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Daily Howler: How should Hillary deal with Klein? Dems simply have to decide
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WOLF AND MCLEAN DEBATE KLEIN! How should Hillary deal with Klein? Dems simply have to decide: // link // print // previous // next //

WHY WE NEED RULES FOR ACCUSERS: What are the press corps’ rules for accusers? The need for such rules is apparent again in the wake of the Terri Schiavo autopsy. In this matter, as in so many others, crackpot accusers seized control of the discourse with little regulation from the mainstream press. Indeed, one such accuser, Randall Terry, was still lobbing bombs last night, in the rogue state known as Scarborough Country. Terry knows nothing about medicine—but so what? He started by suggesting that the autopsy had just been wrong:
TERRY (6/15/05): In the last month of Terri’s life, you had innumerable friends and family go in to see her. And one by one they came in front of the camera and said, “Terri did this. Terri responded to this story”....Either all of them were lying or they were witnessing the activities of a “brain-dead person.”
Terry still thought that Terri Schiavo had been responding and trying to speak. Scarborough dared to ask a tangy question, but Terry just kept on insisting:
SCARBOROUGH (continuing directly): Would you lie to save your daughter’s life?

TERRY: I’m sorry?

SCARBOROUGH: Would you lie to save your daughter’s life? I would.

TERRY: It’s not just the family. They would have—every single one of those people would have had to have been involved in a lie. And I was there. I was on the ground. I was talking to them. The assertion that they were lying or that she was brain-dead is ludicrous. There’s so much about the human brain that we don’t know.

So that means the doctor was lying, Joe said. Terry, a know-nothing, said no:
TERRY: No. What you could have is, you could have this. You could have a doctor who’s not a specialist in the brain. You could have the reality that the brain is still so uncharted in so many areas. It’s an art, partly, not just a science. This—you can have it both ways. You can have—there are parts of the brain—you know, I feel silly talking about the brain with a doctor [fellow guest Bernadine Healy]. So we’ll let her talk about the brain’s capacity to rewire itself. But the bottom line is, I believe that those witnesses were credible. I know that the attorney was credible. There’s no way that that female attorney who came out and talked about Terri, saying that she wanted to live, there’s no way that that woman was going to risk her career by committing perjury. It’s not going to happen.
But just who was “that female attorney,” the one who was so credible? That female attorney was Barbara Weller, a lawyer for the fundamentalist Christian Law Association, a matter that was almost never discussed in the press as she made her implausible statements and claims, driving on the nasty attacks against Michael Schiavo and the judge in the case (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/1/05). Nor was the public told about Weller’s personal background—for example, that she had said, in 1991, that the devil seemed to have the upper hand when Christian conservatives were being thwarted within the United Church of Christ. (“It is God against the devil,” she had been quoted saying.) As Weller declared her miracle cures, should the public have been told about her background? Duh! Of course they should have been told, but they weren’t—there are no standards for accusers, you know; they get to blather as crazily as they like—and last night, Randall Terry, well-known Christian crackpot, continued insisting that Weller’s odd statements meant that the doctor who conducted the autopsy might not be “a specialist in the brain.”

But so it has gone for the past fifteen years as the press corps has let a string of kooks, quacks and crazies seize control of American discourse. Why do we need rules for accusers? The Schiavo case spells it out perfectly. In this case, a quack “Nobel nominee” was widely pimped—and the press went along with a wink and a nod (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/22/05). And when Weller insisted that Terri Schiavo was attempting to speak, the press corps didn’t tell the public that Weller reps a fundamentalist group, and had told the world, a dozen years earlier, that the devil was winning out when gay rights got supported. Meanwhile, crackpots like Terry were given free reign to make any ugly claim they liked. And last night, Terry was still on TV, saying that the doctor was wrong. “I feel silly talking about the brain,” he said. MSNBC’s Rick Kaplan should have felt even sillier for allowing this nonsense to go on.

No, Terry doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But then, for the last fifteen years, our discourse has been handed to crackpot accusers—accusers for whom the mainstream press corps seems to have few rules or standards. In 1992, for example, the New York Times took its dictation from Arkansas crazies for its deeply flawed Whitewater “reporting”—for the still-unexplained, bungled reports which gave the name to a political era. By 1999, a crackpot like Gennifer Flowers was doing full hours on cable shows, pimping her “Clinton murder list”—and when Howard Kurtz discussed one such appearance, he didn’t even bother mentioning her nasty, inexcusable accusations, or the sheer absurdity of her attempts to defend them (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/26/03). One year earlier, the press corps had fallen all over itself to pimp the accusations of its darling, Kathleen Willey. But uh-oh! When the Starr office announced that Willey’s lies had been so extensive that they considered prosecuting her for perjury, the press corps all agreed not to tell (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/10/03). And last year, John O’Neill wrote a visibly crackpot book, full of bizarro accusations against Kerry. (Self-contradiction was O’Neill’s great companion.) But what standards, what rules, were in place for this man? Simple answer: No rules. Nada. None. But then, our White House elections have been transformed by these crackpots from 1992 to the present. And there is no sign that the Washington press corps has any plan to reform.

