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THE RICH BOAT! Before the Swift Boats, we had Love Story. And Frankly, it came straight from Rich: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2006

FOSER GETS IT RIGHT: Good lord! Jamison Foser rocks the world in this report from Media Matters. We’ll quibble with Foser on one small point. But liberals and Democrats need to grasp what he says in this important passage:
FOSER (6/2/06): Too many people chalk up outrageous media treatment of, say, Al Gore or John Kerry to the men's own flaws, pretending that if they were better candidates, they'd have gotten better press coverage. That's naïve. The Democratic Party could nominate Superman to be their next presidential candidate, and two things would happen: conservatives would smear him, and the media would join in. To illustrate this, we look back over the last dozen or so years.
We’ll disagree with Foser’s suggestion that these story-lines always begin with conservatives. Many times, the mainstream press corps dreams up its Dem-bashing tales by itself. (This was especially true with Gore.) But the point we highlight is very important. When Democrats focus on their candidates’ flaws (real or alleged), they often ignore a much larger story. Was Gore a perfect candidate, for example? No, he was not—no candidate is. But the great outlier in Campaign 2000 wasn’t Gore’s performance—it was that of the press corps! Gore’s performance was perfectly adequate, and in some ways was quite good. But the press corps’ performance was simply astounding—almost surely, without any precedent. Six years later, it’s like pulling teeth to get big “liberals” to say so. (Just click here to see a big lib who still doesn’t have the first clue).

Later, Foser makes a second point, one which is very important:

FOSER: And then Al Gore came along and, as The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby argues convincingly, was treated to the most relentlessly hostile (not to mention dishonest) media coverage any major party presidential candidate had ever seen. He was mocked for wearing "earth tones" (who doesn't?). Reporters simply made up quotes they attributed to him, then declared him a liar because the quotes—which he never spoke—were exaggerations. And, to be clear: when we say reporters made up quotes, we aren't talking about Rush Limbaugh or Matt Drudge. We're talking about the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Three cheers for Jamison Foser! The highlighted point is hugely important—and it’s the point we were making above. It wasn’t Limbaugh who took down the Gore campaign—it was the mainstream press corps, especially the Post and the Times. There is simply no doubt about what happened, starting in March 1999. But seven years later, most liberals still don’t seem to know this—and “career liberal” writers won’t discuss it.

We’ll offer another example of that silence tomorrow. But Foser makes two important points. When we focus on Gore’s alleged flaws, we completely miss the main thing that happened. And the main thing that happened—that War Against Gore—was driven by the mainstream press corps. If liberals want to understand the real world, we have to stop pretending that what happened was Gore’s fault—or that this war was run by Rush Limbaugh. It’s simply amazing to see the way liberals still cling to these false story lines.

Special report—Frankly, that’s Rich!

READ EACH INSTALLMENT: We just had to laugh when a certain daft pundit reviewed Al Gore’s deeply troubling new film. But Frankly, Rich has done this for years. Be sure to read every installment:

PART 1: Gore was right on every big judgment—but Rich is in love with a narrative. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/31/06.

PART 2: Gore had made a string of sound judgments. But omigod! Someone laughed at his jokes! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/1/06.

PART 3: Rich says Gore was right in 02. Back in 02, he said different. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/2/06.

Today, we Frankly the revisit the day when Rich dreamed up Love Story.

PART 4—THE RICH BOAT: Is there anything that doesn’t bother Frank Rich about Al Gore’s deeply troubling new film? (Director: Davis Guggenheim.) If Dems want to understand the process by which their leaders get turned into jokes, they ought to ask our e-mailer’s question: Assuming that Rich has an average IQ, why would he write such perfect nonsense as that which follows about this new film? We highlight yet another objection from Rich’s kooky column about Gore’s troubling film:

RICH (5/28/06): Though many of the rave reviews don't mention it, there are also considerable chunks of ''An Inconvenient Truth'' that are more about hawking Mr. Gore's image than his cause. They also bring back unflattering memories of him as a politician. The movie contains no other voices that might upstage him, not even those of scientists supporting his argument. It is instead larded with sycophantic audiences, as meticulously multicultural as any Benetton ad, who dote on every word and laugh at every joke, like the studio audience at ''Live With Regis and Kelly.''

We are also treated to a heavy-handed, grainy glimpse of Katherine Harris, Michael Moore-style, and are reminded that Mr. Gore is not a rigid blue-state N.R.A. foe (he shows us where he shot his rifle as a farm kid in Tennessee). There's even an ingenious bit of fearmongering to go head to head with the Republicans' exploitation of 9/11: in a worst-case climactic scenario, we're told, the World Trade Center memorial ''would be under water.”

Poor Rich! He’s troubled by the film’s “multicultural” audiences. He’s troubled when these audiences laugh at a joke. He’s troubled when Gore shows which parts of the world could be flooded—and includes a place we now hold dear. And he’s troubled when Guggenheim visits the Gore family farm—and lets us know, in the briefest aside, that Gore had a rifle there when he was a child. (And swam in the river. And .) When he was young, Gore owned a rifle! The dainty scribe is upset once again—and again, he mind-reads what this all surely means. For some unknown reason, Rich is convinced that this fleeting remark was included so we’d be “reminded that Mr. Gore is not a rigid blue-state N.R.A. foe.” Frankly, you have to be pretty much out of your mind to mind-read that about such prime trivia. But the dainty critic, stung by this moment, adds it to his list of offenses—offenses which supposedly show why Gore would make such a horrible candidate.

