DAY FOR NIGHT! In the 90s, Kakutani made him a loon. On Sunday, Gores work may be honored: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2007
YOURE RIDING WITH LIMBAUGH: Two letters in todays New York Times deserve comment. In one, the head of Eleanors Legacy comments on David Geffens ambition—and his absurd double standards:
LETTER TO NEW YORK TIMES: [Marse] Geffens description of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as ambitious is not intended as a commendation but rather as an insult.Yep! Ole Massah sees things a whole nother way when a womans ambition is involved. And dont forget—Geffen didnt devote 25 years to a partners ambition before he embarked on his own.
The second letter brings us back to the other question we talked about yesterday. A staunch Democrat from California explains why he doesnt back Clinton:
LETTER TO NEW YORK TIMES: For months now, my Bill Clinton-loving friends have been asking me: As a staunch Democrat and an avowed feminist, how can you possibly not support Hillary?The writer is troubled by all of Clintons political baggage— but doesnt explain what that baggage is. We cant say what the writer has in mind, of course. But in large part, when writers talk about Clintons polarizing nature or baggage, theyre referring to the lies that were told about her all through the 90's. Rush Limbaugh implied that she murdered her friend, Vince Foster. So we cant vote her her now.
Why is Clinton so polarizing? Not so much because of anything she did; she is polarizing because many Americans have (understandably) bought the remarkable packages of lies they have heard about her since 1992. Did you know that Clinton is a murderer, for example? In 1999, voters heard that for a half-hour on the egregious show Hardball, then for an hour on Hannity & Colmes. And they read all that sh*t about the Lincoln Bedroom—not realizing that the Clintons were being criticized, in part, for letting their teen-age daughter have slumber parties.
We dont know what the letter-writer meant when he said that Clinton has a whole lot of baggage. But many staunch Democrats are secretly saying this: Rush lied about Clinton, year after year. Wed better defer to his mandates.
Of course, a Dem voter might prefer Obama or Edwards for perfectly valid reasons. But as we said yesterday, a question has now been joined: Do we believe the things that were said about the Clintons all through the 1990s? In their secret, inner souls, many staunch Democrats secretly do. Omigod! They believe the things that Limbaugh said. Theyre searching about for someone else. As they do so, theyre riding with Limbaugh.
HER MASTERS VOICE: No one does it better than Robinson! In this mornings Post, the hapless columnist goes where many others have gone. But in the use of one perfect phrase, he brings the whole thing into focus:
ROBINSON (2/23/07): Hillary Clinton's rivals would love to paint her as inflexible, programmed, focus-grouped within an inch of her life and intent on bringing nothing less than a full-fledged Clinton Restoration to the White House. So why is she sitting for the portrait?In other words, Robinson says, Clinton opposes the war but defends her vote to enable it. Its his use of that first phrase—in other words—that makes his piece so delish.
Its true—at that Dem forum in Nevada, Clinton didnt offer an apology for her vote. But Clinton has said, again and again, that she would have voted the other way if shed known then what we all know now. She started saying this in 2004, and shes been saying it ever since. But there is no sign of this in Robinsons column—none at all. You never get to hear what Clinton has said. You get to hear other words—his.
Robinson devotes most of his column to the question of Clintons stand on her vote. But like Paul Krugman in Mondays Times, he never quotes a single thing Clinton has said on the subject. Instantly, readers are told that Clinton defends her vote; later, theyre told that she is [r]efusing to apologize, or even to admit making a mistake. But theyre never told what Clinton has actually said. We only hear other word—his.
This is astoundingly bad journalism. And yet, reporters and columnists have persisted in this remarkable practice—have persisted in giving their own accounts of what Clinton has said, while deep-sixing the things she has actually said. Last week, we saw—through the bungled work of two liberal bloggers—how misinformed a voter can get from reading this kind of pseudo-journalism. Today, Robinson—and some hapless editor—hand us this practice again.
But you know how these journalists are! They love the sound of their own brilliant voices. So they offer you other words—theirs!
