Daily Howler logo
WE’RE WITH STUPID (PART 1)! Fawning hard to fun-lovin’ Fred, a Post piece says: Vote for Stupid! // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, MAY 21, 2007

RUSSERT DOES REAGAN: Excerpts from Ronald Reagan’s diaries appeared on Vanity Fair’s web site on May 1; since then, they’ve provoked little real interest. According to Nexis, the Washington Times has only cited the excerpts once—in a two-paragraph item in John McCaslin’s “Inside Politics” column. (The Washington Post and New York Times provided a bit more coverage.) Using Nexis, we can find no sign that the Reagan excerpts have been mentioned by The Weekly Standard or The National Review at all. The book of these excerpts, edited by Douglas Brinkley, goes on sale tomorrow.

To date, these diary excerpts have produced little interest. But over at NBC News, Jack Welch assembled a team of “Reagan Democrats” during the 1990s and he gave them enormous wealth and power. Yesterday, one of these famous “Lost Boys of the Sconset” used almost half his Meet the Press program to dither about these old diary entries with ex-Reagan aides Meese and Deaver. For a sample of the news he found in these excerpts, here is Tim Russert’s first comment:
RUSSERT (5/20/07): It is extraordinary how the president puts into paper and pen his innermost thoughts. The one thing that just leaps from the pages is his devotion, his even dependency on his wife Nancy. Here's an entry from March 30th, 1981:. "I pray I never face a day when she isn't there. Of all the ways God has blessed me giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve."
Interesting, isn’t it? In 1981, President Reagan loved his wife! Russert devoted almost half his program to such pressing matters, ignoring Iraq, ignoring immigration and ignoring the Comey revelations. The real problems of the real world didn’t matter. What mattered, of course, was spreading the gospel about this greatest known human.

As we’ve told you, Jack Welch knew what he was buying when he turned these Lost Boys into multimillionaires. As you may recall, here’s the first question one of them asked at this year’s first Republican debate:
MATTHEWS (5/3/07): In the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, just 22 percent believe this country is on the right track. Mayor Giuliani, how do we get back to Ronald Reagan's “Morning in America?”
Matthews opened his program with Reagan; Russert wallowed in Reagan on Sunday. We libs would have screamed if they’d done it on Fox. But since they did it on Meet the Press, we’re fairly sure that it just doesn’t matter.

ANOTHER COMPLETELY ACCIDENTAL MISTAKE: On Friday, we warned you about the lurking message inside that front-page profile of Michelle Obama (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/18/07). The next day, it turned out that the New York Times had accidentally misheard something they’d been told during their research:
NEW YORK TIMES CORRECTION (5/18/07): A front-page article yesterday about the role that Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, is playing in his presidential campaign rendered incorrectly a word in a quotation from Valerie Jarrett, a friend of the Obamas who commented on their decision that he would run. She said in a telephone interview, “Barack and Michelle thought long and hard about this decision before they made it”—not that they “fought” long and hard.
The Times was told that the Obamas “thought long and hard” about their decision. Instead, in a profile which semi-reinforced a growing narrative—Michelle Obama is a big loudmouth—the Times reported that the Obamas “fought” long and hard. It was another accidental mistake.

And yes, it may have been a mistake; on balance, we’d guess that it was. Of course, in December 1999, the Times “accidentally” “misquoted” Gore about the early work he did in the House concerning toxic waste sites. (Tape of Gore’s statement was played on TV. His words had been as clear as a bell.) This turned into a deeply damaging, month-long flap: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! The press corps toyed with this damaging tale for a month—and it was all built on a big, accidental mistake. Now, the Times has accidentally misunderstood something else it heard.

At this point, if you simply assume good faith from these people, that makes you what we call a Born Loser. But let’s assume that it was a mistake when the Times misreported that comment about the Obamas. Funny! They just keep hearing things wrong at the Times—things which reinforce their negative narratives. Just last month, after all, Maureen Dowd pretty much called Michelle Obama a big loudmouth b*tch. And just like that, reporters misunderstood something they’d heard—and it tended to further that portrait.

