FRANKLY, WHY! Why has a liberal like Rich trashed Gore? We answer our e-mailers question: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JUNE 9, 2006
A BROKEN CULTURE: Wed like to check in on the Coulter matter, but for today, lets leave it at this: The career of Coulter shows how little the press corps values the concept of facts (let alone decency). Coulters first huge book, Slander, was riddled with factual errors; as we said at the time, if you simply checked its footnotes, it was hard to find a single page which wasnt driven by gong-show misstatements. But so what! Despite the absurdity of many claims, major newspapers praised her vast research! In particular, the New York Times review praised the authors many footnotes—while failing to note that they fell apart if you bothered to check them out (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/02).
We know of no other public figure about whom wed say the following. But in our view, Coulter has been visibly unhinged since she hit the scene in the 1990s. Shes still around because the concept of accuracy no longer seems to exist for our press corps. Slander was almost defiantly bogus—and Coulter soon found herself praised for her research! We spent a great deal of time on that book because the way it was received by the press showed the way our press culture was breaking down.
We spent weeks on Slander in 2002. Just click here; scroll back to July 8; and marvel at the perfect crap which your press corps praised for its accuracy.
Note: As a result of this HOWLER post, the final page of Slander was changed when it went to paperback. And, in best deranged Coulter fashion, it was changed to something else that was wrong! Coulter is filled with contempt for our culture. But then, when you see the way the press corps has winked at her conduct, its easy to see how she came to feel that theres nothing which isnt permitted.
READ EACH INSTALLMENT: We had to laugh when a certain pundit reviewed Al Gores deeply troubling new film. But then, Frank Rich has produced this sort of nonsense 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.Today, we conclude with an e-mailers question: Frankly, why does Rich do this?
EPILOGUE—FRANKLY, WHY DOES HE DO IT: A. O. Scott, the Times film critic, just plain flat-out gets it. Indeed, Scott isnt just an able film critic; as it turns out, the scribe is a seer. On May 24, Scott reviewed the new Gore film, An Inconvenient Truth, after its showing at Cannes. (Director: Davis Guggenheim.) And uh-oh! Scott, a film critic, managed to mention something career liberal writers just wont. Scott was willing to mention the way the press has behaved these past years:
SCOTT (5/24/06): Appearances to the contrary, Mr. Guggenheim's movie is not really about Al Gore. It consists mainly of a multimedia presentation on climate change that Mr. Gore has given many times over the last few years, interspersed with interviews and Mr. Gore's voice-over reflections on his life in and out of politics. His presence is, in some ways, a distraction, since it guarantees that ''An Inconvenient Truth'' will become fodder for the cynical, ideologically facile sniping that often passes for political discourse these days. But really, the idea that worrying about the effect of carbon-dioxide emissions on the world's climate makes you some kind of liberal kook is as tired as the image of Mr. Gore as a stiff, humorless speaker, someone to make fun of rather than take seriously.For some reason, A. O. Scott, a Times film critic, understands what career liberal writers still dont. He knows about the cynical, ideologically facile sniping that often passes for political discourse—and he seems to know that much of this nonsense has been aimed right at Al Gore. Just like Post cartoonist Tom Toles, he seems to know that the toffs and the swells have treated Gore like a punch line all these fine years (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/30/06). But then, A. O. Scott isnt alone. Desson Thomson, the Post film critic, hinted in his own review of Gores film that he has been alive on the planet during the past decade too:
THOMSON (6/2/06): "I'm Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America," he quips at the start of seemingly every show—which he has taken around the globe from Seattle to Tokyo since his defeat. The opener never fails to get a laugh. And as if surprised for the first time, Gore breaks into a Mount Rushmore-cracking smile.As we mentioned in an earlier post, Thomson treated his readers to a sly dig at the fatuous scribes who once counted Gores sighs. Somehow, film critics—and cartoonists—seem to know how we got where we are.
So Scott is alert—but what makes him a seer? Frankly, its easy to see the Scott review as a prediction of Frank Richs later column—the utterly foolish May 28 piece which we have been critiquing. If you want to see an example of the cynical, ideologically facile sniping that often passes for political discourse, well suggest again that you read Richs column, a treasury of this sad genre. In it, Rich assembles a list of absurd, nit-picking complaints with which he trashes Gores decades of good judgment. But so it has gone when this liberal pundit has written about Gore, the human punch line, during the past slippery decade. As Scott notes, Gore had long been a joke for the press corps. And its absurd to pretend that this doesnt explain how George Bush found his way the White House. Its absurd to pretend that this doesnt explain how we all found our way to Iraq.
