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MORE LIARS THAN LIBERALS! Liars outnumber actual liberals—if you watch Sunday TV: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2005

THE TIMES WON’T SET RULES FOR ACCUSERS: To its credit, the New York Times reports today about Edward Klein’s astounding new book. But just as it did with the Swift Boat Vets, the Times focuses on the conservative backing for the book and ignores the book’s kooky content. The Times never told you that Unfit for Command was full of blatantly crackpot claims and episodes of self-contradiction. So too with today’s report by Raymond Hernandez about the new Klein book.

Will we ever have standards and rules for accusers? Here’s the one passage where Hernandez explains what the fuss is about:

HERNANDEZ (6/17/05): The publicity surrounding the book, which reportedly includes sensational assertions about Mrs. Clinton's personal life, has stirred a fierce reaction among some of her staunchest supporters and others, who, legitimately or not, see a coordinated campaign to undermine Mrs. Clinton at a time she is taking more of a hand in national politics.
The book “reportedly” includes sensational assertions? It’s true—the book hasn’t been published yet (although excerpts have been posted by Vanity Fair). And it’s understandable that newspapers may not want to repeat the vile, nasty claims that drive Klein’s book. But couldn’t Hernandez have added one key phrase to his fleeting portrait?
HERNANDEZ REVISED: The publicity surrounding the book, which reportedly includes sensational, weakly-sourced assertions about Mrs. Clinton's personal life, has stirred a fierce reaction among some of her staunchest supporters and others, who, legitimately or not, see a coordinated campaign to undermine Mrs. Clinton at a time she is taking more of a hand in national politics.
Why wasn’t Hernandez willing to say that Klein’s ugly book is weakly-sourced? After all, we just went through a period in which the high-minded press corps pounded its chest about anonymous sources. But a nasty book supports “sensational assertions” with laughably weak, anonymous sourcing—and at the slipshod New York Times, Hernandez doesn’t say word the first.

Our question: When will the press corps establish standards and rules for accusers? We understand that the Times may not want to repeat Klein’s ugly, vile assertions. But can’t the paper at least tell its readers that these assertions are based on very weak sourcing—and that some of the book’s “reported” claims have already been shown to be false? Why won’t the press corps hold accusers to the standards they claim for themselves?

FRIST, DO NO HARM: E. J. Dionne comes out swinging today, battering Bill Frist for his clowning conduct regarding Terri Schiavo. Frist, the biggest fake in the Senate, is being chastised far and wide for his absurd remarks on the Senate floor, in which he claimed to speak “more as a physician than as a U.S. senator.” Yesterday, Frist made the rounds on morning TV, baldly dissembling about his past comments. Dionne batters Frist for these latest misstatements, and he hammers Tom DeLay too. Here is his next-to-last paragraph:

DIONNE (6/17/05): Right-to-life politicians have done terrible damage to a serious cause. They claimed to know what they did not, and could not, know. They were willing to imply, without proof, terrible things about a husband who was getting in their way. Instead of making the hard and morally challenging case for keeping Terri Schiavo on life support, they spun an emotional narrative that they thought would play well on cable TV and talk radio.
Hurrah! Dionne hammers a pair of nasty accusers, holding them up to normal standards. But in our view, Dionne is too easy on these two and their kind. Let’s extend his text a bit. What would be wrong with putting Frist and DeLay into a larger context?
DIONNE EXTENDED: Right-to-life politicians have done terrible damage to a serious cause. They claimed to know what they did not, and could not, know. They were willing to imply, without proof, terrible things about a husband who was getting in their way. Instead of making the hard and morally challenging case for keeping Terri Schiavo on life support, they spun an emotional narrative that they thought would play well on cable TV and talk radio. In the process, they played the public for fools, telling them things that were simply untrue. But then, this has been the practice of conservative cable and talk over the course of the past fifteen years. Routinely, conservative cable and radio hosts play trusting voters for absolute fools. With their remarks on the Schiavo case, Frist and Delay just extended the process.
What would be wrong with telling the truth—that conservative cable and talk show hosts routinely play trusting voters for fools? That this is the nature of this medium? Voters deserve to hear that fact. We wish that Dionne had expressed it.

