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GLENN GREENWALD, REPORT TO SWEDEN! We nominate him for a Nobel Prize–and see the fabrications continue: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2007

LOVES THE WAR-MONGER: Tonight, Chris Matthews takes his turn, hosting the first Republican debate. Will he suggest “treasonous” conduct in his first question? In his second question, will he use a perfectly sensible, five-year-old quote to play “gotcha” with one of the major front-runners? It would be hard for Matthews to top the performance of his colleague, Brian Williams (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/30/07). But it will be interesting to see what Matthews does tonight. In general, Matthews has been very tough on the war in Iraq—and very friendly to Republican pols, about whom he has endless hero tales. You might say this: He hates the war—but loves the war-monger. It will be interesting to see where this contradiction leads him in tonight’s work.

Of course, with ten (10) hopefuls on stage tonight, there will be little chance to develop real themes. To his credit, Williams did a good job of moving the Dem debate along. Matthews’ job will be harder.

Meanwhile, in Lois Romano’s column this morning, NBC gives an absurd explanation for one other aspect of Williams’ performance. Last Thursday, some Dem hopefuls were more equal than others when it came to speaking time. According to Romano, Clinton got to speak for twelve minutes, while Dodd spoke for only five. (Gravel got only four minutes, she says.) Why did the top-tier candidates get more time? “They have more time because people take more shots at them and we allow them to respond in fairness,” an NBC spokesman told Romano. But that is an absurd account of how the process actually worked. Simply put, Williams and his local colleague, David Stanton, asked more questions of the front-runners. You can defend that approach to these affairs. But readers, what a major surprise! NBC chose to dissemble.

RICE WAS RIGHT—AND WE WERE WRONG: Several e-mailers said we were wrong in what we said about Condi Rice’s Face the Nation appearance. As a matter of fact, they were right. Did Rice play the “slam dunk” card this Sunday? Did she continue to push the (chronologically bogus) story: Tenet convinced everyone that Saddam had weapons at that 12/21/02 White House meeting? Her comment to Schieffer was somewhat ambiguous, but it’s fairly clear, from past interviews, that Rice has not pushed this story line (and wasn’t pushing it with Schieffer). In fact, we were sent the transcript of Rice’s interview with Karen Tumulty in 2004, just after Tenet’s book appeared. We won’t say which of the principals sent it—we never discuss our conversations with either party—but it was clear, even them, that Rice was not promoting this story-line. We all believed there were weapons all along, is what she has basically said.

The slam-dunk anecdote helped Bush mightily in his re-election campaign. We still plan to do the HOWLER HISTORY tomorrow, although we jumped the gun a bit in yesterday’s post. But Rice didn’t push that line, even in 2004. Helpfully for Candidate Bush, a long string of big pundits did—even though the helpful story made no chronological sense.

We’ll offer a shortened history tomorrow. We’ll be at a big family affair.

GLENN GREENWALD, REPORT TO SWEDEN: Like Al Gore and Rush Limbaugh before him, Glenn Greenwald has now been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. As with Limbaugh, Greenwald’s nomination is unofficial. Our analysts nominated Salon’s shooting star after reading this passage Monday morning:
GREENWALD (4/30/07): [T]he notion that bloggers have ushered in an era of personal attacks and mean-spirited political commentary should be too inane for anyone to voice. The 1990s were characterized by our most prestigious media outlets following the lead of Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge by endlessly discussing the spots on Bill Clinton's penis, the sperm stains on Monica Lewinsky's dress, and Hillary Clinton's lesbian-fueled murder of Vince Foster, followed by Al Gore's emasculation at the hands of Naomi Wolf and all the other petty, snotty personality-based fabrications which decided the 2000 election.
We agree with most of that passage. (We wouldn’t assume that those prestigious news outlets—the Washington Post and New York Times, for example—were somehow aping Rush and Drudge in their pursuit of the Clintons and Gore. By this time, they were capable of acting like lunatics all by themselves. They did so quite routinely.) But it’s that highlighted passage which caught our staff’s eye. It won Greenwald his forthcoming trip to the land of depressing film classics.

You see, it’s good for the world when people read that the crackpot coverage of Candidate Gore “decided the 2000 election.” It’s roughly the most obvious fact on this planet, but liberals rarely get to hear it. Indeed, the crackpot press conduct which Greenwald describes came to a head in the two-year campaign which started in March 1999. (By this time eight years ago, they had already branded Gore a stone liar. They kept it up for the next eighteen months.) You can’t understand the history of the past fifteen years if you don’t understand Greenwald’s highlighted statement. But we liberals have been very timid about stating this fact—the most obvious fact on the face of the earth. In this way, we’ve enabled the press corps to engage in this kooky conduct again and again.

No, no one else has gotten trashed like Gore. But let’s face it—the song lingers on. Consider the sad performance of A. B. Stoddard (The Hill) on yesterday’s edition of Tucker. Stoddard is a smart, rising mainstream star, and The Hill is an influential insider publication. This makes her reaction to a couple of “petty, snotty personality-based” stories quite sad—just hugely disappointing.

