DRUM (2/26/07): That would be a hell of a campaign, wouldn't it? Two New Yorkers, playing out the unfinished grudge match of their 2000 Senate race. A mayor vs. a senator. The first major party female candidate in history. And just possibly the two toughest, most polarizing, most single-mindedly ambitious politicians on the national stage today. I hope we all survive.I hope we all survive, Kevin cries. Sweet reason has already failed to.
BUCHANAN (8/17/92): Elect me, and you get two for the price of one, Mr. Clinton says of his lawyer-spouse. And what—and what does Hillary believe? Well, Hillary believes that 12-year-olds should have the right to sue their parents, and Hillary has compared marriage and the family as institutions to slavery and life on an Indian reservation. Well, speak for yourself, Hillary! [laughter]Congratulations, Kevin! Thats how Clinton became polarizing. Heres a second bite of the fruit:
This—this, my friends, this is radical feminism, the agenda that Clinton and Clinton would impose on America: abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units. That's change, all right, but that's not the kind of change America needs, it's not the kind of change America wants, and it's not the kind of change we can abide in a nation we still call God's country.
BUCHANAN: Friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton and Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so to the Buchanan brigades out there, we have to come home and stand beside George Bush.Yep. Thats how Clinton became polarizing. And, of course, she became even more polarizing when Gennifer Flowers was invited on TV to say these things to Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS (8/2/99): Now what do you think of Hillary's sort of role here in this role of offering herself up as the therapy nurse, and he's the JD—juvenile delinquent from the troubled background, and she's looking out for him all these years, and she ought to get rewarded for that with a Senate seat?See, Kevin? Chris thought the bitch was too ambitious too! And so did the weak-minded boys at Fox, who enjoyed the following conversation as they showed a dated photo from the 70s. A few days earlier, Bill Clinton had described how he fell in love with his wife when they were students in law school. In response, Brit Hume posted the photo of a young Mrs. Clinton—a photo which he found unattractive. For the next several minutes, Humes panel broadcast their views straight outta the Fox News Boyz Club. Just try to believe that they did this:
FLOWERS: Well, in the first place, I—you know, I hope that she does not succeed at becoming a United States senator from New York. I think that would be a travesty. We've had enough of these people, these criminals, these liars, these murderers. We need to get them out of political office, please.
FLOWERS: I—I—well, there is a Clinton death list if anyone would like to go to my Web site and, and take a look at it.
HUME (8/23/99): The picture he paints of Mrs. Clinton is of a sort of a femme fatale. Now thats about what she looked like then [group laughter]. And one—one cant help but wonder about this [group laughter].Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Disgraceful, wasnt it? For the record, Birnbaum will say any damn thing to be one of the boys, and Williams has been accused of sexual harassment during his career at the Post. (As of 1999, the episode hadnt had much effect on his half-witted, crude sensibility.) For the record, Tod Lindberg refused to take part in this display of group humor. But no one complained about this in the press. E. J. Dionne was a good boy, as always. No female pundit said boo.
JUAN WILLIAMS: The problem, Tod, is that nobody can believe, one, that she was this beautiful woman in college—anyone whos seen the pictures—and, two, who can believe that she didnt know that this guy was a skirt-chaser all along?
JEFFREY BIRNBAUM: Well, I should point out, about the love-in-college part, that love is blind [group laughter]. But that also—
HUME: Well, he never said she was beautiful. He said she was compelling looking. And that she may well have been [group laughter].
How did Clinton get to be polarizing? At THE HOWLER, we can recall. We get the feeling that Kevin does not. (There are endless examples we could cite. Weve skipped the pornographic Christmas ornaments she used on the tree in the White House.) But then, you know the ways of the world. These boyz have always been like that. Michelle Wie? OK, well let her play. Clinton? No, not so much.
Special report: Oscar loves Truth!
THREE EASY PIECES: It must have been David Geffens idea—to have Jerry Seinfeld serve as presenter for last nights Best Documentary Oscar. As Digby said in yesterdays post, the film that would go on to win this award may be the most important movie ever made. So how did Hollywood handle the honors? Of course! They had Seinfeld go out and kill five minutes telling stale jokes about stale jujubes—and then, in his final word, he described the nominated films as five incredibly depressing movies. Almost anyone would have been a more appropriate presenter in this category—some Hollywood folk would have been superb—and, ironically, five minutes of Jerrys silly stand-up would have been a gift from the gods almost anywhere else in this mind-numbing program. So it must have been Geffen who put Seinfeld into that spot, where he undercut the moment so badly. Could anyone other than David Geffen possibly be quite that dumb?
