December 30, 2003

Baby Wolff

Michael Wolff styles himself as a connoisseur of the "joie de vivre of ridicule and verbal abuse," declaring that "what some of us like most to do is make fun of people. We just have a certain misanthropy and bile and cruelty in our hearts—which is one antidote to the sanctimony and complacency and humorlessness of acceptable discourse."

On the other hand, he also writes that "I’ve always regarded myself as an impatient-with-politics centrist and dedicated no-winger" in the same column where he calls a slanderous portrayal of an enourmously well-admired Republican "ordinary and inoffensive," so perhaps it's unwise to trust Wolff's powers of self-evaluation. His column is headlined "Mean and Proud," but a better description of Wolff might be "thin-skinned and shrill."

Consider: After Wolff made an appearance on C-SPAN recently, my father sent him the following email, quoted in full:

Mr. Wolff:

You were discussing media objectivity on C-Span with Charles Lamb and you made a comment which I almost must think I misheard. You stated that the NYTimes made every possible attempt to be objective. Nothing could be further from the truth and I honestly don't believe that someone like you could not know this. In fact the Times is SO unobjective that I am not sure they are really a newspaper anymore. Their headlines about Bush administration accomplishments give no credit to Bush, wheras their headlines about the accomplishments of the Clinton administration gave total credit to Clinton. They don't have a single Republican columnist unless you count Safire who voted for Clinton. The Times has not endorsed a Republican president for over 50 years and they have some of the most extreme left wing columnists in the country like Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd whose arguments are filled with insult, inaccuracies, and personal invective. The bias of the NYTimes on Israel is particularly extreme as they are unable to recognize a moral distinction between a democracy fighting for tis life and a brutal dictatorship whose leader is only responsible to its security forces.

A caller phoned and tried to show how the Limbaugh bias is different than the Rather bias because Limbaugh is a COMMENTATOR. I don't think he expressed himself as well as he could have but the fact is that Rather deliberately tries to influence his audience by indirection, inuendo and particularly omission. When the economy grew last quarter at a record pace Rather focused on the lagging job creation. Had Clinton been in office he would not have done that. Also, Rather said that the WSJ was right wing and the NYTimes middle of the road.

Surely, I am not telling you anything you don't know. I think your own bias is playing into your conclusions. Is it possible you don't know that?


Lee Tabin

Whatever you think of the old man's argument, it's entirely civil; anyone who writes publicly and has an email address should be so used to obscenity-laden hatemail that polite disagreement ought to be refreshing. Yet here is Wolff's response, also quoted in full:

I rather think you are a bonehead.

One might argue that it's Wolff who's the bonehead, if it were clear that his soft spot had even closed yet.

Posted by John Tabin at December 30, 2003 10:19 AM

After reading the exchange, I agree with Glenn's take- Wolff sounds stupid.

Posted by: Phil Winsor at December 30, 2003 11:14 AM

He can't be stupid! He randomly inserted the word "rather" into the comment! That's a sign of erudition and flair! Try to pay attention okay!

Posted by: Brian Jones at December 30, 2003 11:20 AM

Welcome to the wonderful world of leftist polemics. If confronted with an argument containing facts and structured in a logical manner, resort to either invective, misdirection or both. The Clintoons have taught them well.

Posted by: fingerowner at December 30, 2003 11:28 AM

Well, he at least lives up to the "Mean" part of the description.

Posted by: Jim H at December 30, 2003 11:32 AM

If he were a misanthropic, bilious and cruel conservative, then Wolff would be stupid.

Posted by: bobbylife at December 30, 2003 11:33 AM

Who's Michael Wolff and why should I care?

(Okay, so the answer to the first one is self-evident-- one of those journalists who lives far, far above the little people who read what he writes. However, that only increases the urgency of question 2...)

Posted by: Mike G at December 30, 2003 11:36 AM

Michael W. is like many on the media enough to consistently claim centrist credentials. It's so obvious on calling up on the Republican line and then slamming Bush. Anyone who has read Wolff in the past knows he is far left. Conservatives have a lot to learn from his ilk. They should claim to be liberals and then defend Bush. The Dems are far smarter about expoiting this tactic. See USA Today on bloggers (this day's front page story.) Glenn is a 'right leaning' blogger, leftist bloggers are either 'centrists' or unidentified by affiliation. Typical.

Posted by: John at December 30, 2003 11:38 AM

From your exchange his response displays some depth. Far from shallow, his response was deeply stupid or, as a onetime expression in the Corps put it ... "lower than whalesh!t."

Posted by: Genecis at December 30, 2003 11:41 AM

"...what some of us like most to do is make fun of people. We just have a certain misanthropy and bile and cruelty in our hearts—which is one antidote to the sanctimony and complacency and humorlessness of acceptable discourse."


"The most important thing in the world is to be considered clever by your clique, even if it means you have to be a total asshole to get there."


A 24-hour, no-holds-barred, steel cage wrestling match with Ann Coulter. They may not survive, but it will be highly entertaining.

Posted by: Undertoad at December 30, 2003 11:50 AM

Who is michael Wolff? He will always be remembered for his disgraceful performance in Iraq, berating Brigadier General Vincent Brooks during a CENTCOM briefing by asking, "I mean no disrespect by this question, but I want to ask about the value proposition of these briefings. We're no longer being briefed by senior-most officers." Wolff went on to say that ABC News had sent its star reporter home already! Oh good heavens, little Stephy Stephanopoluos went home! How will our troops press on?

