Seriously. Having somewhat rescaled the credibility cliff back to some degree of better journalism, the struggling LA Times was once more embarrassed by its most partisan hack, over the most trivial of issues, broadly hinting at anti-Semitism. Seriously.
Malcolm in the muddle
Here’s that “cut to the chase” moment:
And then, deep into the speech, according to the White House transcript, the president said:
[Note: Malcolm, inexplicably, provides no link, but I will, here.]
When you start saying, at a time when the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen their incomes go up four or five times over the last 20 years, and folks at the bottom have seen their incomes decline — and your response is that you want poor folks to pay more?
Give me a break.
If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that.
That’s what the transcript says he said.
Now, watch the C-SPAN video below, and listen especially to the phrase “the same tax rate as a janitor…”
Here is what the president actually said, catching himself almost in time but not quite:
If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew, uh, as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that.
What the President ACTUALLY said was “the same tax rate as a JOO– uh a janitor.” It ONLY works IF Andrew Malcolm is so incredibly insightful that he can actually SEE the words in Obama’s brain before he speaks them.
There is zero factual basis for the claim that what Obama said was “capital-JAY, EEEE, Double Yew,” a proper noun requiring capitalization.
Alas, mispronouncing a word, or, as in this case, not necessarily completing the wrong word, is a commonplace occurrence, AND we see it on late night television all the time. This is like “spelling flames” in an online thread. Most serious people avoid picking such nits and focus on more substantive areas of disagreement. Certainly ALL serious journalists do. (With the occasional journalistic gaffe, to be sure.)
But here’s the pernicious part: What the president began to say could just as easily (and I would maintain that it is) be the beginning of “a junior high school teacher,” 0r “a Julliard student,” or “a juror” or a mild spoonerism between “janitor” and “juniper.” It might have been “judo instructor,” or “juvenile delinquency counselor” — which he stopped, realizing the tongue twisting turbulence involved and quickly substituted “janitor,” or, the teleprompter script might have contained a typo.
Or (most likely) a simple tongue slip between jaa and joo. Either way the correction occurred and the remainder of the speech continued unabated.
Occam’s Razor provides no guidance on the relative merits of ANY of these possibilities.
Which means that what Obama DIDN’T actually say is not a fact, it is an opinion.
A highly questionable opinion, at that.
I am not going to go into the bizarre and almost universal disparagement of President Obama’s speech to the Congressional Black Caucus, which run 28 minutes complete, and which you can watch at CSPAN, and which includes applause throughout and especially at the end. How this became such a “gaffe-fest” is far beyond the scope of this posting. But you might watch the speech, and then marvel to the coverage of, seemingly, an entirely DIFFERENT speech.
But this is the pernicious and disqualifying truth of Andrew Malcolm’s article:
The only person involved here who DECIDED that “joo-” OUGHT to be spelled “Jew” was … Andrew Malcolm.
Perhaps he has the current Palestinian/Israeli dustup in mind, or perhaps he merely is hypersensitized in the manner that Woody Allen self-parodies in “Annie Hall”:
Alvy and Rob talking
from Annie Hall (1977)
“ANNIE HALL” Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman EXT. MANHATTAN STREET-DAY A pretty Manhattan street with sidewalk trees, brownstones, a school; people mill about, some strolling and carrying bundles, others buried. The screen shows the whole length of the sidewalk, a street, and part of the sidewalk beyond. As the following scene ensues, two pedestrians, indistinguishable in the distance, come closer and closer toward the camera, recognizable, finally, as Alvy and his best friend, Rob, deep in conversation. They eventually move past the camera and off screen. Traffic noise is heard in the background. ALVY [Woody Allen] I distinctly heard it. He muttered under his breath, “Jew.” ROB [Tony Roberts] You’re crazy! ALVY No, I’m not. We were walking off the tennis court, and you know, he was there and me and his wife, and he looked at her and then they both looked at me, and under his breath he said, “Jew.” ROB Alvy, you’re a total paranoid. ALVY Wh- How am I a paran-? Well, I pick up on those kind o’ things. You know, I was having lunch with some guys from NBC, so I said… uh, “Did you eat yet or what?” and Tom Christie said, “No, didchoo?” Not, did you, didchoo eat? Jew? No, not did you eat, but Jew eat? Jew. You get it? Jew eat?