(Maybe Geffen was working with the Posts Tom Shales, who couldnt wait to tell the world that Gore seemed a little too fat. Where do these idiots come from?)
That said, we were thrilled last night to see Al Gore honored on such an important world stage. And lets note this: We all owe a debt of gratitude to Laurie David and the other producers who worked to being this film into being. And to director Davis Guggenheim, who fashioned the beautiful moment at the end of the film which brought at least one Baltimore audience to a moment of absolute, perfect silence. We were deeply moved that night—by the film, and then by that audience.
We were also thrilled to see Melissa Etheridge win the Oscar for best song. The last time we saw An Inconvenient Truth, we were struck by how good that song is. We began rooting for Etheridge to win that night. Were thrilled that the academys nominators and voters heard the same thing we did.
Now, lets say a few more words about what happened on stage last night—and about what will happen, to a limited degree, in the mainstream press corps this week.
This week, you may see a few more exemplary reports like this front-page offering from yesterdays Post. In it, William Booth noted the obvious—Gore is now a global celebrity. And he finally let a former Gore aide state things which are merely obvious:
BOOTH (2/25/07): Gore is escaping the fate of most former politicians, says Matt Bennett, a consultant for Democrats who worked closely with Gore during his vice presidency...He was right about everything, Bennett is quoted saying—in paragraph 27 of Booths 29-paragraph piece.
Bennett credits savvy handling by people around Gore, including the documentary-makers. And he says the world is catching up with Gore. "Look, this guy was a visionary. He was right about everything, even the stuff he was ridiculed for," Bennett says. "He was right about the Internet, he was right about the first Gulf War, he was sure as hell right about the Iraq war. And he was right about global warming."
More below on the ridicule Bennett cited. But lets say a few words about what happened last night—and about the things youll see in the mainstream press corps this week.
Why was Gore at the Oscars on Sunday, instead of sitting inside the White House? (Corollary: Why is the U. S Army in Iraq?) Once again, because its important: If you want to understand the answer, we suggest that you click back to Fridays HOWLER and follow these three easy steps:
First step: Read the way the mainstream press described Earth in the Balance in 1992. In fact, everyone knew Gore was right even then, years before all that ridicule started. Bennetts statement might make it sound like this realization is new. Reread those reviews. It isnt.It would take a more skilled writing team than ours to describe the depth of Kakutanis indecency. We can say this: In almost nine years at THE DAILY HOWLER, we have never seen anything as disingenuous—as corrupt—as the way she pulled a few sentences out of context (from page 213—with key words left out!), then pretended that the doctored passage showed us the strange-ness of Gores loony book. But again, its as we told you on Friday: When you follow the three easy steps weve suggested, youll start to see the size of the scam the mainstream press corps played on the public for twenty straight months during Campaign 2000. They knew he was right in 1992. They know he was right again today. But in Campaign 2000, they pretended to think something different—and they sent George Bush to the White House.
Second step: Read the way the mainstream press corps (often grudgingly, with nerd and geek jokes) describes the science of An Inconvenient Truth. Their praise is often grudging—and its often withheld. But again this week, manhy people are saying it. Omigod! Gore was right from the start!
And then, the all-important third step: Go ahead! Go back and read what the New York Times put on its front page in November 1999, when it revisited Earth in the Balance as part of its coverage of Campaign 2000. Go ahead—reread what the Times told you then. By this time, the lunacy of the 90s was reaching its peak—and the mainstream press corps was eager to tell you that Al Gore was just a big f*cking nut. The ridicule of Gore started in March; by November, it had reached hurricane force. And so, in her disgraceful front-page report, Michiko Kakutani barely told readers what Gores brilliant book had said. She didnt note that it had been a best-seller, and she certainly didnt let readers know that its scholarship had been lavishly praised by the nations science writers. (Including environmental writer Gina Maranto, right in Kakutanis own Times.) Sorry! Her cohorts agenda was different now; in every paragraph she wrote about Earth, Kakutani insinuated that Gore might not be all there. She talked about his books loony asides and strange images—saying that the loony asides may help explain one of his curious affinities. (For Naomi Wolf, who she clownishly cited four times.) Kakutani said that Gore had suffered a mid-life crisis (making it sound like Gore had said this); she told you hed gone into therapy after that. She told you he wrote in impersonal terms about the issues of dysfunctional families—and she implied that he had grown up in such a family, saying that Gore hadnt received unconditional love from his parents. She quoted everything Gore ever said about his upbringing which that made it sound like there was some kind of problem. She forget to say that hed praised his dad, just one year earlier, as the greatest man I ever knew in my life.
