Spotlight: 10 Pundits You Should Ignore In 2013
10 Pundits You Should Ignore In 2013
Purely for kicks, I once followed Luke Russert and Kathryn Jean Lopez on Twitter. Both are uniquely stupid and utterly lacking self-awareness; the former has no idea he’s being humored by his colleagues in misguided deference to his father, while the latter doesn’t realize that live-tweeting Mass is a sad snooze. Even in bite-sized doses, exposure to these morons made me feeble, so I cut them loose.
Readers, I recommend you do likewise. Herewith, a barrel of horribles who ought to be jettisoned, exuberantly flung from civilization. They are boils on the ass of the media beast, and it is my well-considered opinion, they should be ruthlessly lanced. With one exception, these offenders were not chosen simply on the basis of awful election-year prognostications, though all were indeed guilty. No, this is a lifetime achievement award. These folks (with one exception) have been awful for a very long time; I propose that in the new year we stand athwart their shitty track records and yell “Enough!”
1. Dick Morris. Regrettably, the Big Dog’s coattails are impossibly long (see Penn, Mark). If Morris couldn’t put “former Clinton adviser” in front of his name, he would be just another toe-sucking mercenary with a gift for impossibly goofy predictions. What’s remarkable — indeed, an achievement — is Morris’ ability to continually find suckers willing to compensate him. This includes The Hill, that respected Washington rag, where he still collects a check. The staffers are suitably embarrassed by Morris’ weekly dross. But I do not include Morris for his predictive failures. Stupidity is forgivable, but his sin, operating in bad faith, is not. Morris confessed to Father Sean Hannity a week after Mitt Romney lost the election that he, Dick Morris, projected a Romney victory because “the Romney campaign was falling apart, people were not optimistic” and “nobody thought there was a chance of victory.” There is no value in a man willing to tell you what you want to hear.
2. Niall Ferguson. In America a Scottish brogue, a nice build and good hair can get you pretty far. These attributes go a long way, I assume, toward explaining why Ferguson hasn’t been run out of Harvard Square on a rail. A review of Paul Krugman’s clips are instructive; if he’s not racist, he’s brutally stupid — ignorant of borrowing costs and willing to lie to his audience about the cost of healthcare reform. Ferguson really showed his ass in the week before the presidential election: in a single Daily Beast column, he argued that Barack Obama still needed to win over undecided voters ( he didn’t), that polls were “scar[y] for the incumbent” (they weren’t, which accounts for the War on Nate Silver), and that Obama, on the cusp of the election, would support an Israeli attack on Iran. So: Ferguson was, in the words of Meat Loaf, doubly blessed: ill-equipped to adequately comment on economics — his area of “expertise” — and politics. Since he’s also a two-time loser (an adviser to McCain ‘n’ Mittens, respectively), there is no compelling reason to give him the time of day.
3. Peggy Noonan. Mary Ellen Noonan has been around so long it is assumed she must have been, in the supply-sider universe far, far away, talented. Her reputations rests on “a thousand points of light,” a meaningless, ambrosia salad phrase made funny by Dana Carvey, and “Read my lips: no new taxes,” a lie. But that’s enough for a lifetime Journal sinecure, apparently. Noonan’s prose, turgid and purple, is at its worst when evoking the name of Ronald Reagan, which is always. The irony: Her relationship to the 40th president was tenuous. As a former Reagan adviser pointed out, after Noonan trashed her fellow speechwriters in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Noonan was “never part of the team” and her gifts, such as they were, were limited to self-promotion. And yet Noonan, like the execrable Mr. Morris, has dined out on this skimpy presidential connection well past the sell-by date.
4. Michael Barone. There are rumors Barone was once a reason-based, intelligent lifeform. I have heard nice thing about The Almanac of American Politics. He continues to be revered by conservatives, who treat him like a combination of Nate Silver and Jesus. But there has been no trace of this supposedly erudite, analytical man for a very long time. In March 2003, Barone wrote that “Quick success in Iraq, followed by success as soon as possible in Syria and Iran, will help us deal with” the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. (To recap: An invasion of two countries that hadn’t attacked us, so quickly on the heels of an invasion of yet another country that hadn’t attacked us.) Indeed, this is in keeping with a fellow who, in 2005, e-mailed Glenn Reynolds (below) to say “there might be something to Intelligent Design.” That same year, he predicted “the end” of political polarization. In 2006, he wrote that a McCain-Lieberman presidential ticket “would probably win easily.” By the time Barone said journalists didn’t care for Sarah Palin because “she did not abort her Down syndrome baby,” it wasn’t really a surprise.
