Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mary Matalin: Unfit for Broadcast

The always shrill and patronizing Mary Matalin appeared on CNN and NBC this week to feign outrage at the sleaziness of left-wing bloggers spreading ultimately untrue rumors that GOP vice presidential designee Sarah Palin faked her fifth pregnancy and pretended to give birth in April to conceal that the child was her grandson and the progeny of her unmarried 17-year-old daughter Bristol.

Matalin, who served as an aide to President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, learned at the feet of Lee Atwater, the Karl Rove of the 1980s. Atwater and Matalin designed the 1988 Bush presidential campaign, built on smearing 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis as lacking patriotism. Atwater and Matalin also served as the sinister brains behind the highly racist “Willie Horton” ad campaign that plagued the Massachusetts governor that fall. (Horton was a rapist paroled in Massachusetts during Dukakis’ administration who upon his release raped a white woman. The ad, playing on white backlash fears, heavily featured Horton’s black visage.)

The lifelong Republican and her husband, former Bill Clinton campaign guru James Carville, emerged in the 1990s as Washington’s most beloved couple. The two were favorite guests on the late Tim Russert’s program “Meet the Press” and have appeared as a pair or solo frequently on CNN and other news networks. Matalin, supposedly a moderate Republican because she supports abortion rights and has criticized overt GOP homophobia, has nevertheless shilled for a series of despicable right-wing extremists, most notably serving as assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney, a man who believes in unlimited power for an executive branch he thinks should be shielded from public scrutiny and any checks or balances from the legislative or judicial branches.

In her service for Cheney, she served as a key player for the Iraq Study Group whose primary task was deceiving the public into accepting an unnecessary invasion of Iraq. The “information” on Iraq that Matalin disseminated proved to be false point by point. Her propaganda campaign built momentum for a war that has proven to be perhaps the most disastrous foreign policy blunder in American history.

In 2007 and 2008 Matalin served as a flack for failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In that capacity she made a sleazy, underhanded reference to rival John McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget.

You may recall that in 2000, Matalin’s buddy Karl Rove ran a campaign of character assassination against McCain, who opposed George W. Bush in the Republican primary in South Carolina. Rove, and his ally Ralph Reed (late of the Christian Coalition) did so-called “push polls” in which callers posed as pollsters and asked South Carolina voters if they would feel different about McCain if they knew he had “a black daughter.” Rove and Reed distributed photos of McCain’s family featuring the very dark-skinned Bridget even as they spread rumors that McCain had fathered the child in an extramarital affair with an unnamed black woman. Many attribute Bush’s decisive, crushing defeat of McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary to this naked, underhanded appeal to Southern racism.

In 2007, Matalin picked up this ugly cudgel. On the MSNBC “Morning Joe” program Matalin contrasted her man, Romney, with McCain by claiming that the former Massachusetts governor Romney has “what all Americans want in the White House, which is an all-American family”

The media celebrity of Matalin and Carville reflect the narrow political universe that mainstream Washington and its press corps stenographers occupy. Matalin, in spite of her reputation, has been a handmaiden of the far right while Carville, who once described himself as an economic liberal and a social conservative, sits barely to the left of what the media consider American political center. (That fictitious center, according to most polling data, actually is far to the right of most of the American public on issues like health care, spending on education, foreign policy, stem cell research and so on.)

The so-called liberal media’s political biases allow Matalin, in spite of her long, ugly record of sleaze, to pose as a mainstream voice. Hence her selection to appear on CNN and NBC’s “Today” show to refute the Palin rumors. Matalin fumed at the ethical deficiencies of bloggers who suggested that the Alaska governor’s son Trig was actually daughter Bristol’s offspring. “You know, a lot of the things that are coming out about Sarah Palin are patently untrue . . .,” Matalin whined on “Today.”

