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||LIMOUSINE LIBERAL BIAS (PART 2)! The Post limned Tedand we caught a glimpse of those troubling Millionaire Pundit Values:|
FRIDAY, JANUARY 3, 2003
HOME IMPROVEMENT: It was one of the most remarkable exchanges of Campaign 2000. On October 4, 2000one day after Bush-Gore Debate ITed Koppel appeared on Larry King Live. King asked Koppel about the factual disputes which drove the previous nights session:
KING: Okay. Were you impressed with this fuzzy [math], top 1 percent, 1.3 trillion, 1.9 trillion bit?
King was referring to the bit about the size and distribution of the Bush tax cutsthe campaigns largest budget proposal. Bush and Gore had battled about the shape of the planand in his charges of phony numbers and fuzzy math, Bush had called Gore a Big Liar. The issues involved were stunningly basic. So try to believe that Ted said it:
KOPPEL: You know, honestly, it turns my brains to mush. I cant pretend for a minute that Im really able to follow the argument of the debates. Parts of it, yes. Parts of it, I havent a clue what theyre talking about.
Koppel is paid millions of dollars a year. The facts about the Bush tax cuts had been clear for five months as he spoke (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/24/02). But it turned his brains to mush, he said, to try to follow the Bush-Gore debate. In this moment, we saw the stunning insouciance of our insider press corps. In any other professional sector, a practitioner making such a startling admission would be subject to suits for misfeasance.
Simply put, Koppel didnt seem to give a fig about the most basic issue of the campaign. But in last Thursdays Washington Post, Matthew Mosk let us see what does float the anchors big boat. [A]t home in Potomac, where he is building a massive riverfront estate on 16 acres of cattle pasture, Ted Koppel is at war with his neighbors, Mosk wrote. You can read Mosks piece for full details, but heres the whole gig in a nutshell:
MOSK: The anchor of ABCs Nightline and his wife are entering the fifth year of a ferocious land dispute that is headed for court in Montgomery County. The Koppels contend in a lawsuit that their neighbors have ignored an agreement to cap the size of their houses at 10,000 square feet, a tad larger than George Washingtons home at Mount Vernon.
The neighbors have countersued, Mosk reports, saying the Koppels have some nerve policing the size of other houses while they are building a Taj Mahal of their own.
Theres nothing wrong with having Way Too Much Money, but we suspect it affects Pundit Values. Indeed, our minds drifted back to the Koppel-King confab at one point in Mosks report. According to Mosk, Koppel wants to prove that his neighbors McMansions are just too McBig. And guess what? In this matter, Ted Koppels a tiger for detail:
MOSK: For several of those who bought the houses in question and inherited the accompanying legal battle, the fight with the Koppels has been a whopping headache.
The budget turned Teds brains to mush. Not so his neighbors nooks and crannies. He even got to measure their basements, according to one court decree.
Shirley Ballard Miller, who bought a lot near the Koppels in 1998, said her home was one of those cleared by the appellate court, but not before the Koppels attorneys crawled around her house with tape measures.
We were all dumbfounded, Miller said of the dispute. No one understood what it was about. Why anyone would care so much about every little inch?
Some of you will say were being hugely unfair to Ted Koppel. But we think that Mosk may have shown us more signs of those shaky Millionaire Pundit Values.
Can a millionaire pundit corps pursue liberal values? In principle, yes, of course, it can; in fact, some of our best friends are multis. But the modern press corps opinion leaders are almost all multimillionaires. Would any sane person create such a corpsa millionaire pundit corps to serve a democracy? Last week, liberal pundit Margaret Carlson called Wellstones memorial the Outrage of the Year. Does Mosks report help give you a clue about where such odd judgments may come from?
Is your press corps driven by liberal bias? Our guess: As long as the corps opinion leaders are multimillionaires, that nagging problem of liberal bias will likely take care of itself. Read the incomparable reports which follow for a look at Millionaire Pundit Values.
PUNDITS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN: Whats the real shape of our pundit corps values? Lets return to October 2000. A few days after Koppel whiffed on that budget debate, Margaret Carlson guested on Imus and showed us the soul of our press corps. By now, the pundit corps was battering Gore for minor mistakes at that first debate. Andas Koppel had done on the Larry King showthe pundits were glossing large errors by Bush, errors about basic policies. What explained the pundit corps choices? Speaking with Imus, Carlson explained why the press had focused on Gores personal errors, rather than on Bushs larger misstatements about major policy matters:
CARLSON (10/8/00): Gores fabrications may be inconsequentialI mean, theyre about his life. Bushs fabrications are about our life, and what hes going to do. Bushs should matter more but they dont, because Gores we can disprove right here and now
You can actually disprove some of what Bush is saying if you really get in the weeds and get out your calculator or you look at his record in Texas. But its really easy, and its fun, to disprove Gore.
