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Daily Howler: What actually happened in Campaign 2K? Many pundits are sworn not to tell
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THE HUFFINGTON CODE! What actually happened in Campaign 2K? Many pundits are sworn not to tell: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2006

SALTER POSTPONED: We lost a lot of time last night. We’ll comment on Salter tomorrow.

WHERE DO OLD SAWS COME FROM: Yesterday, we got a rich look at our Washington press corps; they dumbly chose to watch King Kong instead of the Hayden hearings (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/22/06). Today, in a somewhat similar vein, Kevin Drum chuckles at Margaret Carlson as she issues a limited hangout mea culpa about presidential elections. Margaret, having watched Gore’s film, has started rethinking what matters:

CARLSON: The movie comes at a time when some pundits (including me) might wonder if we should give a rest to that old saw about likeability. Maybe Americans prefer to have a beer and burger with the charming frat boy to the student who always does his homework. But is that a wise basis for choosing a president?

With all the needless death from a ill-conceived war, the wasteful corruption of sweetheart contracts in Iraq and New Orleans, debt and deficits as far as the eye can see, gas prices through the roof with no energy policy in sight, and with a president who delegates to incompetents and cronies, I'm ready to give the class nerd his due and raise a glass to a serious man. Here's to you, Al and a huge box-office gross.

Note another Hard Pundit Law. Someone like Gore who acquires vast knowledge must be described as a “nerd.” Ditto with Mallaby, yesterday, Ditto with Tierney today. It’s like they belong in some sort of home. They simply can’t live on their own.

Kevin (and his commenters) note the absurdity. But there’s one key point which ought to be made. Do citizens vote on the basis described here? We know of no reason for thinking so. This framework has always come from our press corps—the press corps which lazily watched King Kong instead of that session with Hayden.

There has never been any real evidence that citizens vote on this “beer-burger” basis. This is another press corps script—one they’ve dumbly promoted for years. They’ve tried very hard to dumb us all down—down to their weird Millionaire Pundit levels. And they’ll never cop to the obvious truth—that they themselves are the world’s dumbest souls, that most other people, for all our shortcomings, really aren’t very much like them.

Special report—Corps on Gore!

PART 2—THE HUFFINGTON CODE: Yesterday, two sharp liberals proved it; it really isn’t especially hard to state the world’s most obvious fact. Matt Yglesias gave his view of a future Gore run—and mentioned that fact, the world’s simplest:

YGLESIAS (5/22/06): [T]he challenges a Gore campaign would face are about what one would expect—he's not a great public speaker, the press seems to hate him, and it's not clear how much money he could raise.
It ain’t hard to say that the sky is blue—or to say that the press corps hates Gore. Indeed, Eric Alterman stated this obvious fact in his own post on this subject:
ALTERMAN (5/22/06): In truth, I don’t think Gore was planning to run, but now I think he’s thinking about it...Raising money and fielding an organization would be no problem. And say what you will about Gore, the man’s a patriot. And if Al starts losing weight, instead of wolfing down ice-cream sundaes, we’ll know he’s in. What we can’t know is if the media will do penance for its horrific 2000 performance, for which Maureen Dowd will probably have to spend some time in purgatory, should it exist.
We don’t know why Dowd is singled out (more below). But Eric also stated the obvious—the press corps’ performance during Campaign 2K was “horrific.” So no, it isn’t hard to state this fact—and liberals should ponder such facts fairly often. Indeed, what happened then is still happening now, as the press corps invents a great saint, John McCain. They’ve invented a demon for Campaign 2K—and a great saint for Campaign 08.

But other writers are clearly committed to keeping us clueless about Campaign 2000. One such writer is press hack John Heilemann, to whom Eric linked in yesterday’s post. Amazing! As Eric notes, Heilemann has a lengthy piece about Gore in the current New York magazine—a piece which runs to more than 7000 words. But it’s quite amazing—never in Heilemann’s 7000-plus words does he mention the most obvious fact in the world! Indeed, we’ll suggest that you read his entire piece—and marvel. Though Heilemann goes into substantial detail about the conduct of Campaign 2000, he never mentions the press corps, or their “horrific” performance. Why did Bush end up in the White House? With perfection, Heilemann types the Standard Press Script, the Standard Script they all know to type:

HEILEMANN (5/29/06): Gore’s reading of [Campaign 2000] has much to commend it, to be sure. But it leaves out a number of salient factors, principally his own failures as a candidate: the failure to capitalize on, or take credit for, the previous eight remarkable years of prosperity and peace; the failure to exploit Clinton’s enduring popularity despite the Monica Lewinsky scandal; the failure to take Bush apart in the debates, where Gore’s performances left the impression that he suffered from multiple-personality disorder; the failure to present a consistent or coherent image of himself, instead offering an incessant series of self-reinventions that made him seem about as authentic as a Prada bag on Canal Street.
Let’s be sure we all understand; that is the Standard Press Corps Script about the outcome of Campaign 2000. It’s the script which omits the most obvious fact—the fact that the mainstream press corps conducted a twenty-month War Against Candidate Gore, a “horrific” performance which ended up sending George Bush to the White House. According to this Official Script, Gore’s puzzling failure to clobber Bush was the result of “his own [many] failures”—his “incessant reinventions,” his idiotic bad strategy, his failure to be “authentic” (of course!), his horrible floundering in the debates. (Where, to use another press script, Gore gave the impression of “multiple-personality disorder”—mental illness. As we saw yesterday, these nasty people will always include the suggestion that Gore is a big fucking nut.) But then, what actually happened at Bush and Gore’s first debate—the crucial debate which changed the world’s history? In fact, Gore did “take Bush apart” in that session; Gore’s performance was so “disordered” that he won all five of the overnight polls, by an average of ten percent, and a string of conservatives, speaking that night, said he had “cleaned Bush’s clock.” (Peggy Noonan cried especially loud—but at least, unlike Heilemann, she acknowledged what happened.) But you also know what happened next, although the Heilemanns will never discuss it; the press landed on Gore like a ton of bricks, reversing the public’s impressions. (The next week, Margaret Carlson told Imus that they had done this for “fun” and “sport”—because it was “greatly entertaining to us.” See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/16/03. We’ll guess the real answer is darker.) Of course, the Heilemanns will never report this; they have their cohort’s interests to manage, and many memorized scripts they must type. But yesterday, Matt and Eric showed something quite basic—it’s easy to state the world’s simplest facts. And Heilemann showed us something else. Even at more than 7000 words, your “press corps” will never tell you the truth about what occurred during Campaign 2000. For six years, they’ve all agreed to type the same tales, hiding their cohort’s astounding misconduct with Standard Scripts which lay it all off on Gore.

Matt and Eric stated an obvious fact. The Heilemanns will go nowhere near it.

Yes, it’s easy to state the most obvious facts—unless you belong to the press corps! And unfortunately, many of our own liberal leaders still type that same Standard Script about Gore, the script in which Gore blew a sure thing through his own puzzling stumblebum conduct. Indeed, you might as well be reading Joe Klein, who types this script in some detail in his definingly awful new Politics Lost. But no, you aren’t reading Klein—you’re reading the work of our own liberal leaders! For instance, you’re reading Arianna—who we very much like and admire, but who comes fairly close to bad faith in last week’s silly, Klein-like, post. Throughout the post, she feigns surprise at how comfortable the new Al Gore is:

HUFFINGTON (5/17/06): Last night, I attended the [Los Angeles] premiere of An Inconvenient Truth, the powerful new global warming documentary featuring an impassioned and surprisingly humorous Al Gore.

After the screening, as I watched him interact with well-wishers, accepting congratulations and answering questions, he radiated commitment and confidence. Here was a man truly comfortable in his own skin.

Arianna—who we do like and admire—is quite brilliantly scripted. It’s Gore who is different now, not Arianna; she’s surprised to see that he’s humorous now, and to see that he’s “truly comfortable in his own skin” (the greatest cliche from Campaign 2000, a fatuous bit of subjectivity which all pundits instantly luv). Indeed, she’s amazed to see how brave Gore is, compared to “the timid, walking-on-eggshells, pusillanimous poltroon” of Campaign 2000. Yes, we do like and admire Arianna. But this is just flat-out bad faith:
HUFFINGTON: Gore isn't running for office, and already the negative campaigning has begun. This is what anyone who takes a stand faces these days—politics as demolition derby—and why so many politicians operate out of fear. But when I asked Gore about it, he was unfazed.

I couldn't help but flash on the stiff, robotic Gore of the 2000 campaign. You could smell the fear on the Gore of 2000. Just as you could smell it on Kerry in 2004, as he ran a campaign that consistently chose caution over boldness.