Tucker Carlson’s items were hardly surprising. He’s almost as kooky about the Clintons and Gore as his colleague, Chris Matthews, is. So it was no surprise when he cited this pitiful “news report” from yesterday’s New York Post. (Clinton’s a phony because she charters private jets!) Nor was it a giant shock when he also turned to this “news report” in the pitiful Washington Times. (Pelosi is much beloved—in Syria!) These “news reports” are good examples of the type of snotty fabrication which sent George W. Bush to the White House. And Stoddard couldn’t run fast enough to say how very grave and troubling these two pseudo “news reports” were.

You can read the New York Post piece yourself to see how sad and stupid it is. (Headline: FLIGHTY HILL CHANGES PLANES—CONSTANTLY.) As usual, the report was designed to make you think that Clinton’s a “flighty” rhymes-with-witch—“a fussy frequent flier who used three different planes in a single day during a recent campaign swing through South Carolina.” Let’s state the obvious; the article makes no attempt to compare Clinton’s deeply troubling conduct with that of the major Republican candidates. (Do GOP hopefuls hitch-hike to engagements?) Meanwhile, here’s Ian Bishop’s brilliant “reporting” concerning one part of Clinton’s travels:
BISHOP (5/2/07): The former first lady even grounded one aircraft—a chartered Gulfstream II—in Columbia, S.C., last Friday, demanding a swankier Gulfstream III replacement for a flight out west. "She didn't like the configuration of the cabin," an aviation source familiar with Clinton's travel told The Post.
“She didn’t like the configuration of the cabin?” Could that possibly mean that the smaller plane wasn’t big enough for the long-term hauls that lay ahead? (As Bishop mentions, Clinton chose the Gulfstream III for a west coast trip.) Don’t expect to see the New York Post analyze matters like that. These stories are “snotty” propaganda, designed to further the GOP’s most useful theme: Big Dem pols are rich, spoiled phonies. This theme has been pimped again and again—and again and again—overt he course of the past fifteen years. This kind of “snotty, personality-based” propaganda won’t stop until decent folk make it happen.

The Washington Times “report” on Pelosi was even more patently bogus. This “report” was designed to promote another top theme: Big Dems are virtual traitors. (Last Thursday, Williams tickled those keys with his astounding first question.) In this report, Betsy Pisik employed a useful technique to prove that Pelosi may well be “[t]he second most popular politician in Syria.” In Damascus, Pisik spoke to the man-in-the-street (or, at least, she said she did); she then selected a few helpful quotes to “prove” her troubling thesis. Here’s the part of Pisik’s piece that Carlson gravely quoted:
PISIK (5/2/07): "She was enormously popular here, a hero," said one such resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "This is the best thing that has happened here, if it proves [Mr. Assad] was right not to give concessions."

Along with recent visits by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and officials from the European Union, the resident added, Mrs. Pelosi's trip "bolsters the regime with the Syrian people, and it shows that isolating Syria won't work."
Interesting, isn’t it? So many Syrians love Pelosi that Pisik’s perfect money-quote came from someone who wouldn’t be named! Does this alleged Syrian even exist? We don’t have the slightest idea. But Pisik’s “report” provides no real evidence supporting her smarmy, familiar thesis. As everyone knows, if you quote enough “men and women in the street,” you will end up with a wide range of quotes, from which you can pick the quotes that you want! As everyone knows, you can then pick-and-choose your quotes to “prove” your pre-approved thesis.

In fairness, we shouldn’t say that everyone knows this, because it seems that A. B. Stoddard doesn’t. Stoddard had just batted away an embarrassing question about Mitt Romney. (Weirdly, Romney said that L. Ron Hubbard’s scientology groaner, Battlefield Earth, is his favorite novel.) Is Mitt Romney possibly nuts? Stoddard couldn’t care less. (We wouldn’t care much about this either.) But Stoddard couldn’t run fast enough to affirm the New York Post’s troubling story. And omigod! Look what else she threw in:
CARLSON (5/2/07): A.B., you know as well as I that there is nothing that Hillary Clinton has a greater commitment to than our environment, this planet we live on, our island home. OK? Given that, her conspicuous use of private airplanes, really the most wasteful possible use of our finite carbon based resources, is pretty shocking.

According to the New York Post, just last week at the South Carolina debate, she flew on three private planes—three! At one point, they offered here a Gulf Stream II. She said, I don’t like the cabin configuration, I want a Gulf Stream III. Can you do stuff like this? Can you burn petroleum products as conspicuously as she does and still call yourself an environmentalist?