Yes, Gore was right about Iraq, Rich says—and he was right all along about global warming. But so what? In this movie, he tells us that he once owned a rifle! He does this to prove that he’s not an NRA foe! (Frankly, the NRA would be surprised to learn that.) Frankly, these weird complaints say more about Rich than they ever could say about Gore. They say that Rich just can’t stop obsessing on points of utterly weird, pointless trivia—and that he can’t stop mind-reading trivia to trash Gore’s troubling character.

Rich isn’t dumb, our e-mailer said. To which we’d only say, perhaps—but his problem clearly goes deeper than that. And over the course of the past dozen years, Major Dems have kept getting turned into jokes as haughty, fatuous crackpots like Rich have mind-read and flailed about trivia. (Often inventing their “facts” as they go.) Because no, this is hardly a new thing for Rich. Back in 1997, he helped invent a dumb, nasty tale which was used to savage Gore during Campaign 2000. With apologies for asking you to revisit such nonsense, it was Rich who mind-read dumbly and well—and created the Love Story canard. Before the Swift Boats came for Big Dems, dumb-ass Rich was there with Love Story. Then, as now, he seized on trivia—and formed a nasty tale about Gore.

We’ve discussed this before, at least several times (links below). And yes, it involves such a trip through the weeds—about matters which are so completely absurd—that we apologize for bringing it up once again. But Frankly, this destructive performance was Rich at his best—a moment in which he displayed his prize-winning method.. Rich seized on an utterly trivial matter; rearranged the basic facts of the tale; and then began to mind-read weirdly, helping us reach a foregone conclusion: Al Gore has a character problem, like Clinton. Let’s say it again: Rich’s facts were wrong in his Love Story column—and his mind-reading was an embarrassment. But so what! He knew in advance what his great story meant—it meant that Gore had a “character problem!” He had “inflated his past,” was “disingenuous,” and had been “prevaricating” again, the scribe said—inventing a utterly foolish tale which was used to put Bush in the White House.

Let’s say it again—Rich was faking his basic facts in this damaging column (published on December 16, 1997). Two days earlier, his own New York Times had reported an interview with Love Story author Erich Segal—the only interview Segal gave on this fatuous topic. In this interview, Segal said that Gore had been one of the models for his book’s main character. (Segal knew Gore when Gore was in college.) In fact, in the interview (reported by Melinda Henneberger), Segal agreed with every word Gore said on the meaningless topic. But so what? Rich just knew what Gore had been doing in his fleeting remarks on this topic—remarks Gore had made to a pair of reporters. Mind-reading brilliantly, Rich clued us in. Gore had been “bragging” and “boasting,” Rich said. Gore had “inflated his past” in his comments; and Gore had done this in an “effort to overcompensate for his public stiffness by casting himself as the role model.” Uh-oh! As noted, Segal had already told the Times that Gore had been one of two role models. But Frankly, Rich had a better story, a story the brilliant pundit loved—and so he went ahead and told it. In 1997, the brilliant Rich just knew why Gore made his fleeting remarks about Love Story. Today, he knows why this troubling new film has that moment about young Gore’s gun.

Yes, you have to be half-nuts to engage in this version of “journalism.” And no, this isn’t a matter of Rich being “dumb;” when Rich invents facts about total trivia and mind-reads to tell us what these phony “facts” mean, the issue goes well beyond “dumb” to the point of mental dysfunction. How appalling was Rich on Love Story? Time’s Karen Tumulty was one of two scribes who actually heard what Gore said on the subject. For those of you who haven’t seen it, we’ll now reprint what Tumulty said, in September 2000, after Rich’s tale had been used to savage Gore for almost two years. Again, Tumulty was one of only two scribes who actually knew what Gore had said:

TUMULTY (9/7/00): I am the reporter to whom Al Gore claimed that Love Story was based on him and Tipper...I was sort of appalled to see the way it played in the media. I mean, it was an offhand comment made during a two-and-a-half hour conversation that was mostly about other things and it was a comment that was, you know, true in most respects. I mean, he was a model, Erich Segal said, for the preppy character in Love Story, and it had been reported in Tennessee newspapers that it was modeled on both of them. But all of that got lost in, again, this kind of snowball—I think that there was probably something there worth gigging him about, but the degree to which it became a symbol of the man’s integrity I thought was very unfair. And I say that as the person to whom he made the comment and who wrote it.
Tumulty had actually heard what Gore said; she had heard his “offhand comment,” a tiny part of a much longer discussion. Her reaction? The resulting scandal had been “very unfair,” she said; she said she had been “sort of appalled to see the way it played in the media.” But Frankly, it was Rich about whom she was speaking. It was Rich who invented this idiot’s tale. It was the haughty but hapless Rich—mind-reading about trivia once again.

