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REVENGE OF THE 90s! Progressives hate the RNC—but love the RNC’s narratives: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2007

THERE HE GOES AGAIN: Let’s get it out of the way, saying “Ugh.” The AP’s Beth Fouhy reported part of what John Edwards said at yesterday’s AFSCME event:
FOUHY (2/21/07): Edwards, the party's 2004 vice presidential nominee, said it was time to begin a troop withdrawal. "I voted for this war. I was wrong to vote for this war. I should never have voted for this war. I take responsibility for that. No one else is responsible for it.”

He added, "But the truth is, if we want to live in a moral and just America, and we want America to be able to lead in a moral and just world, we need a leader who is honest, open and decent and trying to do the right thing."

Stephanopoulos asked Edwards moments later whether he had been referring to Clinton.

"Well, whether it's good enough I think it's between her and her conscience. It's not for me to judge," said the former North Carolina senator.
God, that’s awful. Here at THE HOWLER, we’re really starting to lose some respect for this guy.

What’s so bad about that statement? Just this: It’s A-OK—in fact, it’s important—for Democratic candidates to challenge each other on matters of policy. But when one Big Dem keeps making insinuations about another Big Dem’s lack of character, that’s the type of conduct that can lead to a president named McCain/Giuliani. As we have noted, this is what Bill Bradley did to Gore, quite disgracefully, during the 2000 primaries (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/8/07). Bradley called Gore a liar—and his statements were repeated, by pundits and Republicans alike, all through the general campaign.

Are you happy with the results you got from that election?

Here’s our view: If one Dem is going to make insinuations about another Democrat’s lack of character, he’d better have a pretty strong reason to do so. And that’s why we find Edwards’ insinuations especially grating—because it is so blindingly obvious that he himself hasn’t been fully truthful about his past stance on the war resolution. “We need a leader who is honest, open,” he says. But as we’ve noted, his recent statements to Tim Russert on this subject were just baldly, plainly bogus (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/19/07). You might believe what Edwards told Russert—if you’re six years old.

We don’t fault Edwards for misstating to Russert. Most likely, he couldn’t have told the real truth. Most likely, this is what he would have been forced to say—this, or something like it:
EDWARDS TO RUSSERT, ON SERUM: I had doubts about my vote on the war resolution, but I decided to cast the safe political vote, knowing I might be running for president. Then, during the 2004 general election, “Shrummy” decided that John Kerry and I should say that we would have voted for the resolution even knowing there were no WMD! Good God! I knew that stance was absurd, but I had to go along with the campaign’s decision. [Note: We’d agree with that.] After that, I knew I couldn’t reverse myself too quickly, so I waited until 11/05 to write my op-ed piece in the Post, saying that I had cast the wrong vote. And now, of course, I’m telling you—and everyone else— that I didn’t have a chance, until 2005, to rethink that vote from 2002. Obviously, that’s total bullsh*t. But what else can I tell you?
We don’t fault Edwards for his statements to Russert. Politically, you simply can’t say that you mouthed cant during Campaign 04 because Kerry and Shrummy told you told to do it. So Edwards said something that’s patently bogus—and Russert didn’t challenge him on it. Despite that, he keeps parading about the countryside making insinuations about Clinton’s honesty—and we still have a year to go in the primaries! By the end of the 2000 primaries, Bradley was flat-out calling Gore a big liar. Are you happy with the result you got from that brilliant move?

But then, this leads us to The Big Question—the Question which lingers from the 90s. Are the Clintons the world’s biggest liars? It’s time for liberals to decide:

THE REVENGE OF THE 90's: Luckily for the average American, Arianna is always there to tell us who the Biggest Liars are. Yesterday, in several posts, she directly affirmed David Geffen’s statement on the subject. So you’ll remember, here’s what the insightful mogul had said about Bill and Hillary Clinton:
GEFFEN: Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling.
Arianna directly affirmed this statement. Luckily, she’s always willing to name the Biggest Liars.

Of course, Arianna managed to spot the Big Liar in 1999 too. Just so you’ll recall how brilliant she was, let’s revisit her deathless wisdom—the wisdom which sent George Bush to the White House. But please—hide the eyes of the children and pets! Here’s what the sooth-saying savant once said, in her nationally syndicated column:
HUFFINGTON (2/6/00): [Bill] Bradley has warned voters to watch for Mr. Gore's "tricky" way with words, going as far as to compare him with Richard Nixon...In fact, not only this campaign but Mr. Gore's entire career has been laden with untruths—all demonstrating a pattern of serial abuse of language, truth and reality.