But right to this day, career liberal writers are prepared to pretend. Somehow, movie critics understand the dynamic surrounding the past decades coverage of Gore—but our fiery, on-the-make career liberals still dont seem to have heard. Somehow, A. O. Scott understands that Gore has been a long-standing press corps target—but our career liberal writers do not. Here we see the know-nothing way one such writer begins her review. Her name is Garance Franke-Ruta—and lord, is she playing it dumb:
FRANKE-RUTA (6/7/06): Al Gores new movie An Inconvenient Truth, which opened at No. 9 nationwide over the weekend, seems destined to be a popular hit and political wake-up call all at once. Its also done something believed to by political consultants to be impossible—its taken the very qualities that undid Gore in 2000 and transformed them into the basis of his political comeback. The man charged with pedantry and didacticism, of never failing to give a lecture when a simple answer would do, of acting as if he were smarter than everybody else, is now starring in a film that makes a virtue of each of those one-time vices.Yes, you can torture her language and pretend that Franke-Ruta alludes to the coverage of Gore. But what the young scribe has literally said is that the qualities of pedantry and didacticism undid Gore in Campaign 2000. As she continues, she shows how such writers will serve themselves first—and will show their utter contempt for you and your values and interests:
FRANKE-RUTA (continuing directly): What does Gore do in An Inconvenient Truth? He delivers a lecture, about global warming. He waxes didactic. Pedant that he is, he teaches his audience something. He proves that he is smarter than the rest of us, in that hes developed real, deep knowledge about something we all should care about. And in transmitting that knowledge to viewers, he leaves moviegoers feeling smarter than when they entered the theater. Ennobled and educated by his lecture, in the best academic tradition, cynical Washingtonians have been proclaiming themselves transformed by the film for weeks, like star-struck underclassmen who have received their first true taste of the pleasures of the mind—of really being made to think about the world anew. Gore even emits a breathy sigh just a couple of sentences into the movie, daring audiences to make fun of him now.Franke-Ruta never says the obvious—that those cynical Washingtonians who have been proclaiming themselves transformed are the same people who made Gore a punch line for the twenty months of Campaign 2000. (Toles will portray that; Franke-Ruta wont.) And the young, slick scribe will pander hard too. Actually, no—Gore doesnt prove that he is smarter than the rest of us in the course of his new film, although it makes a nice conceit to pretend that hes been redeemed on some such point. But beyond that: Who didnt know, as of 1999, that Gore had already developed real, deep knowledge about something we all should care about? More broadly, who didnt know that Gore had developed such knowledge on a wide range of subjects? Answer: Everyone in the mainstream press corps knew all that as of 1999. But by then, they knew something else too; they also knew that their fatuous cohort had declared that Gore, for all his knowledge, was someone to make fun of rather than take seriously. Tom Toles knows this. A. O. Scott knows it too. And Franke-Ruta doesnt! Here we see the neatly bowdlerized way she describes Gores political prospects:
FRANKE-RUTA: As compelling as Gore is, though, in this film, the new insight and appreciation viewers may have of him might not carry through another two years, were he to leave a visual world over which he has some control and re-enter the rough and tumble media environment of live shots, hostile framing, and unscripted moments. What the film shows is that what Gore really needed in 2000 wasnt better political consultants, but a good and sympathetic editor.But who provided that hostile framing of Gore in Campaign 2000? Franke-Ruta forgets to say—and then suggests that it could have been overcome if Gore just had a better editor. But surely, everyone understands who provided that hostile framing—that War Against Gore which sent Bush to the White House. But only cartoonists and film critics tell us. The Franke-Rutas are sworn not to say.
And as this campaign of silence continues, our young career liberals enable the Riches. Indeed, just as Scott seemed to call Richs shot, Rich seemed to argue with Scott in his own later column. According to Scotts review, An Inconvenient Truth isnt really about Al Gore; its really about the science of warming. Rich complained about such rave reviews in his column, then bleated sadly to Imus:
RICH (6/1/06): It seems to me that it was in part a campaign film and I find it oddit got all these great reviews where people just sort of ignored this part of it and just talked about what they wanted to be the main part, which is important, which is climate change and all that...Of course, Gores film is mainly about climate change, as any sane person who attends it will notice. But for Rich, it has to be about Al Gore—about his favorite punch line.
