Wieners versus Coal Plants

Teddy says just about everything that needs to be said about Howie Kurtz’s latest obsessive rantings about David Letterman’s wiener. But I wanted to add one thing.

Howie says the reason the press (meaning, Howie himself) has covered Letterman’s wiener obsessively and not Ensign’s is because the Ensign story lacks visuals.

The Ensign story is complicated and not very visual. Letterman is far more famous. So the comic is turned into media fodder and the officeholder largely stays under the radar.

Of course, Howie complaint that Ensign’s affair isn’t visual enough is partly an expression of Howie’s own lack of imagination. Set aside, for example, that this is Vegas, baby. Vegas?!?! Not visual enough for Howie!?!?!?!

Focus instead on the real consequences Ensign’s actions might have for people totally unrelated to Ensign and his mistress and his mistress’ husband. It’s possible, for example, that Nevada may get a coal plant that some in the state oppose because of the ethically and potentially legally challenged work Ensign had his cuckold do.

With NV Energy, for instance, Mr. Hampton spent the summer of 2008 strategizing with John Lopez, the senator’s chief of staff, about how Mr. Ensign could intervene with the Interior Department to get the coal-plant [environmental impact statement] completed, Mr. Hampton said.

In November 2008, Mr. Ensign wrote to the Interior Department secretary at the time, Dirk Kempthorne, restating his longstanding view that the project was good for Nevada and urging the agency to publish the report.

Mr. Hampton followed up the next month with an e-mail message to Mr. Lopez, still trying to get the report released. The delay “is really hurting Nevada,” he wrote.

Mr. Lopez responded the same day. “I have been pounding Interior and can’t figure why this hasn’t come out,” his e-mail message said. “I’ll call again today.”

Mr. Lopez asked Matthew C. Eames, the department’s director of Congressional affairs, to make inquiries. Mr. Eames, in an interview, said after that hearing repeatedly from Mr. Ensign’s office, he contacted half a dozen Interior Department officials in Nevada and Washington to urge them to issue the report.

Five days after the e-mail exchange between Mr. Hampton and Mr. Lopez — on Dec 17, 2008 — the environmental impact statement was signed. (NV Energy has since put the coal plant project on hold.)

Granted, the project is on hold. But if it goes forward, Ensign’s little wiener problem would bring the people of Nevada worse air, worse lungs, and environmental degradation.

Now I realize that Howie, sequestered in his affluent neighborhood in the Village, may not like to think about things like the damage coal plants do to the environment and to people’s health. But it is yet another example of the way that the Village’s obsessive rantings hurt real America.

10 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    And I note that ObamaCo has done nothing to investigate the accuracy of said impact statement. Maybe he’s hoping Ensign will vote for his health care package?

    Boxturtle (Or maybe this is another spot where we should be looking forward, not back)

  2. 4jkb4ia says:


    This is another media self-involvement story. It has consequences for popular culture, for CBS, and for Conan O’Brien if Letterman could be seen to implode. I also read that Letterman is trying to do more political humor, although he will not wean the average FDL reader away from Stewart and Colbert.
    The Ensign story really is not such a complicated story. It appears that Hampton really did engage in lobbying activity. Lobbyists are easy villains. The juicy and complicated part is whether Ensign encouraged him to do the prohibited lobbying, and as long as the ethics committee is looking into it this can be taken as a reason to be lazy on reporting on it. I suspect that Doug Hampton is not exactly a household name.

  3. 4jkb4ia says:

    David Carr weighs in on Letterman story today, with angle of whether this will change his behavior on his show. This story had interesting elements, especially when the large data analysis techniques were used on the Enron document dump.

  4. MaryCh says:

    Back in the good old days, anti-pollution planning included very tall smokestacks, hundreds of feet high out in the desert (to distribute smoke so that at ground level the pollutants were at acceptable levels).

    Now Howie, that’d provide a potent visual!

  5. JasperJohns says:

    Yesterday, the segment on Letterman, was the longest of all. I was able to go o the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, warm a muffin and stick a load of laundry in the washer. Upon my return to the TV Howie was still fixated.

    Howie is and has become mainstream (gag) tabloid.

  6. orionATL says:

    translation from the journalese:

    “howie is a friend of letterman’s”


    “howie hopes to appear on letterman’s show some day by deflecting criticisms of letterman”


    “one of howie’s editors or uber bosses is a friend of letterman’s”.

    nothing complicated here; this is how wapoop “journalism” works these days.

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