I like gossip as much if not more than most people. I also love the word salacious because of the way it sounds and what it conveys: it’s a lip smackingly good word. I can’t deny getting a kick out of some of the revelations in the Heilemann-Halperin book and I’ve read the excerpts online and may even read the book itself. I am, however, not enjoying its impact on our national political conversation.
We find ourselves discussing whether a septugenarian Senator’s comments about President Obama are racist. And whether or not they’re worse than Trent Lott’s nostalgia for the segregationist 1948 Dixiecrat candidate for President, Strom Thurmond. Harry Reid’s comments are in a word: archaic but phrased differently they would have been relatively innocuous. I live in a city where from 1978 to 2002, the lighter skinned African-American (and Catholic) candidate won the Mayoral election against all comers, black and white. This sort of internal predjudice is not restricted to New Orleans. Additionally, being lectured about civil rights by the likes of boneheaded Texas Senator John Cornyn and Michael (Honest Injun) Steele is preposterous. (Joan Walsh’s post about Steele and other Gooper phonies is a classic.) Besides, Rove and Bush were the ones who pushed Lott out in order to install the more pliable Bill Frist as his replacement. It had nothing to do with morality unless of course one considers Turdblossom and President Beavis to be moralists. I do not.
The Reid remark is not the only bit ofGame Change that has tongues wagging. There’s an extended excerpt inNew York Magazine wherein former Edwards staffers dish on John and Elizabeth’s multitudinous marital meltdowns. Heilemann and Halperin take particular delight in taking potshots at the halo their colleagues in the media placed on Elizabeth Edwards’ head. The excerpt was on one level fascinating and on another appalling. Nobody is surprised to learn that John Haircut is a shallow, vain, megalomaniac but their treatment of Ms. Edwards is cringe inducing. Maybe she’s not as nice as her public image BUT there’s something unseemly about picking on a terminally ill woman whose husband cheated on her and who humiliated her by having a “love child” with the preternaturally icky Rielle Hunter. The Edwards segment could be subtitled: the revenge of the staffers. I’m not even sure how much of it I believe because so much of it is wildly OTT. I almost coughed up a hair ball after reading it. It was *that* nasty. Yuck.
There’s a Clinton bashing chapter online at ABC News.com. Again, the details of Ms. Clinton’s pondering a run for President in 2004 were interesting but Heilemann and Halperin do something that I hate, hate, hate. They presume to enter the mind of Hillary Clinton to tell us what she was thinking. I hate this transfer of omniscient narration from fiction into journalism but it’s been around so long that we’re stuck with it. Me, I call it faction and every time I encounter it, I grit my teeth and shake my head. It’s another part of the Bob Woodward legacy to insider political journalism. My own literary hero, Gore Vidal, chose to write historical fiction because it is the *only* way to honestly enter the mind of another person. We can know *what* they say but we can never know what they were thinking as they said it. End of today’s episode of pet peeve theatre.
Glenn Greenwald wrote an excellent post the other day decrying the use of anonymous sources to peddle, well, salacious gossip. Heillmann and Halperin may even out Drudge, Matt Drudge. But unlike Glenn, I can’t swear off the stuff. That’s why we call it political crack, y’all. Gossip is fun, policy is hard; especially for the MSM. That’s the main reason we keep having these gossipy Clinton impeachment era style flashbacks. I wish it weren’t so but it is. Human nature isn’t always a pretty sight.
I feel yet another musical reference coming on. Here’s Richard Thompson with his classic tune about salacious gossip, Backstreet Slide:
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