STODDARD: No, and I also think that this is just one of those stories that people remember. I don`t think that they are going to remember Battlefield Earth as much as you and Peter [Fenn] think. But I actually think that 400 dollar haircuts and having too many airplanes waiting for you on the tarmac and preferring one cabin configuration over the other is excessive, and people remember it. It’s really, really hard to explain.
But this story isn’t “really, really hard to explain;” candidates fly on chartered planes because they maintain extremely cramped schedules, and that’s the only way they can meet them. But so what? Instead of voicing this obvious point, Stoddard raced to recite the Post’s spin; there isn’t a word in the Post report to show that Clinton “had too many airplanes waiting for her on the tarmac,” but Stoddard raced to say it. Does A. B. Stoddard still not know that papers like the New York Post engage in “petty, snotty personality-based fabrications”—the kind of snotty fabrications “which decided the 2000 election?” To judge from yesterday’s outing, she still doesn’t have the first freaking idea. Indeed, how much did the spirit move her as she discussed Clinton’s troubling planes? Why, she even threw in Edwards’ haircuts! People remember that stuff, she exclaimed. Indeed, she helped them do so.

Meanwhile, take a look at the gruesome way Stoddard framed the Pelosi matter:
STODDARD: I mean, I think this was a mutually beneficial trip for Mr. Assad and Miss Pelosi. She’s big in Damascus and that’s big for her. And she knew exactly what was going to happen on the trip. She was not going to change any policy. She was going to get criticized by Republicans and by the White House. She was going to show President Bush that she can start a big—you know, make waves, get the debate going, and get a lot of attention. And that is what she did. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that they are calling her a hero there.
It would be hard to explain how pathetic that is. “She’s big in Damascus and that’s big for her?” Truly, that’s just gruesome. Meanwhile, there really isn’t a word in the Washington Times report to support the tendentious claim that “they are calling her a hero there.” But Stoddard ran to support these themes—and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn offered weak, half-hearted attempts to counter Stoddard’s enthusiasm.

Does Stoddard fail to understand the nature of these two papers’ “reporting?” Does she fail to know that our public discourse is increasingly driven by “petty, snotty personality-based fabrications” of the type “which decided the 2000 election?” It’s possible that she doesn’t grasp this—in part because we libs have been quite slow to state the most obvious fact on the planet. Greenwald cited that fact this week—and won a free trip to Sweden.

Note: If Greenwald sends us his expense record, we’ll respond in the usual manner.

GO AHEAD—READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT: We strongly suggest that you read through the full discussion about Romney, Clinton and Pelosi. (It’s found about mid-way through the Tucker transcript.) Note the way Stoddard dismisses that story about Battlefield Romney—then jumps on the stories about the two Dems. Beyond that, note the way this rising star even dismisses a more substantive problem—Romney’s endless reinventions. Yes, he does it, she wearily said—but at this point, no one even notices. In this passage, she is responding to Carlson’s question about Romney’s weird favorite novel:
STODDARD: You know, I really think this is not a big deal. I think that he is entitled to his quirky tastes. I think that he is a habitual flip-flopper, and has religious conversions on everything that comes out of his mouth, and he changes his mind so much now that people don’t even notice. He is on campaign finance reform right now. He is after everyone in the Washington political back-scratching class that wrote McCain-Feingold.

If you look him up in the Massachusetts newspapers, he wanted to abolish political action committees and tax political contributions. He changes on everything. And so his bedside reading is no big deal to me.
Romney’s bedside reading was no big deal. But then, no one notices his flip-flopping any more either! (To our ear, Stoddard took a dismissive approach to the flip-flopping and to the reading.) But omigod! Those private planes! Those private planes upset Stoddard so much that she even threw in Edwards’ haircuts! That’s what people really remember, she said. Then, she helped make it happen.

Presumably, Romney drives rented cars to engagements. He’s never used a plane in his life.

Greenwald is right. Petty, snotty personality-based fabrications did decide the 2000 election. It’s the most obvious fact in the world—and this fact is easy to state, as Greenwald proved on Monday. This fact should be a constant part of the liberal account of the past fifteen years. What’s the history of recent political journalism? Duh! They invented Whitewater and other fake scandals, then they had a heart attack about Clinton’s absurd behavior with Lewinsky. Then, they trashed Candidate Gore for two years, sending George Bush to the White House. Then, they failed to probe hard enough in the run-up to the war in Iraq. After that, they hemmed and hawed about those Swift Boat Vets.

We liberals always mention the part about Iraq. But the press corps’ trashing of Candidate Gore is much, much harder to defend than their later work on Iraq. We should mention it every time. But we rarely do so.

According to Greenwald, the press coverage “decided the 2000 election.” He’s perfectly right; this is roughly the most obvious fact on the planet. But we liberals have failed to yell it out loud; to this day, most Americans have never heard this life-changing fact about their own history. Result? The snotty fabrications continue apace. Uh-oh! Read that transcript, and see how weakly Brother Fenn defended your interests. Brother Fenn forgot to say this: This bullsh*t decided the 2000 race. We won’t take this bullsh*t again.