Wednesday, April 11, 2007

THE MILLION-MAN SCRUM. Sick as I am of the whole Imus business, I feel it necessary to address this:
And, in a particularly sinister misinformation campaign, key leftists are now trying to portray Imus as a conservative! That's despite his endorsement of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race and past tirades against the Bush Administration from a decidedly leftist perspective.
With, naturally, an InstaHeh.

Whatever else we can say about Imus, I don't thing we can say he's particularly partisan. I'm surprised so few people (well, Digby, but he's exceptional in so many ways) have recalled this 1996 Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner, at which the I-man said stuff like this in the presence of President Clinton and his wife:
...the President was at Camden Yards doin' play by play in the radio with John Miller. Bobby Bonilla hit a double, we all heard the President in his obvious excitement holler "Go Baby!" I remember commenting at the time, I bet that's not the first time he's said that. [Turns to President] Remember the Astroturf in the pickup?
Then, some gags about Whitewater. A bunch of conservatives got their equally-offensive lumps, though none of them was President and placed directly in his line of fire. Since his Billy Sol Hargis days, Imus' patch of media turf has ever been wild outrage, and whether you find him, as Digby does, a "spoiled, petulant bully with an incoherent worldview" or an amusing diversion is a matter of taste.

But now the guy is just another ball contended for in that million-man scrum that is our discourse. It had to come to this. In the blogosphere, people embroiled in scandal eventually become mere signifiers for one political team or another. 'Twas ever thus. It even happened in the big Trent Lott affair of '02, recalled fondly by blog triumphalists as a bi-partisan victory for sweet reason, but in fact just another bone of contention, as I remarked at the time:
Trial balloons were floated, bearing the idea that liberals were insufficiently outraged by Lott's remarks, based partly on Tom Daschle's mild, collegial reaction, and, perhaps, on faith that the Right's zone-flooding strategy would, by sheer force of volume, render outside opinion irrelevant. "Either the Democratic Party is appallingly inept, by dropping the ball on this issue, or it's appallingly cynical...I guess 'inept' wins either way," mused InstaPundit. "Where's the New York Times?" cried Andrew Sullivan. "Howell Raines is so intent on finding Bull Connor in a tony golf club that when Bull Connor emerges as the soul of the Republican Senate Majority Leader, he doesn't notice it."

Word was also spread that Lott was never a friend to the Right at all: He was a weak and inefficient Senate majority leader who had effectively given the hated Clinton a pass in his impeachment trial. "He is only for the status quo," wrote Arthur Silber, "stunningly lackluster and uninspiring...tin ear and vacuous mind" In fact, after the GOP's victory in 2002, Capitol Hill Blue reported, "a Republican consultant I know threw up his hands in disgust" (pause to digest this counterintuitive image) "and said 'Christ, this means we'll have Trent Lott as the leader again.'" One wondered how Lott got the job in the first place--till Robert George told us (via another blind Republican quote), "Trent Lott survives because the ex-frat boy puts on a good kegger."

As always happens when conservatives are in high dudgeon, comparisons to Clinton were hauled out. Quoth National Review's Rod Dreher, "Ol' Trent is just following the example of his fellow Baby-Boomer Son of the South, William Jefferson Clinton." A parody at Transterrestrial Musings had Lott, in his BET appearance, announcing that, as "Bill Clinton was the first black president," he was "the first black Senate Majority Leader." Get it?
Things haven't improved since then. In the pro-am pundit community, Imus will be torn at until the game gets old, and then someone other object will serve.

This is not meant as a defense of Don Imus, but as a reminder that the real discussion is about something entirely different.

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