YOUR NATIONS FUTURE IS HIGHLY ENTERTAINING: Go ahead—reread Robinsons sentence about Geffen. The quarrel is delicious, he says—entertaining. Once again, we see the soul of a fatuous, overpaid cohort. Long ago, Margaret Carlson explained the culture of these Antoinettes to Don Imus. You know what to do—just click here.
Special report: Global dumbing!
PART 2—DAY FOR NIGHT: According to the New York Times A. O. Scott, Davis Guggenheim is favored to win the Academy Award in the documentary feature category on Sunday night. Here at THE HOWLER, we hope he does; the honor would represent a bit of justice for Al Gore, whose slide show about global warming is the subject of Guggenheims film. An Inconvenient Truth is the third-biggest grossing documentary film of all time—by far, the biggest on such a technical subject. The acclaim that Guggenheims film has received has helped us understand a key point: Al Gore was right—he was right all along—in his work about global warming.
At one time, there was little doubt about the brilliance of Gores work. His best-selling book, Earth in the Balance, was published in early 1992; when it came out, reviews hailed Gore for his brilliant work on so taxing a subject. The New York Times is our paper-of-record. Environmental writer Gina Maranto began her review saying this:
MARANTO (2/9/92): During his 15-year tenure in Congress, Senator Al Gore, Democrat of Tennessee, has made an intensive study of environmental issues. The results, as displayed in "Earth in the Balance, a comprehensive assessment of the forces of planetary destruction—including overpopulation, deforestation, soil erosion and air and water pollution—are impressive.At the Washington Post, reviewer Dennis Drabelle voiced a similar judgment. I can't judge how well the junior senator from Tennessee serves his constituents, he wrote, but if there lives a member of Congress who knows more about the environment, he or she isn't talking, much less writing. But then, except for the kooks at the Washington Times, no one really doubted the service Gore had provided by his display of erudition. Earth in the Balance contains a great deal of valuable, clearly explained scientific information on issues as diverse as atmospheric chemistry, demographics, rain forest hydrology and chaos theory, Phillip Shabecoff wrote in Greenwire. It is no insult to other national politicians, bedeviled as they are by the almost endless range of issues with which they
are forced to deal, to say that few of them could have authored a book as erudite and intensely written as Senator Gore's effort. In the Christian Science Monitor, environmental writer Brad Knickerbocker described Gores remarkable book:
KNICKERBOCKER (2/27/92): Whenever a politician writes a book, watch out for the hidden hand of a ghost writer. Or a sermonette designed to scare or pacify the voters rather than inspire or fully inform them. Or a cleverly timed election agenda. Usually all three.Driven along by review like these, Gores book was soon a surprise best-seller. In March, Roll Call reported the books emergence—and reporter Marc Horwitz quoted Gore, who spoke of his whole heart and soul:
HORWITZ (3/16/92): While it's not unusual for a sitting Member of Congress to have a book published, it is unusual for a Member's book to hit the New York Times Book Review's best-seller list. That's what Earth in the Balance, Sen. Al Gore's first book, has done.In those days, the political culture of the 1990s hadnt gotten underway yet. Gore could still discuss his heart and soul without being subject to endless ridicule from the vast collection of vampires and harpies who would soon descend on our lives and our interests. "My greatest hope for this book is that it will help to accelerate the formation of a political consensus in favor of solving this ecological crisis," Gore was quoted saying by Horwitz. "In order to address this crisis, we have to address some ultimate questions."
Years later, those questions have not been addressed. This Sunday, though, we may see Gore honored—through Guggenheims Oscar—for the accuracy of his original insights. But then, everyone knew, back in 1992, about the importance of Gores work. Its amazing today to read Earth in the Balance—to see how many frameworks from Guggenheims film were already there in the earlier book. When you see Davis Guggenheims film, you are seeing a slightly updated version of that much earlier work.
