By now the clip of CNN’s Carol Costello mocking Bristol Palin has gone everywhere. Palin is heard on audio tape describing to police how she was physically assaulted. Costello found the moment vastly amusing. Now comes a written apology from Costello — but not an on-air apology, at least as yet.
Before time moves along, let’s stop a moment and understand what America just witnessed here.
Costello’s demeanor, not to mention her words, said everything. The CNN anchor dripped contempt for Palin. She was condescending, smirking, absolutely reveling in the physical assault of this particular young woman, broadcasting live and in living color Costello’s own decidedly imagined sense of superiority.
Clearly Costello doesn’t think much of Bristol’s mom, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. But that really doesn’t answer the question. Why — how? — could a CNN anchor, a woman who is herself on record saying she was once assaulted by a boyfriend — possibly have the reaction to the Bristol tape that she did?
The answer is that in reality, Costello’s contempt has nothing to do with Bristol Palin. Nor, it should be noted, does it have anything to do with Sarah Palin. What this is really all about is another liberal elitist who, though not to the manor born herself, is attracted by the sense of moral, intellectual, and cultural superiority that is the defining if unspoken characteristic of modern American liberalism.
This liberal superiority complex was perhaps best described long ago by Whittaker Chambers, the famous one-time Communist who brought down Soviet spy Alger Hiss, the then-golden boy of the American Liberal Establishment.
Wrote Chambers in Witness, his classic re-telling of his experience with Hiss:
I had attacked an intellectual and a “liberal.” A whole generation felt itself to be on trial — with pretty good reason too.…From their roosts in the great cities, and certain collegiate eyries, the leftwing intellectuals of almost every feather swooped and hovered in flocks like fluttered sea fowl — puffins, skimmers, skuas and boobies — and gave vent to hoarse cries and defilements.
I had also accused a “certified gentlemen” and the “conspiracy of gentlemen” closed its retaliatory ranks against me. Hence that musk of snobbism that lay rank and discrepant over the pro-Hiss faction.
…For the contrast between them [Hiss’s pursuers] and the glittering Hiss forces is about the same as between the glittering French chivalry and the somewhat tattered English bowmen who won at Agincourt. The inclusive fact about them is that in contrast to the pro-Hiss rally, most of them, regardless of what they had made of themselves, came from the wrong side of the railroad tracks.…No feature of the Hiss Case is more obvious, or more troubling as history, than the jagged fissure, which it did not so much open as reveal, between the plain men and women of the nation, and those who affected to act, think and speak for them. It was, not invariably, but in general, the “best people” who were for Alger Hiss and who were prepared to go to almost any length to protect and defend them. It was the enlightened and the powerful, the clamorous proponents of the open mind and the common man, who snapped their minds shut…
Recall that the Alger Hiss episode also involved a man who was, in a sense, the Sarah Palin of his day: a very young Congressman Richard Nixon. Newly on the American political scene, Nixon had been born and raised in Yorba Linda, California, the son of a lemon farmer-turned-grocer. He graduated from Whittier College in Whittier, California. Nixon was, socially speaking, an outsider to the elites of the Eastern establishment. And those elites bridled at seeing the Harvard Law School’s Alger Hiss being nailed by what liberals of the day called the “primitives.” So intense was the anti-Nixon feeling in those days that the aristocratic Averell Harriman, entering a Georgetown home for a Washington dinner party, saw by-then-Senator Nixon ensconced in a living room chair and promptly departed, saying he would not dine with “that man.”
And on through the decades this snobby pattern has persisted. Nixon, his first vice president Spiro Agnew, and George H.W. Bush’s vice president Dan Quayle were all given with some version of the “jagged fissure treatment.” It turned with an especial vengeance on George W. Bush, the scion of an Eastern establishment family, a graduate of Yale and Harvard Business School. Bush’s sin was that he genuinely was fond of the common man and the open mind. He loved Texas and Texans the way that Sarah Palin loves Alaska and Alaskans. Had Bush been a liberal — true to the liberal worldview of instead of a traitor to his class — he would be seen as a hero. If Sarah Palin were a liberal she would be lionized like Hillary Clinton or Wendy Davis.
But Sarah Palin isn’t Hillary Clinton or Wendy Davis. Which means Bristol Palin will never be treated like Chelsea Clinton. The other day it became known that Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter had been booted from the Navy for testing positive for cocaine. Did CNN anchors spend time mocking Hunter Biden? Of course not. The news sank like a rock. Hunter’s misadventure — at age 44 — is just no big deal. Just like Bill Clinton’s various women problems were no big deal. Chappaquiddick and Ted Kennedy? Or for that matter any of the various scrapes that various Kennedys have gotten themselves into over the years? No problem, no big deal, move on, nothing to see here. The irony is that liberals try to paint themselves as friends of the common man. Yet in fact their real feelings for the common man or woman are closer to contempt.
Bristol Palin took her targeting with class and dignity. Costello was so overtly over the line that damage control was attempted, in this case Costello’s statement to Politico. But the statement was so manifestly inadequate that even Washington Post columnist Erik Wemple suggested not just that an apology was due but it should be an on-air apology. Wrote Wemple, citing New York Times media critic David Carr from an earlier media screw up (NBC) on the Zimmerman trial:
A network’s primary contract is with the viewers who tune in to its shows every day, one that is more important than any obligation it feels to journalistic pundits or Beltway politicos…
Fox’s host of Media Buzz, Howard Kurtz, agreed, asking on his show of Costello’s remarks of Bristol Palin’s assault: “How on earth is that funny?”
Wemple and Kurtz were and are correct. But whether Costello ever gets around to making an on-air apology or not, the question is how — and why — did she get herself into this situation in the first place. And the answer is as plain as it is uncomfortable. Carol Costello hails from Minerva, Ohio, but she long ago left that world and traded it in for one of the liberal superiority complex.
Of one thing we can be sure. Bristol Palin and her mother, for all their celebrity, have never left the Minerva of their lives…Wasilla, Alaska. Neither, thankfully, have most Americans.