THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 2003
CARLSON DOES DELHI: There are words for Margaret Carlsons spinning of Vince Fosters 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 Carlsonmaking Foster a prophetmakes it sound like he actually put down the Clintons! Like others before her, Carlson uses Fosters death as a way to re-bash her favorite targets. Is there any subject she wont distort and exploit? Not if restraint would get in the way of her cartoonish Clinton/Gore-bashing.
Indeed, Carlsons 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 HRCs 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...Lets 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. Clintons 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 didnt appreciate the gesture.Is this an accurate account of the phone call to Matthews? Here at THE HOWLER, we dont 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 Fosters death; and offered readers that curious account of Fake Hillary on her way to the Vineyard. Meanwhile, did Matthews appreciate the senators gesture? We cant judge that either. But Carlson is now a stock Clinton-hater, and she used the senators phone call to launch some hackneyed propaganda. Her picture of Clintons lecturing call is straight from the Clinton-haters 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, Carlsons short new chapter about the Clintons spills with comic book Clinton/Gore-bashing. In particular, there is nothing Hillary can say or do that doesnt bug poor misused Margaret. Its the sheer stupidity of these anecdotes that most recommends them for your perusal. For instance, consider Carlsons laughable tale of Hillarys 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 womena 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 Kleins report, one older woman told Mrs. Clinton, Youve come into our courtyard and filled our hearts with joy and we will never forget you. Klein went into some detail about Mrs. Clintons ideas for Asian development. But unfortunately, Margaret Carlson was on the trip tooand Carlson has never forgotten it either. Here is the clowning account she presents in her book. Again, its designed to help her readers see Mrs. Clintons 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 ambassadors gardensall 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 Kleins very own plan for universal health care, I leaned against the open doorand 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 Carlsons idea flow. First, she complains when Hillary doesnt talk policy. Then, when Hillary does discuss policy, Carlson instantly falls asleep. When she awakes, she snidely says that shes certain she didnt 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 doesand Mrs. Clinton is damned in this book if she doesnt. 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. Thats 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 yesterdays 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 Clintons 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 didnt 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 Hillarys 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 collegethough 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 hadnt yet made her fateful choice. She hadnt begun deceiving her readers. So she actually produced an honest account of her subjects impressive achievements:
CARLSON (12/30/91): Clinton was Hopes 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 bachelors 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, Carlsons readers had access to a few basic facts. But since that time, shes 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 Margarets choice.
IF AT FIRST YOU DONT 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 Gores name. Margaret Carlson has nothing to say. But she isnt 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 didnt think he was smarter than everyone else, he wouldnt have acted as his own recount counsel. But Carlson is equally insistent about those speech patterns. Page 155: Gores 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, weve 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, Gores normal cadence, which is to speak as if hes 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 thats 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, its vicious and evil. But why do so many pundits churn this dim and insulting cant? Many pundits have made Margarets choice. Tomorrow, that choice comes in focus.
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 Broaddricks rape charge. He even quoted Willeys statements from 60 Minutes. So how did panelist Susan Estrich respond? She never mentioned what Ray had said. Indeed, she seemed to assume Willeys credibility:
ESTRICH: But wait. Youve got to stop on two things, and Im sure Eleanor [Clift] has more to say on this. I mean, you know me. Ive been in the last few days quite critical of Hillary Clintons book. Im 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 didnt deny it. But theres a very big difference between alleging force. I mean, if you look at Kathleen Willeys allegation, she said in effect, He came on to meBut whats 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 yeswere afraid that we do.
But on Mondays 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, isnt even covered in the book. Not even mentioned one time.Omigod! Its against Pundit Law to mention that fact. But Hardballs host knew what to do. Let me go, let me go, poor abused Matthews said, instantly changing the subject.
(Note: MSNBCs Hardball transcript misstates who said what in this segment.)