AL KAMEN WILL DO AND SAY ANYTHING: Al Kamen, well-known Christmas card critic (see below), is willing to do and say anything. In this morning’s Post, he rolls his eyes at the silly flap over that Downing Street memo. Here’s the entire item, written straight from the corps’ newest script:

KAMEN (6/17/05): The liberal blogomania over the media's cover-up of the "Downing Street memo"—the British intelligence notes of meetings indicating, among other things, that the administration's decision to invade Iraq was made long before anyone else knew about it—continues unabated.

The fuss reminds us of a front-page story by colleague Glenn Kessler, written in January 2003, two months before the invasion, parsing President Bush's decision-making process on Iraq.

The article includes this anecdote: "Only later did it become clear that the president already had made up his mind. In July [2002, about the time of the Downing Street memo], the State Department's director of policy planning, Richard N. Haass, held a regular meeting with [then-national security adviser Condoleezza] Rice and asked whether they should talk about the pros and cons of confronting Iraq.

"Don't bother, Rice replied: The president has made a decision."

Well, it's still good to know the Brits had also figured this out.

It’s all there: Mockery of liberal blogs (or e-mailers), along with the insinuation or claim that everyone knew this stuff way back when. Good grief! Kessler published this “anecdote” in January 2003, Kamen says! So why would anyone make a fuss about the old news in the Downing Street memo?

Yes, Kamen is typing his master’s script. But is it true? Did everyone know this stuff way back, perhaps in January 2003? Certainly not from Kessler’s report, which was detailed but inconclusive on the issue at question. Kamen refers to a 2700-word piece by Kessler, a lengthy historical overview of the Bush Admin’s thinking about Iraq. The report appeared on January 12, 2003—and if you read it, you wouldn’t have known that Bush had decided on war with Iraq by July 2002. Kessler’s report was well worth reading, but it hardly established the facts the Downing Street memos seem to suggest. Here’s a fuller chunk of the “anecdote” Kamen has cadged from Kessler’s long report:

KESSLER (1/12/03): Serious military planning also began in earnest in the spring [of 2002]. Every three or four weeks, Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, would travel to the White House to give Bush a private briefing on the war planning for Iraq.

On June 1, Bush made another speech, this time at West Point, arguing for a policy of preemption against potential threats. "If we wait for the threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long," Bush said. That month, two major foreign policy headaches—a potential war between India and Pakistan and the administration's uncertain policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—were also resolved, freeing the White House to turn its full attention to confronting Iraq.

Only later did it become clear that the president already had made up his mind. In July, the State Department's director of policy planning, Richard N. Haass, held a regular meeting with Rice and asked whether they should talk about the pros and cons of confronting Iraq.

Don't bother, Rice replied: The president has made a decision.

But alas! This “anecdote” is rather unclear about the president’s “decision.” Bush had apparently decided to “confront Iraq,” Kessler wrote—but what exactly did that mean? Did this mean that he wanted to go straight to war? Did it mean he wanted to go to the UN—leaving war as his last option, as he was claiming in public? The Downing Street memos suggest that Bush had settled on war, and wanted to bypass the UN altogether, or use it as a necessary political route to a war. Kessler’s anecdote was suggestive, but unclear. No—you wouldn’t have known from Kessler’s piece that Bush had settled on war with Iraq, the point which the Downing Street memo seems to suggest.

And by the way, how many people ever read or heard about Kessler’s anecdote? Almost no one. It came at the very end of Kessler’s lengthy piece—in paragraphs 50 and 51 of the 51-paragraph report. Almost no one read this material—and a Nexis search suggests that almost no one in the press corps ever discussed it. Was Kessler’s piece discussed on TV? A search on “Kessler AND Iraq” yields one citation for the remainder of January 2003. That was Bob Woodward on Larry King Live—and Woodward discussed a different part of Kessler’s lengthy report. He didn’t say that Bush had decided on war by July 2002. But then again, neither did anyone else, to judge from the Nexis records.

Had Bush decided on war by July? Was his trip to the UN a sideshow? These possibilities are suggested by the Downing Street memo—and if they’re true, they surely are news. But Kamen has heard his master’s voice, and he’s eagerly typing his master’s new scripts. This morning, he mocks those liberal bloggers—and he cites an inconclusive anecdote, an anecdote no one saw or heard discussed. But so it goes when hopeless toadies race to type their master’s scripts. For more of Kamen’s deathless work, enjoy some classic HOWLER HISTORY:

KRISTMAS IS KAMEN, HOORAH, HOORAH: Kamen was typing Official Scripts as early as December 1999. At the time, his cohort was working to prove that Al Gore was a fake, so Kamen advanced the theme in the normal way—by attacking the Gore family’s Christmas card! How far would your mainstream “press corps” go to prove its great claims about Big Faker Gore? Kamen attacked on Christmas Eve, with an absolute classic of the genre. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/24/99, and try to believe that toadies this vast actually exist on this planet.

