NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS! Brilliantly, Waldman corrected a lie. Walsh let a new lie spread: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2007
IN SEARCH OF INHOFE: Yesterday, we misstated the place where James Inhofes Q-and-A with Gore starts on the tape of Wednesdays hearing (click here). Inhofes Q-and-A starts about 51 minutes in. Sadly, we still recommend it.
STRAIGHT OUTTA HOMER: If you have some time this weekend, we strongly recommend this weeks congressional hearings with Gore, both of which are now available on C-SPAN. On the senate side, we especially recommend the exchange between Gore and Senator John Warner (R-VA). Warners questioning followed James Inhofes rude and disordered performance. That in mind, we were struck by Warners dignified conduct—and by his promise to learn:
SEN. WARNER (3/21/07): Thank you, Madam Chairman.Well, that's an excellent and thoughtful question, Gore said, in response to Warners first query. And this: Thank you for your kind words in preface to the question.
In his courtly opening remarks, Warner was implicitly rebuking the crudeness of Inhofe, his Republican colleague. But this courtliness between Gore and the members was on full display in both sessions. That morning, in the House, Rep. Ralph Hall, an 83-year-old Texas Dem-turned-Rep, also reminisced before questioning Gore:
HALL (3/21/07): Mr. Chairman, thank you. And Al, I do respect you and your great family. And I'm older than Mr. Dingell. And I remember the services of your father that worked alongside our Sam Rayburn. I have read of, and some people think I remember Sam Houston, another great Tennessean—When Gore began to answer Halls first question, he too recalled that day at sea. Congressman Hall—Ralph, if I may—thank you so much, he said. I was thinking, remembering fondly that evening on your boat out there. And I'd love to do that again some time.
The courtesy of Warner and Hall recalled an earlier time in our politics, before the Inhofe wing of their party defined so much of modern Republicanism—and before the criminals of our mainstream press corps began their long, ugly war on Gores character. But the schmoozing that occurred throughout these sessions seemed to us to be straight outta Homer—and represents a type of personal politicking such as we rarely see in public. Over and over, Gore reached out to former colleagues, seeking the types of personal bond that can help push a political body toward consensus. The Iliad is full of similar scenes, where elders alternate between sentimental reminiscence and the search for consensus and wisdom.
We strongly recommend these tapes for their at politics up-close and personal. And well say this, having sat in the room: When Warner expressed the fullness of his pleasure at the chance to learn more about climate change, we didnt doubt his sincerity for a minute. In fact, we marveled at his demonstration of character. Warner pledged to fight with Gore—and said hed learn more. The man is now eighty years old.
NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS: If it werent for the history—if it werent for Iraq—what happened Wednesday night would be funny. Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters, was spending some time in Scarborough Country in the wake of the Gore congressional hearings. Soon, he was doing a very good job of explaining a very old problem:
WALDMAN (3/21/07): Well, you know, Im glad that Terry [Holt] brought up this idea that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. That is actually a lie that started at the Republican National Committee and then was picked up gleefully by the mainstream media.Incredibly, Holt had said the following when Scarborough asked why conservatives hate Gore: Its not that hes just a hypocrite—and he is—but hes a braggart. I mean, hes claimed to have invented the Internet, among many other things. Challenged on that point by Waldman, Holt—incredibly— said that his claim was based on a direct quote.
Waldman did a superb job on this program (more text below). But if it werent for the history—if it werent for Iraq—what happened Wednesday night would just be funny. A well-informed liberal shot down this canard—eight years after the RNC began pimping it. Thats right! Here at THE HOWLER, we first dealt with invented the Internet in mid-March too—mid-March of 1999! And omigod: Eight years later, we finally saw a well-informed, intelligent liberal sit on TV and refute it. It only took our tribe eight years to get this vital job done.
