THE PROBLEM WITH TELLING/NOT TELLING THE TRUTH: For our money, the problem with telling/not telling the truth came home in Mondays New York Times. John Broder and Robin Toner were being truthfulor, perhaps, were being un-truthfulin this part of their report on the complicated Clinton legacy:
BRODER/TONER (6/9/08): Allies of the Clintons and neutral observers alike said Mrs. Clinton had much to be proud of in this campaign. She outlasted all but one of a distinguished field of primary opponents, won about 17 million votes and a dozen critical states, and earned grudging admiration for her fortitude even from those who despised her. She shattered the gender barrier at the presidential level for all who come after her. She emerged as the chosen tribune for a major part of the Democratic electorate.
But she also made comments that divided voters along racial lines, stretched the facts and last month raised the specter of assassination as a justification for remaining in the race to the bitter end despite a mathematical near-certainty that she had lost weeks earlier.
Wow! According to Broder and Toner, Clinton raised the specter of assassination as a justification for remaining in the race to the bitter end.
Quick note: That statement by Broder is so opaque that youd have no real idea what it meant if you hadnt been following the story. But if you have been following the story, youd know exactly what it meant. According to John Broder and Robin Toner, Clinton said she was staying in the race in case Barack Obama was murdered. Of course, for people able to read and write English, it was always clear that Clinton hadnt said thatand for people who are able to reason, it was always clear that such a strategy wouldnt really make sense. But so what? Clinton was slimedsavagely slimedby many journalists. They proclaimed that she had made that remarkable statement.
(Keith-Operhaps the biggest propagandist ever seen on TVis one who comes quickly to mind.)
Which brings us to the current problemthe problem of telling/not telling the truth. Do Broder and Toner believe that Clinton made that statement? Because two major journalists, in the past week, seemed to say that their colleagues have been lying when they make this claim.
First to expound was Richard Cohen, in the June 3 Washington Post. Cohen said this, explaining why hed hated the Democratic campaign: I hate that Clinton's observation that Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in June ran on and on when everyone save some indigenous people in the Brazilian rain forest knew what she meant. If Cohen is right, then Broder and Toner were simply lying in yesterdays Times. (Neither scribe lives in Brazil.)
Second up was Michael Kinsley, who didnt seem to hate the lying at all. On Sunday, he bravely said this in the New York Times, knowing that Kevin and Josh and Duncan and all good pseudo-liberal house-brokens have accepted this evil conduct for years: [A]t the end, when her own clumsy comment about Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June was willfully misinterpreted to suggest that she was wishing that fate on her opponent, it served her right. If Kinsleys implication is right, then Broder and Toner were willfully misinterpreting what Clinton had said.
Do you see the problem that develops when people like Kinsley and Cohen start telling the truth about not telling the truth? Cohen said the dissembling was wrong; Kinsley seemed to approve of the lying. But both men are veteran journalists; they have lived for decades at the top of the mainstream press pack. And both men seemed to think it was obvious that people like Broder and Toner are lyingsimply lying in your faceswhen they write bullsh*t like that.
Were John Broder and Robin Toner lying on Monday? Thats what Cohen and Kinsley seem to believe. Needless to say, housebroken boys on the liberal web will know they mustnt discuss such matters. But do you see the problem that quickly arises when major journalists start telling the truth about not telling the truth?
Next question: Did journalists really think something was wrong with Bill Clintons statement in South Carolina? Or was that just a willful misrepresentation too? Do you see the problem that quickly arises when were told, by two major scribes, that their colleagues tell you things they dont believe? When John Judis tells you what he did about his colleagues view of Obama?
Housebroken pool boys will know not to speak. Despite their long-standing willful silence, can you see the problem involved here?
HOWLER HISTORYTHINKING OF SIMMONS: Speaking of Cohen, he expounds a bit further today on the journalistic treatment of Clinton. We were struck by this passage:
COHEN (6/10/08): Years from now, historians will ponder the attention accorded Hillary Clinton and possibly compare her TO Eleanor Roosevelt, another presidential wife who was inordinately admired and inordinately scorned. Maybe some historians will note that both are women and that maybe, just maybe, women come in for a special sort of vituperationa kind of contemporary version of burning at the stake.
Hmmm. Will historians decide that contemporary women came in for a special sort of vituperation? We dont know. But if they ever do ponder that question, we hope theyll consider Cohens column in November 1999, in which he savaged Naomi Wolfand mocked Candidate Gore for taking advice from such a laughable person. Of course, Wolf had also advised the 1996 Clinton campaign, and she had written three major books, two of which had been honored as New York Times Notable books of the year. Other candidates were being advised by men who were a thousand miles farther from the mainstream than Wolf ever dreamed of being. But so what? Cohen spent an entire column mocking Gore for employing her. Who else is on the payroll, AlRichard Simmons? he cleverly asked.
