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Daily Howler: When ''liberal spokesmen'' keep their mouths shut, is it simply a case of self-interest?
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BUNGLING RATHER (PART 5)! When “liberal spokesmen” keep their mouths shut, is it simply a case of self-interest? // link // print // previous // next //

TARHEEL LOVE: If the current AP poll is halfway accurate, the NCAA selection committee gave a big wet kiss to North Carolina—and came down hard on the Washington Huskies. Here are the 2, 3 and 4 seeds in UNC’s region, along with their standing in the AP poll: Connecticut (13), Kansas (12), and Florida (16). But look who Washington has to deal with: Wake Forest (5), Gonzaga (10), and Louisville (4). In Washington’s region, seeds 2-4 are all in the AP Top Ten. Amazingly, none of the seeds in UNC’s region are ranked that high.

If the AP poll is halfway right, UNC faces a powder-puff road all the way to the Final Four. If form holds, a number 1 seed will play the 8-seed in its bracket, then the 4, then the 2. And in every case, UNC would be playing the weakest opponent in the tournament’s four brackets! Their 8-seed, Minnesota, is ranked 44—lowest of the tourney’s four number 8s. Their 4-seed, Florida, is the tournament’s lowest-ranked 4-seed. And their 2-seed, Connecticut, is lowest-ranked of the 2s. By contrast, Washington’s 8-seed (Pacific) is ranked 22. If form holds, Washington would play a higher-ranked team than UNC all the way to the Final Four.

Of course, 9-seeds often knock off 8s. Washington’s 9-seed is ranked 26; UNC’s is ranked number 40. Somebody up there luvvs those Tarheels, if the AP’s current poll is half right.

BUNGLING RATHER (PART 5): Trust us! If Joe Scarborough were a Democrat, he’d know exactly what to do when pseudo-cons yell liberal bias. In fact, he said what he’d do in November 02. Playing a bit of Hardball one evening, Scarborough described the “brutal” way the mainstream press treated Candidate Gore during Campaign 2000. In case some “liberal spokesmen” are reading, we’ll try to speak especially slowly and clearly as we recall what he said:

SCARBOROUGH (11/18/02): I think, in the 2000 election, I think they were fairly brutal to Al Gore…If they had done that to a Republican candidate, I’d be going on your show saying, you know, that they were being biased.
Ironically, Scarborough said this to Hardball’s Chris Matthews, who led the press corps’ attacks against Candidate Gore. No one hit Gore any harder—or more dishonestly—during the two years of Campaign 2000. Liberals luvv to trash Bill O’Reilly, but O’Reilly was abundantly fair to Gore; Matthews name-called, lied and dissembled. Nor did he stop his ugly attacks after Bush attained the White House. Indeed, shortly after September 11, the talker trashed Gore on the Imus program. “He doesn’t look like one of us,” Matthews said. “He doesn’t seem very American, even.” Incredibly, yes, the vile man really said it. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/2/01.

But yes: Because Joe Scarborough isn’t a dummy—at present, he’s paid to play one on TV—he knew exactly what he’d do if his man got treated that way. “If [the media] had done that to a Republican candidate, I’d be going on your show saying, you know, that they were being biased,” he told Matthews. And yes, that’s just what Scarborough would have done. In the case of Gore—and of Clinton before him—for once, Joe would have been right.

But as we’ve seen, that isn’t the way your “liberal spokesmen” react when pseudo-cons yell liberal bias. Even after the trashing of Clinton—even after the wilding of Gore—your hapless “spokesmen” dutifully report for their beatings, seeming to lack the first idea how to respond to these iconic charges. Somehow, observers like Flavia Colgan and Gene Lyons know what to say to such tired old claims. But most “liberal spokesmen” stare off into air, showing few signs of human cognition. Result? Pseudo-cons still get to yell liberal bias, decades after the claim made much sense. It’s the greatest propaganda tool of our time—and hapless, weak-kneed “liberal spokesmen” seem determined to leave it in place. Not for them the dirty chore of telling the truth, as Colgan did. Not for them the tiresome matter of recalling what happened to Clinton, pace Lyons. And no—they have no plan to discuss Chris Matthews. In Washington, Hardball is a prestige show—and “liberal spokesmen” want to go on its air.

Why on earth won’t “liberal spokesmen” stand up and state the obvious? In individual cases, of course, we simply don’t know. But isn’t it amazing? The two-year trashing of Candidate Gore was one of the most remarkable episodes in American press corps history. The Dem hopeful was battered from stem to stern, in an endless string of invented stories; the situation was so extreme that even Scarborough was willing to flag it. But five years later, your “liberal spokesmen” still refuse to discuss what occurred! Result? Pseudo-con screamers yell things which are false—while “liberals” refuse to respond with the truth! In the past few months, the inanity of this arrangement became all too clear as “liberal spokesmen” kept bungling Rather. The time has come for a frank discussion of how this situation came to pass.

So let’s ask it: When Rachel Maddow traveled to Scarborough Country, brought there to debate liberal bias, why didn’t she simply state the obvious—that the mainstream press ran wild against Gore, after trashing Clinton before him? In part, as we’ve mentioned before, she may not even know that this happened, so determined have her colleagues been to cover up for that mainstream press—to cover up for men like Matthews, for the sleazy man who was willing to say that Gore “doesn’t look like one of us...doesn’t seem very American.” Let’s face it—so few “liberal spokesmen” have mentioned these outrages that even a bright young talker like Maddow may not be fully aware that they happened. So let’s put the Clinton wars to one side and concentrate on the War Against Gore. Why was this outrage so little discussed, even when it was actually happening? Why have few Americans—right to this day—heard about the Washington press corps’ long-running War Against Gore?

