BUMILLER (5/22/06): Reporters en route to Arizona on Air Force One last week opted to watch the movie ''King Kong'' in the press cabin. Not so Tony Snow, the new White House press secretary and former Fox News commentator, who told reporters that he spent the flight in the staff cabin watching Gen. Michael V. Hayden's confirmation hearings to be the new C.I.A. director—on CNN.Got milk—and cookies? While Snow watches Haydens confirmation hearings, the press corps chooses King Kong!
Readers, lets review: Its the middle of a work day. An important hearing is under way. The press corps is stuck on a long plane ride. And they choose to watch an inane, year-old movie! Only Bumiller could offer this fact and fail to see the dark humor involved—the portrait it paints of her hapless cohort, the people who steward our discourse.
SO ADMIRABLE, SO LIKABLE, SO LARGER THAN LIFE: Eric Alterman got it right in last Fridays post; his March debate with Tucker Carlson was, indeed, worth watching. Eric was good—and so was Tucker, as Eric acknowledged during the session, held at UC Santa Barbara. The boys debated media bias, and their session is well worth viewing. Well suggest that you do so—click here.
That said, well admit we were less convinced when Eric discussed Michael Kinsleys column about sainted solon John McCain. The End of John McCain begins here, Eric said as he linked to the Kinsley piece. And yes, we found that somewhat strange. For example, heres how Kinsley concluded:
KINSLEY (5/19/06): McCain is like another larger-than-life character in American politics: Colin Powell. Both men are so admirable and so likable that people convince themselves against all evidence that Powell or McCain must agree with them on the big issues. In Powell's case, the theory always was that he was speaking truth to power from within, while telling the necessary public fibs to hold on to the privileged position this service required. With McCain, something more magical is going on. He says plainly that he is for the war, or against abortion choice, and people hear the opposite. It's a gift, I guess.In his column, Kinsley notes that McCain is a hawk on Iraq, if readers didnt already know that. But he lavishes praise on McCain throughout—the kind of childish hyperbole that will decide the next election, if Dems dont stand and challenge it now. How much praise does Michael dish? In this passage, he says that McCain is so admirable and so likable that hes like the sainted Powell! If this is the way to end his campaign, wed hate to see how youd promote it.
In the next few weeks, well be looking at McCain and Al Gore—more specifically, at the ways the press corps treats them. In fact, Kinsleys column showered praise on McCain, as mainstream scribes almost always do. So admirable! So likable! So frank! So much courage! These are the childish, schoolboy scripts that will win for McCain in 08, if we liberals dont challenge them right now. But alas! Sometimes it seems that weve heard them so long, we cant even see that theyre present.
TOMORROW: Sanctimonious Salter
Special report—Corps on Gore!
PART 1—STILL CRAZY: Al Gore was right about global warming—way back in the 1980s. He was also right on internal combustion. And oh yes, he was right on Iraq, in a prophetic speech in September 02—a speech Joe Klein praised at the time. In a rational world, this would make Gore a reigning star—but we live in the world of a millionaire press corps, and we suffer, every day, from its judgments. On Friday morning, Michael Kinsley heaped torrents of praise on McCain, who was wrong. But how does the pundit corps treat Gore, the man was actually right on Iraq? On this weekends Chris Matthews Show, one empty scribe turned to another (Joe Klein), who then said what theyve said all along:
KLEIN (5/21/06): You know, theres a big question here. If you read Al Gores speech just before the war in Iraq where he came out against it, its a brilliant speech. If you saw Al Gore delivering it, he looked like a madman.Al Gore can be right as much as he likes—but in these strange regions, hes always a madman. Moments earlier, Matthews had started the hunt. He teed up the vacuous Kathleen Parker by quoting one of her columns:
MATTHEWS: Kathleen, you wrote a column recently—I like the phraseology—you said Al Gore is one slice short of a loaf. (Group laughter) I mean, thats like they say up in Massachusetts, they say things like, Hes got a few shingles missing from the roof. Whats your point? Is he a little nutty, are you saying?Gore can be right as much as he wants. But it will always be thus with these life-forms, the ones who run our public discourse—and prefer to watch King Kong. And Parker, of course, knew her role rather well. Coyly, the harlot responded:
PARKER (continuing directly): Well, I think hes got—There are those who say hes lost it. Im not going to go that far. I think hes actually feeling quite liberated from himself, I think hes having a great time. Hes now the alpha wonk. And suddenly he has all these admirers and Hollywood types loving him with this movie.For herself, Parker wont say that Gore has lost it. Other people are saying it, though, the vacuous scribe coolly purred. Of course, she refers to Gores film about global warming—the topic where the nutty man who has lost it was actually right all along.
