MATTHEWS (4/23/06): First up: Perfect failures? The president's press secretary is out, Karl Rove's been contained, but more and more Democrats think Bush is shuffling the chairs on the Titanic. Lead by presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, they smell opportunity. But will the party blow it in the end like before? Back in '88, Michael Dukakis had a double-digit lead over George Bush, only to lose big in November. Al Gore ran on a record of peace and prosperity but failed to win the White House. And despite an unpopular war, John Kerry couldn't beat out George W. Bush. What did these candidates all have in common?Democrats are inauthentic. They play it safe—and of course, theyre poll-tested.As we saw yesterday, theres almost nothing so dumb that pundits wont say it as they prove this familiar tale—and so too with this presentation by Matthews. How foolish was his brief this day? Lets include the statements by Clinton which had the host tearing his hair:
In Joe Klein's latest book, Politics Lost, he argues that they all ran campaigns with only one goal in mind: to avoid taking any risks. Is Hillary Clinton going down the same poll-tested path? Here she is trying to play it safe on immigration, Iraq and abortion:
MATTHEWS: Is Hillary Clinton going down the same poll-tested path? Here she is trying to play it safe on immigration, Iraq and abortion:Matthews then turned to Klein and said: You say you have to go back to Bobby Kennedy to find a real Democrat.
CLINTON (videotape): Yes, we do need border security in a time of increased dangers. But we also need better cross-border corporation.
CLINTON (videotape): And we are not there for the long run, we are not there with an open-ended commitment, but we don't put a public timetable on military action.
CLINTON (videotape): We can support a woman's right to choose that makes abortion safe, legal and rare, and reduces the number of abortions.
MATTHEWS: What's in the Democratic water? Why do they all talk like that? Why can't they say, Here's what I feel, damn it! I don't care what anybody thinks?
Matthews played tape of three statements by Clinton, then said that all Big Dems talk like that. But what was supposed to be so troubling about unremarkable statements? According to Matthews, the statements show that Democrats avoid taking risks, play it safe and all head down the same poll-tested path. But uh-oh! These statements by Clinton are perfectly sensible, and her first two statements would be unremarkable coming from the mouth of George Bush—a Republican! Meanwhile, safe, legal and rare is a formulation introduced by Bill Clinton—and Klein soon said that Bill Clinton was a Dem who would say what he felt. (Beyond that, the suggestion that abortions ought to be rare is a challenge to some liberal orthodoxy.) Are these statements poll-tested in some obvious way? Do they suggest that Hillary Clinton avoids risks to an unusual degree? No, they dont; indeed, it would be easy to assemble such statements by any Republican, including Bush or McCain. But when Standard Pundits expound on this theme, every bit of evidence proves it. They insist that Dems are fake and poll-tested. And they swear that Republicans arent.
Soon, the total nonsense began. Katty Kay said that Dems are inauthentic and that voters were quick to spot it with Gore—although Gore won the popular vote! And Matthews, once again speaking to Klein, was soon restating his theme:
MATTHEWS: And the point you make is, that if you follow your heart and your passions, like most people—we tell our kids to do this. We say, Follow your passions in life. Do what you really believe in, what you really care about. These politicians on the Democratic side, look at them, there's so much wood here and so little heart. It goes back to Mondale and the second Carter campaign, and all the way up to Hillary. There's this danger that she'll just do the same thing, paint by numbers, say the safe stuff, and at the end of the campaign you decide, Well, you now, I thought I liked her. I'm not sure what she stands for. She didn't seem to have any heart in it.Dem pols are wooden; they have no heart. And, of course, they love to straddle. Andrea Mitchell and her host shared a moment:
MITCHELL: What Hillary Clinton is trying to do, clearly, is straddle, straddle the liberal wing of the party that wins primaries—Of course, as weve noted before in some detail, these pundits heaped praise on Candidate Bush when he took this approach during Campaign 2000. He ran to the right in the primaries, then moved to the middle—and a string of scribes couldnt run fast enough to praise him for this great brilliance. Click our links below—and drink in this gangs double standards.
