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THE JEERS OF A CLOWN! When Atrios remarked on Joe Klein, he brought a loud talker to mind: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2007

NEVER EXPLAIN, NEVER ADMIT: In this post, Atrios discusses Joe Klein’s recent reinvention of his pre-war stance on Iraq. If anything, Ate is too kind to Klein. At the start of the week, Klein linked to this Slate piece as proof of “[t]he fact that I've been opposed to the Iraq war ever since” 2002. But few people would think of that piece in Slate as a statement of opposition to the war. If anything ,we think Ate was a bit too fair in his statement of this point.

But then, it’s a basic part of Modern Pundit Culture—you never explain and you never admit. Reading Atrios, we were reminded of our reaction to this bit of crafted nonsense from Sunday’s Washington Post:
CILLIZZA (1/7/07): As the Democratic field for 2008 takes shape, one big remaining question is whether former vice president Al Gore—winner of the popular vote in 2000, an almost-candidate in 2004 and now the public face of the movement to address global warming—will be in it.

Over the past six years, Gore has become a heroic figure for the party's liberal left, thanks in large part to his early and steady opposition to the war in Iraq. And it's not just liberals who have taken to Gore. "An Inconvenient Truth," the film detailing Gore's lonely quest to raise awareness of climate change, is one of the most successful documentaries of all time and, as important, has transformed Gore's public image from cold to cool.

That renewed popularity has stoked speculation that Gore just may have another national race up his sleeve. "He's the Rocky Balboa of 2008," said Chris Lehane, a former Gore adviser.
According to Cillizza, Gore’s public image has now become “cool.” And it isn’t just liberals who have taken to Gore! Indeed, Gore’s “renewed popularity” has “stoked speculation” that Gore may enter the White House race.

Let’s pray Cillizza isn’t that dumb; let’s hope he’s just in the bag for his cohort. Is Gore’s “renewed popularity” so widespread that he ought to enter the race? Please. We don’t know if he’ll enter the race, but in a recent Gallup poll, 31 percent of voters nationwide said they’d like to see Gore run; 67 percent said they wouldn’t. A WNBC/Marist poll asked the same question; Gore’s numbers were 32-66. By way of comparison, John McCain was 56-40 in the Gallup poll; “America’s Mayor” was close behind (55-43). It’s hard to say why Cillizza would think that some national surge is building for Gore. The data aren’t there—but the press corps’ reasons for pretending are perfectly clear. (For both polls, click here, scroll down.)

To appearances, Joe Klein doesn’t want to discuss his actual pre-war stance. And pundits hate discussing the truth about their cohort’s conduct in Campaign 2000. For twenty months, Cillizza’s colleagues worked themselves blue making a joke of Candidate Gore. Sorry, but the numbers suggest that their disgraceful conduct has had long-lasting effects.

But remember. They never admit and they never explain; they never speak truly about their own conduct. We first mentioned this back in 1999 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/30/99). Unlike with Klein, when you check that link, you’ll see that we’re telling it truly.

THERE THEY WENT AGAIN: Last Sunday, Klein entered the cuckoo’s nest publicly known as The Chris Matthews Show. Always, endlessly, these shameless self-dealers promote their Alternate Realities:
MATTHEWS (1/7/07): Before we go to break, the Academy Awards are still almost two months away, but Al Gore is out there campaigning hard for his movie on global warming. He's been hitting the talk-show circuit. And last month, he hosted 1600 Inconvenient Truth house parties.

Now it looks like Mother Nature's giving a helping hand. Believe it or not, we just learned that a huge ice shelf, measuring 25 square miles—it's been in the same place for 3,000 years—has broken off in Canada and started floating out to sea. And here in Washington, it's cherry blossom time. The only problem is it's January, and that is a scene taken by NBC cameras this week on Connecticut Avenue.

Joe, would Al Gore be president today if he had really gone out and fought on this issue when he had it in his gut but kept it secret back in 2000?

KLEIN: Yes, because he would have sounded like a human being instead of a robot.

Nothing on earth could be dumber than saying that Gore “would be president today” if he’d only campaigned more about global warming. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/18/06, for a fuller discussion of this laughable point. (It’s drawn from Klein’s hapless book, Politics Lost. Matthews was throwing a well-scripted softball.) But again, they key point is this: This cohort never admits to what it has done, and it always comes up with alternate stories. Campaign 2000 was all Gore’s fault! These laughable losers will never stop saying it, disappearing what really occurred.

NOTE THE FRAMING: Meanwhile, note the way the unflattering framing continues. According to Matthews, Gore is “out there campaigning hard for his movie” (i.e., for himself) when he stages those Inconventient Truth house parties. Is it possible that Gore is actually trying to educate people about climate change? Sorry—that would be a positive image. Klein, meanwhile, pounds ahead with the image of Gore as a robot. Why did Gore come in at 31-67? Why did Saint Rudy score 55-43? In part, the answer is simple: One is routinely described as “America’s Mayor,” one as a self-serving robot.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH: Al Gore would be president today if he’d talked more about global warming! Nothing could possibly be more stupid, but our pundits are good with their cover stories. On the December 21 Hardball, Matthews suggested another explanation for Campaign 2000. He chatted about 08 with Lynn Sweet:
SWEET (12/21/06): If we’re kind of spinning scenarios here, that’s the big question mark. If Gore got in, that would change everything—

MATTHEWS: I mean, the strongest ticket would be Al Gore and Obama. I think that would be an awesome ticket.

