,” not “A free press.”

    And goddamn, that is one triangle-headed motherfucker.

  11. I don’t see anything I know to be inaccurate or self-contradictory in the quoted material from Wolffe. G.W. Bush I don’t think ever tried to argue that he was a big reader, nor does it appear to be the case that you need to be a big reader in order to be a restless change agent. (I do take points off for the stale language.)

    Intolerance of dissent, like all leadership qualities, has its place, and you could (though I don’t think I would) make the case that too much of it doomed the Bush Administration. But citing that quality in a post hoc diagnosis, while it may be lazy, still doesn’t negate the earlier praise.

    In fact, the Obama Xperience makes me wish there had been more coverage like this of the W Age. At this point, I still have a very foggy grasp of what Bush Admin policies were actually spawned by George W himself. I’m guessing Iraq definitely, NCLB probably, Social Security reform somewhat. But who do you blame for Medicare Part Omega, the TARP or Homeland Security? In a weird way, more positive coverage might have unearthed more of his culpability.

  12. Cavanaugh — In the first quote, Wolffe calls the notion that Bush “dislikes dissent” to be a “caricature.” In the second, Wolffe says Bush “equates disagreement with disloyalty.” That’s not self-contradictory?

  13. Tim the first quote Matt snips includes “reads avidly”. I know it can be hard to read through that much saccarine but if you do I think you will see contradictions.

  14. This is why I love Reason… where else on the web do you have authors not only defending their pieces in the comments section, but fellow authors critiquing in real time?

  15. “This is why I love Reason… where else on the web do you have authors not only defending their pieces in the comments section, but fellow authors critiquing in real time?”

    What else do they have to pass the time?

  16. “obsequious mainstream media coverage”…is that ivy league for ass kissing and dick sucking?

  17. This is why I love Reason… where else on the web do you have authors not only defending their pieces in the comments section, but fellow authors critiquing in real time?

    Cavanaugh voted for Obama, Welch voted for Barr. Old wounds are slow to heal.

  18. Cavanaugh voted for Obama, Welch voted for Barr. Old wounds are slow to heal.

    Correction — I did not vote! A decision that I feel better about with each passing day….

  19. * A media pal of mine with more passports from the British Isles than I writes to say that Wolffe is “a Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jew. Don’t assume all English accents betoken toffishness.”

    But he certainly is one triangle-headed motherfucker, as you and Xeones note.

    Matt – thanks for bringing Tim Cavanaugh back.

  20. Correction — I did not vote! A decision that I feel better about with each passing day….

    I don’t see why you’d feel better about it now. Forgive me, but it strikes me as quite strange that people who piss and moan about the government’s behavior five days a week then refuse to exercise their (admittedly slight) ability to influence said government with their vote. Not that I disagree with your pissing and moaning, but there’s something to be said for lighting a Molotov cocktail along with cursing the darkness.

    That’s assuming you’re not taking the asinine position that Brian Doherty took about voting, that it’s actually immoral to do so. In which case I’m not sure how to address you intelligently.

  21. Bush getting blamed for Katrina is a joke.

    New Orleans has never been a functional place.

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