Whitewashes, Greywashes and Makeovers

Everyone seems to be getting a makeover these days, from Laura Bush to the Apple Macintosh.

Matthew Yglesias’ blog has gotten a facelift; it now features a 1988 satellite photo of the National Mall (though we’ll miss the friendly headshot he used to have). And since Monday was the third anniversary of the launch of his blog, he fills us in on its origins. He summarizes:

[I]n a sense, the whole enterprise has been driven by loneliness and then, later, the loftier sentiment of spite. But then, of course, there’s the talent. The raw, awesome talent. And the connections and generally privileged background. But I like to think of it as mostly a mixture of talent and bitterness.

We know the feeling.

Conservative bloggers are still fuming over the Thornburgh/Boccardi Panel report on the CBS scandal, calling it tantamount to breaking out the paintbrush and coating the whole thing with whitewash. (An aside: We’re guessing that the three dozen CBS employees who had their hard drives confiscated by the panel’s snoops and then submitted to its interrogators don’t feel quite that way.) Betsy Newmark, picking up on a piece in the Washington Post, says “Phooey on [the panel’s] daintiness” for refusing to conclude CBS was motivated by political bias. Captain Ed, meanwhile, sees another whitewash at work in how the mainstream media are downplaying the ‘sphere’s role in bringing CBS to heel. And Little Green Footballs calls the whole thing a “greywash,” asking, somewhat oxymoronically, “will [it] succeed in dousing criticism?” (CJR Daily’s Magic 8 Ball says, “Not a chance in hell.”) Tom Sawyer would be proud.

On the subject of appearances, Eric Muller of IsThatLegal thinks Bush Homeland Security nominee Michael Chertoff’s mug doesn’t match his mind. “Chertoff is a straight shooter and one of the two or three smartest people I have ever met,” Muller writes. “(Never mind that he looks frighteningly like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.)”

Josh Marshall takes a hard look at the Bush administration’s political Avon Lady, Chuck Blahous, who has been charged with peddling President Bush’s proposed Social Security makeover. Marshall takes issue with an online White House chat in which Blahous used the estimate of what the total shortfall in Social Security shortfall is projected to be between now and when the earth falls into the sun — $10.4 trillion — and told hapless chat participant Stuart from New Jersey that “That is the extra revenue that the system would need to have on hand today, above and beyond all payroll taxes, to meet the gap between taxes and promised benefits.” Says Marshall, “Wow, Social Security Administration needs ten trillion dollars on hand today and it’s got nuthin’. That really is a crisis!” Sarcasm oozing from his keyboard, he adds, “Infinity? Today? But hey, who’s counting?”

Finally, James Wolcott has a suggestion for a makeover at Fox. “I am unable to confirm a rumor I am trying to start that Fox News is considering hiring Spc. Charles Graner as a commentator and pinch-hit host should he be acquitted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. … Fox News feels that Spc. Graner has proven that he is one tough dude who knows how to get the dirty job done, which plugs in nicely with the cable news channel’s angry white male demographic. The way he cocked his thumbs-up at the camera after forming naked Iraqi prisoners in a pyramid demonstrates the sort of can-do attitude America needs to fight the war against terror without losing its sense of humor.” Alluding perhaps to the maven of domestic makeovers herself, Wolcott concludes, “Of course, if Graner is convicted, this will all be moot. Cable news is a fast-moving medium and can’t afford to wait for a future prospective host to be released from prison.”

Bryan Keefer

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Bryan Keefer was CJR Daily’s deputy managing editor.