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LET THEM EAT BOTOX! What’s on the mind of the insider press? Just read Sally Quinn’s striking essay:


TORN AND ABANDONED: Maybe they just don’t reed reel gud! In this morning’s Post, Lois Romano reviews the dispute about Bush’s service in the National Guard. The sub-headline says this:

WASHINGTON POST HEADLINE: Democrats Say President Shirked His Duty in 1972
But that’s not what Romano’s piece says. In her opening sentence, Romano refers to “a one-year gap in President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service”—a gap extending through May 1973. What is Romano’s account of the facts? “In 2000, the Boston Globe examined a period from May 1972 to May 1973 and found no record that Bush performed any Guard duties, either in Alabama or Houston,” she writes. According to Romano, “[t]he records indicate that Bush surfaced at the end of May 1973 and fulfilled point requirements 10 times between May 31 and July 30.” The headline cites 1972 alone. But that’s not what Romano’s piece says.

No, Post headline writers don’t reed reel gud. But let’s note a striking aspect of Romano’s account—her failure to say a single word about that important “torn document.”

Did Bush “surface at the end of May 1973,” after missing a full year of duty? That depends on how you interpret that famous torn document. In November 2000, the New York Times’ Jo Thomas gave this account of what the torn document showed:

THOMAS (11/3/00): A review by The Times showed that after a seven-month gap, [Bush] appeared for duty in late November 1972 at least through July 1973…

[Bush aide Dan] Bartlett pointed to a document in Mr. Bush’s military records that showed credit for four days of duty ending Nov. 29 and for eight days ending Dec. 14, 1972, and, after he moved back to Houston, on dates in January, April and May…

Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve been assured by those in the know that this passage does refer to the famous “torn document.” For those who want to look for themselves, the famous document is on display here.

Can the torn document be believed? Is Thomas’ reading of the document justified? As we noted yesterday, no name is visible on the doc except for a middle initial, W. Does Bush’s Social Security number appear on the document? According to those in the know, Bush’s custodian-of-documents, Albert Lloyd, Jr., says that it does—but the number is redacted (blacked out) before the document is sent to reporters. Does the torn document actually show that Bush “surfaced” for duty in November 1972? This story is much less significant if it does. But here at THE HOWLER, we have no real way to evaluate this seminal document. (We’re told that major writers who have researched the torn document will soon be presenting further thoughts.)

But note the problem with Romano’s account. Clearly, the Post has decided to ignore the torn document. But Romano doesn’t even mention the document’s existence—and she doesn’t say why the Post has decided to disregard it. Has the Post decided the doc is a fake? If so, that means that the Bush campaign has been peddling a fraud for the past four years. Or has the Post decided that the document is too ambiguous to be trusted? In that case, shouldn’t the Post at least tell readers that the famous torn document exists?

Romano’s piece extends the journalistic problem surrounding this matter. If you read the official account in the Times, you’re told that Bush “surfaced” in November 1972, and served with regularity after that. But if you read today’s account in the Post, you’re told something totally different—and you aren’t given the first clue as to why the accounts are so different.

In our view, this is miserable journalism. But then, when headline writers can’t reed reel gud—can’t even read an article’s first sentence—is it so surprising that these other problems continue to plague our public discourse? That this is the best the press can do after four years being AWOL themselves?

VISIT THEIR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: In October 2000, studied the torn document. You know what to do. Just click here.

LET THEM EAT BOTOX: How vacuous is your insider press corps? Good God! Just read Sally Quinn’s striking essay about the whole Judy Dean flap.

We’ll say this for Quinn—she doesn’t seem to share the view described in her fascinating essay. At the end of her piece, she scorns those who have worried about Howard Dean’s troubling wife. And as she starts, she seems to side with wives who aren’t merely adjuncts to their husbands. Indeed, the headline writer clearly felt that Quinn was siding with the Deans. “Judy Dean Didn’t Apply For This Job,” the headline says. But then, you know the problems those headline writers sometimes have at the Post.

Yes, Quinn does seem to side with the Deans against the harpies who have picked at their marriage. But in the heart of Quinn’s essay, she paints a vivid portrait of her insider class—and shows that cohort in all its inanity. What’s on the mind of Sally Quinn’s class? In paragraph 3, she starts tattling:

