November 28, 2010

Presidential biographer Edmund Morris to Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation": "That's a fucked up question." [UPDATED: "That’s a bullshit question!"]

Schieffer's question was: "What would Teddy Roosevelt think of today’s politics?"
“You keep asking these presentist questions,” said the Kenyan-born, British-accented historian. 
Kenyan-born...
“As the immortal Marisa Tomei said in 'My Cousin Vinny,' ‘That’s a f----- up question!'” Morris said, relishing over the word as network censors bleeped him out.

“You cannot pluck people out of the past and expect them to comment on what’s happening today,” he continued. 
Yeah, it's a fucked up question, but I bet Doris Kearns Goodwin would answer it. I mean, she'd whip out a juicy anecdote that would seem to answer it. Come on, Edmund, cast off your Kenyan-born, British-accented attitude and play the media game.
“I can only say that what he represented in his time is what we hope for in our presidents now, what we look for in our presidents now and what we’re increasingly disappointed by. He understood foreign culture, recognized the dignity of the United States. He was forceful yet dignified. And what I really feel these days is, we’ve become such an insular people.”
Bullshit... as the immortal Peter Finch said in "Network."
Good evening... this is my last broadcast. Yesterday, I announced on this program that I was going to commit public suicide, admittedly an act of madness. Well, I'll tell you what happened: I just ran out of bullshit. Am I still on the air? I really don't know any other way to say it other than I just ran out of bullshit. Bullshit is all the reasons we give for living. And if we can't think up any reasons of our own, we always have the God Bullshit. We don't know why we're going through all this pointless pain, humiliation, decay, so there better be someone somewhere who does know. That's the God Bullshit. And then, there's the noble man bullshit — that man is a noble creature that can order his own world. Who needs God? Well, if there's anybody out there that can look around this demented slaughterhouse of a world we live in and tell me that man is a noble creature, believe me, that man is full of bullshit. I don't have anything going for me. I haven't got any kids. And I was married for 33 years of shrill, shrieking fraud. So I don't have any bullshit left. I just ran out of it, you see.
More from Morris the Cat Kenyan:
Morris went on to criticize the American people, who he said “are insensitive to foreign sensibilities, who are lazy, obese, complacent and increasingly perplexed as to why we are losing our place in the world to people who are more dynamic than us and more disciplined.”
So... like... the terrorists?  They do maintain more slim and toned bodies. Man, he just came out and called us fat! He ran out of bullshit!

UPDATE: My original link goes to Politico, which records Morris as saying "That’s a f----- up question!" But here's the video and, although the bleep is there, it seems that Morris said "That’s a bullshit question!" That would correspond to what Marisa Tomei said:



Strangely, I was motivated to call bullshit on Morris and go on to discuss "bullshit" in that other movie ("Network").

62 comments:

ironrailsironweights said...

In keeping with his British accent Morris should have said "that's a sodded-up question." The network censors probably wouldn't have bleeped it out.

Peter

Michael said...

Ah, but Kenya is a shithole and the UK is run by people with a phobia of offending.

Bob Ellison said...

Perhaps Morris was drunk. He seems an inconsistent analyst.

ndspinelli said...

Isn't Morris the pompous ass who made up a character in the Reagan bio?

Maguro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cook said...

The long quote from NETWORK reminds me how great and true that film is, and that passage is one of the most apt ever written about humankind. I need to see it again.

Maguro said...

Love the way this guy seems to think he's stumbled upon some novel insight when he calls Americans fat, stupid and insular. It's not only bullshit, it's boring, unoriginal bullshit that's been sort of the European conventional wisdom on America since before the Civil War.

edutcher said...

I think the short answer is that he really isn't as brilliant as he wants us to think.

A lot of historians could have come up with an analogy; after all, TR advocated the Strenuous Life, not the Nanny State. (How's that for answering the question. And I'm nobody's biographer)

PS He also understands most Americans don't give a damn about what the rest of the world thinks of us. He doesn't like it, but that's why we broke away from Dear Old Blighty. We wanted - and still do - to make our own way in the world.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"... but I bet Doris Kearns Goodwin would answer it."