Yes, Parker and Matthews are deeply stupid. In fact, theyre stupid to the point of national calamity, since these are the people in charge of our discourse. And all this week, well note the ways our liberal elites accept this weird state of affairs. But please understand what weve shown you for years: This is the way the press corps treats you—if youre the guy who was actually right! Throughout this segment on Gore-as-a-candidate, the Standard Themes were dragged out and promoted. Was Gore too bitter? Did he have too much venom? Could be possibly get over his anger? And, of course, what about his authenticity? Robots couldnt stick to a script the way these bizarre magpies can.
And by the way—was Joe Klein right? Did Al Gore really look like a madman when he gave that speech in September 2002—the prophetic speech where he listed the reasons why we shouldnt go to war with Iraq? The prophetic speech where he said all the things which have now become conventional wisdom? Its funny—Klein didnt say anything like that at the time of Gores actual speech! In fact, at the time, this weak man said something massively different! Three days after Gore gave the speech, Klein reviewed it in Slate, in substantial detail—and he praised it, aggressively criticizing those who were savaging Gore! At the time, he did say someone was near-psychotic. But it was Gores Republican critics! Yes, heres how this weak and fallen man began his review in real time:
KLEIN (9/26/02): The default position on Al Gore appears to be ridicule. He opens his mouth and is immediately assumed cynical, tactical, self-serving, self-pitying, awkward, embarrassing, unintentionally hilarious, or all of the above. Much of this comes from Republicans, who seem afflicted by near-psychotic rhetorical twitching whenever the man who won the popular vote in the year 2000 makes a public appearance. This week, for example, an amoeba from the GOP National Committee stepped out and pronounced Gore's speech about Iraq more appropriate for a political hack than a presidential candidate. But the press has been equally dismissive (including me). And so have many of his fellow Democrats.An amoeba had called Gore a hack—and Klein stepped up to defend him. Indeed, all through his lengthy column, Klein failed to say that Gore had looked like a madman. Instead, he heartily praised Gores speech. Indeed, when he voiced his (few) reservations, they only concerned the speechs content—content he now calls brilliant:
KLEIN: Al Gore's speech wasn't a masterpiece. It seemed hastily composed and rewritten (Gore has an unfortunate habit of pulling sweaty all-nighters before a major address). William Safire has noted some of the sloppy, contradictory thinking. And an argument can be made that there was politics involved—that Gore was positioning himself for 2004.For the record, Safires complaints seem slender today. (So too his brilliant mind-reading, located in his opening sentence: Al Gore's speech in San Francisco attacking the Bush pre-emption doctrine was the opening gun in the 2004 presidential campaign.) But then, how about Klein? Today, he says Gore looked like a madman; at the time, he said nothing like that. But then, does this weak, fallen man ever say the same thing in the present that he said in the past? (Links below.)
But raising an important issue for tactical effect is quite different from ignoring an issue for tactical convenience. Gore performed an essential public service. He nudged a necessary debate. And he raised a crucial distinction: A war against Iraq and the war on terrorism are not identical...
Gore is a madman. Gore is nutty. Gore has lost it—at least, some people say so. And Gore is a slice short of a loaf—phraseology that Matthews just luvs. This is the way a deeply dysfunctional, millionaire cohort treats the affairs of the guy who was right. And the guy who was wrong—the great saint McCain? He, of course, is pandered and fawned to. Even as we say he was wrong, we are required—its the law—to call him admirable, full of courage. Hes likable—so much larger than life. Lets face it—if youre the type who longs for King Kong, the man who was wrong must be chief.
These are the rules of this broken elite. The one who was right is out of his mind. The one who was wrong is the earths greatest saint. And our liberal elites just look dumbly on. More on that topic tomorrow.
TOMORROW—PART 2: Yes, we do admire Arianna. But this is bad faith. It should stop.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Speaking of people who seem to be crazy, does Joe Klein ever say anything twice? In Politics Lost, he reinvents Bush-and-Gore on guns to claim that Gore was a big phony coward. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/3/06, to see Klein massively reinvent facts. And in the same definingly awful book, he says that McCain never gave a bad answer—although he said the opposite in real time. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/19/06, to see Klein reinvent that. But then, Klein and his cohort are all about scripts, in which Gore is a demon—and McCain a great saint. As Klein makes clear again and again, theyll do and say any damn thing to sustain them. Our lib elites stare dumbly on.
