November 14, 2002

Keillor. Again

Garrison Keillor's back.

After the drubbing he took in the press for his last Salon article, perhaps he'd have decided to proceed with a bit of tact and grace.

But Keillor has perhaps the most perfectly-developed sense of entitlement of any public figure today. He's spent his entire career living, mostly, from the handouts of others, government and contributors. And while the endowments funded by his book sales (including megaseller "Lake Wobegon Days", back in the eighties) have set MPR up rather nicely, one needs to ask - would the books have sold without the national, tax-funded, pledge-supported platform from which to jump off?


eillor is a funny man, a generally superb humorist, and Prairie Home Companion is a weekly ritual - even my children (9 and 11) love it. But Keillor is in his entirety a creation of the public sector. And like any public institution, he suffers the public with the same grace as do the cashiers at the Department of Public Safety. Having known, socially and professionally, many who'd worked with him, having met many more who'd dealt with him in a variety of capacities, one notes this: Keillor treats those he perceives as superiors with unvarnished obsequeity; Peers, he addresses with a veneer of respect; underlings, he treats like cat litter, to be rubbed underfoot and...well, you know how it ends, right? Having known a few people who'd worked on PHC, the metaphor basically fits.

Keillor is reacting to a Republican sweep the same way the Teacher's union, or the National Orgization of Women, do; with doomsday rhetoric, with chicken-little doommongering, with nasty, defensive slurs - and the added fun of lots of personal slurs against "the enemy".

Here's what he had to say:

The hoots and cackles of Republicans reacting to my screed
Whoah, right there.

Hoots and cackles? I recall a lot of people with serious objections to:

  • Keillor's smug, dismissive tone,
  • the giggly, gossipy references to rumors of Coleman's personal life picked up "at the St. Paul Grill" (does the irony completely escape Keillor? He's acting exactly like the nosy, gossipy crones in his "Lake Wobegon" monologues)
  • the palpable hypocrisy of someone who lampooned Bill Clinton's detractors, raising an eyebrow over Norm Coleman's personal life in any case,
  • The fact that Keillor, a Democrat who built his entire career on taxpayer largesse, continues to slime Republicans, and hide behind the cover of a station and network that allows virtually no equal time to conservative voices - indeed, where liberal voices just as smug and mocking as Keillor's dominate and carry on slander not much less egregious than Keillor's - at taxpayer expense.
We continue:
... against Norman Coleman, the ex-radical, former Democratic, now compassionate conservative senator-elect from Minnesota,
Garry! The DFL kicked him out! You can't blame Norm for being a "former Democrat" when the Democrats all but tied him up and tossed him in the river when he was mayor!
was all to be expected, given the state of the Republican Party today. Its entire ideology, top to bottom, is We-are-not-Democrats, We-are-the-unClinton,
And let's hope the Democrats continue to think that's our whole approach. '04 should be a cakewalk.

Garry! Voters aren't stupid! If we'd run as what we're not, Mondale would be the senator-elect.

The old GOP of fiscal responsibility and principled conservatism and bedrock Main Street values is gone, my dear, and something cynical has taken its place. Thus the use of Iraq as an election ploy, openly, brazenly, from the president and Karl Rove all the way down to Norman Coleman, who came within an inch of accusing Wellstone of being an agent of al-Qaida.
Hyperbole bordering on "outright lie". Coleman attacked Wellstone's record on defense votes. Think Coleman's attacks were brutal? Ask some of my acquaintances who are in the service.
To do that one day and then, two days later, to feign grief and claim the dead Wellstone's mantle and carry on his "passion and commitment" is simply too much for a decent person to stomach.
A "Decent Person" wouldn't presume to be clairvoyant.
It goes beyond the ordinary roughhouse of politics. To accept it and grin and shake the son of a bitch's hand is to ignore what cannot be ignored if you want your grandchildren to grow up in a country like the one that nurtured and inspired you. I would rather go down to defeat with the Democrats I know than go oiling around with opportunists of Coleman's stripe, and you can take that to the bank.
While at the bank - shall I look for the pictures of you and Bill Clinton?

I've run into plenty of Coleman supporters since the election and they see me and smirk and turn away and that's par for the course.
Uh oh.Those smirking neighbors.

