In the cartoon, Al Gore stands in front of a movie theater. The marquee says: AL GORE ON GLOBAL WARMING/AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. And an Uncle Sam figure—representing the fatuous Washington elite—is slinking away from the theater. Okay. Ill admit it. Youre right, the figure tells Gore. And down below, in the trademark Toles footnote, Tom Toles just flat tells it all. Heres what that fatuous DC insider is grumpily admitting to Gore:
It interferes with my narrative of you as the punch line.For seven years, Gore has been the human punch line—the human punching bag—of that vacant elite. This morning, Toles shows them slinking away—forced to admit Gore was right.
At least three things should be said about this cartoon, which is so long overdue:
First, no news org has been more at fault than the Washington Post in creating and pushing the narrative Toles mocks. (Here at THE HOWLER, weve been discussing this matter since March 1999.) For that reason, its especially rich to see this cartoon at the top of the Post editorial pages. It was on those pages that the late Michael Kelly was allowed tp publish his Farmer Al column, a column which kicked off the War Against Gore—and which captured, for all the world to see, the modern press corps astounding dishonesty. And it was on the pages of the Washington Post that Ceci Connolly toyed with the truth for two years—making a joke of Election 2000, and sending George Bush to the White House. When it comes to the narrative Toles mocks today, no news org disgraced itself as much as the Post. This cartoon could be improved in only one way—if the Uncle Sam figure had a sign which said Dissembling Post on his chest.
Second, youve read about this problem here—but elsewhere, youve largely seen it ignored. In particular, career liberal writers have generally chosen to avoid discussing the conduct Toles mocks. Somehow, Toles—a cartoonist—understands what has happened, but your fiery career liberal writers just dont. May they burn in a place with extreme global warming for the horrible thing they have done.
Third, well suggest that you savor an irony here; well suggest that you savor the way the DC elite has slunk away from its greatest narrative about Gore and the truth. For the past seven years, they pushed a great theme: Al Gore has a problem with the truth! They said it over and over and over—and they kept inventing lies by Gore to convince you that their story was accurate. But have you noticed a funny thing in the recent coverage of Gore? That long-running narrative has now been abandoned! It has been replaced by a new Standard Script: Al Gore was controlled by his campaign advisers! He should have talked about warming more! Well examine the sheer inanity of this new Standard Narrative in our series about Frank Rich (starts tomorrow). But isnt it funny? For years, they insisted that Gore had a problem with the truth. Now, they dont mention this great claim at all. What is the most inconvenient truth? The fact that this ugly tale about Gore was, from the start, just made up.
We do have one problem with that Toles cartoon. Given the shape of our recent history, it would be hard to draw an appropriately savage burlesque of the people who pushed that seven-year narrative—of the fatuous, dissembling lords and ladies who now slink away from their tale. Al Gore has a problem with the truth, they all yelled—and they yelled it again and again and again, inventing their proof as they went. Today, theyre forced to grumble and complain as they note that Gore was right on warming—and even worse, as theyre sometimes forced to admit that Gore was right on Iraq. Frankly, it has really been Rich to watch them slink away from their story! But even Toles cant hope to capture the emptiness of these pundits past decade. Even Toles, in his great cartoon, cant capture the great harm theyve done.
STARTING TOMORROW—FRANKLY, THATS RICH: Only Frank Rich, of all living critters, could still insist on being so clueless. (And so completely disingenuous. Oh wait! Except for Arianna!) Tomorrow, Part 1 of a four-part look at the reasons why Bush, who was wrong—not Gore, who was right—is currently lodged in the White House.
HOW THEY SEE THEMSELVES: Warning: We dont intend what follows to be a criticism of Matt Yglesias. Indeed, this Yglesias post—about that ludicrous piece by Jacob Weisberg, the one about Vile Hillarys iPod—allows us to think about a problem weve urged you to chew on for years. Hmm...Should Matt point out that Weisbergs column was completely, world-class absurd? Uh-oh! A voice from somewhere in his head suggested that he should be careful:
YGLESIAS (5/26/06): As a relatively junior member of our fair nation's punditocracy, I face these little dilemmas in life. Jacob Weisberg is the editor of Slate. I see myself as the kind of guy who might write for Slate. Do I point out that he's being ridiculous here? I think that I do, but hows that going to work out in the long run?Matts typing is whimsical here—and then, he quickly veers away from the question of Weisbergs inanity. In summary, heres what hes saying:
Let me also note that the basic premise of all these politicians iPod stories is pretty odd...
YGLESIAS SUMMARIZED: My career, as a smart young liberal writer, will probably run through the pages of Slate. Therefore, it might not be prudent to note the fact Slates editor just posted the stupidest piece of analysis ever written—an analysis which promotes a Standard Script about fake, phony Dems and a Standard Script about Bushs great honesty. If I know whats good for Number One, I may have to downplay this problem.In this case, Ygelsias did chide Weisberg (for which he gets credit—a tiny amount). But he only chided the big dog lightly, moving on to a trivial question. (How do pols know what their favorite tunes are?) But here you see the sort of thing which goes through the minds of our young career liberals—the sort of people who should be doing the most to drive progressive perspectives. (Who should be challenging the brain-dead notion that Dems are fake and Republicans arent.) Here you see it, just as weve told you: Before theyll challenge even a flyweight like Weisberg, they wonder if it could hurt their careers! That said, are you really surprised that these same young writers have refused, for year after year, to discuss the major journalistic issue of our age—the relentless attacks of the mainstream press corps on leading Democratic politicians? Are you surprised that a cartoonist will discuss what happened to Gore, but your fiery liberal journals still havent?
Weve raised this question again and again. Presumably, for reasons which are perfectly obvious, young liberal writers see themselves as the kinds of guys who might write for the Post and the Times. (And gals.) Result? When the Post and the Times launched a savage war—a war which eventually put Bush in the White House—these fine young typists agreed not to notice. And theyve generally refused to discuss this topic right up to this very day. We get our insights from cartoons. Our big liberal journals wont go there.
Theyll do great work on policy matters—but they wont discus the mainstream press, even when it slanders your interests. The Post and the Times waged war on Gore—but career liberal writers agreed not to notice. Result? Seven years later, Nora Ephron is still writing this. Well start with her post on the morrow.
THE CARLSON RULE: Were not trying to single Yglesias out. Its the Margaret Carlson Rule—the one who actually tells the truth is the one who gets discussed.
WHAT TOLES MEANT: Tipping our hat to Atrios, here is the latest chapter in the tale Toles tells.