MONTAGE (3/21/07): Former Vice President Al Gore goes to Capitol Hill today to testify on climate change. He'll appear before a joint meeting of two house committees. Gore has championed the issue of global warming for decades and he has books and an Oscar-winning documentary to his credit. Now that he is firmly in the spotlight on this issue, so are his detractors.Good morning, Renee, Harris warmly replied—but Harris was waiting to play the stooge too. Soon, Montagne bought into the latest fine script—and Harris was mouthing a howler:
MONTAGNE: There are also questions about Al Gore's estimates as to how much the sea levels will rise.No one's expecting 20 feet of sea level rise in the next couple of centuries, Harris said. He said this was another thing that had scientists uneasy about Gore. But as we pointed out on Monday, James Hansen is one of the worlds most renowned warming scientists—and Hansen said, just last year, that this sea-level rise could occur in this century (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/19/07). How long would that take, that kind of apocalypse of water, if you will? Hansen was asked, just last year. His answer: That could be 50 years from now, could be 100 years from now, but it's not 1,000 years from now. And this wasnt said in some obscure forum; this was Hansens response to a well-known fellow, Tom Brokaw, on Brokaws much-ballyhooed climate change special on the Discovery Channel last summer. Simply put, science reporter Richard Harris was just flat wrong in what he said about this issue. But NPRs audience heard a well-scripted message again: Rank-and-file scientists are very concerned about the way Gore plays with the facts.
Why was Harris raising this point? Lets consider what he didnt say in this report as well as what he did.
To state the obvious, Montagne was flogging one of the topics which William Broad most brutally bungled in his New York Times report last week. In his hopelessly bungled report, Broad offered a troubling comparison; Gores film envisions [sea level] rises of up to 20 feet, he said, while the recent IPCC report estimated that the world's seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches (links below). But this was a classic apples-to-oranges comparison. In the relevant part of his film, Gore was talking about what will happen if the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt or break away. By contrast, the IPCC was predicting what will happen if that calamity doesnt occur. But as we noted yesterday, Broads groaner has spread like wildfire through the fact- and logic-challenged world of pseudo-conservative media. And in this report, it reached NPR too. In a maneuver thats typical of the way the mainstream plays it cute with phony claims of the right, Harris avoided repeating Broads blunder—but he went ahead and found a new way to misstate Gores work in this area.
Result? Conservatives heard their treasured new theme flogged again—and Harris avoided Broads cosmic blunder. In its place, he substituted a new misstatement—another misstatement of simple facts which let him continue to discredit Gore. The prevailing kooky-con narrative got pushed—and Harris made another plain blunder.
What might Harris and Montagne have said if they wanted to serve their listeners? Try to imagine a world in which NPR offered reports like this:
MONTAGNE, REVISED: There have also been questions about Al Gore's estimates as to how much the sea levels will rise. But how accurate have those presentations been?Harris could have gone on to explain the error involved in the claim his listeners may have seen in the Times. In the process, he could have cited shortcomings in Gores presentation—if he could actually find one.
Of course, imagining NPR doing that is like imagining ice shelves in Hell. Simply put, mainstream careerists like Montagne and Harris never correct the New York Times when it conducts its War Against Gore, as it has done for a decade. They didnt do so in 1999, and they have no plans to do so today. Instead, they avoid repeating the papers most glaring errors, while sticking to the larger narrative the Times has helped define. In this case, the Times said that rank-and-file scientists are concerned about Gore—so Montagne and Harris had to pimp this claim too. And most liberal journalists just let this sh*t go. Consider Joan Walsh, for example.
Ah, Walsh! Were told that shes a very nice person, and we have no reason to doubt it. But this week, at her new Salon blog, Walsh was rhapsodizing about Gore, while offering all the standards frameworks about Campaign 2000. Eight years later, this is gruesome work:
WALSH (3/12/07): I met Gore once, almost a year ago, at Google (where else) where he was giving his global warming slide show. I'll admit it; I swooned. The slide show was astonishing, and so was Gore: funny, warm, self-deprecating, occasionally angry, just a real person—all the things he wasn't when he was running for president in 2000. I came back to the Salon office and told everyone my vision: Gore makes "An Inconvenient Truth," wins an Oscar, sits out the early Democratic mudslinging and jumps in when the other candidates have slimed one another and we're ready for, yes, a prophet. I shared my vision with a Democratic netroots activist, who told me he had it too. Many of us are longing for a rescue from the Bush years, and what would be more mythical, even magical, than Gore, slain by Bush, James Baker and Antonin Scalia, rising from the political dead to rescue the world. To stop the war in Iraq, and global warming too. You don't have to be a lapsed Catholic to thrill to the symbolism.Right to this day, Walsh refuses to discuss what happened in Campaign 2000. To her, Gore was slain by Bush, James Baker and Antonin Scalia—and by his own humorless, un-real approach. To this day, she hasnt heard of the things Waldman cited this week—or shes willing to play things dumb. What actually happened in Campaign 2000? Here is the first Q-and-A between Scarborough and Waldman this Wednesday. Three words—Oh. Our. God:
SCARBOROUGH (3/21/07): Paul, do you think the vast right-wing conspiracy has their target fixed in on Al Gore`s political future?Every word of that is true. Read it again—Waldmans statement is brilliant. But eight years later, there is no sign that Salons Joan Walsh has heard about any of this. Shes still saying that Bush reached the White House because Gore wasnt funny enough.