Do you know how she would answer it? She'd say ... "That's a fucked up question."

Because she's a plagiarist.

sonicfrog said...

Teddy would love it. In todays world of politics, you are less likely to get shot while giving a speech!

john said...

Ask yourselves - what would Jesus say about all this?

Palladian said...

"Morris went on to criticize the American people, who he said “are insensitive to foreign sensibilities, who are lazy, obese, complacent and increasingly perplexed as to why we are losing our place in the world to people who are more dynamic than us and more disciplined."

Edmund sounds like the perfect person to write a hagiography of the current President.

I also think it's hilarious, this idea that we need to be "sensitive to foreign sensibilities" when I have never seen the slightest inclination in any "foreign sensibility" I've ever met to be sensitive to anyone other than themselves. This is just whining by the culturally irrelevant.

William said...

I have read his two previous books on Roosevelt. They were both terrific. I don't suppose calling Americans fat and lazy is the best marketing strategy for his current book, but Roosevelt fans probably take pride in not being fat or lazy. I am sure that there are many hundreds, maybe even thousands of Americans who are not fat or lazy, and that is his target audience.....At any event I don't think his invidious comparison was aimed at the terrorists but at the lean and hungry Chinese and Indians.

Ann Althouse said...

Teddy was fat.

Ralph L said...

And what I really feel these days is, we’ve become such an insular people
With all these damned furriners living here now. Pass the white bread!

XWL said...

Stupid analysis, excellent marketing from Morris.

A) Few people watch Face the Nation, but if you act an ass, there's a good chance his appearance goes viral, so lots of extra eyeballs on the internet

B) Calling Americans fat, stupid, insular, and the rest, that fits in with the current strain of 'if only the voters weren't sooooo stupid' whining coming from the sinistral side of the American body politic regarding the recent election and Obama's abyssmal polling data. Those people are his potential market. His 'history' isn't neutral, objective, accurate or particularly insightful, but he does a good job of reinforcing the usual liberal pre-conceptions, which is why a lot of people buy books, not to read, or challenge themselves intellectually, but to fill their bookshelves with the 'correct' totems to signal that they have all the 'correct' views.

C) Ironic, that a historian who makes a habit of applying modern standards to past figures bristles at a question asking him to speculate on the thoughts of past figures within a modern context.

William said...

Teddy was not fat. He was barrel chested, i.e. fat with good posture.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

Teddy was fat.

In his cowboy and Rough Rider days, he was husky.

MadisonMan said...

Teddy would be too busy marveling at how long he's lived, and at how people lived these days.

Trooper York said...

Sigh.

Paddy O said...

The insular thing is a curious one to me, because America can't really win on the international relations question. Don't care, and we're insulated. Care, and we're neo-colonialists.

My understanding of TR is that not only was he not thin, he wasn't quite sensitive of foreign sensibilities either.

Paddy O said...

"Sigh."

That's all, Trooper? I was fully expecting a "big stick" joke from you.

XWL said...

Certainly, on the isssue of multi-culturalism, I believe what Teddy wrote in 1919 remains applicable.

"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

How does that above passage not offer an answer to Schieffer's question?

Same problems in the 1910s exist in the 2010s regarding assimilation and foreign born Americans who find themselves accused of divided loyalties (then, Germans and Irish, now Muslims from around the globe, and Mexicans)

TR's answer is emphatic, do not discriminate, do assimilate, and remain suspicious of those that refuse to adopt our common customs and language.

If only BO thought the same.

John Lynch said...

Sorry, too fat and complacent to comment on the madness of foreigners.

One Man Gang said...

I think TR would verbally horsewhip Morris and tell him to get off his pompous posterior and get out in the real world and actually DO something instead of making snide comments about those who do.

Belkys said...

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/
Know the britons

The Crack Emcee said...

Take that Network speech, replace the number 33 with a 20, and - voila! - I'm Howard Beale!

And take note:

Nobody had to change the color of their skin.

gs said...

ndspinelli said...Isn't Morris the pompous ass who made up a character in the Reagan bio?

He is.

paul a'barge said...

we’ve become such an insular people

Who let this asshole in the WE club?

