Hornswaggler | The culture, the humor, a bit of the sports, not so much the politics, and the workplace distraction

Hornswaggle is an alternate spelling of hornswoggle, an archaic word that means to bamboozle or hoodwink. I take my pronunciation from the late Harvey Korman in "Blazing Saddles" --

"I want rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, conmen, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists!"

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

W and the press

[Updated: June 22]

It's funny that Digby tucked into the media's infatuation with Bush today, because the difference in how the press looks at Bush versus Democratic presidents and presidential candidates is something I was planning to post about.

I think there is a basic equation that goes a long towards explaining the media's resentment of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, in particular, and its tenacious reverence of the swaggering, faith-havin', stuff-not-readin' POTUS du jour:

Reporters and columnists felt intellectually inferior but morally superior to Clinton.

They resented him for being so evidently out of their league and their sense of moral superiority (because unlike Clinton, of course, none of them would ever commit infidelity or lie about it when caught) gave them permission them to vent it.

Pundits feel intellectually superior but socially inferior to Bush.

In both the alpha dog and blue-blood sense. Not only are they no match for him on a personal level, feeling compelled to roll over and show their bellies, but they're aware at pretty much every level of their cortex that he is the scion of one of America's most powerful family dynasties. He treats them by degrees with jaunty condescension or outright contempt. As a result, those rare moments when he treats them kindly triggers a wave of ecstasy, not unlike that moment in junior high and high school when the really attractive and popular boy/girl you had a crush on unexpectedly acted like the feeling could be mutual.

At the same time, the feeling that they're intellectually superior to Bush gives pundits succor, allowing for them at some level to feel good about themselves, ameliorating his disdain for them.

Pundits feel intellectually inferior and morally superior to Gore.

Similar to Clinton. Most of them would never admit they feel overmatched by his brains, of course, but they know it subconsciously. The joke here is that the sense of moral superiority is totally unjustified, since it basically stems from the wildly overblown perception that he is a chronic fibber. From inventing the Internet to "Love Canal," each prominent example of his tendency to exaggerate has been shown to be plainly false.

And the press looks down on Gore, socially, because everyone feels emboldened by others' mockery of him. And though many have written that in person he's much more normal guy than how he comes across, most political journalists, most of them quite miserable animals, probably wouldn't admit they can't hold a candle to him on a social level.

As for Clinton, he is a vastly superior social animal to Bush, who has always relied on his dominant socio-economic status to bully people, whereas Clinton is a social genius who seems to bond instantly with people from every walk of life, due in part to his apparent power of instant empathy. But his smoothness just became another arrow in the quiver for journalists, who took his manner as evidence of his insincerity. (When the reality, in my view, was much more complicated: I see Clinton as a wandering laser beam of intense empathy. He is powerfully focused on you during your interaction with him, merging into your experience, and then he moves on. Sometimes he remembers you and the feelings he manifested towards you and sometimes he doesn't. [If you are a hot chick he is probably more likely to remember you.] That doesn't mean he wasn't sincere at the time.)

It goes without saying you could write a whole book about Clinton's personality. And his approach to women, stemming from his childhood, is pathological. But I think intellect and morality are a good jumping-off point. For a variety of reasons -- his origins in poor, rurual Arkansas and his predatory sexuality among them -- his relationship vis a vis the press socially was not as much of a factor as it is with Bush.

.: posted by hornswaggler 5:45 PM


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