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Daily Howler: Nexis recalled Cohen's trashing of Gore--and our own published rebuttal
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SLAVE TIMES! Nexis recalled Cohen’s trashing of Gore—and our own published rebuttal: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2007

ONCE AGAIN, THE BELL TOLES: For the second time in less than a year, we praise Tom Toles because he has broken his vacuous cohort’s most revered Pundit Law. In today’s cartoon in the Washington Post, Toles shows a figure (marked “Media”) making a TV report to the American people. This media figure has an open book jammed over his head; its title is, “Al Gore Joke Book.” “[The joke] appears to be on me,” the media figure is saying. Down below, Toles’ alter ego says this: “The punch line turned out to be Bush.” (For Toles’ initial triumph of the will, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/30/06.)

In today’s cartoon, Toles breaks the greatest law of his pathologically dishonest cohort. Toles is telling the truth about his cohort’s past conduct; more specifically, he is saying that the mainstream press corps made a dumb joke out of Gore during Campaign 2000. And he’s saying that his dim-witted colleagues were wrong—that history has now made a joke out of them. This breaks the highest law of Toles’ Millionaire Pundit Cohort. These people don’t explain, admit or correct. They just keep trashing new preferred victims.

In truth, one part of Toles’ cartoon is a total fantasy. In the present day, it’s almost impossible to imagine a pundit admitting what actually happened to Gore. For years, they have been determined to keep the truth from the public—and with the help of our cowering liberal “leaders” (Josh Marshall, for example, but there are many others) they have been able to do so. It’s hard to imagine a “Media” figure making that statement to the voters. And that brings us to a pair of new, pathological columns. One of the columns is by Maureen Dowd. The other is by Richard Cohen.
Dowd types her piece in today’s New York Times. And oh, good lord! We struggling Irish! Dowd, of course, is a tortured survivor of the mid-century Irish Catholic culture wars. She’s daft-and-disturbed beyond compare, but because her Millionaire Cohort is so vacant, they see her as the voice of genius. Today, she writes, once again, about Gore. No, she doesn’t have him addressing his bald spot this time; Dowd knows that Gore is currently “up.” But watch her as she lies in your faces—in a column she has typically headlined, in her sneering way, “Ozone Man Sequel” (Times columnists write their own headlines):
DOWD (2/28/07): The Bush-Cheney years have been all about dragging the country into the past, getting back the presidential powers yanked away after Watergate, settling scores from Poppy Bush's old war, and suppressing scientific and environmental advances. Instead of aiming for the stars, the greatest power on earth is bogged down in poorly navigated conflicts with ancient tribes and brutes in caves.

Surely [Gore], an aficionado of futurism, must stew about all the time and money and good will that has been wasted with a Vietnam replay and a scolding social policy designed to expunge the Age of Aquarius.

When he's finished Web surfing, tweaking his PowerPoint and BlackBerrying, what goes through his head? Does he blame himself? Does he blame the voting machines? Ralph Nader? Robert Shrum? Naomi Wolf? How about Bush Inc. and Clinton Inc.
Read that again. Quite typically, it doesn’t occur to Dowd that Gore might be “stewing” about all the lives that have been uselessly lost.

Who does Gore blame for the war in Iraq? For the fact that Bush was in office to start it? We have no first-hand knowledge ourselves. But do you notice one possible source of “blame” which this savant has slickly excised? Do you notice that Dowd has excised herself—and the rest of her idiot “press corps?”

We can’t speak for Gore, of course; we can’t say what currently goes through his mind. But no, Maureen—it isn’t “Naomi Wolf” to whom Gore gives blame for what has happened. More likely, he blames the people who made a smutty joke out of Wolf in an astounding month-long display (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/10/03). Maureen! Because he is a well-informed person, the people Gore most likely blames are, of course, the people like you.

You, you expletive-deleted loser! We’re in Iraq thanks to waste-meat like you!

Dowd, of course, has scaled back her tone in the face of Gore’s recent successes. Again, she didn’t write her column today in the form of a dialogue between Gore and his bald spot. She did that six times before Election 2000, even in her final pre-election column—a column in which Gore sang “I Feel Pretty” in her headline. Nor did she tell us today, as she did in the past, that Gore is “so feminized...he is practically lactating.” And she didn’t mention the punishing Love Story bull-roar—the punishing bull-roar she dumbly invented. Dowd is simpering and dishonest, but—alas—she isn’t a fool. She knows she must tone back her simpering bull-roar. But it’s OK. Surely, her loopy mom and her crazy brothers will all find a way to understand.