Woody Allen as Alvy Singer
in ‘Annie Hall’ (1977)
None of which has anything to do with why Andrew Malcolm DECIDED that what President Obama said to the Congressional Black Caucus was “If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew, uh, as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that.”
Except that even THINKING that was the right word which the President quickly excised is just plain crazy if you follow the actual logic of the (implicit) statement:
If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a Jew makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that. (revised per Andrew Malcolm)
What? It doesn’t make sense. What tax rate does a “Jew” pay? Seriously.
A commemorative US Quarter (reverse)
Malcolm then offers HIS guardedly careful “opinion”:
You don’t seem to hear much about these gaffes in the media for some reason.
Maybe in Saturday night’s speech Obama was thinking about all those talks on Israel in New York.
I guess that generally, when someone who gives dozens of (ofttimes long, as was the CBC speech) speeches a week, the inadvertent substitution of ONE vowel sound — oo as in “blue” for aa as in “quack” — that’s darkly noteworthy and NOT reporting on it is a LIBERAL MEDIA KORNSPIRACY.
The problem here is not that Andrew Malcolm hates Obama with a purple passion and will pounce on the slightest whiff of anything to do so. That’s his opinion and opinions are, by definition, true to the opiner and as valuable as the wind that carries them.
But when the opinion is based on his OPINION of a “fact,” that’s a bridge too far for any reputable news outlet. If the Los Angeles Times wants the credibility of WorldNetDaily, that’s their business. But if they are going to wave those Pulitzers in our faces and crow about what a great comeback it’s been and ALLOW Mr. Malcolm to demonstrably make up his own facts — as Laura Bush’s former press secretary increasingly fancies himself Ahab to Obama’s Moby Dick — then the Los Angeles Times is the guilty party and not worth the paper or pixels it’s printed on.
In the news industry — or at least Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper industry — credibility is the coin of the realm, the lingua franca, the terra cognita of news. When they catch you making up facts, ALL facts are suspect.
Which is why, if the editors are honest, and believe in journalistic integrity, it’s far past the time to let Malcolm rail off into his sunset years. They can take comfort in the sure knowledge that Mr. Malcolm will CONTINUE to make his erroneous slurs on a blog of his own devising. Much like the bloggers who played “mee too!” to this perceived “gaffe.”
Ironic that none of them have an actual dictionary:
gaffe also gaff (gf)
n.1. A clumsy social error; a faux pas: “The excursion had in his eyes been a monstrous gaffe, a breach of sensibility and good taste” (Mary McCarthy).2. A blatant mistake or misjudgment.
[French, from Old French, hook; see gaff1.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
You see, misspeaking is not the SAME THING as a gaffe. Had Mr. Malcolm’s fantasy been indisputably correct, THAT might have been a “gaffe” but misspeaking is merely misspeaking and I defy any human who reads this to assert that he/she has never misspoken.
Or, for that matter, committed a “gaffe” (gotten the hook) or a Faux™ Pause.
Except ‘truth in advertising,’ apparently
Malcolm would do well on Fox News, where accuracy is secondary to passion. But this has been a long and seemingly ignored pattern by Mr. Malcolm. (See “Why Won’t the LA TIMES Fire Andrew Malcolm?” March 10, 2009 for an equally egregious blurt of Malcolmian bile)
He is entitled to his opinions, but not his own facts, and if the Los Angeles Times has any RESPECT for factual reportage (even in the opinion section) then they will remove their tarnished aegis from Mr. Malcolm’s aged shoulders and let him soldier on without sullying their credibility further.
I think you have a pretty good idea as to what the answer will be.
UPDATE 11:45 AM PDT:
I have good news and I have bad news. Someone on the LA Times editorial board emailed me, to let me know that Andrew Malcolm is leaving the paper.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that he’s packing up his entire circus and moving it to Investors Business Daily.
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.