Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I was busy last night, so I missed the Eric Massa interview on Glenn Beck's show, and now I'm reading around, trying to get up to speed, and it looks to me as if the wingnuts have actually avoided having this guy embarrass them. And I guess I shouldn't be surprised, because while they may utterly lack the ability to govern (see: 1/20/2001 - 1/20/2009), the one thing right-wingers know how to do is play the game to win. That's all they do, and they're expert at it; they're Michael Jordans of partisan combat.

So naturally they recovered from a rare stumble -- briefly they embraced Massa as a hero, but, via a sort of distributed partisanship knowledge, tribe members got the message out to the rest of the tribe that Massa was bad news. And Beck, goofy and emotionally florid as he often is, seems not to be stupid, however much we may wish he were -- after booking Massa and picking up the rest of the tribe's wariness, he declared that Massa was no ally, and even compared the interview he'd scheduled to the interrogation of a terrorist. (Needless to say, that's precisely how the right sees Democrats, liberals, and moderates at all times. Demanders of bipartisanship, please take note.)

Beck wasn't a minute into the show before he said of Massa, "He's not on my side.... We couldn't disagree on things more. He is a gigantic progressive.... We don't agree on anything." The interview went south, but Beck had inoculated himself. (And then, as you probably know, he apologized to his viewers for having "wasted an hour of your time.")

So Massa's accusations against fellow Democrats are now suspect, but he's not linked anymore in the public's mind with the right. The right, alas, avoided making that error. If right-wingers had fully embraced Massa and his public meltdown had blown up in their faces, they'd be hugely embarrassed now and would be desperately trying to change the subject. But they recovered from the stumble -- and so they haven't felt the need to disappear Massa from the Drudge Report or Fox Nation or other wingnut outposts. His accusations against Emanuel are still out there in the air. Massa's discredited, but he's not thoroughly discredited.

I can't help wondering how things would have gone if the party labels had been reversed. Democrats are lousy at partisan combat (intramural combat is another story), so I think they'd have managed this ineptly. Maybe they'd have handled it the way they handled Mark Foley in '06, but that seems like a rare exception to the rule.

In any case, Republicans and right-wingers still, unfortunately, know how to do this. Too bad they don't know how to do anything that's actually good for the country.


UPDATE: Betty Cracker says in comments that she disagrees with my take ("the fact is, they were all over a story told by a gibbering, discredited loon who blew up spectacularly in their faces"). I hope she's right. Still, I think the headline of Dana Milbank's piece on the subject suggests the developing conventional wisdom:

Massa flirts with the right, but Beck isn't tickled

Subtext translation: Democrat Massa is just a deceitful, slutty tease. Beck, from the party of men, was wise enough to dump the tramp.

I think that's the headline writer's take -- Milbank's piece is actually a bit more even-handed, although "even-handed" in this case means passages like this:

The Beck-Massa affair was a case of two political extremists who have gone so far in opposite directions that these strange bedfellows have wound up on the same mattress....

Right -- they're both "extremists." Well, yeah, that's true in the sense that Massa, like Beck, now seems to want to destroy the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. But it's not true in terms of overall political philosophy -- Massa, up till now, has been just a guy with some progressive policy positions, while Beck wants to repeal the entire twentieth century. Maybe Milbank doesn't see those as equivalent -- but I'm not sure.

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