Everyone knew about Earth in the Balance. Everyone knew that Earth contain[ed] a great deal of valuable, clearly explained scientific information combined with a strong thread of values and ethics. But soon thereafter, the 90s began—and as Hemingway self-pityingly said, the rich came into our lives. Their interests were driven along by their simpering tribunes—and by their hatred for the Clintons. By 1999, they were using their loathsome TV news programs to say that the Clintons were multiple murderers. And they were using their vicious book reviewers to say that Al Gore was a nut. At the Times, Gores results were no longer impressive. Their most damaged concubine, Maureen Dowd, was in the midst of her series of columns in which she portrayed Gore (a little crazy) conducting conversations with his bald spot. (There were six such crackpot columns in all.) And then, in December, Michiko Kakutani took over. My, how different Gores book now seemed—on page one of the debauched New York Times.
KAKUTANI (11/22/99): Vice President Al Gore emerges from "Earth in the Balance" (Plume), his 1992 book about the environment, as the quintessential A-student who has belatedly discovered New Age psychobabble. Like his speeches, his book veers between detailed policy assessments (predictably illustrated with lots of charts and graphs) and high-decibel outbursts of passion, between energetically researched historical disquisitions and loony asides about "inner ecology" and "spiritual triangulation"—asides that may help explain his curious affinity with his feminist consultant, Naomi Wolf.Bizarre. At that point, Kakutani moved on to John McCains Faith of Our Fathers. Its style...is decidedly more free-wheeling and heartfelt, she instantly said.
Lets give Kakutani credit for this; she did manage to describe Earth in the Balance as a book about the environment. And she said it was published in 1992, a statement which was accurate. Beyond that, Times readers werent going to learn a whole lot about Gores actual book this day. For example, what did it say about the environment? As well see, Kakutani devotes one half-hearted half-sentence to that, considerably later in her report. But this opening portrait evades such concerns. Instead, she dis what she dis throughout her review. She portrayed Al Gore as a nut.
What do we read about in her first paragraph? Were told about Gores psychobabble—about his outbursts and loony asides, loony asides which may help explain his curious affinity for Naomi Wolf. (In the next paragraph, were told about the books strangely mechanistic images.) Of course, Wolf had nothing to do with Earth in the Balance, not in any way whatever. But this report appeared in November 1999—and that was the month when Kakutanis cohort had devoted itself to smutty, inane, runaway slimings of Gore and his feminist adviser. Was there something curious about Gores affinity for Wolf—who had herself written three best-sellers, two of them chosen by the New York Times as Notable Books of the Year? Actually, no, there wasnt. In fact, Wolf had advised the 1996 Clinton campaign—her husband, David Shipley, was a Clinton speech-writer—and Clinton guru Dick Morris had praised her for giving him remarkably prescient analyses of the social-cultural trends in the country. Gosh! Why would anyone want an adviser like that? But by the time Kakutanis report appeared, we had entered Week 4 of the mainstream press corps smutty tarring-and-feathering of Wolf; indeed, many smut-laden pundits had suggested that Gores curious affinity for Wolf must have a sexual component to it. (Again and again, smut-minded pundits compared Wolf to Monica Lewinsky.) And Kakutani was ready to play the game—ready to repeat her smuttys gangs preferred narratives. As well see, she managed to work four separate references to Wolf into her 800 words about Earth—a book in which Wolf had played no role, about a topic she had never advised on. Times readers never learned what Gore had said in Earth, but they got to hear a slimy reviewer mentioning Wolf in repetitive ways. And Kakutanis language about Gore was quite clear. Gores book was loony, strange and curious; it often veered to high-decibel outbursts, outbursts comprised of psychobabble. Kakutanis readers were never told about the praise Gores book had received (nor were they told it had been a best-seller); instead, they were told the book was loony. And then, to drive her astounding point home, Kakutani wasted two paragraphs on her example (see passage above)—an example plucked from the middle of Gores much-praised book, in which the loony man with the curious affinity described how he cuts up his grapefruit.
Those next two paragraphs, quoted above, may be the most disingenuous work weve ever seen in almost nine years at THE HOWLER.
