If you remember the late, great site Media Whores Online, you might remember the place of honor held there by Howard Fineman. He was 2002 (I think) Whore of the Year for his sickeningly obsequious commentary on George W. Bush. Had MWO remained online, he might well have taken the title in 2003 and 2004 as well. He certainly earned it.
Today, although Howard is far from shrill, he seems to be struggling toward some approximation of reality.
Calling the Abramoff scandal “the biggest influence-peddling scandal to hit Washington in recent times,” Fineman lists winners and losers. Among the losers:
The Republican Party: The semi-conventional wisdom here is as follows: Some Democrats are likely to be stained by ties to Jack Abramoff; polls show that the public has a plague-on-both-your-houses attitude toward wrongdoing in Washington; therefore, the GOP wonâ€™t be hurt in November. I donâ€™t buy it. Republicans are the incumbent party in the Congress. They are led by a less-than-popular president in the traditionally weak sixth year of his presidency.
Wow, that’s … right. Way to go, Howie.
Other losers are the DeLay-Hastert Crowd — “Look for a major shake-up in the GOP House leadership, perhaps soon.” — and the Bush-Rove White House — “Rove will have a hard time claiming now that he didnâ€™t know how the machinery worked, especially since Abramoff himself became a major contributor to Bushâ€™s re-election campaign.”
Among the winners is a third-party reform movement. I found this startling until I read Fineman’s description–
If Sen. John McCain doesnâ€™t win the Republican presidential nomination, I could see him leading an independent effort to â€œclean upâ€ the capital as a third-party candidate. Having been seared by his own touch with this type of controversy (the Keating case in the ’80s, which was as important an experience to him as Vietnam), McCain could team up with a Democrat, say, Sen. Joe Lieberman. If they could assemble a cabinet in waiting â€” perhaps Wes Clark for defense, Russ Feingold for justice, Colin Powell for anything â€” they could win the 2008 election going away.
McCain-Lieberman. Gag. Feingold-Clark … now, there’s a ticket.
Still, Howard has shown other flickering moments of promise. In another recent Newsweek column, he wrote,
As controversy rages over the war in Iraq, as his poll numbers shrink to new lows, as American leadership of the West comes under fire in ways we havenâ€™t seen in a generation, you have to wonder: who does Bush think he is?
Now he asks.
These are murky times in Washington, when getting a handle on the truth seems especially difficult.
What do the Pentagon generals really think about how Iraq is going? Are Condi Riceâ€™s denials about CIA torture camps to be taken at face value? What is really happening in Iraq outside the Green Zone in Baghdad? Bush and Vice President Cheney insist that American forces will stay until the war there is â€œwon.â€ But what do they really mean by victory?
Hey, Howard, see that door over there? The one marked “Shrill”? Go ahead and walk through it. You know you want to. We’ll be waiting for you on the other side.