Again, we strongly suggest that you read Dowd’s hiss-spitting column about Michelle Obama. In 2004, Dowd trashed Howard Dean’s wife in the nastiest way (excerpts below), and she didn’t much care for Kerry’s wife either. Last month, she even managed to complain about a web site John Edwards’ daughter founded—a web site that helped Dowd see what a big faker Edwards himself must be (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/23/07). Unfortunately, Dowd plays an outsized role in shaping the mainstream press corps’ narratives—and she has a broken-souled problem with Dem wives and children that she has put on display again and again. That nasty column about Michelle Obama was pretty much par for the course with Dowd. Liberals should speak up about this, now. But since this isn’t happening on Fox, we’re fairly sure that it can’t really matter.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: How broken-souled is Maureen Dowd? In case you’ve forgotten, here’s some of what she said in 2004 about Howard Dean’s troubling wife, Judith Steinberg, a practicing family physician. In case you’ve forgotten how broken Dowd is, you might gain from this reminder:
DOWD (1/15/04): The doctors Dean seem to be in need of some tips on togetherness and building a healthy political marriage, if that's not an oxymoron.

Even by the transcendentally wacky standard for political unions set by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Deans have an unusual relationship.

She is a ghost in his political career. She has never even been to Iowa, and most reporters who have covered Howard Dean's quest here the last two years would not recognize her if she walked in the door, which she is not likely to do, since she prefers examining patients to being cross-examined by voters and reporters.

The first hard evidence most people had that Howard Dean was actually married came with a startling picture of his wife on the front page of Tuesday's Times, accompanying a Jodi Wilgoren profile.

In worn jeans and old sneakers, the shy and retiring Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean looked like a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled and unconcerned about not being at her husband's side—the anti-Laura. You could easily imagine the din of Rush Limbaugh and Co. demonizing her as a counterculture fem-lib role model for the blue states.
Darlings, you could imagine Rush doing that. But why bother? Dowd already had! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/15/04. “Physician, heal thy spouse,” she wittily typed at the end of this vile, stupid column.

Dowd got nastier before she was done; she returned to Dean’s deeply troubling wife in another nasty, stupid piece just ten days later. (“It's impossible to know how her style of being a style agnostic would wear during a campaign,” Dowd meowed, “and some reporters thought that thrust into her first national television interview, Judy Dean seemed as fragile as Laura in The Glass Menagerie.” Referring to an ABC interview by the Deans, Dowd said “the couple seemed so far from mainstream American life...they were like characters who had walked into the wrong play.” Astonishing.) But Dowd is a very big deal at the Times; the paper’s reporters tend to align themselves with her inane, tortured, broken-souled musings, and Dowd tore Michelle Obama up in her recent, April 21 column. Dowd loves teasing scandal from offhand comments (real and invented)—and she seems to love trashing Democrats’ spouses. Dems and libs would be very unwise to let this proceed without strong push-back. This is the way these broken-souled losers build frameworks abound Dem candidates.

Special report: We’re with stupid!

PART 1—VOTE FOR STUPID: Some are born stupid. Some become stupid. And some have stupidity thrust upon them. Our analysts thought of those stirring old words when they read Sunday’s Post “Outlook” section, which focused on the search for a “Dream [White House] Candidate—more specifically, on the wait for Fred Thompson.

Yes, that old bromide came to mind when they read this fawning profile of Thompson—a profile accompanied by two photos of Fred, and a sidebar which ties him to Reagan. The profile was written by Liz Garrigan, hapless editor of Nashville Scene, a Tennessee alternative newspaper. And good gravy! Garrigan’s fawning profile of Thompson is built around the stupidest framework of our recent presidential politics. Even after George Bush has destroyed the known world—even after Al Gore has become a world hero—Garrigan still is typing the Standard Framework: Vote for Thompson! He’s more fun to be with! And the Post continues to publish this pap—the pap that put George Bush in the White House and took the U.S. to Iraq.

How thoroughly does Garrigan fawn over Thompson? In paragraph 1, he’s like John Wayne (twice); by paragraph 3, he’s like Reagan. And, of course, he’s not like that fake, phony fraud, his fellow Tennessean, Al Gore. Yep! By the time our analysts read paragraphs 2 and 3, they suspected it—they were with stupid:
GARRIGAN (5/20/07): [W]hile he's no admiral, he has played one in the movies. The former senator is also the third man from our humble horizontal Southern state to be touted as presidential material in the past year, after former Senate majority leader Bill Frist and former vice president Al Gore. Thompson has yet to raise a nickel—or a presidential posse—but grass-roots Republicans from the East Coast to the West already see the man with the low drawl and the towering stature as their political savior. But is he?

