Friday, November 12, 2010

Gergen Goes To The Matt

For a round table conversation conducted the day after the election and recounted in its Nov. 25 issue, "Rolling Stone" brought together presidential (you can pretty much name the president) adviser David Gergen (in the left-hand corner), pollster Peter Hart, and RS contributing editor Matt Taibbi (below right, preparing to hammer the veteran in the kidneys), who's written a series of bomb-throwing investigative pieces about scheming, grasping Wall Street fat cats. Some highlights:

Taibbi: To me, the main thing about the Tea Party is that they're just crazy. If somebody is able to bridge the gap with those voters, it seems to me they will have to be a little bit crazy too. That's part of the Tea Party's litmus test: "How far will you go?"

Gergen: I flatly reject the idea that Tea Partiers are crazy. They had some eccentric candidates, there's no question about that. But I think they represent a broad swath of the American electorate that elites dismiss to their peril.

Hart: I agree with David. When two out of five people who voted last night say they consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party, we make a huge mistake to suggest that they are some sort of small fringe group and do not represent anybody else.

Taibbi: I'm not saying that they're small or a fringe group.

Gergen: You just think they're all crazy.

Taibbi: I do.

Gergen: So you're arguing, Matt, that 40 percent of those who voted last night are crazy?...

Had the president's fundamental approach for the past two years been about jobs, he would have been a lot better off coming into the election. People would have felt that he was on their side. He helped to stabilize the major banks, which prevented us from going over a cliff, and he deserves credit for averting another Great Depression. But he clearly made a strategic miscalculation in assuming that the stimulus would keep unemployment under eight percent. In retrospect, it was a blunder to spend so much time on health care instead of jobs. If Franklin Roosevelt's most important accomplishment of his first two years had been a health care bill, we'd have all said that was nuts....

The media has spent way too much time on the Tea Party and Christine O'Donnell and far too little time on the emergence of moderate-right Republicans like Rob Portman and John Kasich in Ohio. There are as many traditional conservatives coming into office on the Republican side as there are Tea Partiers. You have to remember, this was not a vote for the Republican Party — it was a negative election about what was going on in Washington. That's why the Republicans are smart to be humble about this election. I think both parties are now on probation. The voters are basically saying, "We'll put you guys in there, and if you don't solve this, we'll throw you out."...

Taibbi: Obama brings [former Clinton Treasury secretary and Citigroup chairman Bob Rubin] back into the government during the transition and surrounds himself with people who are close to Bob Rubin. That's exactly the wrong message to be sending to ordinary voters: that we're bringing back this same crew of Wall Street-friendly guys who screwed up and got us in this mess in the first place.

Gergen: That sentiment is exactly what the business community objects to.

Taibbi: F--- the business community!

Gergen: F--- the business community? That's what you said? That's the very attitude the business community feels is coming from many Democrats in Washington, including some in the White House. There's a good reason why they feel many Democrats are hostile — because they are.

Taibbi: It's hard to see how this administration is hostile to business when the guy it turns to for economic advice is the same guy who pushed through a merger and then went right off and made $120 million from a decision that helped wreck the entire economy.

When Gergen said it was vital that Democrats and Republicans work together the next two years, Hart ended the exchange on a pessimistic if highly literary note:
David draws an eloquent picture, as he always does, of how we would like the world to be. But during the Clinton period in the late Nineties, there wasn't Fox News. Fox not only demonizes everything the president says and does — it has become the major vetting group for Republicans, and it will not allow any kind of compromise to exist. It's like the ending of The Sun Also Rises, when Lady Brett Ashley nestles in the arms of Hemingway's hero and imagines what their life together might have been like. She says, "Wouldn't it be nice?" It would be nice, but I don't think we're going to get there.

1 comment:

MK said...

I'm convinced that Fox demonizes everything the President does because it believes its viewers yearn for absolution of the personal and political fiscal and economic choices they have made over the last 30 years. Fox's view of older white Americans differs from mine, in that regard. If I had established a conservative leaning network, I would have worked to get viewers to develop real rather than shallow patriotism. And to do the type of personal moral inventory and searching analysis that AA encourages. Fox seems to think the people who are drawn to it are too vested in justifying their past life choices and values to do that sort of hard work. It seems to sell a secular form of the Prosperity Gospel, that good things will come to you, not because you are American, but because you are GOP. I'm not sure why it thinks conservatives are so fragile.

I think Fox just has decided that the number of conservative voters who are willing to face the results of past magical thinking on fiscal issues is tiny. I'm thinking of the people willing to face up to what David Brooks calls the economic immorality many engaged in after 1980, as personal and government debt levels exloded. It seems to me that Fox decided some time ago that for it to succeed, it had to double down on what Ta-Nehisi Coates said, the spoon feeding of the message that "you are good people. It is not your fault." The often fractious Democratic party, which has its own issues, doesn't rely on that type of infantilism of its adherents.

There was a time 30 or 40 years agao when I couldn't have pictured conservative outlets infantilizing right leaning Americans the way Fox does. But here we are! Very corrosive, personally and nationally. It's harder and harder to picture America coming together on anything anymore, even in the face of catastrophe or attack. As Brooks noted in his last column, "How can you love your country if you hate the other half of it?"