But no, Maureen, you gender-war stump. Sensible people don’t blame Wolf—a person who did nothing to merit your scorn except be younger, smarter and more sincere—and better-looking—than you were in the 90s. Sensible people blame losers like you! They blame their press corps’ Antoinettes—the people who will never go on TV and make the statement Tom Toles shows them making.

Maureen Dowd is kooky beyond compare—a tortured victim of a stupid old war. (She is William Donohue, slightly cleaned up.) For that reason, she speaks for a race of mainstream press Antoinettes. They will never retract, repudiate or recant the astonishing things they said and did. They will never admit that they made a “mistake;” they’ll never apologize, or say that they’re sorry. Those behaviors are recommended for their next preferred target, not for the fools of their high, haughty class. Which brings us back to Richard Cohen, and that column in yesterday’s Post.

SLAVE TIMES: We’d feared that some people would read his column and think that he’d massively done the right thing. And indeed, if we want to grade on the curve, that’s what Richard Cohen did. In yesterday’s Post, Cohen wrote a column in which he lavishly praised Al Gore’s character. (“Gore gives us all a lesson on how to live one's life.”) And he actually said the things which follow—things which need to be said, re-said, and said once again, until voters have actually heard them:
COHEN (2/2/7/07): Gore could not have gotten us into this.

Gore would not have taken the United States to war in Iraq. He would have finished the job in Afghanistan—it was al-Qaeda and its Taliban enablers who were responsible for the attacks on us on Sept. 11, 2001, not Saddam Hussein, no matter how vile he might have been. Gore would not have dealt with the Iranians and the North Koreans in such a juvenile fashion—axis of evil, after all—and all over the world, wherever you and I went, we would not detect such anger toward America.
It’s amazing to see how few big pundits have deigned to express this unpleasant truth. And it’s amazing to see how rarely we liberals bother the great men who make such weak judgments. A few Sundays ago, someone at the Post (Robert Kaiser? More tomorrow) chose to publish this ludicrous post; in it, a writer imagined how great things would be if only we’d elected Jeb Bush, not George. Perfect, isn’t it? Driven to despair about George, the Post dreamed about how things might have been—if only we’d picked brilliant Jeb in his stead! Apparently, it didn’t occur to the Post to commission a piece about how things might have gone if Al had gone to the White House, not George. And no fiery liberals carped or complained. As we’ve done for year after year, we deferred to Our Master’s Voices.

Cohen does deserve our praise for what he wrote about Gore’s judgment and character. But lawsy! Talk about grading on the curve! Here’s the start of the gentleman’s column. We highlight the part where he lies in your faces, showing you (again) what his cohort thinks about the mettle of slave minds like yours:
COHEN: Now, somebody ought to make a movie about Al Gore. I would call it "An Uncomplaining Life."

The movie would be about a man who did not quit, who came off the canvas after a painfully close election—he won the popular vote, after all—who accepted defeat graciously and tried to unite the nation, who returned to the consuming passion of his earlier days, the environment, and spoke endlessly on the topic, almost always for free, who starred in a documentary based on his speech and who Sunday night, before a billion or so people, won an Academy Award for his effort. This may or may not be a stepping stone to the presidency, but Gore gives us all a lesson on how to live one's life.

It's a joke, isn't it? I mean, it was Gore who was universally seen as the flawed man, uncomfortable in his own skin and, therefore, in this TV age, incapable of uniting the nation. He was caricatured by some of my colleagues as a serial exaggerator, a fibber, a pretender—the guy who invented the Internet, who was the model for the novel (and movie) "Love Story," who applied one too many coats of passion to that kiss he delivered to his wife, Tipper, at the Democratic National Convention in 2000. There were so many reasons not to vote for him—none, in retrospect, much good.
Oh. Our. God. “He was caricatured by some of my colleagues,” Cohen says—letting you know what Ole Massa Richard still thinks about slave minds like yours.

Gore was caricatured by some of Cohen’s colleagues! In fact, Candidate Gore was repeatedly “caricatured”—dumbly and stupidly—by Richard Cohen himself. Cohen ridiculed Gore as a “fibber”—and he endlessly ridiculed him as a “pretender.” As he did so, Cohen constantly had his basic facts wrong—sometimes in ways which set new world records. We’ve discussed Cohen’s work many times in the past. But so what? Yesterday, he felt that he still could baldly deceive you.