JAY said...

are losing our place in the world to people who are more dynamic than us and more disciplined."

Like who?

PatCA said...

American elites are puzzled over our loss of dynamism; the American people, however, know quite well the reason--people like Edmund Morris running the haute monde.

ricpic said...

To answer the question: as a dyed in the wool progressive Teddy would be quite happy with the way things are going today. One thing Teddy would never call for: smaller less intrusive government. Government is a force for good was and is an article of faith, the progressive faith, Teddy's faith.

The Crack Emcee said...

There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all.

Yet, somehow, I have to kick and scream and fight my country, and my countrymen - gaining a reputation as an asshole - just to keep them all from repeatedly twisting me into an African-American every chance they get.

It's madness, I tell you, sheer fucking madness.

Stosh2 said...

It seems odd how America rose to become globally dominant in so many areas and has maintained that position through stupidity, sloth, ignorance and insensitivity. Another exceptiional American first!

Thor's Dad said...

My concern her is that he quoted Marisa Tomei and My Cousin Vinnie???? He's an intellectual? Of all the movies he could quote? wtf?

Mick said...

"America rose to become globally dominant in so many areas and has maintained that position through stupidity, sloth, ignorance and insensitivity. "

If that's REALLY the case what does that say about the rest of the world. ;)

REN said...

Sorry, but Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) actually said "It's a bullshit question."

Michael said...

ripic: You would be right if in the last 80 plus years we had not already achieved many of the goals TR set out for govt.

un said...

Palladian said...

I also think it's hilarious, this idea that we need to be "sensitive to foreign sensibilities" when I have never seen the slightest inclination in any "foreign sensibility" I've ever met to be sensitive to anyone other than themselves. This is just whining by the culturally irrelevant.

Not only do I agree with your comment it has the addtional benefit of being true.

Also to the post that said:
'We don't engage we are are insular' we do and we are neo-colonialists'.

Exactly.

I once read a quote - it may have been Orwell, it may not have been -that the goal is to set up the system so that no matter what you do you are breaking some law.

Michael said...

Morris' biographies of Roosevelt are excellent. He completely blew it with Reagan, probably because he could not understand a man who did not think like a leftist. Roosevelt was far enough away in time so that he did not have to try to understand him. Plus, of course, Roosevelt was a paleo-progressive. He would never have supported the nanny state.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

–Theodore Roosevelt.

rcocean said...

Morris' Reagan bio was an epic fail. It was almost unreadable, primarily because Morris had no interest or understanding of the domestic life/politics of us fat, lazy Americans.

His interest only picked up when Gorbachev and foreign affairs entered into scene. Sad, because that happened when Reagan was 71.

Trooper York said...

It has long been the position of most reputable historians that the greatest of American Leaders have been large men. Large in intellect and passion. They loom large as leaders. And of course they need a large loom to weave their underpants.

George Washington who was famous as the "Father of our Country" was also rightly famous for being a valient trencherman and enjoyed feasting at his estate of Mount Vernon. Even the most obseqious of artists have always portrayed President Washington as having a rather prominent pot belly. In fact it was long a joke in the Contiental Army that General Washington had not seen his penis in many years becuase of his pot. Unfortnately neither had Martha or he might have fathered something more than just a new nation.
(Big Guys, The Large Men Who Have Created America, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jenny Craig Press 2011)

Trooper York said...

The learned Docter Benjamin Franklin was as well know for his gatronomic feats as for his political acumen and scientific curiosity. The noted Philadelphian was just famous for his experiments with electricty, his prognostication of the weather with his famous almanac and his invention of the Cheese Steak Sandwich. Dr. Franklin was the wonder and scandel of the Continental Congress as he took chambermaids and sandwiches to bed two at a time.
(Big Guys, The Large Men Who Have Created America, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jenny Craig Press 2011)

Marvel Goose said...

If Teddy was here today, he would fuck up Edmund Morris with a right to the solar plexus.

Robin said...

Do you know how she would answer it? She'd say ... "That's a fucked up question."

Because she's a plagiarist.


Thread winner.

Paul said...