To answer that, we need to return to the actual time of the conflict. The War began in March 1999; it was being discussed every day, in real time, right here at this site. And yes, major scribes were reading this site; the mainstream press was well aware of the problems with their ongoing conduct. So why weren’t your interests defended back then—by, let’s say, The New Republic? Chuck Lane was then the journal’s editor—why didn’t Lane commission reports? Scarborough knows what he would have done. Why did Lane seem to do different?

Could it be that Lane put his own interests first—and sold your interests down the river? (Immediate, obvious answer: We don’t know.) After all, it was the Washington Post and the New York Times who were leading the “brutal” wilding of Gore (no, it wasn’t the Washington Times, a point we’ll discuss in more detail tomorrow). And the Post and the Times are big mainstream organs, where young journalists go to build their careers and pocket those nice, fancy pay-checks. Indeed, when Lane left TNR in the fall of 1999, where did he land? Where else? At the Post! At the paper where Ceci Connolly had been trashing Gore ever since March of that year! So here’s our question: If TNR had written about Connolly’s work, would Lane would have landed that job at the Post? We’d have to guess the answer is no. No, we don’t know why Lane’s TNR kept quiet about the War Against Gore. But almost surely, the pattern established in Lane’s career move helps explain why so many scribes kept silent while colleagues savaged Gore and eventually put Bush in the White House.

Another example? Dana Milbank wrote about Campaign 2000 for TNR right through December 1999. He also skipped the trashing of Gore. And yes, he also went straight to the Post—the place where the trashing was occurring.

Or ask yourself about Seth Mnookin. The bright young scribe covered Campaign 2000 for Brill’s Content, then a new, high-profile magazine specializing in media matters. In the summer of 2000, Mnookin took on a challenging topic—allegations of the mainstream press corps’ mistreatment of Candidate Gore. Were the Post’s Ceci Connolly and the New York Times’ Katharine Seelye mistreating Gore, as some were saying (including us, whom Mnookin interviewed)? Not at all, the intrepid scribe reported—and he even found a well-known mainstream scribe (Jane Mayer) who said the complaints must be coming from sexists! (Yes, dear readers, she actually said it.) And a few months later, Mnookin moved on—to a job at Newsweek. And uh-oh! Newsweek is a sister publication to the Post, which Mnookin had given a whitewash.

Understand well—the trashing of Gore was mainly engineered by the mainstream press. In particular, Gore was trashed by the Post and the Times, points of destination for young career writers. And to this day, young career scribes like to pretend that the wilding of Gore pretty much never happened. Indeed, because Gore was trashed by the mainstream press, young career writers had a strong incentive to overlook what was occurring in 1999 and 2000. When Peter Beinart replaced Lane at TNR, for example, the “liberal” journal kept ignoring the press corps’ devolving treatment of Gore. Beinart remains at TNR to this day, but he’ll be at the heart of the mainstream press corps for decades (indeed, he’s a very bright writer). By the way—in 2001, Beinart began a lengthy run as a panelist on CNN’s weekly show, Late Edition. Would Beinart have landed that career-building chair if TNR had reported the trashing of Gore? We don’t have the slightest idea—and Beinart never had to find out.

The mainstream press was trashing Gore—and young “liberal” journalists kept forgetting to notice. And to this day, your “liberal spokesmen” go on TV and stare into air, forgetting to mention this important recent history. Colgan and Lyons somehow know how to answer that potent old war-cry, liberal bias. But most other “liberal spokesmen” do not. As a result, most American voters have never heard the obvious fact Scarborough stated that evening. That silly old war-cry keeps winning debates, while “liberal spokesmen” sit, gaze, gape and stare.

TOMORROW—PART 6: “Something we were withholding left us weak,” Frost wrote, describing an earlier colonial experience. Tomorrow, the liberal names only get bigger as we describe the road lying ahead.

LINGO LINK: We first saw Dan Kennedy, citing our work, describe the treatment of Gore as a “wilding.”

WE’LL BET YOU: We’ll bet you a grand that Maddow didn’t know what her host, Scarborough, had once said on Hardball. Pseudo-con think tanks keep track of such matters; their spokesmen are sent out to use them in battle. But “liberal” groups are too inept—and too unconcerned—to waste time keeping track of such matters. Scarborough described the corps’ War Against Gore—but when “liberal spokesmen” went on his show to discuss liberal bias, they were unprepared to remind him. But then, this is how your “spokesmen” have done things for years. Do you sometimes get the feeling that these great leaders don’t really care?

NOW THAT’S WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT: Yesterday, Atrios linked to our report on George Will’s SS howler. Can you spot the best part of his post?

ATRIOS: Bob Somerby tracks down the source of George Will’s wingnuttery. It's really unbelievable, and it's extraordinary that Fred Hiatt lets this stuff get in print.
What’s the best part of that post? No, it isn’t the fact that he mentioned our name; it’s the fact that he mentioned Fred Hiatt’s! As Eric Alterman has said, conservatives have “worked the refs” for years and years—and a large part of the way they’ve done it is by beating up Major Pundits by name. For liberals, it’s safe to keep beating up on Will, a brand-name conservative (or on whoever writes his column). But liberals need to name Hiatt too—over and over and over again. By temperament, we’d prefer a more courteous approach. But as we proved in our first three or four years, courteous presentation of real information just doesn’t play with this gang of born losers.

Note something Josh Marshall wrote just this week:

MARSHALL: One of the Democrats' greatest problems—far more insidious than many realize—is their desire to gain the approval and approbation of establishment Washington and its A-list pundits. The habit or inclination is rooted in a political world that ceased to exist 20 or 30 years ago.
Forget the Democrats—this is also a problem of liberal career writers. When will “liberal spokesmen” get up off their backs and describe the real work of the press corps?