It would be impossible to chronicle, in one post, Cohen’s endless attacks on Gore’s character. (They were often mixed, in 1999 and early 2000, with lengthy, daft paeans to Saint John McCain). Down below, we’ll offer links below to some of the work we’ve done on this subject. But how bizarre were Cohen’s factual blunders? Two world-class examples:

In November 1999, he wrote a blistering, nasty column about Wolf—a column based on a “quotation” from one of Wolf’s books. Sadly, though, the “quotation” was bogus; it hadn’t appeared in that book, or in anything else Wolf ever published or said. Of course, it isn’t surprising that Cohen didn’t know this; though he savaged Wolf and Gore, he showed absolutely no sign of knowing what Wolf’s three books were actually about. For the record, all three books had been best-sellers. Two had been listed, by the New York Times, as “notable books of the year.” (Cohen had gotten his phantom “quote” from a mistaken profile in a six-year-old Esquire—a profile of several young feminists which Cohen had kept under his bed.)

(Actually, we’ll tell you more, by the end of the week, about where Cohen most likely got that old profile. It wasn’t available on the web.)

In August 2000, Cohen went that one better. He devoted an entire column to outrageous remarks Joseph Lieberman had made to a meeting of B’nai B’rith. There were only two problems with Cohen’s column. First, Cohen had doctored the (sensible) comments to make them sound like crazy remarks. Even worse, these remarks had not been made by Lieberman—they had actually been made by Texas governor George Bush! And yes, you actually read that correctly. Cohen spent an entire column savaging Lieberman for (doctored) remarks which had really been made by George Bush! The next week, Cohen appended a fuzzy “correction” to one of his columns—surely one of the most clownish non-correction corrections in the history of American journalism. But then, that’s roughly what he offered yesterday in his latest f*ck-you-all column.

How bad was Cohen’s work about Gore? How thoroughly did he caricature Gore, while bungling elementary facts in the process? Yesterday, a bit of Nexis-ing brought us back to an episode we had forgotten.

In the summer of 2000, a new biography of Gore appeared, written by David Maraniss and Ellen Nakashima. And Cohen wrote a column about it—a column in which he suggested that the book had presented a troubling portrait of Gore. His column appeared on August 17, the final day of the 2000 Democratic convention. Here’s the way it began:
COHEN (8/17/00): There is something about Al Gore that people don't like. There is something that puts them off. They might admire him, respect him and even envy him, but "like" is a different story. On paper, this is no reason for him not to be president. But in reality, this is why he may never be.
Cohen went to say that Maraniss’ book was full of put-downs from the people who knew Gore the best. (Of course, he recited this before he was done: “There is something both preposterous and troubling about the constant remaking of Al Gore.”) But there was one small problem with Cohen’s column. Simply put, Maraniss’ book wasn’t full of put-downs from the people who knew Gore best. As we saw while searching on Nexis, we wrote a long letter to the Post at the time—and the Post had the decency to publish it. With a few small edits for clarity, here’s a picture of Cohen’s ongoing work, just as Gore was trying to overcome fifteen months of savaging from Cohen’s cohort. Here’s the long letter the Post published—and by the way, they don’t publish such letters unless they see that something was wrong with their original work:
LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (8/26/00): A recent article in the New York Times described the disenchantment of Al Gore's longtime friends with the way Gore has been portrayed in the press. Richard Cohen's Aug. 17 op-ed column, "Al Gore's Distance," is a good example why folks are upset.

"There is something about Al Gore that people don't like," Cohen announces in his opening sentence. "What's noteworthy, even jarring about the accounts of those who knew him at both St. Albans school in Washington and at Harvard was their almost irresistible urge to get in the elbow"—to criticize Gore.

To support his claim, Cohen "lifted quotes" (his term) from the new Gore biography, The Prince of Tennessee, by David Maraniss and Ellen Nakashima. Here’s Cohen's nugget paragraph:

" '[Gore] was an egregious little tattletale,' said Barbara Howar, who knew him as a kid. A former teacher remembers him asking, 'Sir, is this the time to be rowdy?' Another teacher described him as 'a very competent young man' but 'not scintillating.' A former classmate put it this way: 'He wasn't somebody you got to know real well.' "

Those are the only critical comments cited by Cohen. But he says, "The remarks are typical."

In fact, those remarks are in no way typical of what is found in this book. They don't even support Cohen's case; after all, just consider who Cohen is quoting. Cohen's readers aren't told this, but Howar was a friend of Gore's late sister, Nancy, and was 10 years older than Gore. Cohen’s readers aren’t told this, but her comment (about Gore being a tattle-tale) describes Al Gore at 8 years of age when she and Nancy would babysit for him. Meanwhile, the "former classmate's" comment that Gore wasn’t someone "you got to know well" is also missing elementary context. In the book, the speaker explains that Gore wasn't a boarder at St. Albans, like most of the other students.

