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SCRIPT SEARCH! You can’t get dumber than Lisa Myers. Here—let Myers show you:


IPHIGENIA AND ALAN: Three spin-points you won’t hear recited by all your “liberal” pundits:

  1. Rice’s appearance before the commission? That’s just Bush’s latest flip-flop, like Homeland Security and campaign finance.
  2. Why is Karen Hughes profiteering from her offensive new book?
  3. Rice’s latest misstatement (in Monday’s op-ed) shows that she lacks credibility.
Why won’t your hear these points from your pundits? Of course! They aren’t pre-approved by Sean Hannity!

By the way, Hannity was busy on last night’s program playing Bill Frist’s slimy “if” card. He chatted with Alexander Haig, on whom his host’s point slowly dawned:

HANNITY: I want to ask you this…If [Clarke] contradicted himself clearly under oath, and it’s clear that he lied under oath, should he be gone after for perjury?

HAIG: Well, I don’t know enough of the facts to—

HANNITY: If! I’m saying if, if he did these things, if they could prove that?

HAIG [getting the point]: Then he should be dismissed for incredibility! He has no credibility!

Hannity kept saying if-if-if-if. Finally, Haig knew which script to recite.

In the spirit of the season, we’d like to repeat a basic point we often make about Hannity. If Sean Hannity has been exposing himself to young children, he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. There’s just no excuse for Sean Hannity’s conduct if he’s been exposing himself to such kids.

YOU CAN’T GET DUMBER THAN LISA MYERS: You can’t get dumber than Lisa Myers. On Monday’s NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams introduced a report about Richard Clarke. “A lot of people who have heard the allegations from Clarke…have had trouble figuring out the truth,” he said. “Tonight our NBC News Truth Squad takes on the debate over national security and just who’s right.” The handsome anchor threw to Myers. That’s when the dumbness began.

Did NBC really care about this topic? Myers got 400 words to work with. But, despite the abdurdly short segment, she selected three different topics to “check.” Incredibly, this turkey came second:

MYERS: What did Condoleezza Rice know about al-Qaeda? Clarke claims when he briefed Rice on al-Qaeda in January 2001, “She gave me the impression she had never heard the term before.” Rice calls that “arrogant and insulting.” In fact, Rice spoke at length about al-Qaeda in a radio interview in 2000.

RICE (on audiotape): We don’t want to wake up one day and find out that Osama bin Laden has been successful on our own territory.

Which is dumber—the topic itself, or Myers’ “analysis,” which we have given in full?

First, the topic: Clarke explores a range of important issues in his book—a book which deals with life-and-death matters. Was Rice familiar with the term “al Qaeda?” Clarke’s fleeting remark is utterly trivial—perfect for Myers’ mind-set. But Myers picked the topic for an obvious reason. By last weekend, the notion that Clarke made a foolish claim about Rice had become an established conservative spin-point. Myers’ “analysis” was totally scripted. This topic, and Myers’ treatment of it, were a sop to conservative hacks.

But if the topic was utterly trivial, Myers’ “analysis” showcased her glacial stupidity. Kids, we’ve covered this barren ground before (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/25/04). No, Rice didn’t use the term “al Qaeda” in that 2000 radio session (as you might guess from the clip Myers aired). Had Rice heard the term before her briefing? There’s simply no way to tell from this “evidence.” But Myers was too dumb to know—or she was simply seeking a way to please her conservative minders.

What does Clarke say about this general topic? In his opening chapter, he notes the obscurity of bin Laden’s group at the time of the 9/11 attacks. “Most Americans had never heard of al Qaeda,” he writes. “Indeed, most senior officials in the administration did not know the term when we briefed them in January 2001.” Indeed, such general ignorance should not be shocking. In calendar year 2000, for example, the terms “al Qaida” or “al Qaeda” appeared in the Washington Post only 18 times, according to Nexis. They appeared in the Washington Times even less (13 times). Was Rice familiar with the term? Simply put, there’s no way to know. It’s fairly clear that she never put the term in the public record before her January briefing with Clarke. For that reason, hacks have been forced to cite the interview in which she referred to bin Laden. This worthless “evidence” was good enough for Hannity. It was good enough for our Truth Squadder, too.

How fake, how phony is your “press corps?” Clarke makes serious claims in his book—and Myers wastes her time on this. No, Lisa Myers has no idea if Condi Rice knew the term “al Qaeda.” But conservative hacks were pushing a script—so Myers obligingly cut-and-pasted. Can you see the contempt—the pure contempt—the Truth Squad Queen has for your discourse?

LET’S PLAY DUMBBELL: Last night, Myers continued her clowning on Hardball. Introduced as “NBC News’ chief investigative correspondent,” Myers plowed through the same three topics. But on the matter of Rice and “al Qaeda,” she embroidered a bit. Let’s begin:

MATTHEWS: Richard Clarke in his book said, Lisa, the quote is, “I briefed Rice”—that’s Condoleezza Rice—“on al Qaeda. Her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard of the term before.”… Is that a credible charge?

MYERS: Well, that may be one of the least credible passages in Richard Clarke’s book.

Wow! One of Clarke’s least credible passages! The Truth Squad leader continued:
MYERS: Chris, you know Dr. Condoleezza Rice. She’s a very bright, well-educated woman. She’s an international specialist. We even found speeches, and one particular radio interview in the year 2000 where she talks about al Qaeda. I think you have a brief excerpt.

MATTHEWS: Let’s take a look.

RICE (on audiotape): We don’t want to wake up one day and find out that Osama bin Laden has been successful on our own territory.

