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Daily Howler: Omigod! Krugman starts to tell voters the truth--and at TNR, Beinart still refuses
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PASSING THE TEST! Omigod! Krugman starts to tell voters the truth—and at TNR, Beinart still refuses: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2006

THE IPOD PEOPLE: We skipped this Jacob Weisberg post—but luckily, Eric Boehlert didn’t. Rolling his eyes through the auspices of the Huffington Post, he linked us ahead to what Weisberg wrote—to the latest puzzling portrait of our impossibly fatuous “press corps.”

We won’t attempt to explain or describe how deeply stupid the Weisberg piece is. (Just read Boehlert—although even he can’t do full justice to Weisberg’s consummate dumbness.) But in this remarkable week that was, we think Weisberg’s post deserves full attention. Your “press corps” wants to watch King Kong—and to mind-read Hillary’s iPod. Nothing in normal human experience prepares us for this mind-numbing crew.

But these are the people who shape our discourse—who won’t stop talking about Al Gore’s earth tones, as Weisberg’s man-in-Washington has done once again. (Inaccurately, we might as well tell you—see below.) Boehlert deals with Dickerson too—although even Eric can’t hope to explain the ways of this strange, inane group.

For years, we’ve searched for metaphors—for ways to describe this daft, inane crew. “Pod people” was the best we could manage. But readers, there was no “I” in “Pod”—until Weisberg put the “I” there this week.

KRUGMAN STARTS TO TELL: Your press corps wants to watch King Kong. They want to have fun drinking beer with their president. They want to discuss Clinton’s sex life, and her music—and they luv to discuss Gore’s clothes. Here is Weisberg’s man about Washington, still pimping the earth tones this week:

DICKERSON (5/24/06): Talk about the New Gore also builds upon a structural flaw of his last candidacy: Does he know his own mind? If what we're seeing now is the real Al Gore, why was he so easily swayed last time by advisers and pollsters bearing bad advice? If authenticity is just a political gambit, it's hardly authentic. The Old Gore vs. New Gore angle is likely to become a theme of the coverage if Gore runs. The press will remind us again and again about the 2000 campaign's earth-tone suits and the Great Dane kiss of Tipper at the convention and all the other inauthentic things he did to tailor his behavior to show people what he thought they wanted to see. The press will watch closely for signs of a relapse.
Earth-tone suits? In Campaign 2000, there was one brown (or olive) suit, worn to the first Gore-Bradley debate. Result? The “press corps” went out of its small troubled mind, as we’ve described in the past. By normal standards, it isn’t quite sane to write a column like Marc Fisher did, in the Post. He referred to—who else?—the vile Wolf:
FISHER (11/28/99): A person who makes her living by writing pop philosophy about sex tells a man who would be president of the United States that he must be a different kind of man, that he must be more assertive, that he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American. And he says, “Okay.”
Gore’s suit was “alien to virtually every American!” By normal standards, that isn’t quite sane. In fact, Gore’ suit was rather ordinary—and there was never any evidence that Wolf told him to wear it. (Forced to deal with inanity, she denied that she had. The entire story was based on a “speculation” by Dick Morris. Morris, of course, is unreliable—so pundits decided to lie to their readers. Falsely, they claimed that the tale came from Time. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/7/03.)

At any rate, Gore’s suit had been extremely disturbing—to pundits. (A bit less so to actual humans. Despite showing up in his “alien” suit, Gore won the viewer polls post-debate.) The late Mary McGrory ranted hard, in a pair of crackpot Post columns. And Arianna Huffington almost topped even Fisher’s hyperbole. She knew Gore’s suit had been alien too. To prove it, she added a button:

HUFFINGTON (11/9/99): Frankly, what is fascinating is the way [Gore] is now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him. And there was this marvelous story in one of the New Hampshire papers saying, Nobody here in Hanover wears tan suits with blue shirts and buttons all four buttons. It's just not the way Americans dress.
“It's just not the way Americans dress!” But then, it wasn’t the way Gore had dressed, either. At the time, the corps was widely battering Gore because he had some suits with three buttons. (No, we really aren’t making this up.) Arianna simply added a fourth—then buttoned all four of them up. Meanwhile, at Hardball, a troubled talker thought he knew what those three troubling buttons might mean. Clearly, he talks near the border:
MATTHEWS (11/12/99): You know, there’s been a lot of talk about the new costuming of Al Gore. You know, he used to wear blue suits like I do, or gray suits. Now he’s wearing these new olive suits. He’s taking up something rather unconventional, the three-button male suit jacket... What could that possibly be saying to women voters, three buttons?

