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GORE ON WAR (PART 4)! Pundits pretended that Gore was lying—and helped rush the nation to war:


READ EACH EXCITING INSTALLMENT: Howler history! Gore spoke on Iraq—and the press corps clowned. Read each exciting installment:

PART 1: Two years ago, Gore nailed Iraq. Guess how your pundits reacted? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/2/04.

PART 2: Gore discussed the rush to war, giving some good sound advice. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/3/04.

PART 3: Gore discussed the rush to war. But Sean was upset by his hairdo. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/4/04.

And now, for today’s installment:

GORE ON WAR (PART 4): Gore’s speech about the rush to war was delivered on Monday, September 23. Five days later, on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz took a look at the coverage the speech had received. For starters, he noted the way the cable nets avoided live broadcast of the address. “I thought it was embarrassing,” he said, recalling the way CNN and Fox “carried so many sheriff's press conferences when there were missing kids this summer.” And then he reviewed the way the speech had been approached by the pundit class:

KURTZ (9/29/02): Dana Milbank, again, all this analysis and psychobabble about what was Gore doing and he was appealing to the left, and he was positioning himself for 2004. Any possibility this is what Gore really believes or should it be reported in a strictly political context?
Milbank seized on a tiny, alleged problem with Gore’s speech. Then he said that it had given Gore-haters a perfect opening:
MILBANK: Well, it’s funny. Here’s a time when Al Gore actually took a risk and conceivably did something principled, and he didn’t get any credit for it at all. That’s partially our fault, perhaps, but it’s also partially his fault. During the speech, at one point, he leveled all these criticism and then said, well, wait, I’m not actually saying this. There are other people who have said this.

So that sort of gave the opening for this sort of—this industry of sort of Al Gore haters to jump on it and say just another bit of the typical Al Gore.

Please don’t make us waste our time discussing the part of Gore’s speech where he said, “I’m not saying this—other people have.” But Milbank was clearly right in one way. By the time Gore spoke on war, there was indeed an “industry of Al Gore haters” working within the American press corps. And yes, their reaction to Gore’s speech was fully predictable; they reacted just as they had reacted to every word Gore uttered since he began his 2000 run for the White House. Was the nation caught in a “foreshortened deliberation” about Iraq? Did the Admin lack a plan for post-war Iraq? Could a war in Iraq hurt the War on Terror? Your press corps showed no sign of caring. Instead, they did the thing they do the best—they engaged in the vacuous “psychobabble” which Kurtz correctly diagnosed. Two years later, they wring their hands about the way they helped rush us to war.

But by the time Kurtz’s program aired, the corps had found another way to avoid discussing Gore ideas. No, the notion that Al Gore is insane hadn’t yet become a press spin-point; that would start a few months later, when he dared to offer criticism of the conservative press (links below) . In September 2002, the Washington press corps was still in love with a story it had been flogging since 3/99. Al Gore is a big liar, just like Bill Clinton! During Campaign 2000, they had invented a series of phony “lies,” then pretended that Gore had said them. And that’s the way the press moved now as they sponsored the rush to war. Too stupid and empty to consider Gore’s speech, they engaged in their latest campaign of distraction. Today, of course, they wring their hands over their conduct at this juncture. We should have done better in the fall of 02, the penitent pundits pretend.

What lie was Gore alleged to have told? By Wednesday evening, September 25, Sean Hannity had finished complaining about Gore’s hair. On this evening, he helped kick off the bogus campaign which would dominate reaction to Gore’s speech. Speaking with perpetually-furious William Bennett, Hannity played a clip from Gore’s speech on Iraq. This is the passage in question—a passage which was now being flogged all over the pseudo-con empire:

GORE (9/23/02): Back in 1991, I was one of a handful of Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in favor of the resolution endorsing the Persian Gulf War. And I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration’s hasty departure from the battlefield even as Saddam began to renew his persecution of the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south, groups that we had, after all, encouraged to rise up against Saddam.
That’s what Gore had said in his September 23 speech on Iraq. But then, Hannity quoted something Gore said back in 1991:
HANNITY (9/25/02): He said, “President Bush should not be blamed for Saddam Hussein's survival to this point. There was throughout the war a clear consensus that the United States should not include the conquest of Iraq among its objectives. On the contrary, it was universally accepted that our objective was to push Iraq out of Kuwait, and it was further understood that when this was accomplished, combat should stop.”
Uh-oh! “He lied through his teeth there,” Hannity thundered. “Well, I agree he lied through his teeth,” Bennett replied, gambling that Hannity knew whereof he spoke. “And this speech is meretricious in many ways. But I don’t—you know me, I’m not one to hesitate to criticize Democrats.”

No, Bennett wasn’t one to hesitate—and as usual, his claim was utterly wrong. But no matter: The notion that Gore had lied about this matter now became the Standard Spin whenever Gore’s speech was discussed. Did we need a fuller debate on Iraq? Did the Bush Admin lack a real plan for post-war Iraq? Might a war in Iraq hurt the War on Terror? Happy pundits avoided such talk, eager to tell us that Gore lied again. How effective was this campaign? On that same Reliable Sources program, Kurtz—after trashing the press corps’ clowning—recited this spin about Gore’s speech himself! And Byron York of the National Review said that this was the Big Story:

KURTZ (9/29/02): On the other hand, Byron York, did the media do a good job of pointing out some of the contradictions between what Gore was saying this week and his vote for the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and some of what he’s had to say since then about Saddam Hussein?

YORK: Right. That would have been the bigger news story, it seems to me.

KURTZ: The bigger news story—bigger than what Gore actually said?

YORK: Well, the fact that it was a major restatement of some of the things that he has said in the past.