QUINN: [T]he example of Judith Steinberg Dean has struck an unprecedented nerve in this campaign, among both men and women. After the obligatory few minutes on weapons of mass destruction, this is what many people are talking about—talking, arguing, screaming, yelling, praising, deploring. It has once again raised the issue of a woman’s role in our society, not just the role of the wife of the president.
Readers, do you know a single person of whom this is true? More specifically, do you know a single person who was screaming or yelling about Howard Dean’s wife before Quinn’s class made her an issue? In this passage, Quinn does what the insider press loves to do—she lists her cohort’s vacant concerns and pretends that normal Americans share them. And as she continues, Quinn asserts that this issue ain’t going away:
QUINN: Regardless of how Howard Dean does in today’s primaries and in the next few weeks (and his prospects look fairly bleak), the Judy Dean issue is not going to go away. Because the Judy Dean issue is the issue of the future. Howard Dean broke all the rules by saying to the public not “Buy one, get one free,” but simply “Buy one.”
Good Lord! The issue of the future! Continuing on, Quinn helps us see how vacant her friends really are:
QUINN: The sad part for Dean was that his wife, once she appeared in interviews with him, was so different from what people had expected. Instead of a hard-nosed, strident feminist doctor with an independent agenda, she was soft, feminine, straightforward, funny, beguiling and clearly part of a loving relationship. It just wasn’t the kind of relationship that most people are used to seeing in the households of candidates.
Good grief! Who except Quinn’s addled class “expected” Dean’s wife to be “a hard-nosed, strident feminist doctor with an independent agenda?” (By the way: Do these sound like the fears of a “liberal” elite?) But Quinn’s cohort is empty all the way to the floor. Listen as Quinn lets us know this:
QUINN: I have friends who are upset about Judy Dean’s failure to watch her husband debate on television. Anyone who cares that little about her husband, they argue, doesn’t have a solid marriage and wouldn’t make a supportive first lady…Judy Dean’s hair and wardrobe were the focus of a lot of criticism as well.
Quinn’s friends are “upset” about Judy Dean’s failure! And yes, dear readers, these are the people who steward your vacuous national discourse. According to Quinn, they’re willing to spend a couple of minutes faking concern about WMD. Then, they move on to their real concerns; they start to talk about hairdos and wardrobe. They speculate—gossip—about the Deans’ marriage. And they love to pretend that their vacant concerns are the concerns of the people you know.

Quinn does a service when she shows us her class. But make no mistake—your discourse is run by this simpering cohort. And you know what they think about your concerns. Let them eat Botox, they have said.

MRS. FRUM AND MR. WILLIAMS: Who is so worried about Judy Dean’s hairdo? Just check Sunday’s Outlook section in the Washington Post. Presumably, Marjorie Williams could have written a column on any topic that concerned her. But what did Williams have on her mind? She was eager to mock Dean’s wife. “And then there was the role of Dr./Mrs./Judith/Judy/Steinberg/Dean,” she wrote at one point. Meow! Purr! Hiss-spit! Me-ow! As her cohort always does, Williams claimed that “the public” had pushed the Judy Dean issue—an issue which really had really been pushed by her own addled class:

WILLIAMS: A wife, it is said, provides a lens into the candidate’s character. She “humanizes” him (as well as serving as a punching bag for millions of people who will eventually express their contempt for her hair, her clothes, her teeth, her possession of any personality at all). It would have been politically foolish of Dean not to bow in the end to the public hunger for a glimpse of his wife. But he never acknowledged that he was abandoning the daring premise that a candidate for president should actually seem human all by himself.
But it wasn’t “the public” who “hungered” for Judy—it was the reigning harpies of Williams’ own class. Meanwhile, out on page one of the section, “Outlook” staged a five-person debate about this deeply troubling matter. Again and again, Kati Marton pretended that “the American people” had driven the Judy Dean flap:
MARTON: I believe, as I said before, that the American people assert themselves when they think that somebody strays too far from the narrow confines of our expectations. Howard Dean came up against that when he was seen as campaigning virtually as a bachelor…We do not elect a man because of his spouse, but it’s one of the components, one of the pieces of the picture that we judge them on. I think it’s a valid component, because after all, what more important decision do any of us make than that of a partner? So we’re not asking too much of the candidates in asking that they reveal this aspect of their lives to us.
According to Marton, it was really “the American people” who raised the question of Dean’s troubling marriage. Meanwhile, there was Danielle Crittenden, showing the depths of her cohort’s inanity:
CRITTENDEN: And we learn a great deal about a candidate’s character from his or her marriage. It doesn’t tell you everything, obviously—but it can tell you something…[O]ne of the questions raised by John Kerry’s marriage is why Teresa has never revised her pre-nup in order to allow him to use some of her millions to finance his campaign. Hey, I’m not saying it would be a prudent financial move. But if my husband were running for the highest office in the land—and I believed he was the man to save the country, and I thought it would be a kick to be first lady, etc.—and I had a few spare mil to squander, I’d loosen up the cash. But if Mrs. Kerry is not willing to put her money where her husband’s political mouth is, why should others?
Good lord! And heavens to Betsy! There’s simply no way to get dumber! Meanwhile, these people are perfectly scripted, of course. For example, Williams began with one of the spin-points prized by her simpering class:
WILLIAMS (pgh 1): Political history will probably say, in its determined shorthand, that Howard Dean lost his last chance at the Democratic nomination when he delivered his primal scream on the night of the Iowa caucuses. Footnotes will also record a series of impolitic remarks, little blunders, during his final weeks in the sun. But the truth is that Dean’s campaign was doomed from the day in December when he won the endorsement of former vice president Al Gore.
Of course! You know the law within this class. It always comes back to Al Gore!

By the way: Since we’re so concerned with marriages, just who are these simpering people? Marton was once Mrs. Peter Jennings. Crittenden is Mrs. David Frum. Williams is Mrs. Timothy Noah. And did you think ideology ruled this class? Two months ago, Noah himself posed Crittenden’s question. “If Teresa Heinz won’t trust presidential candidate John Kerry with her money,” he wondered, “why should American voters trust Kerry with their country?” Incomparably, we savaged this nonsense in real time (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/4/03). But this is the way these people think. This really is what they have on their minds. They care about hairdos, earth tones and Botox. They want your elections to be empty like them. If you doubt it, read Quinn’s striking essay.