SWEET: I get tons of e-mail with people wanting that because that is what seems to make sense and that would make up for the big rap on Obama, his inexperience.

MATTHEWS: Al Gore’s got to run and get a sense of humor.

SWEET: And what about the Academy Award?

MATTHEWS: I think a sense of humor’s more important. Anyway, I think it`s all interesting and I think it’s too early to say.
According to Matthews’ suggestion, Gore didn’t reach the White House because he lacked a sense of humor. But then, that’s how it is with this millionaire cohort. There’s always another way to explain away their own vast, destructive misconduct.

But uh-oh! On December 15, Matthews slipped! He chatted with Steve McMahon about 08. And he briefly acknowledged his own past conduct:
MCMAHON (12/15/06): I think Mike [Murphy]’s right about what the big questions out there are: Does Al Gore get in? Because Al Gore has a story, a great story.

MATTHEWS: Would you work for him?

MCMAHON: I would love to work with him. I’d work for any nominee in the Democratic Party.

MATTHEWS: Have you had lunch or breakfast with him, to lure him into this thing? You could do it!

MCMAHON: He is going it make his own decision. He talks to people he trusts. And I’m not—

MATTHEWS: But he is so bitter, I think, at the way the press treated him, the way I treated him. Because so many people were so tough to Gore last time around, does he really want to get back into the maul?

MCMAHON: Well, I don’t know if he does or he doesn’t...
Mind-reading brilliantly, Matthews said that Gore was “bitter” at the way he’d been treated by people like Matthews. (Note again the unflattering framing.) But this was a rare suggestion from this laughable talker about what really drove the campaign which put George Bush where he is.

Gee! A Hardball viewer might well have wondered what Matthews was talking about! How did Matthews “treat Gore last time?” What was Gore so (allegedly) bitter about? Soon, though, Matthews came to his senses—and he returned to promoting his cohort’s tales about the way Al Gore blew a sure race.

We’ve been meaning to record that rare statement by Matthews. Seeing Klein reinvent his own past brought it back to mind.

THE JEERS OF A CLOWN: Matthews was by far the most punishing, nasty and dishonest TV pundit during Campaign 2000. You’ve never read this in your “liberal journals” because the weak, self-dealing boys who type there want to be on Hardball themselves.

There’s no quick way to summarize the abuse Matthews heaped on Gore’s head. But we recently chuckled at an ancient dispatch from John McCaslin’s “Inside the Beltway” column in the Washington Times. The dispatch, which we hadn’t seen before, appeared on July 4, 2000. The “well-known Washington pundit” it cites is, fairly clearly, Chris Matthews:
MCCASLIN (7/4/00): In every race, there's a winner and a loser. So what happens to the loser in the 2000 presidential race?

"With the relative normality of George W's Bush upbringing, he seems like a regular guy who would very much like to be president, but it won't be the end of the world for him if he doesn't make it. He'll still have his family and he'll still do the fun, normal things he likes to do," opines Washington writer Melinda Ledden Sidak in the Women's Quarterly.

"Gore, however, is another story. There is something eerie about his robotic, mechanical speaking style and smarmy Eddie Haskell effect. He speaks as though his audience consists solely of dim souls who are hard of hearing—each word carefully enunciated with every third word emphasized," she observes.

"Worse, he seems willing to do literally anything in order to become president. As one well-known Washington pundit told me, 'If you told Gore to get down and lick the floor in order to be president, he'd unhesitatingly drop to the floor. If you told Bush the same thing, he'd tell you to get lost.' "
Sidak—clearly a script-reading robot herself—had her Gore lines down cold. (Gore was like Eddie Haskell. Gore was robotic. Gore talked down to average people. Gore would do and say anything to become president.) But she almost surely referred to Matthews with her story about the “well-known Washington pundit” who told her that Gore would “get down and lick the floor” to be president. Matthews simply luvved reciting this insult, sometimes specifying that it was the bathroom floor which the appalling Gore would be willing to lick. In September 2000, with Gore seeming to pull away in the polls, Matthews apologized for having directed this serial insult at the man who would rule (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/14/02). A weak little thigh-rubber went on TV and tried to get right with emerging power.

Pathetic, isn’t it? In 2000, Matthews was going around repeating this insult even to third-tier, kooky-con players like Sidak! Gore would lick the floor to be president! Matthews would say this on the air—and at parties, he’d whisper it to Washington’s biggest kooks. Today, he pretends that Bush ended up in the White House because Gore didn’t tell enough jokes.

For two years, Matthews reinvented the kind of language major pundits would use in our discourse. (Forty times, he said that Candidate Gore was Bill Clinton’s “bathtub ring.” He was also a “manlike object.”) The real problem, though, was perfectly clear. Gore wasn’t showing a good sense of humor—and he wasn’t talking enough about warming! Without question—if he’d only talked more about global warming, Matthews would have gone up to Sidak at some fatuous gathering and praised the great man to the skies.

Again: You’ve never seen Matthews discussed in your “liberal journals” because the boys who work at such venues want to be play Hardball themselves.

Cillizza, of course, is a regular there. He will never tell you the truth about Campaign 2000. He has seen the numbers too—but so what? He’ll pretend that all is well—that Gore could most certainly run.