FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2004
LET THEM EAT DUCK BOOTS: Hay-yo! Hay-yo, everybody! In todays New York Times, those famous duck boots are finally back, courtesy ofwho else?David Halbfinger. On Sunday, the vacuous scribe was on page one, asking Kerrys wifethe one with the accenthow many times shes used Botox (see THE DAILYHOWLER, 2/23/04). Today, the addled scribe is out on the trail, helping us see the endless ways Kerry tries to relate to the proles:
HALBFINGER: To bolster his credibility with the working class, Mr. Kerry is trying everything: touring deserted mills and still-bustling ones, talking about the plight of struggling mill and factory workers, campaigning with them at his side, exchanging hugs with tearful laborers, and assuring the countless union members whose bosses are now backing him that he will fight to keep their jobs from disappearing overseas. On Thursday he campaigned at the side of striking California grocery workers.Kerry is trying everything, Halbfinger says. Maybe someone should give the news to the peach-cheeked scribethis is how candidates run for office. By the way: Has Kerry tried to tell these voters what he would do about their problems? Halbfinger is eager to talk about duck boots. But he absent-mindedly forgets to relate the real things that Kerry may have said.
Readers, if you enjoy the High Comedy of contemporary pseudo-journalism, dont miss this vacuous, page-one report. Halbfinger includes familiar script-points from Tony Coelho (Kerry cant seem like the brightest kid in the class), and he quotes the corps favorite expert, Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Most important, he keeps you apprised of the state of those boots. Remember one fact as you read this dumb piece: In the modern national press, they really do think this is journalism.
TRIVIA ALWAYS MAKES THEM VANDE-HEI: Meanwhile, Jim VandeHeis silly piece in yesterdays Post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/26/04) was hailed all over the press corps. Tucker Carlson praised the scribes brilliance at the start of yesterdays Crossfire:
CARLSON: In his stump speech, John Kerry attacks American companies that move to foreign countries in order to avoid paying American taxes. I will stop these Benedict Arnold corporations, he shouts. Notice the phrasing here, Benedict Arnold. In other words, when you do something that John Kerry disagrees with, youre not just wrong. Youre evil, a collaborator, a traitor to your country, a non-person.Of course, VandeHeis story was so remarkable that Carlson was instantly forced to embellish it. The star reporter did not point out that some of Kerrys biggest donors are by his own definition Benedict Arnolds. And did VandeHei say that two of Kerrys biggest fund-raisers run companies that use offshore tax havens? Well no, he didnt say that either. What did the star reporter say? He said that one of these fund-raisers, Thomas Steyer, is an executive at a firm whichon one occasionhelped another firm set up such a haven. Steyer played no role in the project, he saidand VandeHei didnt contradict him. But this, amazingly, is the Posts idea of remarkable front-page news. Its no wonder that Carlson had to embellish to make the tale seem so exciting.
In fact, VandeHeis silly reports are worthless unless theyre embellished. On January 31, he penned an absurdly misleading report which has been spun into a flatly false claimthe claim that Kerry is reigning king of Senate special-interest money. (He actually ranks 92nd of 100 senators, according to Peter Beinart.) Now, VandeHeis latest pointless report is being exaggerated too. Sadly, even Ron Brownstein cited VandeHeis twin reports in a question at last nights Dem debate. Brownstein, from the Los Angeles Times, has long been one of the corps brighter pundits. Last night, he seemed like a kid from Hollywood Hei when he quoted the star scribes dumb reports.
NO DEFENSE: Earlier this week, we quoted a hapless attempt by the Posts Dan Balz to sort out the latest attack against Kerrythe claim that Kerry has voted against every major weapon system. As we noted, Balz piece was incoherent (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/24/04). But we hoped that others would lay out the facts behind this well-scripted charge.
Someone has now provided that service; needless to say, he doesnt work at the Post or the Times. At those papers, they write about duck bootsand Botox treatments, and fund-raising trivia. No, the service was provided by Slates Fred Kaplan, whose report on these high-profile charges is surely the must-read piece of the week. We wont try to summarize what Kaplan says. But what does he make of the RNC claim that Kerry voted against every major weapon system? (Newt Gingrich; full quote below) Claiming that [Kerry] opposed a list of specific weapons systems has an air of plausibility, Kaplan writes. On close examination, though, it reeks of rank dishonesty. Yikes! And what should you make of the well-bruited claim that Kerry voted to slash the intelligence budget? Kaplan: Another bit of dishonesty is RNC Chairman Ed Gillespies claim, at a news conference today, that in 1995, Kerry voted to cut $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget. As before, well suggest that you read Kaplans piece to get the full details on that.
Wow! A widely-bruited RNC claim reeks of rank dishonesty? And Gillespie engaged in that same dishonesty at a major press confab? Surely the press corps swung into action, working hard to lay out the facts! Well, nothe major press has done no such thing. On the Times front page, its Botox and duck boots. At the Post, its tales about fund-raising trivia. Let them eat Botox, your press corps has said. Earth tones thenand duck boots now. What is the state of your American democracy? Let them eat funny accents, the press says.
WHILE ALAN SLEPT: While the press debates Teresa Kerrys funny scarves, the demons again make a joke of your interests. On last nights appalling Hannity & Colmes, Newt Gingrich calmly misstated Kerrys record:
GINGRICH: As I said earlier, I think the more that the president and the Republicans describe accuratelythey dont have to exaggerate at all; they just have to describe accurately and calmlywhat it means to be Dukakis lieutenant governor, what it meant to vote to the left of Ted Kennedy, what it meant to have voted against every major weapon system, I think if they stick to that and stick to the facts, Senator Kerry will react by saying that hes being smeared by his own record. But I think over the course of six or eight weeks people will sort out and realize hes an honorable, legitimate Massachusetts liberal, and if thats what you think America needs, hes the right vote.Huh! Why, there was the rank, dishonest charge, right there in the Speakers comments! Responding directly, Sean took things further:
HANNITY: John Kerry is now out there And hes trying to say, I voted for the biggest intelligence budget in the history in the Pentagon budget. But he wanted to cancel SDI and every major weapons system. Specific votes that he would have canceled the weapons systems we now use. That is not an ad hominem attack. That is a legitimate, accurate portrayal of his record.But did Kerry cast specific votes that would have canceled every major weapons system? Kaplan addresses that very point. There was no vote on those weapons systems specifically, he notes (his emphasis). Again, see Slate for details.
Amazing, isnt it? Why, Hannity fooled the rubes again! Surely, Alan Colmes swung into action! But if you watched, you know what he said. Mr. Speaker, good to have you, he said, signing off after one more screed by Gingrich. We welcomeI welcome a factual debate. But when will that factual debate ever start? Let them eat my pay stubs, Alan seemed to proclaim. At the Times, the next day, we ate duck boots.
LET THEM EAT GENIUS: Here at THE HOWLER, all the analysts will gather around to watch the Oscars on Sunday night. Rooting interest? We hope the Academy will have the good sense to let Emma Bolger and Sarah Bolger present an award (Supporting Actress would be a good choice). As Djimon Hounsou tells the young sisters at one point in In America, When luck knocks at your door, you cant turn it away. As with luck, so with undeserved radiance, as we hope the Academy will realize.
Last Tuesday, Jim Sheridan appeared with Dublin pal Bono to discuss In America on NPRs Day to Day. Early on, Alex Chadwick asked him to explain the Bolgers work, which has now been acclaimed planet-wide:
CHADWICK: How did you get those performances out of those kids?The slimeballs control our political discourse, but sometimes genius knocks at our doors. Well be surprised if Oscar doesnt know: You cant turn such great luck away.