Frank Rich isn’t dumb, our e-mailer said. We’d say that the problem goes well beyond that. Long before the Swift Boats came, this weird man invented the Love Story nonsense. The pleasing tale was then used for two years to bludgeon Gore—and send Bush to the White House.

Rich isn’t dumb, our e-mailer said. Perhaps—but the problem goes well beyond that. Indeed, if Dems want to understand recent history, the story line goes through Rich’s columns. How inane have his great judgments been? Tomorrow, we’ll show you how brilliant Rich was when he compared Bush and Gore.

TOMORROW—PART 5: Bush and Gore? What difference could it make? the great pundit quite dumbly judged.

EVEN HIS CORRECTIONS ARE RICH: Segal agreed with Gore on every point, as Tumulty noted in her statement. In particular, he told the Times that the Love Story lead had been based in part on Gore and in part on Tommy Lee Jones, Gore’s friend in college. (Although none of this was ever worth discussing.) Incredibly, Rich offered a “correction” to his original column on 12/20/97. Try to believe that he actually wrote it (and actually typed the word “Sorrygate”):

RICH (12/20/97): Harvard vs. Yale: In writing about Sorrygate this week, I noted that when "Love Story" was released in 1970, some in Cambridge found it a Yale man's revenge on Harvard: its author, Erich Segal, had been teaching at Yale since 1964. But as almost his entire class wants me to add, Mr. Segal was a Harvard grad before that ('58). So Harvard can proudly take credit for instilling in him the good literary sense not to model a romantic hero on Al Gore.
Except Segal had plainly told the Times that the character had been modeled on Gore. Remember: Fatuous millionaire pundits like Rich will do and say anything to promote their great insights. Is Al Gore just a big fake and a phony? To Rich, Love Story just had to prove it! And now, so does that deeply disturbing rifle reference in that troubling and disturbing new film.

Gore was right on Iraq, Rich says. But it’s all outweighed by that multicultural audience—and by the report of that troubling rifle. People who “think” like this aren’t dumb. They’re half nuts—and they’ve damaged your world..

RICH DROPS BY THE FANCY HOTEL: By the way, here’s part of Rich’s original column. Yes, this utterly fatuous man even dropped by the fancy hotel:

RICH (12/16/97): Mr. Gore is beginning to seem less an heir to Mr. Clinton than to his White House predecessor. Like George Bush, Al Gore Jr. is the son of a senator, born to privilege—with St. Alban's and Harvard substituting for Phillips Academy and Yale. Instead of formative years in Greenwich, Mr. Gore was raised in Washington's ritzy Fairfax Hotel—unhumble beginnings both men have tried to play down, not always successfully. Where Mr. Bush at his most supercilious addressed the nation as if we were peons who couldn't get into his country club, Mr. Gore condescends to us as if we were idiots who couldn't get into the Ivy League. Such is the main distinction between Republican and Democratic noblesse oblige.
Having grown up in DC himself, Rich surely knew that the Fairfax Hotel wasn’t “ritzy” (links below). But so what? This bogus tale was more fun than truth—so this great dumb-ass typed it on up. By the way—does Gore “condescends to us as if we were idiots?” Any time Gore speaks to Rich, the temptation must be vast.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Rich’s dishonest, deeply damaging Love Story column appeared on December 16, 1997. Two days earlier, the Times had reported its interview with Segal, the only one he gave on the topic. In the interview, Segal said that, as a matter of fact, Gore had been a model for the Love Story character. In fact, Segal aggressively took Gore’s side on every factual point. (Until half-wits like Rich seized on this matter, none of this was worth talking about.) For a longer discussion, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/13/05. For a real-time report from Campaign 2000, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/00.

How fancy was the fancy hotel? Not very fancy—and not very “ritzy.” And everyone knew it—including Frank Rich. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/13/02 and 8/8/02, for two longer discussions. (We strongly suggest that you read both reports. The conduct involved here is clownish.) Democrats need to understand the way their leaders have been turned into jokes. That said, Democrats need to understand the mind of a creep like Frank Rich.

For the record, here’s Gore’s description of those unhumble beginnings at that ritzy D.C. hotel. The account is from the troubling new companion book to his deeply disturbing new film:

GORE (page 122): From the time I was born until I went off to college, I had the unusual experience of dividing every year of my life between two radically different landscapes. For eight months every year, because my father was a senator from Tennessee working in Washington, DC, my family’s home was small apartment: No. 809 in the Fairfax Hotel.

My sister, my mother, my father and I all shared the single bathroom that connected my parents’ bedroom to the bedroom I shared with Nancy. The rest of the apartment was made up of a small living room and a dining room with kitchenette attached. The windows looked out on concrete parking lot and other buildings.

In fact, Gore’s upbringing was so unhumble that he shared a bedroom with his sister! People like Rich lied about this for years. Nor is this a new description; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/25/00. For the record, that HOWLER will help you see how hard the New York Times worked to cram the fancy hotel into campaign “reporting.” Katharine “Kit” Seelye loved the fancy hotel—and misled her readers about it quite constantly. Frankly, we thought her conduct was Rich when she indulged in this fiction.