JO ELLAN DIMITRIUS: Well, I, I think that—

MATTHEWS: Is there some hidden Freudian deal here or what? I don’t know, I mean, Navy guys used to have buttons on their pants. I don’t know what it means. Go ahead.

The talker’s mind tended to stray to bad places. But then, Brian Williams was troubled by Gore’s clothing too. For two solid weeks, he kept insisting that it was Gore’s polo shirts which were sending a message to women. By normal standards, these creatures aren’t human. By normal standards, they’re out of their minds.

By normal standards, these creatures aren’t human. And yet, they steward our national discourse! This week, Dickerson was back on that one brown suit—and he decided to make the suit plural. By normal standards, they’re out of their minds. It’s very hard—extremely hard—to explain this situation to voters.

This morning, though Paul Krugman starts. His column today is deeply important. Today, he starts to tell the story which voters deserve to be told.

Special report: Corps on Gore

PART 4—PASSING THE TEST: Oh. Our. God. We’d seen it building all week on the web, in a series of excellent posts. But this morning, Krugman puts the story where it belongs—high atop the Times op-ed page, where the public can start to discuss it. His column is called “A Test of Our Character.” It’s a test other scribes need to pass:

KRUGMAN (5/26/06): “An Inconvenient Truth” isn't just about global warming, of course. It's also about Mr. Gore. And it is, implicitly, a cautionary tale about what's been wrong with our politics.

Why, after all, was Mr. Gore's popular-vote margin in the 2000 election narrow enough that he could be denied the White House? Any account that neglects the determination of some journalists to make him a figure of ridicule misses a key part of the story. Why were those journalists so determined to jeer Mr. Gore? Because of the very qualities that allowed him to realize the importance of global warming, many years before any other major political figure: his earnestness, and his genuine interest in facts, numbers and serious analysis.

And so the 2000 campaign ended up being about the candidates' clothing, their mannerisms, anything but the issues, on which Mr. Gore had a clear advantage (and about which his opponent was clearly both ill informed and dishonest).

Finally, the public gets the chance to begin to consider our recent history—more specifically, the conduct of Campaign 2000, the election which changed world history and affected all of our lives.

We say the public can begin to consider that history because Krugman, to whom we all owe a great debt, actually pulls a punch or two here. (Let's take a guess—his editor did it.) Did “some” journalists make Gore a figure of ridicule? That’s a large understatement. As Krugman correctly notes, the 2000 campaign “ended up being about the candidates' clothing”—but that could happen because the bulk of the nation’s major journalists chose to ridicule Gore. Did only “some” journalists jeer at the candidate? In fact, a whole roomful of journalists acted that way when Gore and Bradley held their first debate. And no, the jeering wasn’t a secret. Eric Pooley described it in Time—although he didn’t seem to realize how odd this conduct had been:

POOLEY (11/8/99): [T]he 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some helpless nerd.

Poor Gore. For months the press has been hammering him for taking the nomination for granted and not showing emotion. Now it's hammering him for trying too hard and showing too much.

“Some” journalists? The room directed collective jeers at Gore, Pooley reported. But then, we had already recorded what The Hotline’s Howard Mortman said on that news org’s small cable show:
MORTMAN (11/1/99): I phoned in to Bob, to be fair to Bob, I do stick by the story that the media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something—

BOB SOMERBY: I think that's amazing. I think that's amazing.

OTHER PANELIST: What happened with Bradley?

MORTMAN: Stone silence. Really.

And yes, we did think that was amazing—but at the time, few others seemed to. (Jake Tapper, completing the Rule of Three, described the same scene one month later. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/14/99.) Now, today, more than six years later, the public can finally begin to consider the way our history was changed by all this, thanks to Krugman’s column. (For the record, Mortman is a conservative—a former Bush 41 staffer. He performed a service to history when he said what he said on that show.)

Why did those idiots sit and jeer Gore—then invent all those stories about him? (Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!) Krugman offers an explanation. He suggests they hated Gore because they’re idiots—and because Gore isn’t. (We’d guess that’s one large part of the story, but we’d guess there’s more there than that.) But surely, this was more than just “some” journalists; this was always the bulk of the press corps, including the largest opinion leaders. But then, we’ll also nit-pick a bit of fault with the way The Krug closes his column:

KRUGMAN (continuing directly): I won't join the sudden surge of speculation about whether ''An Inconvenient Truth'' will make Mr. Gore a presidential contender. But the film does make a powerful case that Mr. Gore is the sort of person who ought to be running the country.

Since 2000, we've seen what happens when people who aren't interested in the facts, who believe what they want to believe, sit in the White House. Osama bin Laden is still at large, Iraq is a mess, New Orleans is a wreck. And, of course, we've done nothing about global warming.

