Where have you gone, Joe McCarthy? A nation turns its lazy MSM to you ...


See the attempt by ABC's The Note, authored by Rick Klein, to implicate Barack Obama in the Blagojevich crimes without a shred of evidence, here. Key McCarthyite weasel words: "It isn't about the direct implications ... might be enough to keep a scandal around for a while ... the heretofore flawless transition ... underbelly of the Obama political operation, with all its Chicago tints and taints, is now fair game ... culture of corruption has put its home on the market ... a genuine what-did-the-president-elect-know-and-when-did-he-know-it." Well, you get the point. (Were the McCarthyism not so blatant, we could do an over-the-top cliché count, but that will have to wait for another day.) Note that way down below, more than 20 paragraphs into his repeated and unsupported insinuations, Klein admits, "There's no suggestions of Obama culpability," and yet he has done little but suggest as much.

We also learn below that not only did the governor constantly complain about Obama's refusal to play ball with him, but also, via Lynn Sweet in the Chicago Sun-Times, "Blagojevich was under a cloud during Obama's entire presidential campaign, and the Obama team kept him at a distance. The Illinois governor never stumped for Obama -- they did not want him -- and unlike other Democratic governors, he did not play any significant role in the campaign." What's more, "In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama's rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich," Mike McIntire and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times.

(In fact, my Chicago political sources inform me that Blago actually quietly supported Blair Hull in the Democratic Senate primary in 2004 won by Obama, and Blago received Hull's support for his campaign in 2002. Further, Hull's ex-wife worked in Blago's administration, heading up the Illinois Film Office.)

Now, Rick Klein is a bit player in the MSM, but because of The Note's meta-role in both setting and reflecting conventional wisdom -- originally pioneered by that tireless promoter of all things Rovian, Mark Halperin -- it is worth studying to understand what are the potentially defining narratives that the rest of the MSM are about to embrace. If you read today's Note, you can see how desperate are its members to start trying to take Obama down more than a few pegs, regardless of how trivial -- or, in this case, nonexistent -- the grounds may be. Given that Obama worked in the state senate and got elected to the U.S. Senate in the same state, he could hardly have had less to do with the guy. And yet like the entire nonexistent issue with his alleged BFF Bill Ayers, reporters will beat this already-dead horse till the proverbial cows come home.

(More on Blago: Rich Miller is an authoritative Illinois blogger journalist. His column in the Sun-Times is dead on.)

By the way, John McCain is on George Stephanopoulos this week. I've not done the math myself, but I'm willing to take anyone's even money that nobody has more frequently been a guest -- and when interviewed, the sole guest on that show -- than Mr. McCain, whose former press staffers were also hired by ABC News. (Last time I checked, #2 was Joe Lieberman; if that had changed, I'd be surprised as well.)

From TomDispatch:

Ira Chernus, now writing a book about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was struck that in Barack Obama's first post-election interview he spoke of reading a book -- two actually -- on FDR's first hundred days. However, the president-elect, Chernus suggests, may actually "be reading the wrong history. Perhaps, instead of reading about Roosevelt's first hundred days, he should read Chapter 16 of Smith's FDR, which describes how growing political pressure kept Roosevelt looking over his left shoulder. By 1934, new labor organizations like the Congress of Industrial Organizations, charismatic leaders like Louisiana's Governor Huey Long, and social innovators like California physician Francis Townsend were offering concrete plans to spread the wealth far faster and wider than Roosevelt's New Deal ever would. Continuing economic catastrophe, fused with the mood of hope and change that he himself had stirred up, gave rise to the threat that the president might be unseated if he did not move leftwards."