How do Gore's peers remember him in this book? Four of his college roommates are quoted extensively; none utters a word of criticism. (I am one of them.) Beyond that, Maraniss and Nakashima spoke with "several dozen men from [Gore's] graduating class" in Dunster House, the Harvard dorm where Gore lived for three years. The authors recorded a few mildly negative (anonymous) comments. But here was the overall judgment recorded by the book’s authors:

"Most regarded Gore as neither princeling nor stiff. Dennis Horger remembered him as 'a good listener, and with all the egos in a place like that, it was not a quality many people had.' Robbie Gass considered him 'a straight guy in the best sense of the word. Not a straight arrow, but a good guy. He talked straight. You knew where you stood. He was not a game player.' Peter Goldberg thought back on Gore in the dining hall at breakfast leading a 'funny and interesting' discussion of what was in that morning's New York Times. But the most common memory of Gore retained by his Dunster classmates placed him down in the basement lounge. It seemed as if he and his pals were there almost every night, playing pool, chomping on hamburgers, watching the news and then Johnny Carson."

It is simply false to say that Gore's peers disparage him in this book. But then, neither do his teachers. Here is Richard Neustadt, Gore's thesis adviser at Harvard:

" 'I have a soft spot for good students who seem to be really turned on and really want to carry on with me and do something serious,' Neustadt recalled. And there was Gore—'this big, hulking, serious guy who is so interested. How can you resist?' "

This is what Richard Cohen finds "jarring"? The book is also full of positive comments from Gore's St. Albans instructors and other friends and associates.

Yes, Gore's friends are angry and upset. But Cohen's misled readers should be upset too. Good high school teachers reject work like this. What is it doing on the op-ed page during an important election?

—Bob Sommerby [sic]

We made an important mistake there, of course—we described the 2000 election as “important.” Cohen’s cohort had already seen through that notion. Over at the New York Times, Frank Rich was busily telling the world that Bush and Gore were just two peas in a pod. It didn’t matter which one of these over-privileged losers ended up in the White House, he kept Richly saying (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/9/06). Today, Tom Toles says that the joke was on them. But what has happened since then isn’t a joke, and it has happened to a much wider world. The Antoinettes of our millionaire press corps have barely been affected or bothered.

Cohen’s column is an act of cultural perfection. In many ways, he wrote the column which needs to be written—the column which most of his colleagues won’t write. You’d like to praise him for what he said—for noting the most crucial political fact of our age. But good God, how they love to deceive you! And they do it because they know it’s allowed; because they know your “leaders” won’t even say boo; because some of your “leaders” are friends of Cohen. They know they can do it because, in the past seven years, your “liberal” elites have simply refused to discuss what happened in Campaign 2000. They’ve pursued their career interests, and they’ve shown us their cowardice. Old Massa Richard understands the slave mind, so he knew he could type that strange sentence.

Some of my colleagues did it, he says. Good God! We just fell on the floor!

THREE CHEERS FOR MEDIA MATTERS: Three cheers for Media Matters, for offering this reaction to Cohen.

Meanwhile, at the Huffington Post, we get perfect nonsense like this. Could anyone possibly be more clueless about the obstacles to a Gore run? “This is a man we hardly knew when he ran for President,” professor Kathleen Reardon writes. Is there any chance that we “hardly knew Gore” because of the things Arianna was writing? And oh yeah! When will Arianna retract, recant or repudiate what she wrote during Campaign 2K? When will she apologize, or call her past work “a mistake.” When will she say that she’s sorry?

Meanwhile, back at the press corps’ Big House, Ole Massa Richard understands the slave mind—the mind of inept Kathleen Reardon.

FOR SELF-AMUSEMENT ONLY: For a moment of intense self-amusement, read this recent column by Cohen: “The Explanation Hillary Clinton Owes.” Surely, it’s the perfect press moment! Cohen won’t even admit his own past conduct. But he tells Clinton that she must explain hers.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For an introduction to Cohen-on-Gore, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/5/04.

For our original treatment of the B’nai B’rith blunder, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/7/00. (Scroll down to “Smile-a-while.”) Having made this cosmic blunder on September 6, here’s the correction Cohen offered three days later:
COHEN (9/9/00): Correction: In my column of Sept. 6 I mistakenly attributed the quotation, "Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world" to Joseph Lieberman. In fact, the quotation was from George W. Bush.
That was it! He had devoted an entire column to Lieberman’s “quote.” He had called him every name in the book. Three days later, that was his full “correction.” Cohen made no attempt to explain how he made so bizarre a mistake. And, of course, he made no attempt to walk back the things he had said.

But Cohen’s “caricatures” of Gore extended throughout Campaign 2000. Some we covered, some we didn’t. (Some we covered at Speakout.com, now defunct.) Some we have covered in retrospect, in more recent years. Enter “Gore AND Cohen” in our whirring search engines and you’ll see the soul of a mainstream “press corps” which knows it can lie in your faces.