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MARGARET’S CHOICE (PART 2)! Most of Carlson’s book is numbingly stupid. Consider her passage on India:


CARLSON DOES DELHI: There are words for Margaret Carlson’s spinning of Vince Foster’s death: Ugly, evil, vile, inexcusable. In his suicide note, Foster complained about the FBI and yes, he complained about the press (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/11/03). But Carlson—making Foster a prophet—makes it sound like he actually put down the Clintons! Like others before her, Carlson uses Foster’s death as a way to re-bash her favorite targets. Is there any subject she won’t distort and exploit? Not if restraint would get in the way of her cartoonish Clinton/Gore-bashing.

Indeed, Carlson’s new “book,” Anyone Can Grow Up, is a study in well-scripted Clinton/Gore-hating. Some of her work is ugly and vicious, like her distortions regarding Foster. But most of her work is just numbingly stupid. Carlson offers a string of anecdotes, designed to show the Clintons’ deep flaws. The anecdotes seem to be drawn from cartoons. But they all lead to Just One Conclusion.

Consider poor malarial Chris Matthews, mistreated by Hillary Clinton. Believe it or not, this is one of the items Carlson uses to reveal HRC’s lack of heart:

CARLSON (page 151): All that chatter helps Hillary take the personal and make it impersonal. Last summer, talk show host Chris Matthews was in critical condition at Sibley Hospital in Washington, stricken by malaria, and just after he was out of intensive care, Hillary called...
Let’s stop right there for a moment. As most readers know, Matthews had trashed Mrs. Clinton for years by the time of his illness last summer. During her New York Senate campaign, he behaved with exceptional rudeness to her press spokesman, Howard Wolfson, when Wolfson appeared on Hardball (12/7/99). He then misrepresented the things Wolfson said during a string of subsequent programs. But now Chris Matthews was sick in bed, and Mrs. Clinton was calling to wish him well. And Margaret Carlson knew what this showed. It showed Mrs. Clinton’s bad character!
CARLSON (continuing directly): But after a half-minute of personal conversation, she launched into a treatise on malaria, its causes and its cures, its prevalence in the Third World and what Congress should do about it. All this to a deathly ill man, who might have welcomed a joke, or two, or a piece of news from the cloakroom of the Senate. Not that he didn’t appreciate the gesture.
Is this an accurate account of the phone call to Matthews? Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t have a clue. After all, this is the same Margaret Carlson who doctored that quote by President Clinton; pretended that the Clintons got Webb Hubbell thrown in jail; implied that the Clintons caused Vince Foster’s death; and offered readers that curious account of Fake Hillary on her way to the Vineyard. Meanwhile, did Matthews appreciate the senator’s gesture? We can’t judge that either. But Carlson is now a stock Clinton-hater, and she used the senator’s phone call to launch some hackneyed propaganda. Her picture of Clinton’s lecturing call is straight from the Clinton-hater’s handbook. In this pointless incident, Hillary Clinton was nice enough to call a man who had trashed her for years. In response, the dogged Carlson got busy churning the latest “hate Hillary” foolishness.

But then, Carlson’s short new chapter about the Clintons spills with comic book Clinton/Gore-bashing. In particular, there is nothing Hillary can say or do that doesn’t bug poor misused Margaret. It’s the sheer stupidity of these anecdotes that most recommends them for your perusal. For instance, consider Carlson’s laughable tale of Hillary’s conduct in India.

As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton visited South Asia in March 1995. Joe Klein wrote a detailed report for Newsweek, closing with an incident in which “hundreds of women—a third Untouchables, another third Muslims; rag-pickers, street vendors, the most desperate of the poor” sang “We Shall Overcome” in the Gujarati dialect at the end of a meeting with the First Lady. According to Klein’s report, one older woman told Mrs. Clinton, “You’ve come into our courtyard and filled our hearts with joy and we will never forget you.” Klein went into some detail about Mrs. Clinton’s ideas for Asian development. But unfortunately, Margaret Carlson was on the trip too—and Carlson has never forgotten it either. Here is the clowning account she presents in her book. Again, it’s designed to help her readers see Mrs. Clinton’s lack of character:

CARLSON (page 150): Hillary, too, could talk anyone into the ground. One night very late in New Delhi, Joe Klein, then at Newsweek, and I got a joint interview with the First Lady. She used up our time with chatter about the Taj Mahal and the ambassador’s gardens—all about as newsworthy as someone showing you slides from their summer vacation. About midnight, an aide showed us the door, literally. Our time was up. Valiantly, Klein reeled her back in with a question about health-care reform. As we descended into the swamps of single-payer insurance and Klein’s very own plan for universal health care, I leaned against the open door—and fell asleep. I woke up when my notebook clattered to the floor, embarrassed that jet lag had struck so hard, but unworried that any news had been committed.
The sheer stupidity of this anecdote simply leaps off the page. Just follow Carlson’s idea flow. First, she complains when Hillary doesn’t talk policy. Then, when Hillary does discuss policy, Carlson instantly falls asleep. When she awakes, she snidely says that she’s certain she didn’t miss anything. In this episode, Mrs. Clinton stays up well past midnight to speak with Carlson, but Carlson can only find fault with her conduct. As with other bizarre Clinton-haters who have made such a joke of our national discourse, Mrs. Clinton is damned in this book if she does—and Mrs. Clinton is damned in this book if she doesn’t. Amazingly, Carlson fails to see how stupid she looks in the process. Clinton “used up our time,” she sniffs, displaying her astounding hauteur.

But Carlson is almost always annoyed when Clinton or Clinton start talking. That’s especially true if the Clintons talk policy. Just before presenting the India anecdote, Carlson complains because Bill Clinton, then a White House hopeful, made her sit through more policy chatter:

CARLSON (page 150): The two made quite a pair, the marriage a merger as much as a relationship…They could both talk you to death. Clinton would ask, “Did you see my welfare reform proposals?” You could say yes and wait to be quizzed on the content, so he could fill in the inevitable blanks with statistics from the latest census reports. Or you could say no and sign on for a lengthy disquisition on income redistribution. The man listened with his tongue.
In this passage, Margaret Carlson expresses annoyance when a White House candidate discusses a major proposal. At the end of the anecdote, she plainly implies that Clinton should be listening to her.

Please remember: These laughable anecdotes (including those from yesterday’s HOWLER) cram the short, thirteen-page chapter devoted to the Clintons and Gore. Indeed, Carlson is so expert at Clinton/Gore denigration that she can reinvent any item to serve the agenda. How expert a spinner is Carlson? Here is the Pravda-like way she describes Bill Clinton’s education:

CARLSON (page 148): He said he was the most talkative kid at school, and who would doubt it? Not one to crack the books, he nonetheless did well. Things that didn’t come easily, he took a pass on. In high school, friends say he was too undisciplined and flabby to play sports, so instead he played sax in the band. He skated through college, borrowed Hillary’s notes at Yale Law, and lost his first political race because he ran an uneven campaign.
In this book, everything has to be wrong with Bill Clinton. He was just too fat and lazy for sports. Not only that: He “skated through college”—though Carlson forgets to mention the fact that he somehow managed to win a Rhodes Scholarship in the process! When Carlson profiled this same man in late 1991, she hadn’t yet made her fateful choice. She hadn’t begun deceiving her readers. So she actually produced an honest account of her subject’s impressive achievements:
CARLSON (12/30/91): Clinton was Hope’s Doogie Howser, succeeding at everything he tried, the darling of his teachers and one of the first from the area to go to college. He got his bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University, won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, then went on to Yale Law School, where he met his wife Hillary. By 1979, 32 years old and back in Arkansas, he was the youngest Governor in the country.
Back then, Clinton “succeeded at everything he tried.” But now, Bill Clinton is lazy and fat. He made it by copying Hillary.

Back in December 1991, Carlson’s readers had access to a few basic facts. But since that time, she’s made a choice. Tomorrow, as she looks at George Bush, we start to see what that choice was.

TOMORROW: As a kid, Carlson learned to fight the strong. Years later, she made “Margaret’s choice.”

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED: Spin, spin again! Carlson crams endless negative spin into her thirteen new pages on the Clintons. And when she discusses hopeless Al Gore, her work is relentlessly scripted. Gore talks too slowly, she endlessly says. And he acts like the smartest kid in the class. These spins appear almost every time Carlson so much as mentions Gore’s name. Margaret Carlson has nothing to say. But she isn’t afraid to repeat it.

