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Playing Softball with Elena Kagan

May 12, 2010

We all have our guilty pleasures, and one of mine is that I occasionally start my day off with a quick slug of of MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’. Ex-“redneck riviera” – his term – Congressman Joe Scarborough is an amusing, if occasionally somewhat attitudinally-challenged, fellow, and the programming geniuses over at the peacock network have engineered a near-perfect mash-up of the tried & true dysfunctional family sitcom: Scarborough as the bullying dad, a modern-day Archie Bunker with the added benefit of being able to start several bloviations each morning with the words “when I was in congress”; the much-abused Mika Brzezinski, who lurches back & forth between riffing on a slightly dingy & over-indulgent version of Archie’s wife Edith and an irreproachably scolding Clair Huxtable; Willie Geist in the role of Joe-in-Training, who, wry and self-conscious, comes across as the love-child of Alex P. Keeton & Holden Caulfield; Mike Barnicle, reliably weak and unconvincing as the token liberal, a perfect mélange of ex-Fox “News” scarecrow Alan Colmes, the lovable if slightly suspect Uncle Fester & The Honeymooner’s Ed Norton; and of course Pat Buchanan, life-long professional conservative flak, as crotchety and bullet-proof a Grandpa Munster as ever gave plaintive voice to the kind of bigoted malapropisms typically suppressed by the super-egos of the not-yet-senile.

As I said, it’s a guilty pleasure.

Usually only semi-somnolent at that hour, this morning I was catapulted into consciousness when I saw Joe & his little TV family’s lead off focused not on yesterday’s Senate dog & pony show regarding BP’s little dribble into the Gulf of Mexico, nor the impressive display of functional Democracy represented by the gentlemanly transfer of power in Great Britain, but rather an amplification of the Wall Street Journal’s muckraking effort to stir up a little good old fashioned homophobia by publishing on its front page a picture of short-haired & smiling Elena Kagan in a batter’s stance. Joe and his little Greek chorus spent the first 10 minutes or so giving the issue the full-cable-news-monty – scoffing at gay rights groups’ predictable outrage, pooh-poohing the idea that the picture could be construed as prejudicial (except for Grandpa Pat, who, employing a perfect tone of I’ve-been-around-the-block-a-few-times-young-feller condescension, made a wizened observation to the effect that everybody knows that softball is a sport dominated by lesbians…thus accomplishing the well-practiced talking head judo flip of sympathizing with the object of bigotry while simultaneously confirming the bigoted charge. Nice move, Pat – did you learn that one from your stint working for Tricky Dick, or as a child from Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels himself?)

Ordinarily, the selective-facts-driven antics of my little troupe of morning-cable TV monkeys would generate a chuckle and not much more. But imagine my (not) surprise when I flipped over to the Today show, where they had selected alleged-human & Fox news contributor Laura Ingraham as foil-of-the-moment for their own little exploration of the Kagan nomination, and hardly had the introductory softball (pun fully intended) question completed its journey across Meredith Vieira’s bottom teeth when Ingraham pulled exactly the same move with the words “nobody cares…whether she played softball or hung out with Justice Scalia or….”

So…it’s clear that what we have here is yet another crapulent, coordinated set of right-wing talking points. Vieira, to her credit, didn’t take the bait. But perhaps that’s the wrong way to characterize her response, because there’s little chance that she was unaware of such a well-orchestrated attempt at swift-boating Kagan’s nomination. So a better analysis is that the nice people over at 30 Rock are more than willing to send up a trial balloon by way of Joey’s fun house but won’t dignify it by elevating it to Today Show-status until it’s gained a little steam on its own.

Obviously, no thinking person gives a shit whether Kagan has a particular penchant for the poems of Sappho and vacations on the Greek Isle famous for her poetry, or whether she prefers her Eros delivered in a more traditional…um…package. But of course back-bencher harrying typically has little in the way of hard tactical goals…it’s akin to throwing feces against the wall and hoping more sticks than slides down (and if you pictured monkeys throwing poop, you’re my kinda thinker, baby!)

It’s tempting to jump on my high horse and rant about the degradation of a great American institution such as the Wall Street Journal now that it’s come under citizen-of-convenience Rupert Murdoch’s evil dominion. But that’s old news. Ditto that the RNC & its winged monkeys. Their tactics are a welcome sign of desperation and little else.

But it will be interesting to see how this story develops over the next few days. The sleazoid wing of the disloyal opposition seems to have made a substantial investment in its little gambit, and we all know how entitled those folks are when it comes to seeing their investments pay off. And, as I think about it, a big part of me would like nothing more than to see them swing for the fences on this one (pun, again, fully intended), so much potential does it have to be a big fat whiff. And to be sure, if that’s the best they have, they can start engraving her nameplate for the big bench after lunch.

Not that it wouldn’t be nice to see the process engender a little more respect and decorum than that. But who am I kidding.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 17, 2010 6:28 pm

    Yeah… didn’t you know about the whole lesbian-softball connection? It’s proof that Kagan is gay. What’s more, she was seen at a deli ordering corned beef on rye – proof she’s jewish. Either on by itself should be grounds to deny her nomination, but put both together and, well, she should be deported. She’s probably an illegal jewish immigrant anyway.

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