WOLF AND MCLEAN DEBATE KLEIN! How should Hillary deal with Klein? Dems simply have to decide: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 2005
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 Terris 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 daughters life?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 whos not a specialist in the brain. You could have the reality that the brain is still so uncharted in so many areas. Its 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 well let her talk about the brains capacity to rewire itself. But the bottom line is, I believe that those witnesses were credible. I know that the attorney was credible. Theres no way that that female attorney who came out and talked about Terri, saying that she wanted to live, theres no way that that woman was going to risk her career by committing perjury. Its 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 Wellers 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 werent—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 Wellers 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 didnt 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. MSNBCs Rick Kaplan should have felt even sillier for allowing this nonsense to go on.
No, Terry doesnt know what hes 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 didnt 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 Willeys 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 ONeill wrote a visibly crackpot book, full of bizarro accusations against Kerry. (Self-contradiction was ONeills 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 Kleins 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? Youve 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, youve 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 OReilly spoke out against the Klein book (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/15/05). Heres how he started the segment:
OREILLY (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 OReilly 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 Kleins book. Because all Dems must consider this problem, well give extensive excerpts—first, from a long-time, high Dem consultant:
OREILLY (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?We dont 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 ONeill), holding accusers to almost no standards. We agree with OReilly; the media will not stop and think about their responsibility until Democrats force them to do so. And when OReilly spoke with Naomi Wolf, she basically took this view:
OREILLY: How do you see this, Naomi?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.Did the Gore campaign make a mistake when it didnt reply to these ugly attacks? Theres 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 its easier now to fight this fight; as compared to 1999, its 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 cant be their avenger.
SLIMING WOLF: Its 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 lets 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. Its simply absurd to say different.
Weve 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. Im 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 mornings Post, Howard Kurtz pens a long report on the press corps handling of the Downing Street memos. Theres 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 doesnt suggest that planning was underway; that simply isnt the point of the memo. Everyone knew that contingency planning was being conducted, as is always the case with the Pentagon. But that isnt 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 thats true, thats 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? Lets say it one more time: Its 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 its absurd to say that the memo discusses standard contingency planning for war. It isnt clear what we can conclude from the memos, but Kurtz cites foolish distractions, distractions first offered by Michael Kinsley and by the Washington Posts foppish editors. Must their nonsense always be present whenever these memos are discussed?
Much more on this topic all next week when we reread Woodwards Plan of Attack.
PART 4—A PLACE FOR THE SCRIPTED AND FATUOUS: Part 4 appears here tomorrow.