Tomorrow: Spellings and Fisher and high expectations. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/14/09.
Gail Collins can take a joke: Man [sic] is the rational animal, Aristotle is constantly quoted saying. Sorry! He hadnt encountered the Lady Gail Collins, or the rest of your upper-end press corps.
This morning, Collins is typing away in the Times about Bushs final press conference. Bush said some shaky things this Mondayalthough we think its pretty silly when journalists ask big politicians to list their biggest mistakes. But Lady Collins improved the world, typing this consummate howler:
COLLINS (1/15/09): So far, the Bush farewell appearances have not drawn a lot of rave reviews...A Gallup poll did find that his approval rating had risen slightly since they began, but this was probably due to enthusiasm for the part about his going away.
Sometimes you misunderestimated me, Bush told the Washington press corps. This is not the first time our president has worried about misunderestimation, so its fair to regard this not as a slip of the tongue, but as something the president of the United States thinks is a word. The rhetoric is the one part of the administration were surely going to miss. We are about to enter a world in which our commander in chief speaks in full sentences, and I do not know what were going to do to divert ourselves on slow days.
Poor Lady Collins! She doesnt know how shell divert herself from all the coming boredom. But unless the lady is utterly clueless, she knew exactly what to do with Bushs last press conference. She knew how she could divert herself. She did so by misinforming readers about what Bush actually said.
Yes, Bush voiced the quoted words at Mondays eventbut he was clearly making a joke. But so what? Like many in her palace cohort, Lady Collins knows exactly howand whereto take so helpful a joke. Today, her readers are told that there are two ways to interpret Bushs remark about being misunderestimated. It may have been a slip of the tongue, she says. More likely, he thinks thats a word.
Can Collins actually be that dumb? Or is she simply lying again? Good God! Even Milbank said Bush was just joking. Heres his account of this moment:
MILBANK (1/13/09): The president seemed nostalgic and even wistful at times, and he tried to strike up the banter he enjoyed with the press corps when the economy was booming and the wars were going well. "Just seemed like yesterday that I was on the campaign trail," he began, with a tease: "Sometimes you misunderestimated me."
How obvious was it that Bush had been joking? The Associated Press filed a report which was headlined, Bush jokes during last press conference. The first example of Bushs jokes was his misunderestimated remark.
So typical. Bush told a joke at his final conferenceand Lady Collins knew just how to take it. She turned it into her latest eye-roll. This conduct strikes us as significant, for a couple of reasons.
First, weve long warned you about this type of misconduct, in which journalists pretend that a disfavored pols joke is really a serious statement. As you may recall, one such incident helped change the world back in September 2000. Al Gore joked about that union lullaby, telling a joke hed told in the past. But your press corps knew just how to play it! They pretended that Gore had been lying again, not just about that lullaby but about those troubling doggy pills too! At that point, Gore had led in the polls for almost a month. Quickly, he fell back behind.
Youd think that scribes would learn from such errors. Indeed, as she closes this mornings column, Collins seems to weep and wail about the fact that Bush reached the White House instead of the more capable Gore. In fact, Bush bumped back ahead in the polls when Collins gang played its silly trick. But so what? This morning, the lady is at it again, turning a joke to an eye-roll.
And yes, the lady played a role in the two-year trashing of Candidate Gore. We think her column from October 1999 was one of the worst of the whole campaignand thats really saying something. But ladies like Collins primp and play, treating their readers like consummate fools. This Monday, Bush said some things that might be worth discussingthough we think its pretty silly when pols are asked to list their mistakes. But apparently, Bushs real statements werent clownish enough. So Collins invented another.
Could Collins really be that dumb? Or is the lady lying again? Man is the rational animal, Aristotle said. Dude was wrong on several countson none more clearly than this.
Not to mention Kevin and Steve: Then there were the twinned posts, by Benen and Drum, about something else Bush said at the presser. Within a half-hour of each either, each dude debunked the following statement. We present it as quoted by Steve:
BUSH (1/12/09): I believe that running the Social Security idea right after the '04 elections was a mistake. I should have argued for immigration reform. And the reason why is, is thatyou know, one of the lessons I learned as governor of Texas, by the way, is legislative branches tend to be risk-adverse. In other words, sometimes legislatures have the tendency to ask, why should I take on a hard task when a crisis is not imminent? And the crisis was not imminent for Social Security as far as many members of Congress was concerned.
As an aside, one thing I proved is that you can actually campaign on the issue and get elected. In other words, I don't believe talking about Social Security is the third rail of American politics.
Steve and Kevin both noted that Bush hadnt campaigned on Social Security. Heres how Steve debunked Bushs blunder. Kevin said much the same thing:
BENEN (1/13/09): Putting the merit of the argument aside, I think I understand what Bush is trying to say herehe regrets having pursued privatization because it couldn't pass, but he's glad he proved that a candidate can run on privatization and still win a national election.
