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Daily Howler: Tom Toles' cartoon is long overdue. At long last, it tells us what happened
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TOLES TELLS! Tom Toles’ cartoon is long overdue. At long last, it tells us what happened: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2006

TOLES TELLS: Tom Toles’ cartoon in this morning’s Post pretty much says it all, at long last. Just click here and take it in. This cartoon has been seven years coming.

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. I’ll admit it. You’re right,” the figure tells Gore. And down below, in the trademark Toles footnote, Tom Toles just flat tells it all. Here’s 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, we’ve been discussing this matter since March 1999.) For that reason, it’s 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, you’ve read about this problem here—but elsewhere, you’ve 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 don’t. May they burn in a place with extreme global warming for the horrible thing they have done.

Third, we’ll suggest that you savor an irony here; we’ll 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! We’ll examine the sheer inanity of this new Standard Narrative in our series about Frank Rich (starts tomorrow). But isn’t it funny? For years, they insisted that Gore had a problem with the truth. Now, they don’t 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, they’re forced to grumble and complain as they note that Gore was right on warming—and even worse, as they’re 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 can’t hope to capture the emptiness of these pundits’ past decade. Even Toles, in his great cartoon, can’t capture the great harm they’ve done.

STARTING TOMORROW—FRANKLY, THAT’S 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 don’t 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 Hillary’s iPod—allows us to think about a problem we’ve urged you to chew on for years. Hmm...Should Matt point out that Weisberg’s 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 how’s that going to work out in the long run?

Let me also note that the basic premise of all these politicians’ iPod stories is pretty odd...

Matt’s typing is whimsical here—and then, he quickly veers away from the question of Weisberg’s inanity. In summary, here’s what he’s saying:
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 Slate’s 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 Bush’s great honesty. If I know what’s 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 aren’t.) Here you see it, just as we’ve told you: Before they’ll 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 haven’t?

We’ve 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 they’ve generally refused to discuss this topic right up to this very day. We get our insights from cartoons. Our big liberal journals won’t go there.

They’ll do great work on policy matters—but they won’t 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. We’ll start with her post on the morrow.

THE CARLSON RULE: We’re not trying to single Yglesias out. It’s 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.