Wolff continued, "So I guess my question is, 'Why should we stay?' What's the value to us for what we learn at this million-dollar press center?"

Brooks' answer was pointed: "He's (Gen. Franks) more than willing to come and talk to you at the right time. But he's fighting a war right now. And he has me to do this for him."

Wolff wasn't done yet. He complained in his next column that the Centcom press center was "over air conditioned". That's who Michael Wolff is, a revolting, super-smarmy ultra liberal vanity victim who knows not how stupid he comes off to us in flyover country. A-Hole.

Posted by: Kevin W. at December 30, 2003 11:57 AM

I object to his misuse and abuse of the word 'misanthropy', the humorless ass....

Posted by: Misanthropyst at December 30, 2003 12:02 PM

"A 24-hour, no-holds-barred, steel cage wrestling match with Ann Coulter. They may not survive, but it will be highly entertaining."

I don't think the "not surviving" part is a bug - it's a feature!

Posted by: Deoxy at December 30, 2003 12:26 PM

I can't tell Frank Rich from Michael Wolllfff...two swishy NY queens who sound like Joe Besser on helium.

Posted by: benrand at December 30, 2003 01:08 PM

Way to raise the level of discourse there, benrand.

Posted by: John Edwards at December 30, 2003 01:13 PM

What a loser!!!!!!! I think folks like Wolff need to be exposed for what they are - meanspirited ideological, partisan hacks.

Posted by: ronin at December 30, 2003 01:16 PM

Mr. Lamb's first name is Brian, not Charles.

If someone made an argument to you about President Bush and called him Joe, instead of George W., would you take him seriously?

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at December 30, 2003 01:29 PM

What do they say...If you call someone a name you don't have to deal with their argument.

Posted by: alanH at December 30, 2003 01:49 PM

Well - here's the bonehead's email:

Feuer Frei!!

Posted by: Declan at December 30, 2003 01:55 PM

Ah yes, there's that "writing with quills" Mario Cuomo was talking about.

This, also, is the guy who lied about Limbaugh giving out his e-mail address on-air.

Posted by: HH at December 30, 2003 02:03 PM

Dexter-- Your analogy is faulty, since the argument wasn't really "about" Lamb. But yes, my dad called Brian Lamb by the wrong name. He also forgot that the New York Times recently hired David Brooks. In fact-- far more substantively-- his argument on media bias seems to blur the distinction between deliberate distortion and the unintentional (but no less insidious) slant that results from the isolated culture of the press corps (wherein a guy like Wolff can think of himself as a "no-winger.")

How any of this makes Wolff's response any less childish isn't clear to me.

Posted by: John Tabin at December 30, 2003 02:38 PM

Anybody who wants a good look into how Michael's mind works should read his book, "Burn Rate." It's a very revealing work, but not in the way Wolff intended.

Posted by: Harry at December 30, 2003 03:05 PM

In my years as a newspaper columnist, I got tons of hate mail. Your father's letter would have been a shining star of civility and lucidity. I always tried to be polite to readers who wrote in, even if they weren't trying hard to be polite to me. If I didn't have time to answer a letter's points, I'd write a brief, courteous, generic response. I never called anyone a bonehead. And, God knows, I heard from plenty of them.

I did notice that when I responded politely, many people switched out of flame mode and turned out to be capable of rational conversation. I really think trading insults is unprofessional.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs at December 30, 2003 03:48 PM

Mean Ugly Jerk
Glenn links to this vignette of Michael Wolff's poor manners.

Much of the world is divided as to whether he is an insightful commentator or a mean, ugly jerk. I still think most of the time it's the former but this reply argues the latter.

So, I suggest we give him the Google-bomb treatment. Link to this page: with the words "mean ugly jerk" and before long, we'll have painted our irascible rascal with the brush he deserves.

Posted by: marc at December 30, 2003 05:35 PM

Unlike Joanne, I have not been lucky enough to get scads of flaming hatemail (that would require that I have the number of readers that she does). Nonetheless, her statement is spot-on; responding with civility, otherwise known as "killing with kindess", turns a lot of roaring tigers into meek mice who just wanted someone to listen, and who are often willing to listen in return.

"I rather think you are a bonehead."


"Ya ya ya ya I CAN'T HEAR YOU ya ya ya ya I HAVE NO WAY to respond to such criticism logically so I'm just going to regress to third-grade mode and call you whiny names ya ya ya ya Aren't I so cool for being so outrageous..."

Whatever. That response makes me think someone had to go look up the word "misanthropic" for him.

Posted by: Kimberly at December 30, 2003 06:25 PM

"mean ugly jerk"

Sums it up well.

Posted by: Kathianne at December 30, 2003 06:33 PM

I apologized to Brian. As you may know JOhn I wrote a masters paper on Charles and slipped.

But I think your comments are on the money. I have nver been able to decide whether people like
Wolff are sincere or KNOW they are lying.


Posted by: Lee Tabin at December 30, 2003 06:52 PM

Four legs good, two legs bad:four legs good two legs bad; four legs etc

Posted by: wrapper at January 3, 2004 09:51 AM

Wolff is an asshole.

Posted by: Petey Wrightwood at August 26, 2004 05:05 PM