MATTHEWS: Right. Does a straddler look good?
MITCHELL: —and remain a centrist for the national campaign that she hopes for votes.
MATTHEWS: Who is—who have the American people ever been excited about who's a straddler?
MITCHELL: Well, nobody.
At any rate, the messages were quite familiar. Hillary Clinton is trying to straddle! Thats how we know that she isnt authentic! Just like all the other fake Dems! But our analysts came out of their chairs when Matthews came up with his one great exception. Like Diogenes, he conducted a search. He went looking for One Honest Democrat:
MATTHEWS: OK, OK, who out there of the other candidates—we know their names—is going to come forward and perhaps pass her [Clinton] on the inside rail on credibility, candor and instinct? Who out there can do it, be the real—the genuine article, while she's playing safe?Did Warner seem instinctive? Was he the real thing? No. No, Klein virtually shouted. But then, we got to enjoy a big laugh. Try to believe that they said it:
KLEIN: It's hard to tell.
MITCHELL: Potentially Mark Warner. The governor of Virginia—former governor of Virginia.
KAY: It seems to me—
MATTHEWS: Does he seem like an instinctive politician to you?
KLEIN: No. No!
MITCHELL (continuing directly): Well, I think he's got a good grasp on a centrist position. Now, that could be his instinct. I mean, you think that's all by design—You can be an instinctive middle-of-the-roader! And yes—Chris Matthews can tell.
KAY: I think he's all—I'm not sure that he's—
MITCHELL: I think that is—that is part of being—
KLEIN: You know—you know who's—
MATTHEWS: I agree! I agree! You can be an instinctive middle-of-the-roader. I can tell.
Try to believe how foolish this was! Every member of this panel agrees that George Bush misled us into a war. Matthews says so all the time. But so what? It still has to be the presidential Dems who just wont tell you what they think! Nothing changes this idiot script—and every statement by every Dem proves it. Our judgment? Democrats should start planning today for the way this script will frame Campaign 08.
TOMORROW: Matthews doesnt like long sentences. Except, of course, when he does.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Doggone it. We see now that weve never posted the full account of this laughable episode—the way the Pundit Corps heaped praise on Bush in the spring of 2000 for moving to the center. But its one of the most clownish episodes from Campaign 2000 (and yes, weve done all the work). In the spring of that year, the pundits All Knew It—fake, phony Gore was reinventing himself, and he had to be punished for such outrageous conduct. Meanwhile, Bush was masterfully moving to the center—for which he was endlessly praised. Weve done the full work, but weve never posted it. For a few comic real-time examples, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/9/00 and 6/22/00.
In the primaries, Bush ran to the right—and then, for the general, he moved to the center. These pundits praised Bush for his strategy then. They trash Clinton—in advance—for it now.
WHAT WE REALLY NEEDED WAS A NEW WORLD-CLASS MUFFLER: We thought you might enjoy a sour laugh at the expense of Spinner One, the New York Times Katharine Kit Seelye.. During Campaign 2000, her sour spinning against Gore never ended. At one point, heres the way this laughable journalist dealt with internal combustion:
SEELYE (1/19/000):Incredible, isnt it? But to Seelyes strange mind, Gore was a fake—and every single action proved it. On this day, she could see how fake the candidate was when he told some supporters to travel in a van.
HAVE VAN? CAN TRAVEL?
Vice President Al Gore may have questioned the effects of the internal combustion engine, but not when it comes to transportation to the polls. Today he exhorted a union audience in Knoxville, Iowa, to pile into vans—not cars, but gas-guzzling vans—and haul friends to the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 24. "I need your willingness to take people with you to the caucuses," he said. Got a car and van? "Take the van," Mr. Gore said. "And, remember, take people with you in the van.
Yes. Its hard to believe, but she actually wrote that—and a New York Times editor actually published it! (It ran as a Campaign Briefing item.) And yes—Seelye maintained this total nonsense right to the end of the race.
To marvel at Seelyes final report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/13/00. Plainly, the scribe was coming unglued at this point. Try to believe that the New York Times published such consummate nonsense.