The last time Keillor's neighbors smirked at him, he moved to New York in a hissy.

I know those people. To my own shame, I know them. I'm ashamed of Minnesota for electing this cheap fraud, and I'm ashamed of myself for sitting on my hands, tending to my hoop-stitching, confident that Wellstone would win and that Coleman would wind up with an undersecretaryship in the Commerce Department. Instead, he will sit in the highest council in the land, and move in powerful circles, and enjoy the perks of his office, which includes all the sycophancy and bootlicking a person could ever hope for. So he can do with one old St. Paulite standing up and saying, "Shame. Repent. The End is Near."
So - Keillor sat on his hand, overconfident,"hoopstitching"...but he detests his neighbors for Mondale's collapse?

Funny Keillor should broach the subject of religion. We'll return to that. "You can take that to the bank"

All you had to do was look at Coleman's face, that weird smile, the pleading eyes, the anger in the forehead. Or see how poorly his L.A. wife played the part of Mrs. Coleman, posing for pictures with him, standing apart, stiff, angry. Or listen to his artful dodging on the stump, his mastery of that old Republican dance, of employing some Everyguy gestures in the drive to make the world safe for the privileged. What a contrivance this guy is.
So you think Norm puts on a different face in public that he does in private?

Good. Hold that thought. We'll becoming back to it very shortly.

Paul Wellstone identified passionately with people at the bottom, people in trouble, people in the rough. He was an old-fashioned Democrat who felt more at home with the rank and file than with the rich and famous. (Bill Clinton, examine your conscience.) He loved stories and of course people on the edge tend to have better stories than the rich, whose stories are mostly about décor and amenities.
Paul walked the walk. He was a wonder.
How ironic, really, that Garrison Keillor lionizes the late Senator Wellstone for qualities so utterly absent in Keillor himself.

I used to be a radio producer. I knew people who'd dealt with Keillor - fellow low-level producers, production assistants, the grunts that do the dirty work that has to be done for show like Keillor's to come off. To a person, they all - every one - describe him as "extremely abusive when angry", "selfish", "never has a good word to say about anybody", "no social skills", "treats his colleagues like dirt", " keeps people hanging on without officially hiring them", "destroys people behind their backs", "acts like his shit doesn't stink", "dumps [employees] without warning". Most concisely, "a complete son of a bitch". Every one of those is from people who've worked with Keillor in some professional capacity, many of whom don't dare say a thing because they want to work in these towns again. Keillor, it seems, also as a reputation for squashing careers.

It was a local joke among radio people in the eighties - Keillor went through "personal assistants" like kleenex. He was as petulant as any caricature of a golden-age movie queen. He demanded his subordinates worship him. He cast them off like old underwear when they displeased him. He was a spoiled, petulant egomaniac.

So to apply Mr. Keillor's logic to Keillor himself - how dare anyone who loved Wellstone for his common-man bonhomie possibly take the hand of Garrison Keillor, solipsistic, arrogant prairie patrician?

To gain the whole world and lose your own soul is not a course that Scripture recommends.
Scripture also has some nasty things to say about untrammelled hubris, not to mention treating people like human garbage.
You can do it so long as God doesn't notice, but God has a way of returning and straightening these things out. Sinner beware.

So - Keillor, who mercilessly lampooned Republicans who objected to Clinton's philandering, condemns Coleman's personal life;

Keillor, whose treatment of other human beings is - words fail me - execrably horrid, wraps the mantel of Wellstone about himself.

Keillor, whose entire public persona is a three-decade-old artifice, condemns Coleman for being a contrivance.

Keillor, whose entire career and fortune was built on public largesse, condemns and distrusts the public.

Keillor, whose personal life would seem to have had its wrong turns and whose professional life would make Gordon Gekko blanche, calls down the Scriptures on the head of Norm Coleman.

Here's a verse I like, speaking of Scripture: Psalms 10:2 - The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.

In other words - if he doesn't start reeling in the abuse and hubris, Keillor's afterlife is an eternal Lutheran Church basement lutefisk supper.

Posted by Mitch at November 14, 2002 08:03 AM