Richard Cohen was really funny, back when his cohort was wreaking revenge for Bill Clintons troubling bl*w jobs.
We still want to know who sent Cohen the (inaccurate) five-year-old Esquire piece on which he based his bungled report. (Why do we suspect it was [name of prominent Dem strategist withheld]?) But if historians ever ask the question Cohen suggests, we hope theyll consider his own past workthe work which helped make a joke of Gore, thus leading us on to Iraq.
GERSHON RESPONDS: Yes, were going to do a series on Todd Purdums piece in Vanity Fair. We now plan to do it next weekit takes time to sift through that much scum, to invent language which is appropriate. But in some ways, were all scum-bags now, thanks to upstanding fellows like Purdum. Heres one of the truly remarkable things he wrote in his stirring report:
PURDUM (7/08): Over the last few years, aides have winced at repeated tabloid reports about Clintons episodic friendship and occasional dinners out with Belinda Stronach, a twice-divorced billionaire auto-parts heiress and member of the Canadian Parliament 20 years his junior, or at more recent high-end Hollywood dinner-party gossip that Clinton has been seen visiting with the actress Gina Gershon in California.
Please note, and this is very important: Purdum doesnt claim to have any idea if what he writes about here is accurate. Surely, scum-bag is too kind a word for a man of this low characterfor a journalist who sources his work to high-end Hollywood gossip.
Yesterday, Gershon went on Live with Regis and Kelly, where she discussed this matter with Kelly Ripa and guest host Mario Lopez. We suggest you watch her whole (three-minute) discussion of this matter, which was really quite thoughtful. (Just click here; then move ahead to 3:30.) Gershon flatly denied the gossip, just as she did last week. Then, she stated her larger view of the episode.
This disturbed me on so many other levels, she said, that I kind of felt I had to stand up for myself and speak the truth. Speaking like a sentient human, Gershon put things in a human perspective:
GERSHON (6/9/08): In the bigger picture, my God! Were in a crucial election, you know. Right nowand people want to know who to vote for. I think everyone wants to make the right decision. But how do you do that if you cant believe what you read or what you see, because its been taken and pulled apart?
Gershon was too courteous to mention Purdums name. But she offered a few thoughts about him and his cohort and his work:
GERSHON: Well, the thing is journalists today, it's so scary, because they take these rumors or hearsay. They put it in a story. Then that story goes around the world in about a minute, courtesy of the Web, and people read this. They perceive it to be the truth, so therefore lies are the new facts. And that is scary.
You know whats disgusting to me? Gershon asked. These these journalists, these irresponsible journalists, they are not accountable for anything. Theres no accountability. And I dont know. I just think its wrong.
(We wonder: Does Gershon know that journalists didnt believe that nasty sh*t they wrote about Hillary Clinton? Because thats what Cohen and Kinsley saidand they sit at the top of the press corps.)
Gershon used the word disgusting. Someone else had used the word scum-baga word thats surely too kind for a fellow of Purdums type. But again, make sure you understand: Purdum doesnt claim, in any way, to know what he is talking about. He is reporting high-end gossip. It was said at a dinner table. Blood began to rush through his veins, and he ran and he blabbed it around.
As we watched the Gershon tape, we thought of the students at Concord (New Hampshire) High School who complained, in 1999, when Candidate Gore appeared at their school and was misquoted about Love Canal. (Then mis-edited. Then mis-paraphrased. All in just the first day of the episode!) The debacle turned into an education for some of those students, who tried to get the misquotation corrected. Quite plainly, the Washington Post and the New York Times had misquoted Gorebut then, incredibly, they refused to correct, for six and nine days respectively. Lets use Gershons language: As they refused to correct their mistake, their mistake went around the world. (Papers still quoted it, two months later.) Four weeks after this episode started, the Boston Globes Laura Dolce reported the students reactions to the conduct theyd observed:
DOLCE (12/26/99): The students agree it was a great lesson, but in a way lament their loss of innocence as readers and viewers.
"How can we trust the media now?" said junior Alyssa Spellman. "We see too much bias. We really want to know the truth."
Gershon and Spellman sounded like actual people. They sounded like people who actually care about the real things of the world.
Concerning Purdum, well only ask this: Kafka imagined Gregor Samsas decline. But could he have pictured Todd Purdum?