It wouldn't be the first time a B-list actor united the country. In fact, part of what this former ladies' man has going for him is widespread Ronald Reagan nostalgia. That, and he's a refreshing contrast to the calculating likes of Gore and even Frist: He's a guy with a Senate legacy of bipartisanship and even-handedness.
Thompson is “a refreshing contrast to the likes of Gore,” the scribe said. So yes, the analysts were already groaning as Garrigan began to flog the old scripts. But they were certain who they were with when Garrigan, plowing dumbly ahead, talked about Thompson’s remark luck. How does she know that Thompson is “lucky as hell?” Here’s how: When he reinvented himself in 1994, the press corps didn’t say a word:
GARRIGAN (continuing directly): And he knows how to play the political game. At the start of his Senate race in 1994, Thompson was a high-dollar Washington lawyer and lobbyist who drove a Lincoln Continental, lived in a condo and wore dark suits and ties to even the most folksy barbecue-and-beans Tennessee campaign appearances. But nobody—nobody with an echo, anyway—accused him of being phony when he eventually decided to prop up his flailing bid with, well, props: a getup of jeans and work shirt and some down-home locomotion in the form of a used cherry-red Chevy pickup truck that he drove across the state and featured in television ads to transform his campaign.

All of which makes him some combination of brilliant and lucky as hell.
Let’s paraphrase: In real life, Thompson was a millionaire lobbyist who slithered around in fancy suits. But omigod! When he pulled on his blue jeans and campaigned with props, nobody called him a phony! To Garrigan, of course, this means one thing: Fred Thompson is just amazingly lucky. It doesn’t enter her mind that something else might be involved here—that the press might have one set of scripts for Big Famous Reps and another set of scripts for Big Dems. Indeed, Garrigan quickly took her own turn with her cohort’s dim-witted scripts, trashing Gore for (supposedly) reinventing himself—for allegedly doing the very same thing that had made Thompson seem to be brilliant:
GARRIGAN (continuing directly): But there's more to it than that. Unlike his Democratic native-son counterpart Gore, who was picked apart like so much Tennessee roadkill in 2000 for his campaign-consultant-directed wardrobe transformation from dark suits to warmer tones, Thompson was rewarded for his makeover from slick silk-stocking lawyer to accomplished hayseed. In 1996, when he won election to his first full term, more Tennesseans voted for Thompson than for any other politician in state history.

Thompson never came off looking like a cardboard cutout—the way Gore did as a presidential candidate—because there was a kernel of truth to the image. Who could imagine a teenage Gore driving a pickup along Massachusetts Avenue on his way to the privileged academic bastion of St. Albans? But young Freddie Thompson probably did kick back in a Chevy, drinking a beer with his buds, after a Lawrence County High School football game. As Tennessee columnist Frank Cagle once put it, Thompson fit that truck in a way that Michael Dukakis never fit the tank.
Simply put, these narratives never end. In the last year, even mainstream journalists have been forced to acknowledge Gore’s brilliant work on global warming—and they’ve even been forced to admit that he was right on Iraq. (More on their own reinventions on Thursday.) But so what? For Garrigan, images of “roadkill” still roll off the tongue as she recites the time-honored scripts about Gore—scripts with no clear tie to reality. Did Naomi Wolf tell Gore to wear earth tones, as Garrigan suggests in this time-honored passage? Wolf denied it; Gore denied it; and no one ever presented evidence that it had actually happened. (Nor did anyone ever explain why it was supposed to matter.) But so what? Garrigan knows her cohort’s treasured scripts, and she’ll never stop repeating them. In her blinkered world, Bush still hasn’t destroyed the known world, and Gore still hasn’t become a world savior; she still lives in the “road-kill” days, when the press mocked Gore for his fake, phony wardrobe. And she sees no pattern—other than “luck”—in the fact that Gore got trashed for his clothes, while Thompson only got praised for his blatant “makeover.” That’s just luck, this daft woman says. Luck—and Fred Thompson’s brilliance.

