Yes, serious journalists know to keep quiet when kooky-con books change the discourse. And of course, when the mainstream press corps gins up wild stories itself, good pundits all know to keep quiet! Lithwick has a strange idea of how her gang handled Campaign 04. But consider the press corps long refusal to discuss what happened during Campaign 2000, when the mainstream press corps—not the conservatives—spent two years putting Bush into the White House.
How bizarre was the mainstream press corps two-year War Against Candidate Gore? Weve presented a mountain of info here (theres a great deal more which we havent posted). But readers, forget about us for a minute. Once again, consider what Joe Scarborough said on Hardball in November 02:
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, Id be going on your show saying, you know, that they were being biased.Mainstream news orgs were fairly brutal to Gore, Scarborough said. And if you dont want to listen to Joe, maybe youll believe a fiery liberal. Heres what Josh Marshall said on the same topic only a few months before:
MARSHALL (8/10/02): I think deep down most reporters just have contempt for Al Gore. I dont even think its dislike. Its more like a disdain and contempt And this was, you know, a year-and-a-half before the  election, I think you could say this. This wasnt something that happened because he ran a bad campaign. If he did, it was something that predated it.For the record, that was Josh on Reliable Sources. But then, this was the summer and fall of 2002, when a number of people were starting to say, right in the open, that the mainstream press corps had Warred Against Gore. For example, in a year-end Fox NewsWatch program, Neal Gabler and Jane Hall both described it:
GABLER (12/21/02): I cant think of a single major presidential candidate who was as savaged by the so-called liberal media as [Gore] was. This guy was savaged They gave him terrible, terrible press.People were starting to mention this remarkable matter. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/31/02, for a compilation of such statements.
HALL (continuing directly): Its really true. I did an analysis of a hundred stories in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and the Pew Center later confirmed what I said Every time he opened his mouth, it was Al Gore, who said he invented the Internet, said this. And they loved George Bush. That is the great irony.
But good boys and girls in the Washington press always cover up for their cohort, just as they know to feign surprise when the serious press corps gives a pass to the latest kooky-con book. Lets put Gabler and Hall to the side: As a general matter, the mainstream press will never tell you what they did during Campaign 2000, and good, obedient, self-dealing pundits will always recite the Established Press Line: Al Gore Blew A Sure Election By Running A Really Bad Race. All good hustlers know they must say it—Michelle Cottle, for one prime example, sweetly reciting on Hardball:
COTTLE (12/5/02): I mean [Gore] had this great situation handed to him. The economy was great, the Clinton years, except for a few unfortunate personal scandals, were fine and Gore blew it. I mean, he was a terrible candidate and he really ticked off the kind of New Democrats with that whole people versus the powerful populist rhetoric.You cant recite it better than that! Clintons impeachment? It gets transformed into a few unfortunate scandals—and the press corps subsequent two-year War Against Gore must be disappeared altogether. But then, toadies like Cottle will always recite the established lines of their Millionaire Pundit Class. In the case of Campaign 2000, they will never discuss what their cohort really did. Instead, they will always recite the Approved Press Corps Line: Gore was handed a great situation. But he inexplicably blew it.
Yep—even then, Cottle, the corps hot-tub toady, was willing to render this silly, fake line. And once Gore bowed out of the 04 race, discussion of the press corps conduct in Campaign 2000 pretty much came to an end. In 2002, a small but growing number of pundits had cited the fairly brutal way the mainstream press treated Candidate Gore. But this discussion ended there; by the year 2005, liberal spokesmen had stopped mentioning it. Indeed, that produced the absurd situation we saw when Dan Rather bungled about AWOL Bush. Kooky-con screamers all ran on TV, proclaiming the press corps undying liberal bias. And few liberal spokesmen were willing to say how completely absurd that familiar claim really is. To her vast credit, Flavia Colgan managed to mention the wilding of Gore—but we saw no other pundit who did. Amazing, isnt it? Even after the wilding of Clinton, then Gore, kooky-con scribes are still allowed to scream, Liberal bias! And Dahlia Lithwicks serious journalists all know they must stare into air.
