Daily Howler logo
WASHINGTON AWOL (PART 3)! Even Josh Marshall took himself AWOL concerning that War Against Gore: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6, 2005

WASHINGTON AWOL (PART 3): Yes, the press corps is giving its Standard Free Pass to Mark Levin’s gong-show best-seller (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/5/05). But then, that’s what this group does best; Dahlia Lithwick hasn’t heard, but they also gave a free pass to the gong-show best-seller, Unfit for Command, that transformed the Bush-Kerry race. Indeed, the mainstream press has been AWOL for decades regarding the work of the kooky-con right. Not for them the grimy task of confronting the pseudo-con discourse being ginned in such kooky-con precincts. It’s simpler to count up Ann Coulter’s footnotes—praising the scribe for her brilliant scholarship—while failing to note that the mountain of notes were, in fact, largely bogus (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/02). Lithwick seems to think that her “serious journalist” pals have been hard at work in recent years—that Levin’s free pass is some sort of surprise. In fact, her gang has long been AWOL. Levin’s free pass? It’s the latest example of their long refusal to confront the rough, nasty men who have made such a long-running joke of your discourse. Lithwick is right about Mark Levin’s treatment. But she’s wrong about everything else.

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? We’ve presented a mountain of info here (there’s a great deal more which we haven’t 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, I’d 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 don’t want to listen to Joe, maybe you’ll believe a fiery liberal. Here’s 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 don’t even think it’s dislike. It’s more like a disdain and contempt…And this was, you know, a year-and-a-half before the [2000] election, I think you could say this. This wasn’t 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 can’t 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.

HALL (continuing directly): It’s 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.

People were starting to mention this remarkable matter. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/31/02, for a compilation of such statements.

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. Let’s 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 can’t recite it better than that! Clinton’s 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, isn’t it? Even after the wilding of Clinton, then Gore, kooky-con scribes are still allowed to scream, Liberal bias! And Dahlia Lithwick’s “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 Rather’s big bungle, as they got to yell, again and again, about the corps’ liberal bias. Liberal bias! It’s the greatest propaganda-point of the past forty years—and “liberal spokesmen” all seem to know that they have to play dumb when it’s shouted! Who is the real mainstream press corps today? We’ve 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. “We’ve noticed,” the young scribes sadly said.

But then, everyone out there seems to know that they mustn’t discuss the press corps’ real conduct! Why did so few “liberal spokesmen” know what to say about Rather’s 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, we’ll offer Part 8 of “Bungling Rather”—and we’ll 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: Let’s get clear about Lithwick’s 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. She’ll 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 O’Neill got before him. Tell us again: Which “serious journalist” wrote the piece explaining how kooky Bernie Goldberg’s book was? And which “serious journalist” wrote the piece explaining that Coulter’s footnotes were full of hot air? And it isn’t because they didn’t know it; all the work was done for them here at THE HOWLER, and they’ve seldom shrunk from plagiarizing our work on the rare occasions when they’ve wanted to use it. But who among them wrote the piece which dared to challenge these kooky-con books? In fact, Lithwick’s brave tribe of “serious journalists” has failed to confront these books for years. But it’s possible that Lithwick, a legal writer, doesn’t understand this.

But what explains Kevin Drum’s reaction to Lithwick? As we’ve said, we thought Lithwick was perfectly right in complaining about Levin’s powder-puff treatment. But wouldn’t Drum, a general writer, know that this treatment has long been the norm when kooky-con pundits write kooky-con books? Wouldn’t he know that this is the way “serious journalists” treat all such authors? Concerning past treatment of kooky best-sellers, wouldn’t he know that Lithwick was wrong in what she implied and said?

Well, if he knew it, he sure didn’t 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 Levin’s 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 wouldn’t a bold liberal spokesmen like Drum want to make that crystal clear?