But then, Garrigan is still churning the dumbest framework from Campaign 2000—the dumbest framework known to humanity. Why would Thompson be a dream candidate? Of course! He’s more fun to be with:
GARRIGAN (continuing directly): Course [sic], Thompson also tends to catch some slack because, at 6 feet 6 inches and with a charm and sense of humor that can crack even the most tightly clenched among us, he's someone men want to be and women want to be with. He's the John Wayne to Gore's professor. Gore was the prep-school son of a U.S. senator from Carthage, Tenn., spending most of his formative years not in the green hills of the Volunteer State but in the monument-dotted confines of Washington. Thompson was the son of a used-car salesman from Lawrenceburg, Tenn., who, like Thompson's mother, never graduated from high school.

Gore was always destined for the academic stratosphere, attending Harvard after his private-school grooming. Thompson was such a class clown and scholastic underachiever at Lawrence County High that a group of teachers got together to protest his being named "Most Athletic" by his classmates because they didn't want to reward the kid for being a goof-off.
Gore went to a prep school—and Thompson “goofed off.” Even today, he’s great fun to be with. For sane people, Bush’s destruction of the known world has put some dents in this mindless narrative, in which we’re asked to select our president based on who was dumber in high school—based on who we think would be fun to drink beer with. But the world is full of people like Garrigan, people who live to recommend presidents because they were “underachievers” and “clowns.” And at its upper end, the press corps is full of people like Susan Glasser, the appalling Gore-trasher—and now, Outlook editor—who keeps putting this absolute nonsense in print even after the downfall of Bush.

Even now, after Bush has destroyed the known world, the Washington Post still likes to tell readers: You should pick the hopeful who seems to be fun. Readers, please: Just vote for Stupid!

For the record, Glasser’s work on Gore in 1999 was on the far side of inexcusable. In other industries, people who invent fake “facts” the way she did get fired, then sued—sometimes prosecuted. (Details on Wednesday.) But in the world of your multimillionaire press corps, work like that earns its authors promotion. Eventually, they end up editing sections like Outlook, putting fools like Garrigan into print. Some are born stupid—and some have this powerful status thrust on them. To state the obvious, Glasser is serving the will of her class when she keeps putting this nonsense in print.

When a middle-class democracy has a multimillionaire press corps, this is what will always happen; you will always get mindless “road-kill” jibes aimed at the leaders of the more liberal party. Brilliant guys will get trashed for seeming too smart; big, dumb rubes will get praised for their dumbness. And you’ll also get what we got in Sunday’s Post—you’ll get faux liberals providing the balance. Tomorrow, let’s look in on Lawrence O’Donnell, offering this second, hapless approach to the search for the Dream White House Candidate.

TOMORROW: Lawrence O’Donnell, direct from Hollywood.

WEDNESDAY—PART 3: Who is Susan Glasser?

THURSDAY—PART 4: The role of the liberal web.

GARRIGAN TRIES TO IMAGINE: Garrigan—breast-fed on script, then weaned onto narrative—can’t “imagine a teenage Gore driving a pickup along Massachusetts Avenue on his way to the privileged academic bastion of St. Albans.” But can she imagine the following passage? The passage appeared in the Washington Post, excerpted from David Maraniss and Ellen Nakashima’s 2000 biography of Gore. The passage describes Gore as a teen-ager, doing precisely the sort of thing Garrigan can’t “imagine.” This is precisely the sort of thing she says “young Freddie” must have done:
MARANISS/NAKASHIMA (10/10/99): The Tennessee life took much of the stiffness out of Gore. As soon as he arrived in town, he and Steve Armistead would have a contest to see who could sneak up on the other first and shout "Punk!" He would impress [girl friend] Donna [Armistead] by unscrewing the receiver on a telephone in his basement room so they could listen secretly to his father's conversations with important people in Washington. After taking in several lectures on sex from his mother and her grandmother, they once teased their concerned elders by jumping on a bed until the springs squeaked loudly. Donna's mother came hurtling into the room only to find the young couple "dying laughing, holding hands, jumping."

Al obtained his learner's permit when he was 14, and quickly developed a reputation for reckless driving. "He was constantly running us into hog feeders and running us off the road," Steve Armistead recalled. One morning, as Gore was returning from a summer school class in Lebanon (there was always another lesson to be learned, his father insisted), he tried to speed past a truck on a narrow road near the big house, but the truck weaved to the left and sent him upside down into a ditch. Al escaped unhurt, but his father's 1962 Chevy Impala was totaled. His daredevil streak was evident in other ways: Water-skiing at Cove Hollow on Center Hill Lake, where his father kept a speedboat, he loved to stand on his head on the outboard motor.
These youthful episodes have been widely described; Gore himself describes his youthful Tennessee car wreck in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, which Garrigan may have avoided. (Too phony.) But the Garrigans of this world “can’t imagine” such things because they live and breathe script. They drank script at their mother’s breast; their lungs draw script from the air. Of course, this makes them useful to climbers like Glasser, who is currently working her way up a multimillionaire press establishment. Tomorrow, we’ll see what Glasser found when she sought a tough-talking “Dem” to counter poor Garrigan’s dumbness.