But can the sort of person who would act on global warming get elected? Are we—by which I mean both the public and the press—ready for political leaders who don't pander, who are willing to talk about complicated issues and call for responsible policies? That's a test of national character. I wonder whether we'll pass.

We think Krugman misdirects a tad when he throws “the public” into this mix. In all honesty, the public—voters—played almost no role in the war these fools waged against Gore. When they jeered Gore—then invented their tales—those journalists committed an outrageous offense against Gore. But they also committed a grievous offense against the public—against decent people who had no real way to know that the tales they kept hearing were false.

Why did the public have no way to know? Because so many of us sat silent. Indeed, many of our exalted leaders are still strategically silent today—which brings us around to the New Republic’s latest self-dealing editorial.

Oh yes, “The Editors” are in highest dudgeon in this fine piece of work! Boldly posturing—pretending to fight—they type the first half of Krugman’s column, the part which hasn’t yet let us know that the mainstream press corps has been behind the long, outrageous War Against Gore. Go ahead—read what they write! They buy you off by shaking their fists at the latest, easy right-wing targets. But they forget to report what actually matters; they forget to say that the War Against Gore was conducted, not by some right-wing think tank, but by those jeering scribes in that press room—the ones who “groaned, howled and laughed” at almost everything Gore said, then made up those stories about him.

Why do “The Editors” neglect to tell you? Let’s guess—they’re still protecting their future careers! After all, the people discussed in Krugman’s column are, in fact, the corps’ Biggest Players—the people who decide which brilliant young scribes will go on to have multimillion-dollar careers. So even this week, even now, Peter Beinart still won’t tell you—won’t explain what has actually happened to Gore. He invites you to rail at those easy targets—and forgets to name the hard ones. He forgets to name the people who have actually been running this war—the people who will make his career, the people who will make him very famous..

Who has actually been running this war? Who are the unnamed scribes to whom Krugman’s important column refers? It’s funny you should ask; here at THE HOWLER, we saw them last weekend! Apparent, Lord Beinart slept in, snoring soundly. But again, we recorded what they said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/23/06). As you may recall, Chris Matthews was prompting the clowns once again. Beinart, of course, wouldn’t name this name if his very life were at stake:

MATTHEWS (5/21/06): Kathleen [Parker], you wrote a column recently—I like the phraseology—you said Al Gore is “one slice short of a loaf.” (Group laughter) I mean, that’s like they say up in Massachusetts, they say things like, “He’s got a few shingles missing from the roof.” What’s your point? Is he a little nutty, are you saying?
Did he really have to ask? They’ve been calling Gore “nutty” for the past seven years! Purring sweetly, Parker carried out her role in this idiot play—in the play Beinart still won’t discuss:
PARKER: There are those who say he’s lost it. I’m not going to go that far. I think he’s actually feeling quite liberated from himself, I think he’s having a great time. He’s now the alpha wonk. And suddenly he has all these admirers and Hollywood types loving him with this movie.
Parker down-loaded “alpha male”—ha ha ha ha ha! And of course, we also heard from Joe Klein, who also thought that Gore might be a bit—well, a bit of a nut:
KLEIN: You know, there’s a big question here. If you read Al Gore’s speech just before the war in Iraq where he came out against it, it’s a brilliant speech. If you saw Al Gore delivering it, he looked like a madman.
They began with “delusional” in 3/99. By the time Gore opposed Iraq in 9/02, they had moved to “unhinged.” By last weekend, though, it was “nutty” and “madman”—and Peter Beinart still prefers to pretend that these people aren’t there! But then, his rag has always played dumb. Back in 1999, the New Republic didn’t report that the gang jeered Gore at that first New Hampshire debate. Seven years later, they still won’t tell. They won’t tattle, right up to this day.

Krugman’s column is very important. It moves this remarkable story to the place it deserves, to a place where the public can begin to discuss it. But we need to fill in the actual names behind that underwhelming term: “some journalists.” The journalists who jeered Al Gore—and sent Bush to the White House—include the most fatuous, powerful players we have. And for seven years, careerist members of the liberal elite have refused to tell you about their conduct. Even today, in that fake editorial, Beinart plays his readers for fools. This morning, Krugman tells readers the truth. But you still can’t get Beinart to go there.

By the way, the public will pass that “test of character”—as soon as they are allowed to know what has happened in the past dozen years.

RECAPITULATION: Krugman’s column has two parts. The second part starts to tell the deep story. And that’s the part that Beinart leaves out! Compare Krugman’s column to Beinart’s editorial. You’ll see exactly what we mean.