Now the crackpot accusers are gearing up once again, with Edward Klein’s amazingly slimy new book about Hillary Clinton. As we all know, the press can establish high-minded rules when certain pols, like Howard Dean, seem to have made naughty statements. And we know that the press corps is very high-minded about those anonymous sources. But what are the rules for these ugly accusers? Democrats have to ask the press every day: What are the rules for accusers like Klein? You’ve showcased your mighty, high standards—for Dean. But after fifteen years of claims from crackpot accusers, what are the rules and standards for them? For fifteen years, you’ve given them rein. Will Edward Klein get free rein also?

We first told you this seven years ago—the Washington press corps just [HEART] those accusers. Democrats have to insist that this stop. Democrats have to insist, every day, that the press corps establish some rules for accusers. Dems simply have to stop playing victim. Much more to come on this subject.

WOLF AND MCLEAN DEBATE KLEIN: On Tuesday night, Bill O’Reilly spoke out against the Klein book (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/15/05). Here’s how he started the segment:

O’REILLY (6/14/05): Ed Klein is a colleague of mine on Parade magazine. He's been on the program before, but I won't put him on to discuss this book. That's because I didn't put on Kitty Kelly to discuss her book, which was full of personal attacks on the Bush family. So if I didn't do that, I can't in good conscience reverse myself in this situation.
Yes, a weak attack on a “colleague of mine,” in which O’Reilly was excusing himself to conservative viewers. But at least Mr. O was calling attention to this major ongoing problem. During his segment, he asked a pair of well-known Dems how Hillary Clinton should respond to Klein’s book. Because all Dems must consider this problem, we’ll give extensive excerpts—first, from a long-time, high Dem consultant:
O’REILLY (6/14/05): This is about an increasing trend in this country to destroy people with whom you disagree. Now, I mean destroy. Not beat, not out-debate. I mean come into your house, destroy you and your family. And it's going to have to be dealt with at some time or another, Ms. [Kiki] McLean. How would you deal with it?

MCLEAN: .... I think in the case of Senator Clinton, she should and probably will continue to serve with dignity and character and fight for the things that she believes in and continue her role as an advocate for families in America. And that's really the best thing to do—

O'REILLY: All right. So you wouldn't—

MCLEAN: —when you have somebody who is engaged in a trash-for-cash campaign, and really somebody who's really trying to line their own pockets at the expense of the Clintons.

O'REILLY: All right. We know that. We know that and there's no debate about it.


O'REILLY: But other media will run with this all over the place. And they will put it on page one in the newspapers. And—

MCLEAN: Well, I think the media needs to— I think the media needs to stop and think about their responsibility.

O'REILLY: They're not. They're not—let's stay in the real world. I don't want to enter the Land of Oz. The media is not going to stop. They're not going to think. They're not going to be ethical. They're not. The media is, are basically savages in this country, all right? Now, would you advise Mrs. Clinton to ignore this book, as President Bush did in the case of Kitty Kelley?

MCLEAN: I would advise her to ignore it, and I think she's proven over her career in public service and public life that she just does not give the time of day to people who are engaged in this kind of trash.

We don’t really agree with McLean. We think the history is clear by now; when Dens have ignored these attacks in the past, the attacks have spread through the sewers of the kooky-con right and have infested the larger public discourse. In many cases, the mainstream media have also aired such accusations (as in the case of O’Neill), holding accusers to almost no standards. We agree with O’Reilly; the media will not “stop and think about their responsibility” until Democrats force them to do so. And when O’Reilly spoke with Naomi Wolf, she basically took this view:
O’REILLY: How do you see this, Naomi?

WOLF: I was—first of all, can I just say thank you for drawing a line because—

O'REILLY: Are you trying to be nice to me?

WOLF: I'm not trying—I am nice. But I'm trying to make a point, which is there is—when Hillary Clinton said there's a Republican attack machine, she sounded like she was coming from an extreme position. But in fact, time has—

O'REILLY: This has nothing to do with the Republicans.

WOLF: True, but—

O'REILLY: This guy is not a Republican.

WOLF: True. Exactly. But I just want to say that both the Republican attack machine—there's a Democratic attack machine that's not as sophisticated—and the media have taken this stuff to a new low. So I agree with you and I applaud you for drawing the line.

O'REILLY: We're, we're just trying to be fair to everybody, which we have from Day One on this program.

WOLF: OK. Now, I respectfully disagree with Kiki. I think Democrats tend to make a fatal error, and the Clinton-Gore administration tends to do this habitually. When there's a powerful attack, and I have to say partisan, the Bush administration, in my view, stoops to unbelievable lows—

O'REILLY: Let's stop with that stuff.

WOLF: You can stop. I'm not going to stop.

O'REILLY: All right, but look, I'm not going to attack the Bush administration under the guise of giving Hillary Clinton advice. That's not fair.

WOLF: All right. Fair enough. That's a new low.

O'REILLY: All right. So you would say, "Senator Clinton, here is what you should do." What would that be?