Matalin enjoys fresh experience with spreading untruths. Matalin learned well from her avatar Atwater. She now splits her time from being on on-air GOP hack and serving as editor at Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster. At that post she has overseen publication of Jerome Corsi’s “The Obama-Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,” a follow-up to Corsi’s John Kerry-bashing swiftboat screed “Unfit for Command.”

In his earlier work, Corsi lied about 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Kerry’s heroic war record in Vietnam, which including diving in a Vietnamese river to rescue a comrade while the enemy raked the water with machine gun fire. Corsi rounded up quotes from Kerry’s fellow Swift-Boat veterans, many with an extensive record of Republican activism and others who had previously testified to the Kerry’s valor. The “Swift Boat vets” claimed, in spite of the shrapnel in the future Massachusetts veteran’s body, that Kerry exploited his wealthy family’s political influence to gain unearned Purple Hearts. Corsi displayed his intellectual depth at this point by referring to the Catholic Kerry as a “commie” and a “Jew.”

Corsi, of course, was unable to earn even one Purple Heart because he didn’t serve a minute in Vietnam due to, he claimed, “hereditary eczema.” Corsi has also made such sophisticated political commentary as claiming Muslims worship Satan, calling adherents of Islam “ragheads,” referring to Catholics as ‘boy-bumpers,” referring to a former first lady as Hillary “Fat Hog” Clinton. He also suggested Clinton was a lesbian. One can see why Corsi’s editor Matalin was impressed with Corsi’s mental dexterity. One has to go to the “Federalist Papers” to find such elevated political discourse.

In “Obama Nation,” Corsi makes a fact error per page and promulgates outright lies. Using a discredited right-wing blogger as his only source, Corsi claims that Obama’s father, Barack Obama, Sr., divorced the Democratic candidate’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, according to the rule of Sharia (Muslim) law. Corsi also makes the easily-disproved claims that Obama did not dedicate his book “Dreams From My Father” to his grandparents or his mother (he did), that he did not mention the birth of his half-sister in Indonesia in the same book (he did), and that he has yet to answer questions about his past drug use (when in fact he revealed his past drug consumption in “Dreams” and addressed when he used drugs and when and why he stopped.)

Typical of the Corsi concept of research, he claims that an Obama supporter, Sam Graham-Felsen, published an article in an “avowedly socialist magazine.” Set aside the issue of guilt-by-association which occurred regarding Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his extremely tenuous association with sixties radical William Ayers. Graham-Felsen’s article appeared in “The Nation,” an avowedly liberal but by no means “socialist” magazine. The article was later reprinted in the publication “Socialist Viewpoint,” as well as such mainstream publications and websites such as the “London Guardian,” “The Detroit Free Press” and CBSNews.com.

Without evidence, Corsi claims that Obama recently used drugs and that the Illinois senator favors withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. (In fact, Obama favors drawing down troops in Iraq so they can be redeployed to Afghanistan where they can destroy Al-Queda and finally seize or kill Osama bin Laden.)

“Mainstream” Mary Matalin, so offended by the attacks on Sarah Palin, described Corsi’s mendacious, lowbrow hackery as a “work of scholarship -- and a good one at that." That is before she weaseled out of responsibility for the work, saying she had nothing to do with its production and, according to one blogger, “can not say whether corrections will be made in subsequent print runs.”

Even if we give credence to Matalin’s claims regarding her role in publishing Corsi’s catalog of deception, this work is of a piece with other acts of deceit and shabby ethics that have marked her sorry career, from her time as Lee Atwater’s acolyte, to her service as mouthpiece for the failed Iraq war, to her subtle and cowardly racist attacks on McCain’s family in 2007.

Perhaps we should not be surprised at Matalin’s still prominent role in the media. Pat Buchanan absolved Hitler of responsibility for World War II in a recent book, which hardly raised an eyebrow from his fellow media pundits. Matalin’s career provides further proof that, as far as the mainstream media is concerned, the bottom of the barrel has yet to be found.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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