Where does Kakutani get that odd passage in which Gore describes how he cuts his grapefruit? She gets it from pages 213 of his widely-praised book, and she yanks it out of all Earth-ly context, thereby making it seem quite strange—a trick a reviewer can play on any book which has ever been written. In this brief passage from his book, Gore is (briefly) explaining the feature of the human body which is known as bilateral symmetry; the cutting-of-the-grapefruit provides an example of the general information he is conveying. On page 214, he explains why he has discussed bilateral symmetry, but Kakutani is too slick and dishonest to go there; indeed, to make Gores quoted material seem even more strange, she drops three words out of the text she does quote, thereby making Gores thoughts seem even more puzzling (link below). As noted, anyone can do this sort of thing to any book which has ever been written; the most lucid writer can become a pure fool if were allowed to review books this way. You can always open to some random page; tear some minor passage out of context; omit a few words to make it more strange; and then tell the world that the author is loony. But when this creepy-crawling Times reviewer worked this scam on Gore this day, she was also scamming you and your interests; she was scamming your children, and she was trying to change the course of your nations history. Were not sure weve ever seen a journalist play a scam quite as scammy as this one. But Kakutani succeeded in her mission, the mission that is so clear from her text. She wanted you to think Gore was loony, and—doctoring a text, and playing the fool—she served up the perfect loony aside, the one which made Gore look like a big nut. Gore was now a loony man who spent time discussing his grapefruit.
That astonishing cadge about Gore and the fruit ended Kakutanis first passage on Earth. Let us repeat what weve said here before. When real professionals play games this way, they find themselves dragged before professional boards; soon after that, they may find themselves fired. When CEOs scam their investors this way, they get frog-marched to prison. But Kakutani wasnt scamming investors; she was toying with you and your country. Reason? By now, her crackpot cohort was in full frenzy about Bill Clinton and his ten bl*w jobs. They felt entitled to do what it takes to take out his evil vice president. Were going to make him jump through the hoops, Roger Simon had told Howard Kurtz. I dont think theres anything wrong with it.
In a loony aside—with a strange image—Gore had told you how he cuts grapefruit! And, somehow, this helped you grasp his curious affinity for his feminist adviser! This was a work of total madness—and Kakutani was just getting started. In the process, you were being scammed by Kakutani—and by some loathsome editor.
DID THINGS GET BETTER AS KAKUTANI PROCEEDED? CURIOUSLY, no, they did not. After discussing other candidates books, she returned to Earth in the Balance. And once again, in her very first clause, she set out to make you think Gore was a nut. What follows is the longest section she devoted to Gores widely-praised book—a book which closely tracks the science we hope to see honored this Sunday:
KAKUTANI: Mr. Gore writes of undergoing a midlife crisis around the same time [1990-91]. He says that in 1989, having just turned 40, lost a presidential campaign and seen his son, Albert, nearly die in an automobile accident, he became "impatient with my own tendency to put a finger to the political winds and proceed cautiously."In the penultimate of those paragraphs, Kakutani stoops to describing something Gore says about the environment in his book about the environment; her paraphrase is a bit murky, but it isnt actually wrong. But plainly, that isnt the point of this passage—a passage which Kakutani begins with a nasty and baldly misleading statement. Mr. Gore writes of undergoing a midlife crisis around the same time, Kakutani writes. From that sentence, a reader might actually get the impression that Mr. Gore actually writes, in Earth in the Balance, of undergoing a midlife crisis. But that is Kakutanis amateur (and inexcusable) diagnosis, another attempt to sell you her story, to get you to think that Gore must have some sort of mental health issues; in fact, Gore never uses the term mid-life crisis in his book, and he spends almost no time writing about himself at all. This is not an autobiographical book, despite Kakutanis early insinuation to the contrary. In his 16-page Introduction, Gore does discuss the ways he became interested in the environment (going back to lessons learned from his parents in childhood and his college education), and he describes how he decided to write his book; all the self-referential passages Kakutani is quoting come from