Weird, isn’t it? Despite all those speeches which Myers found, she still played the tape where Rice doesn’t say “al Qaeda!” By the way—where did Myers “find” this tape? She “found” it the same place Hannity did—in the hands of a White House spinner.

Luckily, Matthews knew that his overfed guest was full of stale old cable cant. The talker served up this next comment:

MATTHEWS: Well, it’s clear she knew what the basic substance was. I guess the only question, Lisa, is, Was she familiar with the term, al Qaeda—“the base” in Arabic?
Yep! The “only question” that wasn’t clear was the question that Myers was checking!

Readers, you can’t get dumber than Lisa Myers. Here—let Myers show you.

EVAN THOMAS, PRETTY WELL SPUN: For an instructive cable performance, you had to catch Evan Thomas on Monday’s Imus. Was Clarke correct in his substantive claims? Who gives a sh*t about something like that? For the pampered poodles of your “press corps,” news is now pure personality:

IMUS: What do you make of this Clarke business, first of all?

THOMAS: I think a lot of it is just personal. Clarke and Condi Rice, just a bad, bad combination. Clarke is a very attention-getting, loudmouth, trouble-making, annoying but sometimes-effective civil servant…

Thomas doesn’t care for Clarke. Rice, of course, isn’t a loudmouth:
THOMAS: She’s very graceful and she’s really good at spinning you, and I usually float out of there pretty well spun.
Truer words were never spoken! In the current Newsweek, Thomas pens a lengthy piece about Clarke. But how does he kick things off? With the same script which Myers selected:
THOMAS (pgh 1): What does Richard Clarke have against Condoleezza Rice? In his book, “Against All Enemies,” Clarke, the former counterterror chief for the Bush White House, writes that when he first briefed the president’s national-security adviser about the Qaeda threat at a January 2001 meeting, “her facial expression gave me the impression she had never heard the term before.” That is a stretch; Rice had spoken publicly about Al Qaeda before she came to the White House.
Snore! Thomas typed the approved script too, right at the start of his article! But then, this stupid script is being recited all across the Washington “press.” It’s a trivial point from Clarke’s book—and the “evidence” doesn’t show that Clarke’s wrong. But conservative spinners have picked this out as a way to show that Clarke is all wet. So they handed the script to Myers and Thomas, and the obedient scribes started typing.

But then, it’s just as Thomas said. Confronted by the graceful Condi, the scribe “walked out of there pretty well spun.” Can’t you see what a screaming joke these courtiers make of your discourse?

Annals of Blitzer’s conduct

DOWN IN THE MIRE: Wolf Blitzer has offered an explanation for his comment about Clarke’s personal life (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/30/04). He spoke on yesterday’s Blitzer Reports. As he did, he misled viewers about Paul Krugman:

BLITZER (3/30/04): Last Wednesday, while I was debriefing our senior White House correspondent, John King, I asked him if White House officials were suggesting there were some weird aspects to Richard Clarke’s life. Clarke, of course, is the former counter-terrorism adviser who has sharply criticized the president’s handling of the war on terror. I was not referring to anything charged by so-called unnamed White House officials as alleged today by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. I was simply seeking to flesh out what Bush National Security Council spokesman Jim Wilkinson had said on this program two days earlier.

WILKINSON (videotape): Let me also point something. If you look in this book, you find interesting things such as reported in the Washington Post this morning. He’s talking about how he sits back and visualizes chanting by bin Laden and how bin Laden has some sort of mind control over U.S. officials. This is sort of X-Files stuff. And what I’d say is, this is a man who was in charge of terrorism, Wolf, who was supposed to be focused on that. And he was focused on meetings.

BLITZER: Other than that, John Kerry [sic] reported White House officials were not talking about Clarke’s personal life in any way. Lou Dobbs Tonight starts right now.

Presumably, Blitzer meant to say “John King,” not “John Kerry.” But when it comes to Wolf Blitzer, who knows?

Was Blitzer referring to Wilkinson in last week’s comment? Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t really know (more below). For the record, Wilkinson’s comments were a stupid, fake account of what Clarke actually says in his book—the kind of fakery men like Wilkinson know they can offer to Blitzer. Simply put, Wilkinson lied, right in Blitzer’s face. But was that what Blitzer had in mind when he spoke to King last week? Here, again, is what he said when he posed his question:

BLITZER (question to King, Wednesday, 3/24/04): What administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn’t get a certain promotion. He’s got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they’re also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don’t know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president. Is that the sense that you’re getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?
Let’s state the obvious. Blitzer did refer to unnamed “administration officials,” the claim he mocked on yesterday’s program. If you watched him yesterday, you would have thought that Krugman invented the part about “unnamed officials.” CNN’s viewers were baldly misled. Sadly, they were misled by Blitzer.

So Blitzer dissembled about Paul Krugman. Beyond that, it’s conceivable that Blitzer was referring to Wilkinson in his question to King. In truth, it seems like a bit of a stretch. But yes, it’s always conceivable.

But let’s get to the larger question, the one Blitzer’s comment raised. Are Bush types sliming Clarke’s personal life? Last night, Ann Coulter slithered into Scarborough Country. As usual, she crawled through the mire:

COULTER: I think Condoleezza Rice was probably chomping at the bit, wondering why this angry, embittered, strange man with no personal life was in this misogynistic snit with her, for the only woman he worked for, I might add.
Sadly, Scarborough hosts people like Coulter every night. One night, it’s Jack Burkman, ranting about “felonies,” “crimes,” “perjury” and “treason” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/30/04). The next night, it’s Coulter, out spreading the slime. In the past, low-life types like Burkman and Coulter had to do their muttering in dark corner bars. Now, Scarborough puts them on the air. And Blitzer rolls for slugs like Wilkinson, letting them peddle fake stories.