Consummate politician that he was, Roosevelt did move, vigorously, and won a smashing victory in 1936. Barack Obama, another consummate politician, will move in our own hard times, as Chernus points out, if progressives learn from the best politicians we've had. He writes:

"That 1936 campaign is the history both a politically canny president-elect and progressives should be reading right now. It would remind him, and teach us, that a centrist president can be pushed, under the pressure of tough times and rising public hopes, in our direction -- if, that is, we are dedicated, well-organized, and persistent enough. Under pressure, Roosevelt moved an agenda that, in 1932, sounded radical indeed into the respectable center of American politics only four years later. It was the kind of agenda that many liberal or even centrist Americans came to support by 1936. Today, polling data show that a majority of Americans who call themselves liberal or centrist agree with many of the most prominent progressive stances of this moment."

They just don't support the movements and politicians calling for them.

In his latest post, Chernus delves into the language of both FDR and Obama, and suggests why it works with Americans -- and what the rest of us can learn from it.

Alter-reviews: Gaslight Anthem, Tom Russell, and Hall & Oates

I have been remiss in not mentioning that Spencer Ackerman was actually right when he claimed to me that this new band of his buddy's, Gaslight Anthem, actually managed to sound a bit like early Bruce and a bit like the Clash without sounding consciously derivative of either one. Quite an achievement. Quite a band. Spencer convinced me by actually buying me the CD and sending it to me over the summer. You'll have to buy your own, but read the guy who wrote about them first, here.

Veteran's Day: The Tom Russell Anthology

You many not know Tom Russell, but check him out. He's smart and writes good songs and enjoys considerable respect from talented people whom, if you keep reading me here, you probably do know. Shout! Factory has released an anthology of Tom Russell's career, with 37 tracks picked by Russell himself. There's two discs, and most tracks will be familiar to Russell fans -- but there's also two previously unreleased recordings. Many of the voices in the anthology will be familiar, too -- it includes collaborations with Dave Alvin, Shawn Colvin, Nanci Griffith, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and others. More information is here.

Hall & Oates: Live at the Troubadour

Also on Shout, we have a double live CD plus a DVD of those old reliables, Hall & Oates, at the Troubadour. In May of 2008, these old white Philly soul stalwarts performed at that club in L.A., some 35 years since they last performed there as an opening act in their first gig ever. Now they've got a crack band and songs that never get old. This is a two-hour recording of their two-night show, featuring 19 different songs. Most of them are fan favorites -- classics like "Private Eyes," "Maneater," "Kiss On My List," "Sara Smile," "She's Gone," "Rich Girl," "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," "Family Man," and "You Make My Dreams." But there's also six songs that have never been available before on live release. I hear that the Blu-Ray version -- shot with 10 different HD cameras in the relatively small performance space -- is even better, and so far, the most impressive things about the Blu-Ray stuff I've been watching, has been the incredible sound. But so far, I've only watched the DVD and listened to the CD on my iPod. For more, please go here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Eric Alterman
Hometown: New York, New York

Happy Birthday Mom!

Name: Don Schneier
Hometown: Northampton, MA

As discussion of the Bush legacy begins, indications are that he might continue to get a pass regarding the events of 9/11/01. If the attacks had occurred under a Gore administration, the Democratic Party would not see the White House until at least the 22nd century. For his doing well less than the maximum possible to prevent the attacks, as has been unanimously reported, focus on his other misdemeanors should not let Bush off that accountability hook either.

Name: Steven L. Engber
Hometown: Onalaska, WI

Far be it for me to defend Marty Peretz as a historian, but dismissing the biblical-era land transaction because it is biblical era misses the point: the point is that we're all snagged up in a perpetual probate court and no one knows how to say "Uncle!"--or "Umo" if your patriarch was Ismael. It may be more instructive to note, upon careful review, that Isaac and Ismael were much less cantankerous in their later years than Palestinians and Israelis. They came together to bury their father, Abraham, and were observed (and duly noted in the Torah) speaking reasonably and with civility at the funeral.

Eric replies: Dude, there's no evidence that these people ever lived. Saying something "actually" happened in a magazine that, at least putatively, is based on traditional forms of journalistic evidence when it's based on a story that is undeniably purely mythical does not strike me as "besides the point"; it strikes me as nuts.

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