Except, he didn't. The 2004 race was four whole years ago, but it's recent enough to know that Bush did not "campaign on" his Social Security scheme.
Inconsolably, the analysts hurled themselves onto their beanbag chairs, hung their heads and cried.
No, Bush didnt campaign on privatization in Campaign 04. But he did campaign on the issuequite extensivelyduring Campaign 2000. Duh! It was a major part of the spring 2000 campaign; it dominated the month of May, as Bush began to seize control of the polls for the general election. And by the way: Amid endless talk about Bushs bold leadership, the issue polled quite favorably for Bush. We asked John Zogby about this matter at the GOP convention that summer; he told us that privatization had polled favorably for years, as long as you voiced a few disclaimersdisclaimers Bush constantly offered. But never mind! Kevin said this about that this week: If he had campaigned on it, he either would have learned quickly what a loser his privatization plan was or else ginned up some support for it. Sorrythats just totally wrong. The press corps praised Bush for running that wayand the issue polled quite well. (The politics changed in 2005 for reasons we all could explore.)
Why did the analysts hurl themselves onto their rugs and sob so loudly? Because weve endlessly examined this episode, in some detail, here at THE DAILY HOWLER (link below). Why have we stressed this topic so much? Because the episode showed so much about the way the mainstream press corps was functioning by the end of the Clinton years. What happened when Bush proposed privatization? Duh! He was widely praised for his brilliant bold leadership by conservative and mainstream pundits alike; Gore was trashed within an inch of his life for daring oppose such a plan. Good God! We must have linked a hundred times to the remarkable colloquy between Tim Russert and Joe Klein, in which they flayed Gore for his troubling conduct in opposing Bushs wonderful plan. Weve discussed this again and again and again, quoting a long string of major scribes (David Gergen! Ohourgod!)but Steve and Kevin were utterly clueless about this major episode. Not completely unlike Lady Collins, they rushed to say how silly Bush was for having made such a dumb statement.
Sorry. Bush did campaign on privatization, quite extensivelyand the episode was profoundly instructive. As weve noted, the press corps made virtually no attempt to examine the problems with Bushs proposal. Instead, they used the issue as they were using all issues by that timeas another chance to promote the novel they were writing about Gores troubling character. (In 1995 and 1996, they had used the Medicare debate the same wayas a chance to show what a big liar Bill Clinton was, even though Clinton was being much more truthful than his Republican foes. But so what? Career liberals sat on their asses then too. Only Al Franken explained it.) This was a deeply instructive set of eventsand, of course, the episode gained renewed relevance when Bush acted on his proposal at the start of his second term. In our view, it would have been surprising if Kevin and Steve didnt know about this episode, even if wed never mentioned it. But weve described these events in endless detail. Result? Of course! What else in this world? On your side, your intellectual leaders remain completely clueless.
Why were the analysts crying so hard? For years, weve used the word ineducable in discussing modern career liberals with them. More specifically, wed said that such liberals seem ineducable when it comes to the work of the mainstream press. For years, the analysts insisted that we were wrong when we said such things about nominal allies. This week, the analysts cried and cried. Their error had now become clear.
Sorry. In 2000, Bush did show that you could run and win on privatization. (Sorryyou could run and come close. Though were not sure a pol could do so again.) More importantly, he showed the bedrock corruption afflicting your mainstream press corps by that time. But weve told you something for many yearsyou simply cant make career liberal pundits tell the truth about the mainstream press. Something keeps their minds from closing around the real facts of the world.
By the way:
In fairness, it may have been an unthinking comment. But Kevin also made the following remark this week, in a post concerning Bushs road to the White House: To this day I don't understand how such a manifestly unqualified candidate got either nominated or elected in the first place. Good God! Again, that may just be a throw-away commentand yet, the weird remark was put into print, and many young liberals were misled again. To this day, one of their intellectual leaders simply cant grasp how Bush got there. How did such a man reach the White House? The whole thing remains a major mystery. Perhaps historians will figure it out. Kevin has no idea.
Perhaps Kevin just made an unthinking comment. But we do understand how Bush got where he isand weve explained it again and again, for years. But as weve long told you: During the age of the Clintons and Gore, career liberals agreed that they wouldnt tell you the truth about the work of the mainstream press corps. Weve been scolded for saying such things. Maybe Atrios can rise before noon this day and explain why such things still get said.
Atrios! Well ask you directly, as with Rappiccini! Please tell us why our nominal allies still make such remarkable statements!
Visit our thoroughly waste-of-time archives: Sorry. Bush did campaign on privatization, quite extensively. For one account of this key episode, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/30/06 (scroll down). Other accounts litter our work through the years. But so what? Your big smart bright leaders still havent heard about the way we all got to this place. You cant make these blocks of stone tell you the truth about Gore and George Bush. If you live to age 100, they simply arent going to do it.