And yes, your interests are sold right down the stream when your liberal spokesmen stare off at these junctures—when liberals know that they have to play dumb, when all liberal pundits become Michelle Cottle. Is Mark Levin being handed a free pass? All kooky-con pundits got a free pass in the wake of Rathers big bungle, as they got to yell, again and again, about the corps liberal bias. Liberal bias! Its the greatest propaganda-point of the past forty years—and liberal spokesmen all seem to know that they have to play dumb when its shouted! Who is the real mainstream press corps today? Weve long discussed their Millionaire Pundit Values; on March 8, Josh Marshall put it differently, mentioning their right-leaning dinner-party centrism. And yes, Josh mentioned another fact; he mentioned the fact that he never discusses it. Our analysts looked at us with big sad eyes. Weve noticed, the young scribes sadly said.
But then, everyone out there seems to know that they mustnt discuss the press corps real conduct! Why did so few liberal spokesmen know what to say about Rathers Big Bungle? Maybe they had been misled by the things their liberal leaders had said in the past. Indeed, even Marshall had known, in the spring of 02, that he had to recite that slick line about Gore. Tomorrow, well offer Part 8 of Bungling Rather—and well start with the odd thing Josh said.
Yes, Marshall knew the press corps had Warred Against Gore—but even he recited like Cottle! When all career liberals play the game like Michelle, your interests have gone badly AWOL.
DRUM AND DAHLIA: Lets get clear about Lithwicks piece for Slate. As a legal writer, Lithwick may not fully understand the mainstream press corps actual conduct. After all, at those fine dinner parties, they all pretend that they bravely confronted those Swift Boat Vets, and Lithwick—concerned with other matters—may not know that this claim is quite bogus. (Of course, if she sits near Cottle at these soirees, she will hear the Official Press Line about Gore: Al Gore was handed a sure thing, but inexplicably blew it. Shell never hear a seat-mate explain what happened in Campaign 2000.) Serious journalists spent serious time debunking the claims in the Swift Boat book? In our view, that statement is almost completely absurd—but Lithwick may not know this. Is Levin getting a free pass today? When she wrote her piece for Slate, Lithwick may not have known that this has long been the norm of her cohort—that Levin is getting the same free pass that Bernie Goldberg and Ann Coulter and John ONeill got before him. Tell us again: Which serious journalist wrote the piece explaining how kooky Bernie Goldbergs book was? And which serious journalist wrote the piece explaining that Coulters footnotes were full of hot air? And it isnt because they didnt know it; all the work was done for them here at THE HOWLER, and theyve seldom shrunk from plagiarizing our work on the rare occasions when theyve wanted to use it. But who among them wrote the piece which dared to challenge these kooky-con books? In fact, Lithwicks brave tribe of serious journalists has failed to confront these books for years. But its possible that Lithwick, a legal writer, doesnt understand this.
But what explains Kevin Drums reaction to Lithwick? As weve said, we thought Lithwick was perfectly right in complaining about Levins powder-puff treatment. But wouldnt Drum, a general writer, know that this treatment has long been the norm when kooky-con pundits write kooky-con books? Wouldnt he know that this is the way serious journalists treat all such authors? Concerning past treatment of kooky best-sellers, wouldnt he know that Lithwick was wrong in what she implied and said?
Well, if he knew it, he sure didnt say so (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/5/05)! Kevin, how did you read that piece by Lithwick without being struck by her incomprehension? Here at THE HOWLER, we were amazed to see her suggest that Levins free pass was some sort of surprise. You, by contrast, just raced off to praise her! Why in the world—why on earth—would a brave liberal spokesman do that?
Final point: We were calling Slate the Washington Post West long before the Post made it official. Lithwick may be completely sincere. But does anyone think that this is the place to learn about the press corps real conduct? And wouldnt a bold liberal spokesmen like Drum want to make that crystal clear?