He invented the Internet, discovered Love Canal and was the inspiration for "Love Story." He lives on a farm, was “always pro-choice” and claimed that, "unlike Sen. Bradley," he had co-sponsored the original McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill—even though Mr. Feingold was not elected to the Senate until Mr. Gore had already left to become vice president.

Good God, that’s awful! “Gore's entire career has been laden with untruths.” Back then, Gore was the world’s Biggest Liar. Today, Arianna keeps busy by kissing Gore’s ass—and she now says that it’s really the Clintons! The Clintons are really the world’s Biggest Liars! As always, Arianna is there.

We say this to note an obvious point—yesterday was “Revenge of the 90's.” Suddenly, thanks to Geffen and Dowd, that decade’s top story-lines were back—and Arianna ran to affirm them. As a result, Democrats and liberals face a Big Question: Do we believe that decade’s prime narratives? Do we believe that Bill Clinton was a Big Liar? Do we believe it about Hillary?

For ourselves, we’ll have to say no; no, we don’t believe that. We don’t believe that President Clinton displayed himself to be a Big Liar; nor did we ever find this was true about Big Liar Gore. At THE HOWLER, we don’t believe that decade’s prime tales because we endlessly checked them out. We endlessly checked the claims against Clinton, and we endlessly found that the claims were just bogus. These tales were largely political inventions, ginned up by the RNC and pimped by its handmaidens in the mass media. Some of those handmaidens knew they were lying. Many were simply butt-stupid.

One example: No, Bill Clinton wasn’t lying when he said, for two solid years, that the Republican congress was proposing “cuts” in the Medicare program. (Indeed, Clinton described his own proposal for the program as a “cut.”) We spent a lot of time exploring that topic—it was one of topics which led to THE HOWLER. And we found that Clinton was much more truthful than the gang of Republican flunkies and hacks who trained themselves, with self-imposed fines, to use new, unfamiliar, focus-grouped language on this subject—language which had been chosen specifically because it misled the average American (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/20/99). But so what? A powerful Spin Machine was in place, and the nation’s “press corps” had purchased it whole. No, Clinton wasn’t lying about those “cuts.” But you were told that he was. For two years.

And yes, we kept getting the same results when we checked the claims about Big Liar Gore. No, he hadn’t said he invented the Internet (or inspired Love Story; or discovered Love Canal), and the things he had said were completely unremarkable. But a Deception Machine was now in place, and the Ariannas bought their story-lines from it. She disgraced herself in 1999 and 2000, indeed, in 1999, she couldn’t even manage to count up the buttons on Gore’s troubling suits. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/19/05. Cover the eyes of the children.) Result? George Bush sits inside the White House—and Arianna is sooo upset by all the bad things he has done.

So yesterday was The Revenge of the 90's. It’s mightiest themes were back in place, thrilling a nation of pundits again. But before we note the saddest of facts—the fact that many liberals still believe these great themes—let’s note the way a (truly) dazzling Democrat also promoted the package.

OBAMA, MAN OF THE 90's: Good God! We’ve been seeing Obama described as “The Change!” But how seductive are the themes of the 90's—the nasty themes dreamed up by the RNC’s gang of thugs and dissemblers? Yesterday, a dazzling young Democrat vouched for an iconic old RNC charge:

OBAMA CAMPAIGN (2/21/07): We aren’t going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters. It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Good God! That came from Robert Gibbs, of Obama’s campaign. The idiot Dowd had cited the Lincoln, three separate times, in her column about Geffen’s comments. Now, Obama—and truly, his book is just dazzling—was pimping this stale bullsh*t too.

In many ways, the Lincoln Bedroom was the 1990’s prime pseudo-scandal. We spent a lot of time on the Bedroom too; it was the second major topic which led us to start up THE HOWLER. And what did we find when we worked on this story? Fairly ordinary political behavior by the Clintons—and bald-faced lying by the Washington press corps! People! Who were the 90s’ Biggest Liars! You’ll never hear it from Arianna. But the Biggest Liars were the pundits themselves—and Arianna keeps pimping their tales.