BOOTH: "People ask him all the time what does he attribute his recent success to and Gore tells them 'reality,' " says Larry Schweiger, a friend and president of the National Wildlife Federation, who is a leader of Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, a foundation that seeks to bring evangelicals, hunters, farmers and entrepreneurs to the cause. "They used to ridicule him. They called him a tree-hugger. They don't do that anymore."Sadly, Larry Schweiger is wrong when he says that Gore is no longer ridiculed; just put on the simpering frat boys of MSNBC if you want to be see that notion shattered. On the other hand, Guggenheim is certainly right when he says that its we who have changed, not Gore—but he doesnt go far enough to explain what those changes have been. In particular, he doesnt explain who made Candidate Gore a target every moment [he was] in front of the camera. But readers, that isnt Guggenheims job. Thats the job of us on the web.
Guggenheim explains: "People say to me that Al Gore is so different now. Why wasn't he like this when he ran for president?" Meaning that Gore now appears relaxed, confident, happy, and not stiff, robotic, pinched. "They say Al has changed. But I don't think so. We've changed. The setting has changed. He's the same. When you're running for office, you're a target every moment you are in front of the camera. Now, he's in a different place and we see him in a different way."
IN THE SHOES OF THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE: Kakutani wanted readers to think that Gore had a hole in his soul. So she didnt tell them the things Gore had said about his love and respect for his parents. Instead, she picked-and-chose, in an indecent way, then said: He didnt get enough love! In almost nine years, weve never seen a piece that was more disingenuous—a piece that was so indecent.
Kakutani picked-and-chose, then said that Gore was a nut. So youll know, heres part of what Gore had said at his fathers funeral, eleven months earlier. Weve always thought that Al was exceptionally lucky because he could state this first sentence:
GORE (12/9/98): Of all the lessons he taught me as a father, perhaps the most powerful was the way he loved my mother. He respected her as an equal, if not more. He was proud of her. But it went way beyond that. When I was growing up, it never once occurred to me that the foundation upon which my security depended would ever shake. As I grew older, I learned from them the value of a true, loving partnership that lasts for life.Al Gore got lucky when he picked out his parents. He also said this, a bit later on:
GORE: Don't ever doubt the impact that fathers have on their children. Children with strong fathers learn trust early on, that their needs will be met, that they're wanted, they have value, they can afford to be secure and confident, they will get the encouragement they need to keep on going through any rough spots they encounter in life.Thats what Gore thought about his late father. And yes, as weve seen, Gore did learn to keep on going through the rough spots. Heres what John Lesher, the distributor of Gores film, said in Sundays Post:
I learned all those things from my father. He made all the difference.
Boys also learn from their fathers how to be fathers. I know I did.
BOOTH: Lesher explains that, from a marketing and branding perspective, Gore was lugging some very heavy baggage. "Democrats felt disappointed in him, and Republicans didn't like him," he says. "But it worked." How come? What comes through in the film, Lesher says, "is here is this person who has gone through this incredible adversity"—Florida recount, Supreme Court decision, bye-bye White House—"and this is what he decides to do," the one-man slide show, "and so you see this massive integrity.In the film, Gore decides to keep on going. He had described the process in 1998. But eleven months later, Kakutani was picking-and-choosing from Earths Introduction, quoting only the parts which sounded unflattering—and saying that Gore was a borderline nutcase who didnt get enough love from his parents. For better or worse, Kakutanis indecent conduct—repeated thousands of times, all through the press corps—explains why Gore was on stage last night. It explains why he wasnt in the White House.
Meanwhile, please dont misunderstand the nature of this eight-year-old transaction. In the past fifteen years, the interests of decent American people have been endlessly slaughtered by an indecent cohort. Theyre too rich, theyre too famous; theyre much too dumb. Theyre a race of insipid, inane Antoinettes. But their tribe controls your national discourse. They slaughtered Gore in 1999, and they slaughtered your nations interests in the process. Until we explain this tribe to the public, theyll live on—and theyll slaughter again.