Morris could have used a Dean Wormer quote from "Animal House" to illustrate how he feels about Americans: "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son".

Progressively Defensive said...

Losing our place in the world to those more dynamic? We beat the Kaiser, the Nazis, the Japanese, the USSR; we invented the technological age; we invent nearly all media content everywhere except those places that fear out dynamism's persuasive appeal (China, N. Korea, etc.); USA language (they speak it in the UK, too) is the language of science and academia generally world-wide; our economy is the biggest and nearly the most per capita (and certainly #1 for a large sized country); we could kill every Muslim on earth whenever we feel like it but suffer poignantly their ignorance and hatred out of pity; we are the guarantor of the free world; on and on. And, is he kidding? The typical UKer is the filth of the earth.

The Monster said...

It would be tempting to respond to the charge of being "insular" by talking about how well-traveled Americans have been over the last century or so. It was Americans that first traveled into the skies in heavier-than-air craft, and the dozen humans who have walked the surface of the Moon were all Americans.

Then there's all those Americans who have visited such wonderful places as Normandy, quite a few of whom on what turned out to be a one-way trip.

But really, these wonderful European folk aren't any better traveled than Americans. As Bill Cosby put it so well, you can drive a short distance in Europe and be in three different countries where they speak at least as many languages. "I speak Cleveland! I speak Alabama!"

Whatever said...

It is sort of interesting. I lived in Europe (Belgium to be exact) for a year, working for NATO. I happened to be in an office where two European nationals were discussing the relative lack of geography education in the States. The Italian in the conversation sniffed that most Americans could not find Belgium on a map.

Curious, I walked up to a world map tacked to the wall and asked the same Italian to point out where, say, Georgia was in the United States. He gave me a blank look. I then turned to the other participant, a German, and asked him to point out the location of Maryland. He, too, could not do it.

I felt my point was made, but did ask them both about the geography educations they had received in, supposedly, superior European schools. I then pointed out every country in Europe and then left the room.

This is not all to say that any one country is superior to the other in terms of education. It is only to say that the pervasive attitude of the typical European on the intelligence of the common American is built on some fairly narrow minded prejudices, which is no different, really, than an American tourist in Paris, angry at the poor service, standing up in a crowded cafe and bellowing something or other about how his grandfather saved everyone within earshot from speaking German.

Are Europeans enlightened? Some, sure. But inherently so, based exclusively on being European? Nothing could be further from the truth. I saw more poverty, ignorance and squalor in a year in Belgium than I have visiting supposedly third world countries. France, too.

So when I hear the typical European sniff and pull back his lips over jagged teeth in that certain condescending sneer, I only have to think back to the sheer number of complete oafs I had the pleasure of meeting while in Europe, shake my head, and let out a rueful little laugh.

Whatever said...

Oh, and about the European fixation on weight. Being fat, if one is not European, is considered a fairly serious moral failing. Of course, I saw plenty of fat people in Europe, but somehow they escape the opprobrium directed at our larger American brothers and sisters.

I once happened across a blog about a German tourist spending time in, of all places, North Korea. He absolutely loved the place. But, he mentioned nothing of the culture (which can be quite charming, even in that blighted country), or much of anything else except this: he loved North Korea so much because it had a very low quotient of, in his words, "fatties". Unlike, say, Britain or America.

Living close to Germany, I wanted to hop in my overpriced car, spend a ton of Euros on overpriced gas, and find this man's home. I then wanted to knock on his door and punch him in the face.

Imagine that: no fatties. In a land beset by famine and privation. And he simply loved it for that fact. The sheer moral vacuity of this person made me want to wretch.

I would hate to extrapolate from this one incident and make sweeping generalizations about all Europeans, but what the hell: if it's good enough for a "scholar" such as Mr. Morris, why then should it be beneath me?

I learned to dislike Europeans in general in my year abroad, for this and other reasons. Not all, but a good number that I ran across. Especially those working for NATO, who slept very soundly at night in very nice homes, complaining bitterly about the American troglodytes, while happily accepting both the security guarantees and financial security bought and paid for with both American blood and treasure over the years.