Gore was so stiff—and so robotic! And he’s just so different today! But you might as well be reading Heilemann as to read this bowdlerized post. Omigod! She too puts it all on Gore—and fails to mention the Washington press corps! And she fails to mention one person by name. She fails to mention herself.

Was Candidate Gore robotic, cautious? The effects have been much overstated by a mainstream press corps with an obvious interest in misdirection. But to the extent that Gore was cautious, there was an obvious reason for caution; he had to be careful about what he said, because of people like Arianna! After all, how did Arianna spend Campaign 2000? Like the worst of the jihadist press corps, she spent the campaign trashing Gore—beating him up for a famous set of fake, invented character “scandals.” As before, alas, we’ll quote her again, from columns in the Washington Times. Our question: Who has actually changed her stripes from those of the year 2000?

HUFFINGTON (2/6/00): [Bill] Bradley has warned voters to watch for Mr. Gore's "tricky" way with words, going as far as to compare him with Richard Nixon...In fact, not only this campaign but Mr. Gore's entire career has been laden with untruths—all demonstrating a pattern of serial abuse of language, truth and reality.

He invented the Internet, discovered Love Canal and was the inspiration for "Love Story." He lives on a farm,
was "always pro-choice" and claimed that, "unlike Sen. Bradley," he had co-sponsored the original McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill—even though Mr. Feingold was not elected to the Senate until Mr. Gore had already left to become vice president.
Good God! In real time, when it actually mattered, Arianna was typing all the key scripts—even the scripts which were blatantly bogus, the ones which falsely savaged Gore’s character. Indeed, let’s pick just one claim we’ve highlighted, because it’s instructive. Why did Gore become somewhat cautious—a candidate who watched his words carefully? Duh! To state the obvious, he had to do so—because of people like Arianna! Gore made his fleeting (and accurate) Love Story comment to two scribes in November 1997, at a time when he was still holding long conversations with reporters—back when he was “being authentic,” saying the things which came to mind (as most people do, till they see they cannot). But uh-oh! When the press corps wages a war on a candidate, that candidate simply has to be careful! (Links below.) In the case of Love Story, the press corps—people like Arianna—took a fleeting, accurate statement and turned it into an assault on Gore’s character—into something which proved that Gore’s “entire career has been laden with untruths—all demonstrating a pattern of serial abuse of language, truth and reality.” In all honesty, Arianna has extremely large, brass gonads to pretend today that she doesn’t know why Gore had to be a cautious candidate—why he couldn’t pal around and be “authentic” in public, they way he’d often done in the past, why he couldn’t say any damn thing that popped into his head. Today, she pretends that it’s Gore who has changed; back then, though, she was quite a fright. Throughout the primaries, she kept praising the character of Saint McCain, contrasting him with the frightful Gore—with the man she loves today, despite the fact that his “entire career has been laden with untruths—all demonstrating a pattern of serial abuse of language, truth and reality.”
HUFFINGTON (4/5/00): When the people who like Al Gore try to explain why, they typically wax lyrical about his competence. But it is this very competence, combined with an utter lack of core principles he'd be unwilling to jettison in his pursuit of the presidency, that makes the vice president such a frightening specimen of the modern politician Candidatus No-Shameus. Over the course of Campaign 2000 alone, Mr. Gore has shown himself to be a political shape-shifter of unsurpassed skill—a sure-fire first-ballot inductee into the Panderers' Hall of Fame.
That was pathetic. By contrast, of course, McCain was a saint; Arianna spent much of the spring hoping he’d mount a third-party campaign. Indeed, how did Arianna eventually react to that first—and critical—Bush-Gore debate? She told the world how hopeless both of the hopefuls had been—how much better a saint would have seemed:
HUFFINGTON (10/6/00): Well, the first debate is over, and the official results are in: It was a great night for John McCain. By the end of that 90-minute joint press conference George W. Bush and Al Gore staged in Boston, my overwhelming feeling was: This is not a choice, it's a farce. Can we go back and replay Super Tuesday?
Poor Arianna! Bush and Gore had staged “a farce”—there was simply no way to choose—and Saint McCain would have been so much better! “[I]t was hard to watch Gore without your mind wandering to what was in the refrigerator,” she observed. “Hmm, have those eggs passed the sell-by date?” As a general matter, Arianna joined many press know-it-alls in portraying Bush and Gore as twin oafs—and in pushing Complete Total Trivia. Of Gore, she offered this deathless comment, for instance: “I suggest he take a fashion tip from the president and start wearing those jowl-concealing higher collars.” Key point! And after the requisite mocking-of-lockbox, the greatest sage offered us this:
HUFFINGTON (10/6/00): For all the mind-numbing policy detail filling the air, in the end we're left with the imponderables: Who passed the insufferability test? And who failed the believability one? As far as I'm concerned, neither of them passed the first test. I mean, would you want either of these guys over for dinner? As for the second, it was definitely Gore who flunked, shamelessly posing as a "passionate" campaign-finance reformer, even endorsing full public financing for federal elections.
To Arianna, it was always wrong, oh so wrong, when Gore proposed full public financing. That issue belonged to her Great Love, McCain, the man who was such a pure saint. And yes, there she was, pushing that beer-burger voter test! Thanks to her, we’re in Iraq, with the smarter/better man on the sidelines.