By the time we got THE HOWLER started, Miss Lewinsky had replaced the Lincoln Bedroom. We finally posted the facts in 2005, when USA Today’s Judy Keen reported an intriguing story (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/16/05). Keen’s story? The pattern of Bush’s overnight guests was much like that which obtained with the Clintons! But you know the rules! (Or maybe you don’t.) In the 1990s, this story was beaten within an inch of its life—when the target was the vile Clintons. When it tuned out that Bush had a similar pattern, no pundit said two words about it.

But so it has gone, throughout an era which sold you on Bill Clinton’s “lies.”

Today, we strongly advise you to click that link to May 05, and read about this prime pseudo-scandal. Again, here’s what you’ll be reading about: Fairly routine political conduct—and outright misconduct on the part of the press corps! But that was the shape of the 1990's—although many of our fiery “progressives” still don’t seem to know it.

We know, we know! We say that we hate the corporate media—but God almighty, how we love their Big Narratives! Inevitably, their stories will worm their way into our heads, and we often don’t even know how they got there; even as we denounce these media, we end up repeating their tales! For ourselves, we especially see this at Arianna’s site, where so many commenters have bogus ideas about the conduct of Campaign 2000, for example. (We tend to read HuffPo comment threads about Gore.) They think Al Gore didn’t fight in Florida, for example. And how did that notion get into their heads? Largely, it came from Jeffrey Toobin’s extremely odd book, Too Close to Call. Jeffrey Toobin? Oh yeah—of the corporate media! Even as we progressives denounce this monster, we recite its members’ odd tales.

So there you have it—The Revenge of the 90's! Even in the age of Bush and Cheney, Geffen and Arianna are now insisting that nobody lies quite like the Clintons! (Could you possibly get more clueless?) And the campaign of a truly dazzling new Democrat recycled that old Lincoln Bedroom tale. Good God! Among other things, the press corps even counted Chelsea’s friends as scandalous “overnight guests”—and our brightest new Democrat bought it!

Can we tell you a dirty secret? We progressives don’t play this game very well. We thunder about that corporate media. But we’ve heard their tales again and again, and we’re often too weak and too dumb to resist them. Inside their board rooms, fixers laugh hard as they watch their tales pop from our heads.

HEAVEN CAN WAIT: One more note about Geffen’s comment concerning Hillary Clinton’s “ambition.” For a portrait of a tragically dim-witted age, it really is hard to top this one:
DOWD (2/21/07): Hillary is not David Geffen's dreamgirl.

''Whoever is the nominee is going to win, so the stakes are very high,'' says Mr. Geffen, the Hollywood mogul and sultan of ''Dreamgirls,'' as he sits by a crackling fire beneath a Jasper Johns flag and a matched pair of de Koonings in the house that Jack Warner built (which old-time Hollywood stars joked was the house that God would have built). ''Not since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I don't think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is—and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton?—can bring the country together.
“Is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton?” How does warm flesh get this dumb?

Is anybody more ambitious? We’ll make a nomination—how about Bill Clinton? You may recall the story-line here. At the time when the Clintons married, Hillary Clinton walked away from a budding, star-level career to live in the wilds of darkest Arkansas. Her friends, amazed, begged her not to go. But she went there—in support of her husband.

We’re perfectly glad that she did what she did. And we’re glad that her husband staged his brilliant career. (On balance, we hugely admire her husband. And no, he hasn’t been a Big Liar.) But isn’t it amazing? Only from the mind of a pure sexist b*stard could such a foolish claim emerge. Imagine! When the woman finally gets her turn—at age 59!— she is the world’s most ambitious person! Chris Matthews made a fool of himself pimping this narrative when she ran for the Senate, and Geffen is eager to pimp it again. (So is Dowd, an inveterate woman-hater.) But then, Geffen’s just a burned-out music promoter. Or maybe you’ve been to his films.

What a world we live in today! It’s a world where Geffen thinks the woman should wait until she’s—how old, David? Eighty?

TOMORROW—REVISED SCHEDULE: As we hope for Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar, we’ll show you how the New York Times mocked Gore’s brilliant work on global warming. Kakutani was troubled by his “loony asides.” This was back in the 90's, of course.