AS IN MALADY: Three cheers for Andrew Revkin, who actually presents a rational feature on Gores new film in this mornings Times. He even quotes that statement by Gore—the one at the start of his movie:
REVKIN (5/22/06): [Gore] laments being unable so far to awaken the public to what he calls a ''planetary emergency'' despite evidence that heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases are warming the earth, and even after Hurricane Katrina and Europe's deadly 2003 heat wave, which he calls a foretaste of much worse to come.For our paraphrase of that remark from the film, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/18/06.
''I've been trying to tell this story for a long time, and I feel as if I've failed to get the message across,'' Mr. Gore muses.
Somehow, Revkin manages to record the fact that Gore is right on warming science. Hes even willing to quote some scientists complimenting Gore for his work. This comes a bit harder to the Posts Sebastian Mallaby, typing from deep inside the beltway—and from deep inside the crackpot culture of our millionaire pundit elite. In todays Post, Mallaby discusses Gores new film too. And quickly, he gets to the joke:
MALLABY (5/22/06): Gore stars in a movie that opens this week in New York and Los Angeles. The film features the once and maybe future presidential candidate lecturing about climate change: There are charts, bullet points and diagrams; there are maps of ocean currents and endless iceberg pictures. It's hard to say which menaces the nation more: movie stars who go into politics or politicians who go into movies.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh boy, that was good! For reasons only a pundit could grasp, Gore is a menace by paragraph 2. And yes, the portrait here is familiar—iconic, ubiquitous, deeply-scripted. Poor Mallaby! Gore is lecturing us again—and, as always, there are too many diagrams! Have we mentioned the fact that half-wits like this would prefer to be watching King Kong?
And heres the sad part—Mallaby comes from the brighter end of Washingtons pundit elite! Despite this, he simply cant bring himself to compliment Gores perseverance and erudition—to compliment Gore for having been right. The pundits tone is odd throughout—as when he lists the crackpot things big Republicans have said about warming:
MALLABY: Then there is Conrad Burns, a Republican senator from Montana. "You remember the ice age?" he asked Environment and Energy Daily this month. "It's been warming ever since, and there ain't anything we can do to stop it."These statements play into Gores hands, the pundit types, as if Gore had some nefarious purpose. Meanwhile, is Mallaby complaining about the fact that Gores conventional wisdom might seem heroic? One things for certain—you will search this piece in vain for a compliment about Gores perseverance and erudition. And try to believe the ridiculous way Mallaby closes his piece:
Every quote like this plays into Gore's hands, turning his statements of scientific conventional wisdom into heroic actions. But the Republicans and their allies don't see what they're doing.
MALLABY: Six years ago, Bush narrowly defeated Gore, apparently because voters thought he'd be a nicer guy to have a beer with. But after years of governmental bungling, of willful indifference to truth, the national mood seems to be changing. Voters have seen that nice guys can screw up. And technocrats with diagrams and charts have never seemed so interesting.Actually, no. Six years ago, Bush ended up in the White House because Mallabys cohort spent twenty months making up bogus tales about Gore. And only a pundit could close in this manner. Mallaby has spent his entire column noting the fact that Republican leaders—including Bush—have refused to tell the truth about warming (have shown their contempt for expert opinion). But at the end, Bush, the dissembler, is still the nice guy. Gore is still just a technocrat, armed with diagrams and charts By law, the compliment cant go to the guy who was right. Inside this game preserve, the creepers and crawlers long for King Kong. And the nice guy must remain with Dumb Bush.
Only a deeply dysfunctional cohort constructs the world as these daft life-forms do. And our liberal elites behave like whipped dogs. More on that problem all week.
TOO MANY DIAGRAMS: There were very few diagrams in Earth in the Balance—so Michiko Kakutani simply made a bunch up. (She called therm charts and graphs.) See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/2/99—and yes, these people will do and say anything. And while youre at it, note one more thing. Instantly, Kakutani called Gore loony too! Theyve pimped these scripts on Gore for years. So too their script on McCain.
Train yourselves to remember these rules. The guy who was right is described as a nut. The guy who was wrong? Always saintly.