Joe Conason's Journal

More on how the Pennsylvania miners have been shafted. Plus: Ann Coulter spawns an army of Internet fact-checkers.

Published August 7, 2002 5:16PM (EDT)

Shafting the miners
Still on the subject of populism, faux and genuine, nothing can be said that is more currently pertinent than David Corn's column on the president's visit with his new pals from Quecreek No. 1. His inability to speak grammatical English comports well with his cornpone message, but his administration's attitude toward worker safety is pure country-club conservative. And it contrasts poorly with the genuine concern of a certain hardworking Democrat from West Virginia whose last name happens to be Rockefeller.

Coulter competition
The hot Internet industry in Coulter corrections is becoming highly competitive. Yesterday I received a promotional e'mail from the proprietor of this site insisting that his is "the best." While I can't vouch for that claim, it is certainly the most ambitious, with plans to analyze and catalog every entry in Ann's vaunted footnotes. If you visit the site, don't miss the link to another maintained by someone who calls himself Scoobie Davis, who publishes what he describes as the transcript of an interview with the author. The naughty Scoobie duped Ann's publicist into thinking he was a radio talk host, and the resulting dialogue is a scream. And I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that Media Whores Online, that very naughtiest of media-criticism Web sites, is back from vacation with a blast at CNN for letting Coulter host "Crossfire."
[1:58 p.m. PDT, August 7, 2002]

Starr and Barr
Anyone nostalgic for the late '90s will find solace in reading about the Republican primary in Georgia's Seventh Congressional District, where redistricting has pitted the frothing impeachment fanatic Bob Barr against John Linder, a less colorful party insider. (The blander Linder nevertheless has the best slogan: "Because I will never embarrass you.") A troupe of what Adam Clymer aptly describes as "movement conservatives" are heading for Georgia to stump for Barr. This Beltway circus caravan stars the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, talk show host and convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy and Grover Norquist, the right-wing Clausewitz and lobbyist (who may downplay his connections with those conservative Republicans at the Islamic Institute when he arrives in the Peach State). Clymer also reports that former independent counsel Kenneth Starr will be campaigning for Barr. Now wait a second. Could that possibly be the Ken Starr once billed as a thoughtful, decorous, presentable Republican by the Washington Post? It must be some other guy, possibly the same impersonator brandishing his Bush in '04 lapel sticker in this priceless picture. They do look a lot alike, though.

This just in: The race is getting more dangerous all the time.

Populism for Dummies
For a Barney's shopper, Maureen Dowd still totes around a heavy load of class resentment that looks pretty strange sticking out of her Kate Spade bag. Sometimes her columns are wonderful and sometimes they read as if her mind is unable to focus on anything larger than her petty personal peeves. Her column today attacking Al Gore's "faux populist fury" is merely a collection of feeble jokes that betrays her own snobbery more than it exposes his. The Thatcherite Tory version of Dowd's screed can be found here, while the Moonie/Christian Right version is available here.

What all these seething essays display, aside from the press corps' abiding hatred of Gore, is an apparent ignorance of Western history -- which is replete with examples of the well-born and the well-heeled siding with "the people" against the interests of their own class. Should it really be necessary to remind these well-read and well-educated writers about Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, T.R., FDR and RFK? The lineage of this political tradition can be traced all the way back to the brothers Gracchi in second-century Rome, sons of nobility who lost their lives fighting for land reform and public welfare as tribunes of the plebeians. Al Gore, whatever his faults, is hardly a scion of great wealth anyway; his parents worked their way up from humble origins. The "hotel" where he lived as a boy was not exactly the Waldorf. So this jaundiced view of him is false and demagogic as well as historically bone-stupid. The question isn't where you come from but what you become. Not every fortunate son (or daughter) is as blinded by privilege as the current president.

A more cogent argument against Gore's position is made by Slate's Will Saletan. I happen to think Saletan is wrong, too, but at least he addresses the salient issue of whether the "populist" strategy helps or hurts Democrats.
[10:30 a.m. PDT, Aug. 7, 2002]

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By Salon Staff

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