The ingratitude and myopia of the typical European never ceased to amaze me. And I do not in relation to a war that occurred sixty years ago, but instead to the gobs of money and military protection that still get funneled to that area of the world today.

Seems to me that if more Americans were exposed to Europeans on a daily basis, the notion of the mutual security pact we have with Europe, in which American picks up the lions share of the check and responsibilities, would quickly go by the wayside. So, perhaps it is in Europe's interest that we *do* remain an insular people. That way, they get to keep spending money on failed and misguided social programs, and we get to keep subsidizing their overweening arrogance.

Whatever said...

Oh, and about the European fixation on weight. Being fat, if one is not European, is considered a fairly serious moral failing. Of course, I saw plenty of fat people in Europe, but somehow they escape the opprobrium directed at our larger American brothers and sisters.

I once happened across a blog about a German tourist spending time in, of all places, North Korea. He absolutely loved the place. But, he mentioned nothing of the culture (which can be quite charming, even in that blighted country), or much of anything else except this: he loved North Korea so much because it had a very low quotient of, in his words, "fatties". Unlike, say, Britain or America.

Living close to Germany, I wanted to hop in my overpriced car, spend a ton of Euros on overpriced gas, and find this man's home. I then wanted to knock on his door and punch him in the face.

Imagine that: no fatties. In a land beset by famine and privation. And he simply loved it for that fact. The sheer moral vacuity of this person made me want to wretch.

Jum said...

I stopped paying any attention to anything this Europhile milksop had to say when he admitted he was so completely and humiliatingly overwhelmed by the complexities and nuance of the personality of Ronald Reagan that he sank to using the artifice of fictionalized characters, events and conversations in what he had the effrontery to call a biographical history of the man. Morris is remarkable both for his arrogance and incompetence.

Any "historian" who is so debased as to betray both fact and truth as readily as Morris is simply not worthy of the title...nor of any notice from those who respect history and take it seriously.

Fred4Pres said...

Marissa Tomei is so friggin hot in that movie.

Teddy Roosevelt? Please. Go back a wee bit farther. Human beings were mostly the same 5000 years ago as they are today (and frankly I think that may have been true for the last 100,000 years). Yes, there has been some "evolution" of culture. Speed of travel and communication has changed things. Things are in many ways better than they have ever been. But human nature? That has not evolved or changed one iota and is unlikely to change anytime soon (which was Josh Whedon's thesis in Firefly, but he is hardly the first person to figure that one out). People knew right and wrong then and they know it now, but it was just too damn hard to follow it. Which is why I love the classics so.

Fred4Pres said...

My son, who is nine, can point out over 160 countries. So Morris can go fuck himself.

Fred4Pres said...

As for America losing its place in the world, perhaps we should not be emulating failing European socialists states and should be following the economic dynamism of free market captialism that made this country great. Did that dimwit Morris learn anything from Reagan?

Fred4Pres said...

And Teddy was big boned.

I did like River of Doubt. That was a good book.

I liked A River Runs Through It better, but that is a different sort of book.

TLM said...

Always fun to chastise a British-accented pointy head who gratuitously derides Americans. Unfortunately, with Morris that's a waste of effort. He's already a proven fabricator of history. His opinion of America, therefore, is worthless.

Except, of course, to those who cherish the word of a fraud in support of their own biases.

Bruce Wayne said...

The video is hilarious!
My first thought was that the 327 was not available til way after 1955

Mike said...

@ Whatever: As an American who lived in Europe for nearly seven years, I can agree with you completely. Europeans are no less parochial, insular, and rotund than Americans, and in many cases much more so. And their bigotry is all the worse because they feel so entitled to it.

rdkraus said...

One of the great all time movies.

She is both hot and great in that movie.

This is one of those roles where the actor flashes onto the scene and likely will never equal their initial effort.

John said...

"One of the great all time movies.

She is both hot and great in that movie.

This is one of those roles where the actor flashes onto the scene and likely will never equal their initial effort."

Spoken like someone who has not seen "The Wrestler." Hotter and greater still, 15 years later.

MarkD said...

I'll just note that the ingrate is here, not back in Kenya or some other more enlightened place. He's a all hat, no cattle.