EQUALLY HARD TO IMAGINE: Almost surely, Garrigan can’t imagine the following either. This passage comes from a Nakashima/Maraniss article about Gore and race, this time in the Washington Post magazine. We highlight a passage at the end, but all of this is relevant to Garrigan’s profile of Thompson. Gore, still young, is now in college:
NAKASHIMA/MARANISS (4/23/00): It was Gore himself who made certain that he would interact with blacks at his next school, Harvard. "I actually requested a black roommate, just because I wanted to learn what I didn't know," he said. There were 42 African Americans in the 1965 freshman class, to that point the largest such group ever in Harvard Yard. During their first year, one of Gore's roommates was Ballinger Kemp, a Californian whose knowledge of jazz and blues and the hip scene in Boston enlightened all the white kids at Mower, their freshman dorm. Gore then became closer friends with another black classmate, John Tyson, his roommate in his junior year at Dunster House.

"I learned about black consciousness from Tyson," Gore said. Tyson got him to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice. Gore said he remembered "loooonnng conversations at night in the bunk beds, top to bottom and back again" about the books, and how and why blacks perceived the world differently from whites. "You know, the way concepts of value and worth and beauty and normality are all defined in a majority culture in ways that can be hurtful...It was really quite an education." Tyson said he and Gore were together on the night of April 4, 1968, when they heard the news that King had been assassinated in Gore's home state. "At the time the big question was, Who are we as Americans?" Tyson recalled. "A country of laws? Of bigotry? God! Who are we? Damn! What's going on? It was disillusionment. Rage. Who are we?"

That week there were services at Memorial Church on campus. Members of the Afro-American Student Association attended a separate march and service, and Tyson remembered having torn feelings about leaving Gore behind. "Al was cool," he said. "He didn't say, 'Hey man, I want to come with you.' " Jeff Howard, who was president of the black student group, recalled that when black students started pressuring Harvard for the creation of an Afro-American studies department in the aftermath of King's death, Gore seemed sympathetic to their demands, though he was not actively involved. Howard's one lasting memory of the senator's son was utterly apolitical, being taken for a ride on the back of Gore's motorcycle in the midnight darkness after a party.
It’s the motorcycle which Garrigan can’t imagine. It’s the desire to understand the wider world that she still can’t respect, even after fun-lovin’ Bush managed to destroy the known world. You see, Thompson would be much, much better this time because he was his high school’s class clown! Because he’s just so much fun! Garrigan can’t let this stupid script die. And, despite all the bios of Gorte, she still can’t imagine Gore doing the things that aren’t in the scripts she’s ingested.

Glasser, of course, has read the Gore profiles. But she still puts this trash into print.

For those who are able to read and write, the tales of Gore’s motorcycle exploits have been widely reported. But so what? Because her mother fed her on script, Garrigan can’t imagine a passage like this, from a New York Times profile of Gore. The year is 1966; Gore is a sophomore in college:
HENNEBERGER (6/21/00): That same year, [Gore] rode a motorcycle back to school from Washington in the rain, and gave friends high-speed rides around Boston.

"I didn't like to ride on his bike," said a friend, John Tyson, now an international business consultant in Washington. “He'd try to scare you, popping gears, going 65, 70 and laughing."
But that sounds like something “young Freddie” would have done! Therefore, Garrigan can’t imagine it. And Glasser—useful tool of elites—rushes Garrigan’s work into print. The result is clear. If you read the Post, You’re with stupid!

STILL STUPID AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: Ole Fred was an under-achiever in high school? Based on a recent commentary, we’d say he’s still under-achieving today! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/30/07. This is the bottom of the talk-show barrel.) But so what? Garrigan still loves the brainless narrative that loosed George Bush upon the world. Like Bush, Ole Fred is just more fun! Readers, please: Vote for Stupid!