Disproving Gore was easy and fun! But Carlson didnt let it rest. She offered another iteration:
CARLSON: I actually happen to know people who need government and so they would care more about the programs, and less about the things we kind of make fun of
But as sport, and as our enterprise, Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining to us. And we can disprove it in a way we cant disprove these other things.
Slamming Gore was greatly entertaining. It was more fun than examining Bushs claims about those government programs.
In fact, Carlson was being a bit disingenuous; there was absolutely nothing hard about disproving what Bush had said. In Debate I, Bush grossly misstated his own budget plan, and he grossly misstated his prescription drug offering. (Just look at your web site, Gore said.) And Bush accused Gore of phony numbers when Gores numbers were perfectly accurate. There was nothing hard about proving these facts. For reasons only Koppel et al can explain, the press corps just didnt want to.
But look what Margaret said to Donand consider todays Pundit Values. According to Carlson, she actually happened to know some people who relied on government programs (like Social Security and Medicare). Therefore, she knew that Bushs errors were of greater significance than the silly stuff being flogged with Gore. But when we construct a millionaire pundit corps, were stuck with Millionaire Pundit Values. Was there any sign that Carlson cared about those people who needed those programs? Noit was more entertaining to flog Gore, she said. Years later, we find that another Big Pundit is a tiger for detailsif those details concern neighbors mansions.
We have no doubt: Most of our pundits are very nice people, and we assume that includes Ted Koppel. But our opinion leaders are multimillionairesand its beginning to show. Carlson defined the pundit corps values on Imus; they pursue sport, entertainment and fun. Readers! Have you seen one thing, from that day on, that would lead you to doubt her assessment?
PASS THE PASTA: What determines the way pols get covered? In last weeks Time, Carlson gave us a look. Check out these dim Pundit Values:
CARLSON: The Cheneys spend some nights at official events, like the Kennedy Center Honors, other nights eating off trays in the den and a surprising number of nights casually out and about. The Cheneys have even dined at the mecca of Georgetown limousine liberals, chez Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. The Cheneys are the most social of the Bushies, asserts Quinn, which she feels accounts for the relatively friendly press coverage the Vice President gets. Its harder to trash someone youve had pasta with the night before.
Theres that phrase again: limousine liberals. The Cheneys get favorable treatment, Quinn says, because they eat pasta with pundits.
Speaking of which, compare the upbeat tone of Carlsons profile (of Lynn Cheney) to her endless trashing of Hillary Clinton. Rememberto Carlson, it was the Outrage of the Year when HRC didnt tackle Tom Harkin as he gave his vile, vile address (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/2/03). As weve said, your press corps is spilling with liberal bias. Too bad its the limousine kind.
HOWLER HISTORYTHEY TOO WERE KERFLUBBLED: For the record, Koppel wasnt the only scribe who sleepwalked through the Bush-Gore debate. In the wake of Bush-Gore Debate I, other pundits rushed to say that their brains were hurting them, also. Heres Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. In what other sector are major players are so quick to profess total ignorance?
COHEN (10/5/00): Occasionally, [Gores] message got lost in the numbersa cacophony of conflicting claims about Social Security, prescription drug plans and tax breaks. Each candidate had his version of the others plans. But as for me, I have not been so confused since high school geometry.
Its hard to know why Cohen was confused. The factual disputes had been explained in his own paper the previous day, by the capable Glenn Kessler. And the basic facts about the Bush tax cuts had been clear since May 2000. Like Koppel, Cohen was confused for an obvious reason. Like Koppel, Richard Cohen was all confused he preferred not to know the real facts.
Meanwhile, over at Salon, Jake Tapper was bad puzzled also:
TAPPER (10/4/00): Gore was so damn hectoring, so full of himself, so quick to use his intellect for demagoguery so that you never knew what was real and what he had just made up
You never knew what Gore had made up? If a journalist had studied the issues, he knew. But your modern press corps, with its limousine values, didnt care about them government programsor about the people who need them. And theres clearly no charge for complete, howling ignorance, as Tapper continued to show:
TAPPER: Under Governor Bushs tax-cut proposal, he would spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent than all of the new spending he proposes for healthcare, prescription drugs and national defense combined, Gore charged in his second opportunity to speak. It went on and on like that all night.
One was left to assume that Gores statements were true? The facts on all these matters were clear. But your press corps is driven by limousine liberal biasthe bias of people too well-off to care. In what other sector do experts go out and announce they dont know what theyre talking about? Understand clearlyyour pundits dont care. Limousine liberals? Theyre like that.
But beyond calling Gores numbers fuzzy and phony, Bush never really stepped up to refute the charge; largely, one is left to assume, because its true.