Make sure you understand what Waldman said. The GOP gets its (bogus) messages out through a very sophisticated apparatus. And what really makes this machine so effective is the fact that the mainstream media are such willing partners in the attacks on Gore. How did that work in March 1999, with the profoundly damaging claim that Al Gore said he invented the Internet? Weve told that story in detail, many times. But heres how it worked in the past six weeks, as a new lie about Gore was invented and spread:
First, a Danish hoaxer named Bjorn Lomborg put an utterly bogus claim in the New York Sun. (A few years ago, the chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science called Lomborg "the prime example in our time of someone who distorts statistics and statements to meet his own political end.")
Then, William Broad took the gruesome howler and put it in the New York Times science section.
In conservative media, the bogus claim took off like wildfire. This week, it was widely recited on Fox. And then:
On Wednesday, NPR cleaned up Broad and Lomborgs most gruesome error—but kept pimping the same bogus narrative.
And what did Walsh do during this process? She seems to have slept through the whole doggone thing! Readers, its news when the right-wing machine invents new lies and spreads them widely. But go ahead—search Salon this week! See if Joan Walsh knew or cared or bothered to inform Salon readers.
But then, Walsh also kept quiet eight years ago, when invented the Internet changed all our lives. That explains why Waldman still had to debunk the tale this week—eight years later! Eight years later! What happened Wednesday night would just be funny—if it werent for the way Bush reached the White House. If it werent for the war in Iraq.
KEEP SPIN ALIVE: As Waldman says, the GOP has a complex apparatus for spreading its spins, misstatements and lies. And the gutless complicity of NPR is a strong part of the GOPs business model. In the past month, the kooky-con right had set the new narrative—scientists are concerned about Gores facts. And of course! Montagne and Harris beat the bushes trying to find some examples. How far was Harris willing to stretch to keep the GOP spin alive? Heres the first complaint he reported when he tattled to Montagne:
MONTAGNE (3/21/07): Give us some examples, then, of some of the concerns that scientists have [about Gores presentations on warming].In a word, thats just god-awful.
No one can say 34 years? In fact, someone had said 34 years, in the week before Gores speech—and Gore was simply citing their work. Youll note that Harris doesnt bother quoting anything Gore actually said in that speech. The day after Gores speech, Jane Kay did, in the San Francisco Chronicle:
KAY (12/15/06): Even after 40 years of following the science of climate change, he said he was surprised to learn this week about new, earlier projections for when the Arctic sea ice will completely melt during the summertime. That research came from scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado.By the way: When Gore said their horizon was 34 years, he wasnt making a really precise prediction. In the cross-bay Contra Costa Times, Douglas Fisher managed to paraphrase Gore with a good deal of competence:
FISHER (12/15/06): Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," popularized the significant—and increasingly catastrophic—changes under way on Earth as a result of human activity.The Arctic ice could be gone. Thats not a precise prediction.
The full text of Gores San Francisco speech doesnt seem to be available on-line. But Gore was still citing this new, 34-year estimate in this weeks congressional testimony—and no, he wasnt making a really precise prediction. He was saying what could happen, according to that new, troubling study. Gore to the senate, speaking of the polar ice cap: The scientists say it may be gone in as little as 34 years (our emphasis).
KONDRACKE (3/21/07): Now, I have read the New York Times piece and I reread the New York Times piece, and basically what is says was that there disputes about certain facts in the Gore case. And one or them—one significant one—is this question of how high the sea level rise and it's not, it isn't insignificant. However, as to the question of a consensus, I mean the—Gore appeared before the American Geophysical Union and got a standing ovation.In this way, the all-stars defended Freds prior claim—that global warming is really being caused by changed activity on the sun. There are no words for the sheer buffoonery which now rules large parts of our lives. Nor do our liberal elites seem to find it offensive.
Its less important when this happens on Fox. Its more important when the New York Times does it. But the New York Times and NPR are both part of that apparatus Waldman so expertly discussed. Waldman explained the shape of your world—and it has nothing to do with Gore being funny. Yep! New lies continued to spread this week—even after Gore told beaucoup jokes.