In our view, Arianna judged extremely unwisely during Campaign 2000—but of course, that sometimes happens. Sadly, she was worse than unwise when she savaged Gore as a serial liar—when she typed the phony scripts which plainly sent Bush to the White House. (By the way: Gore always was pro-choice.) This is precisely the “horrific” conduct which Heilemann knows he must never report. And Arianna refuses to mention it too—though she practiced it, back in real time. Today, she says it’s Gore who has changed—and, without mentioning how she has changed, she once again sits down to judge him.

By the way: Why does Arianna endorse someone whose “entire career has been laden with untruths—all demonstrating a pattern of serial abuse of language, truth and reality?” We’re puzzled when we see such a reversal. Is it because he seemed funny last week?

Heilemann will never tell you the truth—and neither, it sometimes seems, will Arianna, at least when it comes to this matter. And here’s the problem—the crucial problem—with bad-faith posts by various people who criticize Gore for Campaign 2K and fail to mention the “horrific” conduct which made that campaign so astounding. Even as we speak, the press corps is scripting our next White House race—and their script will send McCain to the White House. But guess what? As Arianna (and others) keep misdirecting young liberals, young liberals fail to understand how our elections are getting decided. Like Heilemann, Arianna disappears what happened in Campaign 2K—and that encourages us to overlook the ongoing scripting of Campaign 08. And make no mistake—John McCain will be elected unless we challenge the press corps’ script now. They invented a demon in Campaign 2K. They’re inventing a brilliant saint now.

We very much like and admire Arianna; she’s an extremely gracious person, and her endless achievements speak for themselves. But she’s badly harming liberal interests with these bowdlerized, phony posts. You might as well read Heilemann, or even Joe Klein—as we will do on the morrow.

TOMORROW—PART 3: Arianna? Joe Klein? What’s the difference?

WHY MO: We’re not sure why Eric singled out Dowd when he discussed that “horrific” press conduct. For our money, here are the press corps’ most important bad actors of Campaign 2000:

Ceci Connolly, Washington Post
Katharine “Kit” Seelye, New York Times
Chris Matthews, MSNBC
Frank Bruni, New York Times
Walter Robinson, Boston Globe
If we chose a second tier, here are the names we would type:
Howard Fineman, Newsweek
Brian Williams, MSNBC
Michael Kelly, Washington Post
Tim Russert, NBC
In fairness, Dowd did invent the Love Story nonsense, along with Frank Rich (back in 1997). And that story, repeated ten thousand times, did keep Gore from the White House. (Along with the other tall tales Arianna typed: The Internet! Love Canal! And that utterly phony farm! You know? The farm you can see with your own fucking eyes if you go see the film she now praises.)

But then, we noted something else about Eric’s post. Yes, he called the press corps’ conduct horrific. And yes, he told the whole awful story in this superlative piece from 2002. But yesterday, he linked to the piece by Heilemann, his friend—and failed to say a single word about its massive bowdlerization, about the way Heilemann disappeared the press corps’ horrific conduct! Good grief! Heilemann simply left it out; you might as well describe the current New Orleans diaspora without mentioning a certain large storm named Katrina. But you know us born-loser liberals! We still accept this kind of conduct from poker-pals in the mainstream press! And as long as we do so, one thing is certain—we’ll just keep losing press-scripted elections. They’ll keep inventing their demons and saints—and we will lose out every damn time. The other side will keep “working the refs.” We’ll keep enabling our buddies.

We don’t really care about winning. We show it with each losin’ breath.