the handful of pages in the books Introduction where Gore discusses such topics, not from the body of Earth itself. (Ironically, Gore notes, in the Introduction, that he couldnt get journalists—people like Kakutani—to discuss the substance of his speeches on the environment when he ran for the White House in 1988.) And of course, Kakutani picks-and-chooses from Gores briefly autobiographical Introduction, only including grim-sounding material which suggests Gore has a hole in his soul. Gore does not write directly about his parents in this book, she oddly writes, already having quoted him doing just that; but when she quotes Gore, she omits his recollection of the way his father taught him to respect the land when he was a child on the Tennessee farm, and she doesnt mention his recollection of the way his mother read Silent Spring to him and his sister as they sat at the family dinner table. (Perhaps luckily. Under the rules of late-90s journalism, if Kakutani had mentioned these passages, shed have suggested that Gore must be making them up.) Instead, Kakutani, leaving Gores text altogether, tells us that [r]eporters who have covered Mr. Gore have written that his genteel upbringing lacked only unconditional love; this is another attempt to suggest a hole in his soul, but a Nexis search finds only one reporter (Alex Jones) who had ever used the term unconditional love while playing the unlicensed shrink about Gore. (By the 90s, many journalists had convinced themselves that they had these powers.) The previous year, at his fathers funeral, Gore had described this remarkable man as the greatest man I ever knew in my life. Kakutani doesnt leave the text of Gores book to say that, preferring the image of the sad boy with a hole in his soul—the sad little boy who lacked parental love. Needless to say, were quickly told that Gore became involved in family therapy after his sons near-fatal accident. But then, lets revisit that sentence:
KAKUTANI: [W]hile Mr. Gore, who became involved in family therapy after his son's car accident, does not write directly about his parents in this book, he does talk in impersonal terms about dysfunctional families and psychological wounds, authentic and inauthentic selves.Gore does talk in impersonal terms about dysfunctional families and psychological wounds, she writes (our emphasis), obviously trying to suggest that Gore has such wounds (why else would she include this material). But what she should have written is this: Gore does talk, in ways that dont refer to his family at all, about dysfunctional families and psychological wounds. Indeed, the quotes she offers at this point come from the heart of Gores book; at this point, Gore is simply describing a well-known psychological text without referring to his own life at all. But all through this longest passage on Earth, Kakutani presents one sort of image only. Gore had a mid-life crisis; he went into therapy; and he didnt get unconditional love. And of course, he talks in impersonal terms about dysfunctional families and psychological wounds. Throughout, we learn next to nothing about what Earth really says—but we get Kakutanis relentless insinuations about loony Gores mental stresses. And, of course, two more references to Naomi Wolf, as Kakutani works in clownish references to earth tones and alpha males. We dont get to learn what Gores book really says. But we do get her cohorts prime bullsh*t.
KAKUTANI RETURN TO GORES BOOK one last time; what follows are the final two paragraphs of her report. Go ahead—just laugh out loud when she makes you read about Vile Wolf this one last time. Kakutani keeps playing the shrink to Gore. But in truth, shes a visible crackpot:
KAKUTANI: So what else do these books tell us about the candidates? That Mr. McCain once contemplated joining the French Foreign Legion. That Mr. Bush, like a famous Seinfeld character, tends to violate other people's personal space, "leaning into them, touching, hugging, getting close." That Mr. Bradley used to listen to the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Honky Tonk Woman" to psyche himself up for Knicks games (before college games, the writer John McPhee has reported, the young Mr. Bradley would listen to "Climb Every Mountain" from "The Sound of Music"). That Mr. Gore, sounding a lot like Naomi Wolf (who once tried to draw parallels between the Holocaust and anorexia), likes to compare the world's worsening environmental problems to Hitler's rise in the 1930's.Sounding a lot like Naomi Wolf! Like the rest of her kooky cohort, Kakutani was now seeing and hearing Naomi Wolf in every breeze through every tree. They just couldnt get Wolf off their brains. But then, for perfectly unknown reasons, she made them think of Monica Lewinsky. She made their sick minds think bl*w jobs.