WOLF: My recommendation is to take—and let me say, in praise, the Bush administration tends to do this. They take every attack as an opportunity. Democrats should learn from them. Mrs. Clinton should take this attack as an opportunity to go out and draw a line and say, "You know what? This is just the beginning. If I throw my hat into the ring, it's going to get worse and worse and worse. There's no low to which people will stoop to try to stop me from focusing your attention on health care, Social Security."

O’REILLY: You got it. So address it generally but not specifically?

At this point, McLean said, “I don't think Naomi and I disagree that much.” But it seemed to us that they did disagree. Moments later, Wolf continued:
WOLF: Can I say I was, I was the victim of the Republican attack machine during the Gore 2000 campaign.

O'REILLY: Why? Because they said about your earth tones? Come on. Stop.

WOLF: They said—yes, they made up all kinds of nonsense. But the campaign made a mistake. I would have liked to go out and say, "This is what I'm here for. I'm advising on the women's vote. It's what I've been doing for 12 years." But their tactic was not to reply. I think Mrs. Clinton should go out there and say, "This is a new low. They're going after my family. I'm going to stand up for my family and all of your families, and they're trying to distract you from the damage that they're doing to your future."

Did the Gore campaign make a mistake when it didn’t reply to these ugly attacks? There’s no way to know, but the Swift Boat lunacy made something clear—these ludicrous attacks will never stop until Democrats force the mainstream press to adopt standards for crackpot accusers.

In our view, Dems can no longer ignore this. And it’s easier now to fight this fight; as compared to 1999, it’s easier to show the consistent track record of this garbage, dating back to 1992. What are the rules for these crackpot accusers? Democrats have to stand now and fight—and the conversation which started Tuesday night has to continue daily.

Final note: Last night, Mr. O melted down in a bizarre attack on the New York Times (and Al Franken). Democrats have to fight this fight on their own. To state what is merely obvious, Mr. O can’t be their avenger.

SLIMING WOLF: It’s true—Wolf was viciously slimed during Campaign 2000, in one of the nastiest episodes of that disgraceful campaign. They “made up all kinds of nonsense,” Wolf said—and that was a gross understatement. But let’s make sure we understand the dynamics of that campaign. Most of the ugly sliming of Wolf was coming straight from the press corps itself. The RNC did play a small role. But the mainstream press corps was the main player. It’s simply absurd to say different.

We’ve never told the full story of this episode—a nasty, ugly, vicious six weeks in which the press corp showcased its rank stupidity and its late-90s love for smut. But for a string of detailed reports, start with THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/3/03, and read through to THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/10/03. Remember: Most of the accusers in this grimy episode were inside the mainstream press corps itself. (Two defenders of Wolf: William Safire, William Kristol.) Sorry, but these people are not “the current state of the art of human perfectibility,” as Blogger Pangloss tells himself in the garden. In 1999, they were conducting a full-bore War Against Gore, and their ugly campaign against Wolf was just one part of their long battle.

BY THE WAY: “You can stop. I’m not going to stop.” Congratulations to Naomi Wolf, who so many fiery liberals abandoned when she was under attack. But we think you understand the drill. She was being attacked by the mainstream press, and their precious careers had to come first.

ET TU, HOWIE: In this morning’s Post, Howard Kurtz pens a long report on the press corps’ handling of the Downing Street memos. There’s plenty of information here—and there are plenty of quotes from mainstream scribes pretending they had this thing right from the start. But does nonsense like this have to appear in all reports on this topic?

KURTZ (6/16/05): Critics, however, note that the memo by Richard Dearlove, then head of British intelligence, offered no specifics about any cooking of the intelligence books and could easily have been drawn from ongoing news accounts about the administration gearing up for war. In February 2002, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported that "serious planning is underway within the Bush administration for a campaign against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein" that could include military action. In August 2002, shortly after the memo was written, The Washington Post reported that "an increasingly contentious debate is underway within the Bush administration over how to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, with the civilian leadership pushing for innovative solutions using smaller numbers of troops and military planners repeatedly responding with more cautious approaches that would employ far larger forces."
But the memo doesn’t suggest that “planning” was underway; that simply isn’t the point of the memo. Everyone knew that contingency planning was being conducted, as is always the case with the Pentagon. But that isn’t what the main memo seems to say. The memo seems to say that Bush had already decided on war by July 2002—a time when he was insisting that war would be his very last option. If that’s true, that’s important news. Those two reports from 2002 have nothing to do with the parts of the memo that has people so upset.

Does nonsense like this always have to be present when we discuss the Downing Street memos? Let’s say it one more time: It’s absurd to think that Richard Dearlove was reporting to Blair about what he had seen in “news accounts;” in fact, Dearlove was reporting on a trip to DC in which he met with George Tenet. And it’s absurd to say that the memo discusses standard contingency planning for war. It isn’t clear what we can conclude from the memos, but Kurtz cites foolish distractions, distractions first offered by Michael Kinsley and by the Washington Post’s foppish editors. Must their nonsense always be present whenever these memos are discussed?

Much more on this topic all next week when we reread Woodward’s Plan of Attack.

Special report—Sunday, pundit Sunday!

PART 4—A PLACE FOR THE SCRIPTED AND FATUOUS: Part 4 appears here tomorrow.