5. Charles Krauthammer. Krauthammer once argued, in the pages of America’s second-most-influential newspaper, that torture was okay under “the ticking time bomb” scenario, which does not exist and has never existed in real life. For reasons that escape me, the New Republic keeps on its masthead a man who lets a “24” wet-dream dictate his views on foreign policy. I hope it’s simply a matter of priorities — the magazine has undergone a redesign — but perhaps they believe, as does Politico, that he is “ sophisticated.” Krauthammer certainly fooled the Pulitzer committee, which must be so proud to have honored a man so addled he hates the Berenstain Bears and believes Obama blackmailed David Petraeus. In any case, by Krauthammer’s own metric, he ought to be put out to pasture. On April 22, 2003, he told an American Enterprise Institute audience, “Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem.” And here we are.
6. Jennifer Rubin. Rubin’s descent into outright hackery (see this Drudge-sirened “ EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW” with, ugh, Ed Gillespie) wasn’t precipitous, even though she wrote for Commentary, a journal of sub-basement quality. Her columns filed during the previous election cycle for the New York Observer were relatively clear-eyed. Romney, she wrote, was “the least adept politician in the field.” She criticized his “manicured appearance and cautious language [ibid].” In another column, she noted that “Americans don’t like it one bit when candidates adopt positions (or entire platforms, for that matter) for political expediency.” (You don’t say!) It’s unclear what transpired between that election and the most recent, but this time around she functioned not as a reporter but as an unpaid spokeslady for the Romney campaign. Her advocacy was breathtaking brazen; she often resembled those fixtures of pre-Giuliani Times Square, cleaning up after each Romney flub. To Rubin’s credit, she admitted as much.
7. Andrew Sullivan. In an assessment of Sullivan’s sins related to the AIDS epidemic here, I neglected the larger problem: He is a one-man refutation of Blink. Every initial position he takes is wrong. In April 2011, he gazed into Paul Ryan’s blue eyes, considered the man’s sociopathic, granny-starving budget, and concluded that, “whatever you think of it, is serious.” Three whole paragraphs later, he noted that the burden would be shouldered by the poor and the old. It took him two weeks to connect the dots. Then, after Obama’s somnolent first debate, he famously wept “it’s hard to see how a president and his party recover.” There was no more evidence that Obama would lose the election than there was for the seriousness of Ryan’s budget. Much is made of the fact that Sullivan, unlike most high-profile bloggers, admits his mistakes and revisits his conclusions as needed. That is an unacceptable standard, particularly when the Daily Dish is blessed with an editorial staff and a fucking poetry editor.
8. Glenn Reynolds. Reynolds, unlike Sullivan, has not the decency to admit his mistakes. He has whiffed on every major issue of the last decade: he believed that George W. Bush would be level-headed post-September 11, 2001; that the Iraq War was marvelous; global warming is stupid; and that guns, more guns, are the solution to every problem. Meanwhile, this rolling horrorshow is subsidized by Tennessee taxpayers (Reynolds is a professor at University of Tennessee) who don’t mind underwriting Reynolds’ fantasies of robot sex and assassinating Iranians. One could argue there is value in Reynolds, as a purveyor of the conservative movement’s latest shitty ideas, but I’ll fight you on that; if the “fiscal cliff” nonsense has taught us anything, it’s that conservatives have only one idea: tax cuts.
9. Hugh Hewitt. Hewitt is the ur-Rubin, a Romney groupie for whom nothing matters save the success of Republicans. There was a particularly humiliating moment during the Harriet Miers debacle when Kathryn Jean Lopez — one of the dumbest people alive — gently excused Hewitt’s support for doomed Miers by noting, “[D]oesn’t our friend Hugh tend to be a reliable party man?” Yes, and this tends to blind him to reality, often with hilarious results. Never was this more evident than the ‘08 primary, when, every couple of weeks, Hewitt would proclaim “Romney Rising” on his eponymous blog. The cheerleading incurred the mockery of Erick Erickson, who, it’s worth recalling, pimped Rick Perry for the presidency.
10. Jay Cost. Cost, the conservative answer to Nate Silver, is the least-known on this list. Week after week, he gave the wingnut base reasons for why Mitt Romney would not lose the election. His columns were, increasingly, desperate rationalizations to postpone suicide. My favorite, published on November 4, was his prediction that Romney would win Pennsylvania. It was bushwa of a very high grade; to his credit, his columns ably mimicked intellectual respectability. But he was wrong, deeply wrong — as one expects of a Weekly Standard columnist — and the only thing separating Cost and Dick Morris is the former does not, I think, have a toe-sucking fetish.