Special report—Sunday, pundit Sunday!

PART 4—MORE LIARS THAN LIBERALS: Chris Matthews might just as well have been reporting from Neptune. Last week, Matthews wondered why our Sunday shows never have “strong, articulate voices of the working person, the working family.” But let’s face it, Matthews was faking again; he knew the answer to his question. Our Sunday programs exit to serve those Millionaire Pundit Values—the foppish values of people like Matthews—and no liberal or working-class voice need apply. Indeed, Matthews has a Sunday show himself, and each week he assembles a Standard Panel—a group of foppish pundit script-readers among whom there will be no real liberals. Just as Bill Moyers explained (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/15/05), Matthews gathers four members of the press corps “establishment” (the press corps “elite”). and they proceed to show the world how clueless and scripted—how inbred—they are. Indeed, as we saw from the Chris Matthews Show just last week, there will normally be more liars than liberals when these foppish pundit groups meet. But before we get to one panelist’s lies, let’s take a fuller look at the views of our standard Sunday pundits.

Who exactly are the “liberals” who sometime appear on these programs? For years, the Chicago Tribune’s Jim Warren was one such pundit, appearing in a “liberal” slots on the famous McLaughlin Report. But is Jim Warren really a liberal? We’ll let you make the call, of course, but here’s the way he described Bill Clinton at last weekend’s Chicago Trib Book Fair. Warren introduced the Post’s John Harris, who has written a new book on Clinton. Remember—this is the voice of a man who served as a big “TV liberal:”

WARREN (6/11/05): Speaking of self-pity, there is William Jefferson Clinton, the subject of an absolutely wonderful book by our guest today, John Harris of the Washington Post. Can there be many people in our public life who are more given to dissection, more who are so infuriating, more who are so complex? Talented, charismatic, self-absorbed, disingenuous, self-deceiving, banal, desperate to be viewed as misunderstood, seemingly impervious to embarrassment—be the subject genocide in Rwanda, or oral sex in the Oval Office—so given to pontificate if not necessarily persuade, and, like a baby boomer Don Corleone, so intent on keeping his many friends close but his many enemies closer? Is there anybody in our public life who still inspires such conflicting emotions, who still seems to obsess innumerable cable television hosts and pundits—anybody, I guess, besides his wife?
“Like a boomer Don Corleone!” Indeed, it’s hard to know why the person described would inspire “conflicting emotions;” according to Warren (who read from a prepared text), Clinton was talented and charismatic, but aside from that, was completely repugnant. He was disingenuous, banal and self-deceiving—and incapable of embarrassment, about matters large and small. Granted, a true liberal or working-class advocate might not approve of Clinton’s policies or approaches, but don’t you get a hint of the times when you read this statement by Warren—by a self-infatuated fop who appeared on weekend TV for years, presented there as a “liberal?” Blogger Pangloss was recently wondering why TV liberals seem to argue so poorly, and we were amazed that he needed to ask. Why do TV libs argue poorly? Duh! Because most of these “liberals” aren’t liberals at all, although they may have been for a while, when drinking their way through college. Indeed, here was Matthews himself, on last Tuesday’s Tonight Show, singing the praises of major Republicans—after he had mocked Hillary Clinton for being part of “the greatest sitcom in history:”
JAY LENO (6/7/05): Who would run against Hillary?

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you the guy that could beat her.

LENO: Yes.

MATTHEWS: McCain.

LENO: McCain, OK. Now, if McCain ran—

MATTHEWS: McCain is a moderate. The latest poll out—I looked at a Harris poll this week. It said that four out of five people in this country want a moderate in politics. They don`t want any more left or right. They want down the middle. They want people who are independent of their parties. McCain fits the bill. And the press loves McCain. You can see that every time he comes on.

LENO: He would be older than Reagan when Reagan—

MATTHEWS: Yes. But, you know, we`re all getting older, you know?

LENO: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He`s 71, but I`ll tell you, he looks great. And the other thing is, he went to war. And he spent those five-and-a-half years in Hanoi Hilton. And he has paid his price.

LENO: Right.