Does Gore act like the smartest kid in the class? You bet your sweet slide rule he does. Page 101: Gore was “a tense technocrat intent on proving he was the smartest kid on the planet.” Page 102: Gore is “Mr. Know-It-All.” Page 104: Gore was “determined to prove he was the smartest guy running.” Page 108: “If he didn’t think he was smarter than everyone else, he wouldn’t have acted as his own recount counsel.” But Carlson is equally insistent about those speech patterns. Page 155: Gore’s “hectoring, slow-speaking voice” drives everyone nuts at a cabinet meeting. Page 156: Gore “spoke like a semiconductor chip” when he promoted his book in 2002. Of course, we’ve learned about this at an earlier juncture. Page 102: If Gore had been president after September 11, “he might have given a treatise on international law…coated in slow-motion diplo-speak.” Page 106: Gore is trashed as he throws a Halloween party for children. “At a party filled with children, Gore’s normal cadence, which is to speak as if he’s addressing a class of kindergartners, was suitable,” Carlson judges. At his 1999 party, he dressed as Frankenstein. This allowed him to “ap[e] the speech pattern of a slow, wooden monster.”

But that’s the way it is with Carlson. When Hillary Clinton phones a sick journalist, it helps us see how we should hate her. Ditto when Gore throws a party for children. This book could hardly get any dumber, and, in spots, it’s vicious and evil. But why do so many pundits churn this dim and insulting cant? Many pundits have made “Margaret’s choice.” Tomorrow, that choice comes in focus.

The Daily update

SPINNING WILLEY: As we’ve told you, it won’t go away, the cover-up for Sanctified Willey. Kathleen Willey is such an unreliable witness that even the OIC gave her up; she lied to the FBI, Robert Ray reported, and he considered bringing charges against her (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/10/03). But the “press corps” loves those Clinton-accusers. They buried Ray’s report at the time, and they continue to cover for Saint Willey now. In Pundit Land, you will never hear about what Ray reported.

On Tuesday night, for example, Sean Hannity was peddling Willey, as is his custom and wont. He brought her up throughout his program, using her accusations as a way of supporting Juanita Broaddrick’s rape charge. He even quoted Willey’s statements from 60 Minutes. So how did panelist Susan Estrich respond? She never mentioned what Ray had said. Indeed, she seemed to assume Willey’s credibility:

ESTRICH: But wait. You’ve got to stop on two things, and I’m sure Eleanor [Clift] has more to say on this. I mean, you know me. I’ve been in the last few days quite critical of Hillary Clinton’s book. I’m sick of Monica Lewinsky. I never believed him for a minute when he said, you know, I never had a relationship with that woman. I thought to myself, “Of course you did.” And as you know I asked him and he didn’t deny it. But there’s a very big difference between alleging force. I mean, if you look at Kathleen Willey’s allegation, she said in effect, “He came on to me—

HANNITY (indignant): Came on to me?

ESTRICH: “I decided it was time to get out of there and I did.”

HANNITY: That’s coming on? Grabbing her hand and forcing her to do stuff?…Let me ask something. Do you believe they’re lying? These three women that make very, very serious allegations, Susan. Do you think they’re lying?

ESTRICH: Are you asking me, if I believe they’re lying?


But what’s the point of asking Estrich? Robert Ray dumped Kathleen Willey, and said he considered prosecuting her for her lies. But Estrich never mentioned that. Neither did Eleanor Clift or guest co-host Pat Halprin. “You know me,” Estrich said. And yes—we’re afraid that we do.

But on Monday’s Hardball, the impossible happened. David Bossie began spinning Willey. And David Brock actually said it:

BOSSIE: First of all, Kathleen Willey, who was a major part of this entire case, isn’t even covered in the book. Not even mentioned one time.

BROCK: Because Ken Starr dismissed her as a non-credible witness.

Omigod! It’s against Pundit Law to mention that fact. But Hardball’s host knew what to do. “Let me go, let me go,” poor abused Matthews said, instantly changing the subject.

(Note: MSNBC’s Hardball transcript misstates who said what in this segment.)