An e-mailer asked us an obvious question (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/2/06): Why does a liberal like Frank Rich do this? Again, well post his e-mail in full, with a smidgeon of clarification:
E-MAIL (6/1/06): I tell everyone to read you. But come on: "Frankly, is anyone dumber than Rich?" Give me a break.The mailer asked an excellent question: Why has a liberal like Rich been so tough on Gore through the years? Why did he invent Love Story in 1997? Throughout the course of Campaign 2000, why did he keep pretending that Bush and Gore were a perfectly-matched pair of bumblers? When Gore spoke out on Iraq in 2002, why did Rich attack him again (inventing his facts as he went)? And in his new column, just two weeks ago, why did he nit-pick those ludicrous complaints about Gore? For example, why did he pretend—in that pathetic example—that Gore waffled on creationism in 1999? For the most part, readers have no way to evaluate such claims. Why does Rich just keep making them up?
Below, well post our reply to the mailer. But make no mistake: In part, Rich does this because he can—because he knows that the Franke-Rutas are there to enable his conduct. Cartoonists know what happened with Gore. Film critics know what happened too. Everyone knows it—except Franke-Ruta! In her column, Franke-Ruta neatly avoids the most basic facts of our recent shared history. To this day, she still pretends that she doesnt know who dropped those hostile frames on Gore. This is how young writers build fine careers. But its also how Democrats lose elections, and in this case, it also explains how the US marched off to Iraq. At some point, youd think the Franke-Rutas would be shamed into telling the truth. At some point, youd think these young scribes would be shamed into saying what happened.
SOMEHOW, KURTZ KNEW: Franke-Ruta still cant say who dropped those hostile frames on Gore. Perhaps you can tease the truth from her piece—but only if youre skilled at reading Pravda. This is strange, because as early as June 1999, the Posts Howard Kurtz had no trouble describing the source of those hostile frames. Here was the start of a detailed report about Gores weirdly hostile press coverage. Kurtz described the harsh coverage and punditry aimed at Gore, and he said that this coverage threaten[ed] to become a self-fulfilling prophecy about the Gore campaign:
KURTZ (6/25/99): In the picture painted by the press, Vice President Gore's White House campaign is hardly off to a great start.Somehow, Kurtz was able to identify the source of those hostile frames—and this report was written seven years ago. Today, though, Franke-Ruta still just doesnt know where those hostile frames really came from! This is how young writers build careers—and its how people like Bush reach the White House. Prediction: As long as career liberal writers play dumb, you can expect to see Dems lose elections.
AT LONG LAST, OUR REPLY TO OUR READER: So how about it? Why has Rich been willing to ape the dumbest attacks on Gore? We cant tell you with perfect certainty; Frankly, we cant mind-read that Richly. But heres what we told our sharp reader:
REPLY (6/1/06): Here's my general view: Rich is a completely reliable "blue-state" social liberal. That is, he will always repeat the reliable case about how dumb any "red-state" manifestation is. For that reason, he's generally easy for most liberals to like. But the underlying theme with Rich must always be: "I, Frank Rich, am brighter than all." ("Along with my upper-class Manhattan cohort.") So he had to be smarter and better than Clinton and Gore—although, quite plainly, he isn't—and he reacted with horror any time they did anything that might suggest respect for the "red-state" electorate. When Gore occasionally mentioned his religious faith, for example, this struck Rich as fake and reprehensible, and he offered thunderous complaints about what a phony Gore was—just like Bush. [This also explains the absurd remarks in Richs recent column about the fact that Gore once owned a rifle. Hes kissing up to the NRA!]During Campaign 2000, John McCain (like JFK before him) kept telling the press corps that they were smart. But thats roughly the service Rich provides us; he tells us how dumb those damn red-staters are. But then, because Rich must always be Brightest Than All, he also must tear down our Dem Party leaders—and in doing this to Gore from 1997 through 2000, he sent George Bush to the White House. As he has proven, hell find a way to tear down people like Gore—no matter how hard he must work to find complaints, no matter how absurd the complaints must be. Readers, Gore was right about Iraq. But his film has a multicultural audience!
Well only add one more small point. If we had lived a life like Rich—if we had been so relentlessly fatuous—we might want to tear others down too. As Franke-Rutas Washington swells are discovering, Gore has assembled astonishing knowledge about a wide range of important topics—and yes, hes judged right on a range of key matters. That doesnt mean he has perfect judgment; it just means that theres a reason when DKos readers say theyd like Al Gore to be president. Frankly, if youd lived the life of Rich, you might resent that fact too.
KERRY TOO: Needless to say, Rich was vastly superior to Kerry too. When Kerry appeared at a NASCAR event, Rich joined the whole Times crowd in passing on an invented quotation. No, Kerry hadnt said it—but hed pandered to red-state NASCAR voters, and therefore, the man had to pay.
See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/21/04 (scroll down). Note the way Rich makes the key, haughty point: Kerry and Bush? Whats the difference? But then, that haughty perception lies at the heart of every column Frank Rich ever typed.