MATTHEWS: And a lot of people, especially in the press—who did not [pay their price in Vietnam]—feel a lot of responsibility toward this guy. He is a very popular guy in D.C. And I think he or Rudy Giuliani—don`t underestimate Giuliani.

LENO: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He is the best speaker in the country.

LENO: Would Giuliani take vice president?

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.

LENO: Yes?

MATTHEWS: It would be interesting. McCain-Giuliani might be too liberal on some of the issues. But I think, in the country, for years, the best speaker in the country was Jesse Jackson.

LENO: Right.

MATTHEWS: There`s no doubt about it, the best speaker.And now I think it is Giuliani. And they can`t even spell his name in the South. [LAUGHTER] But they call him—somebody said they`re going to call him Rudy. That will be enough.

LENO: Yes.

MATTHEWS: “I`m for Rudy.”

LENO: Right.

MATTHEWS: So he could—Giuliani. It sounds great.

Believe it or not, those are the views of a non-conservative—by foppish Sunday talk standards, of course. Just click here to read Matthews’ earlier mockery of Hillary Clinton’s “greatest sitcom,” and to see him beat up Howard Dean and Harry Reid (“this Mormon guy from Utah,” he said). But soon, it was back to kiss-kissing McCain. Matthews can’t get that action quite enough:
MATTHEWS: I think Howard Dean has got a problem with—I think the public does not like the name-calling. They don`t like the filibuster that slows things down. They don`t like the gamesmanship of shutting down the government. They want people that are effective. And that`s why McCain looked good two weeks ago when he cut the deal with the 14 guys in the middle.

LENO: Right.

MATTHEWS: Because he could get something done. The public wants things done on Social Security that fixes the system for the young people. They want this war cooled off and us out of there.

LENO: Right.

MATTHEWS: They want these things done. And they don`t want to see a bunch of politicians pointing fingers at each other, I don`t think.

LENO: All right.

MATTHEWS: That`s my view.

Matthews’ only frustration this evening? He didn’t get to kiss the keister of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the other great love of his foppish life.

Yes, by Sunday standards, those are the passions of a pundit who isn’t conservative. So you’re not very likely to find any liberals on your Sunday morning shows, let alone any “strong voices” for working-class interests. People like Matthews select the panels, and they prefer to surround themselves with other upper-class foppists. Foppists like former liberal Joe Klein, who sent this mash note to the Dems on last Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show:

KLEIN (6/12/05): You know, at this point the Democrats are a party with absolutely no redeeming social value. I mean, all they've been about have been these tactical maneuvers in the legislature. There's a movement afoot in corporate America, on the left and the right now, to provide some kind of a universal health care plan—Democrats, nowhere. They are nowhere on the war. They're not providing any kind of considered opposition to Bush's policy in Iraq, and in national security. They're doing nothing. It's a really boring and flat party.
You’re right—a fiery liberal or working-class advocate might be annoyed with the Democrats, too. But do you sense the world-view of your Sunday pundits when you see Klein slam the Dems that way? When you see Jim Warren ream “Don Corleone?” When you see Matthews explain that John McCain just looks great? Remember, these are the voices of the non-conservatives—by the standards of current Sunday talk.

Yes, Matthews may just as well have been speaking from Mars when he asked why there are no working-class voices. In fact, there aren’t many liberals on Sunday TV, let alone any working-class voices. In fact, you’re more likely to see a liar than a liberal—and Klein proved that point this past week.

TOMORROW: More liars than liberals.

WELL SCRIPTED: No one reads McCain’s scripts any better than Matthews. Last night, he marveled with Republican strategist Sheri Annis at the wonders of Giuliani and McCain:

ANNIS (6/16/05): McCain is someone who is so clean and has served our country and would care about [security and terrorism] more than anybody. Rudy Giuliani, what more can you say? He is the face of 9/11.

MATTHEWS: But where`s the successor to President Bush on the Republican Party? You`ve got two people who are seen as moderates, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain—seen as moderates. McCain is a conservative, but he is seen as a moderate. The people like Frist—I mean, who is out there that would be a Bushie on the cultural stuff, on choice issues and things like that?

On Leno, Matthews said McCain was a moderate. Last night, he said McCain was a conservative. On these matters, McCain likes to have it both ways—and his best boy is right there to help.

But then, as Matthews told Leno: “The press loves McCain. You can see that every time he comes on.” And: “A lot of people, especially in the press...feel a lot of responsibility toward this guy.” Remember, these are the views of a non-conservative—by the standards of your foppish Sunday press.