Forget Gore’s analysis of Iraq. Forget the need for a fuller debate. The “bigger news story” was the fact that—in a minor aside—Gore had engaged in “a major restatement of some of the things that he has said in the past.” For the record, neither of Kurtz’s other panelists criticized what York had said. No, Milbank and the New Republic’s Michelle Cottle haplessly stared into air.

And yes, their staring was hapless. Sorry, kids: Gore hadn’t made a “restatement of the things that he has said in the past.” As a matter of fact, it was just as Gore said; back in 1991, Gore had been the leading critic of the Bush Admin’s “hasty departure from the battlefield even as Saddam began to renew his persecution of the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south.” Gore had agreed with the Bush Admin’s view that it shouldn’t move on and seize Baghdad. But when the Shiites and Kurds rose against Saddam—and the Bush Admin chose not to support them—Gore had bellowed, long and loud, about Bush’s failure to act. And his loud opposition was hardly a secret. On April 9, 1991—nine days before the statement which Hannity quoted—Gore appeared on the NewsHour, where he blasted the Bush Admin’s failure to come to the aid of the Shiites and Kurds. On April 16, he guested on CBS This Morning, where he renewed his complaints. And he guested on Nightline on April 18, engaging in this exchange with Ted Koppel:

KOPPEL (4/18/91): So you would cite as the long-term objective of the United States, then, to do everything but a ground attack against Baghdad to bring about the overthrown or the dissolution of Saddam Hussein’s government?

GORE: I think we’ve got to bring about his removal from power and, more than that, the removal of his lieutenants and this government which he now controls. Our principal mistake in this postwar period has been the de facto assumption that our interests lie in facilitating the ability of Saddam’s government—with or without him as an individual—in reconsolidating the nation-state of Iraq. We ought to try to get rid of his power.

On the NewsHour, Gore had been quite aggressive, offering the type of unbalanced remarks that presaged his later insanity:
LEHRER (4/9/91): Are you suggesting that we have blood on our hands as well?

GORE: Those are your words, not mine.

LEHRER: Kurdish blood?

GORE: I think that we did betray the Kurds. We encouraged them to rise up not only by the statements made by the president, but according to news reports at least, there were radio broadcasts in Kurdish that we sent in there, saying, “Rise up, now is your chance, now is your chance,” and then we turned our backs on them. Now there’s a straw man in all of this, Jim. They keep saying, well, we can't get entangled in a long civil war. Nobody’s proposing that. All that was proposed, in addition to the refugee assistance, is to strictly enforce the terms of the cease-fire, keep those helicopters on the ground, and even up the odds a little bit so there’d be a better chance of the Kurds getting some favorable social compact or arrangement that gives them a degree of autonomy, not independence, but some means of protecting themselves.

Who was right in this debate? Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t have a clue. But the debate was hardly a secret, nor was the leadership role played by Gore. Indeed, on April 13, 1991, the New York Times’ Patrick Typer said that this issue “may become the centerpiece issue at the outset of the 1992 Presidential campaign season.” Reason? “One possible Democratic contender who supported Mr. Bush’s decision to go to war, Senator Al Gore of Tennessee, said today that Mr. Bush’s handling of the postwar insurrection in Iraq ‘revives the most bitter memories of humankind’s worst moments.’” Eleven years later, Gore made a fleeting reference to this debate in his speech about Iraq, and the Washington press corps—inventing again—accused Gore of making “a major restatement.” Gore was “lying through his teeth,” Bennett said, gambling that you’d never know that he was the one who was misstating.

And, indeed, most Americans never did know. By the weekend, Kurtz trashed the press corps’ fatuous reaction to Gore’s speech—but even he believed the corps had served well in calling Gore a liar. Of course, Hannity flogged the issue each night, again and again. At first, he’d been troubled by Gore’s funny hair. Nor he was moved by Gore’s lying.

We were rushing to war in Iraq, Gore had said. We didn’t have a plan for the post-war period. And a war in Iraq might hurt our chance for conducting the War on Terror. But Gore’s ideas sparked little debate as your “press corps” clowned its way toward war. Just last week, some two years later, they were pretending to wring their hands—and they were saying that Gore is insane. Don’t believe—for even an instant—that this disturbed cohort has changed its strange ways. Your Washington “press corps” is deeply disturbed. Fake and phony pseudo-apologies are part of the fake, phony package.

THE NONPAREILS: Of course, no one clowns like Brit Hume’s “all-stars.” One day after Gore’s speech on Iraq, Hume presented the same pair of quotes which Hannity would cite one night later. Here’s the way Hume’s clowning crew discussed Gore’s horrible lying:

HUME (9/24/02): How do we explain that, as against what he said yesterday? Quickly.

BILL SAMMON: It’s inexplicable. It’s puzzling why he would flip-flop on something so easily checkable.

MORTON KONDRACKE: He invented the Internet. He’s got a bad memory.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: He’s the guy who told us about prescription drugs, the mother-in-law and the dog. He hasn’t learned.

HUME: That's all the time we have left. Thank you. Stay tuned to find out whether age has dulled one of Strom Thurmond's most noted characteristics.

On something so easily checkable! Could any human ever invent the clowning this cohort throws off?

Lovingly, the boys recalled the other Tall Tales invented about Gore in the past several years. And yes—this is how “foreshortened debate” led your misused nation to war. Two months later, Hume’s crackpot crew said Gore was insane when he dared criticize conservative media. And yes, that was the start of it all—the start of the repulsive, Soviet-style denunciation which every member of your “press corps” has tolerated right to this moment. Pundits swear they’ll be good boys—now. And oh yes—they say Gore’s insane.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Yes, we discussed these points in real time. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/26/02, 9/27/02 and 9/30/02. To see the birth of “Gore is insane,” see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/3/02. Dr. Krauthammer was IN that day. He should have been fired the next.