And of course, the insinuations continue. Gore likes to compare the world's worsening environmental problems to Hitler's rise in the 1930's, Kakutani writes. She doesnt explain how she knows that Gore likes to do that, nor does she explain the nature of Gores comparison. (The comparison, fully explained, continues in Guggenheims film—the film we may see honored this weekend.) Nor does she tell you what we told you in real time; that Gore also compares the worlds growing environmental crisis to the way the western powers marshaled to fight (and win) World War II. But then, she doesnt say that for an obvious reason. The comparison she cites makes Gore sound a bit loony. The other comparison would not.
People who read Kakutanis report learned almost nothing about Earth in the Balance. It was a book about the environment, they were told, but they learned almost nothing about what it said. Instead, they were handed a stream of images designed to make Gore sound like a nut. His book is driven by loony asides, asides which explain his curious affinity. Strangely mechanistic images abound, and theres lot of babble. But then, Gore has suffered a mid-life crisis, after which he sought family therapy. That seems to be because, as a boy, he lacked unconditional love.
And of course, every time Kakutani returns to Gore, she makes you hear about Naomi Wolf—a (brilliant) person who had nothing to do with the writing of Gores remarkable book. Mr. Gore sound[s] a lot like her, were told. But then, other crackpots from this crackpot cohort had said that Wolf—she write three best-sellers—sounded a lot like Lewinsky. Simply put, they had all lost their minds. Kakutani was maintaining tradition.
BACK IN 1992, THE AYES HAD ALL HAD IT. AN environmental reporter reviewed Gores book in the Times, and she had felt free to tell her readers how comprehensive and impressive its scholarship was. But then, everyone knew that in 1992—back before the 90's started. Everyone knew that Gore had written an impressive, definitive, unprecedented book. His book had been widely praised for its vision—just as his slide show has been praised this year, just as he will be honored again if Guggenheim takes home an Oscar.
But by 1999, the 90s had happened—and a gang of heartless, upper-class slugs had gotten busy rewriting the world. Their hatred for the Clintons knew few boundaries; they had lied and invented about them for years, and now they had started in on Gore. And Michiko Kakutani, on page one of the Times, played you and your interests and your children for fools. Anyone can see the picture of Gore she wanted the public to garner. They had a new drama —Al Gore is a nut—and it went to page one that bright morning.
This Sunday night, if you see Gore on stage, you will see him cheered and applauded. But then, he was cheered and applauded for his vision when Earth in the Balance was published. He was even allowed to describe his feelings. I put my whole heart and soul into this," he said. Because the 90s hadnt started yet, the Kakutanis didnt step up to laugh.
But omigod! By the late 1990s, the rich had come into the world. They hated the Clintons, and they and their tribunes were determined to enact their sick revenge on the world. They called Gore a nut for almost two years—and they sent George Bush to the White House.
When see you your army in Iraq, you should think of the monstrous things this cohort has done. If you see Gore being cheered Sunday night, you should think of Michiko Kakutani. And oh by the way, you should ponder this well—Kakutani has been described as a good pal of Dowds.
Our discourse lies in the hands of a disturbed and simpering Antoinette class. They worked hard to give you this future..
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For part 1 of our global dumbing report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/9/07.
We discussed Kakutanis report in real time, when we were still trying to come to terms with the crackpot class which is fixing our discourse. Click here, then scroll back to November 29. Our four-part series starts there.
A few of the matters weve mentioned today are described in more detail there. For the fuller text of Kakutanis doctored quote from Gore, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/02/99. The lady slickly dropped three words, making Gores quote—torn out of context to begin with—just that much harder to follow.
By the way, who are the people who are fixing your discourse? When Dowds last tortured book appeared, The Weekly Standards Charlotte Allen cited her list of her brilliant pals:
ALLEN (2/6/06): Dowd's acknowledgments contain a name-dropper's wish list of "infinitely creative and giving friends"—Leon Wieseltier, "Tom" Friedman, Michael Kinsley, Alec Baldwin, Chris Matthews, George Stephanopoulos, "Michi" Kakutani, Nora Ephron, Sally Quinn—without whom, she says, the book couldn't have been written. Couldn't one of those creative and giving souls—Leon or Michael or Michi or Nora—have sat down with Dowd and edited the darned thing for her?You can make of those names what you will. But its quite a collection of Heathers.