Ah yes, Campaign 2000! As we read Anne Kornbluts absurd report in the Washington Post about the Clinton health care event, we recalled the way Candidate Bush was covered in similar settings. In 1999, the Texan staged frequent events with children, just as Clinton did this Sunday. But omigod! The way these respective events got covered gives us a bit of a look at the soul of the modern press.
How does your modern press corps work? Consider the way Candidate Bush was covered when he staged events with kids—and compare it to the treatment dished out this week to Candidate Clinton.
On Sunday, Clinton went to a New York City health clinic—and Kornblut reported the event in the Post. If you read deep down in her piece, you finally learned why Clinton was there. Clinton announced that she and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) will sponsor legislation to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program to include more middle-class families, Kornblut wrote. But uh-oh! You had to read to paragraph 16 (out of 20) to get that scrap of information. At the start of her piece, Kornblut had used her vast analytical skills for a vastly different purpose. Mind-reading brilliantly, she told us what Clinton was trying to signal this day:
KORNBLUT: Instead of campaign rhetoric, Clinton focused on the specific theme of health care for children, locking hands with a little girl who joined her onstage. In so doing, she signaled that she will use her uniqueness as a woman—and more specifically as a mother—to stake out her ground in the crowded presidential field at a time when Democrats across the board are putting children at the center of their imagery and message.That statement is spectacularly silly, as will perhaps become more clear. Sad, then, to see Mickey Kaus approvingly quote this brainless mind-reading. Its not clear that Mommyism is the best antidote to Hillarys image as a scold, the K-man dumbly wrote. But so it went when one major Dem showed up in a roomful of kids.
APPLE (8/21/99): Nobody would ever mistake him for Vice President Gore.Hiss-spit! Mee-ow!! And that was Apples entire third paragraph! Once again, the New York Times was showing the world its vile, pervasive liberal bias! One week later, Frank Bruni took over the Bush beat at the Times—and the fawning to Bush really started.
APPLE (8/21/99): His style is an amalgam of East and Southwest, Yale and the oil patch. Call him the Madras Cowboy.Ironic, isnt it? That such wanton pandering had been occasioned by the press corps alleged aversion to blow jobs? But so it went as Apple pandered about Bushs vast brilliance with kids. And no. No one used that exchange about twins to type the idiot sentence weve offered above. No one composed such dumb-ass thoughts about what Bush was signaling.
Watch him with a classroom full of second graders in Jefferson Parish, near New Orleans. After a relaxed discussion of how caterpillars turn into butterflies, a youngster asked him why the sun had a smiling face. Beats me, the Governor replied; why does the chicken cross the road? Well, his interlocutor said, the cow crosses the road to go to the mooovies.
Good television, of course, but something more as well: it gave the Governor a chance to promote the school, Jefferson Elementary, as a prime example of the kind of public-private partnership he wants to see more of—in this case, Lockheed Martin and Shell Oil helping a school set up a computer laboratory and Internet connections.
Watch him, again, reading with a group of mostly black inner-city 6- and 7-year-olds at the West End Center for Youth here. When "hop" and "top" sound the same, Mr. Bush asked, what's that called?
I have two daughters the same age, he said, his hands resting on the shoulder of a tiny child with red and yellow pony-tail holders braided into her hair; what are they called?
He told them that his dog, Spot, had been born in the White House, and assured them that, no, he had not arrived in Roanoke by limousine.
By the time he finished, Mr. Bush had worked in a pair of plugs: one for reading as the key to the American Dream, another for more Federal aid to after-school facilities wholly or partly sponsored by church groups, as is the West End Center.
Then he stopped for a chat on the playground with some older youths, and as he walked back to his van, Sam Sapp, lanky and 13, walked with him, an arm draped fraternally across the Governor's shoulder.
KORNBLUT (1/22/07): Arriving at Sunday's event more than half an hour later than planned, Clinton was, for all her understatedness, met with an explosion of flashbulbs and a crowd of bewildered families who had been invited to meet her.Good God! Clinton was late. The room was too hot. The families were bewildered. The photographers were corralled (and irritated). Invited guests were forced to stand—and, of course, the children were crying. If you dont yet understand such imagery yet, we havent worked with you long enough. Simple story: Apple was trying to pander to Bush. Kornblut was taking down Clinton.
Dozens of camera crews crammed the back of the overheated room. Japanese broadcasters did live shots from the crowd. Secret Service agents kept close watch as staff members corralled irritated photographers in a pen. Frantic members of the health center's staff tried to make room for the invited guests, who were pressed against the walls without seats. Small children squirmed and cried.
CHUMMY PUNCHES ON THE ARM: In 1999, the mainstream press corps had lost its mind over Bill Clintons troubling blow jobs—and they were aggressively punishing Gore, his utterly vile vice president. As part of the deal, they gushed over Bush. Heres more of the consummate nonsense as Apple praised Bushs skills on the stump. Yes, this appeared in the Times:
APPLE (8/21/99): Nothing seemed to faze Mr. Bush in the slightest as he moved slowly past market stalls stacked high with peaches, pole beans, Japanese eggplants and Silver Queen corn, the bounty of late summer in the Virginia Piedmont. After he had spent more than an hour shaking hands, posing for photographs, chatting about the military and the local museum and the weather, kissing a baby swathed in pink (and a grandmother or two as well), complimenting Gina Thomas on her "good-looking" family of four children and signing a lot of autographs, a man handed him a $100 bill and asked him to sign that.Bush gave the man a chummy punch on the arm—and Apple gave a string of such punches to Bush. Things were very different, of course, when Apple did his corresponding profile of Gore. Once again, youll have to trust us. Yes, this appeared in the Times:
"You must be doing pretty darn well," Mr. Bush said.
"Not as well as you and your father," the man replied, and the Governor, laughing, gave him a chummy punch on the upper arm.
APPLE (10/11/99): Mr. Gore learned a certain rural Southern reticence from his father, who preceded him as a senator from Tennessee...Now, he says, he is trying to "let it all hang out." The very phrase sounds unnatural coming from a man whose shoes are always polished, whose hair is always combed, whose shirts and suits are always crisply pressed. All? He doesn't even let his shirt-tail hang out.Isnt that astounding? Surely, Gore became the first White House hopeful criticized for combing his hair! But no, there were no chummy punches as Apple punished Clintons vice president. This consummate nonsense went on—and on—until they had Bush in the White House.