HOWELL MEETS HOWLERS! Deborah Howell has her hands full with the Posts childish war against Gore: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2007
A PAIR OF PERFORMANCE GAPS: In todays Post, E. J. Dionne notes a nagging problem for Democrats. Voters want to elect a Dem next year—until you plug in the names:
DIONNE (6/19/07): The Democrats' worries about the presidential race are less immediate. But it's striking that while the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll showed the public preferring a Democrat to a Republican for president in 2008 by 52 percent to 31 percent when no specific candidates were listed, public polls have shown much smaller leads—or occasionally, even small deficits—for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama when they were matched individually against Rudy Giuliani or John McCain. Although Clinton, Obama and John Edwards still do well against lesser-known Republican presidential candidates, the performance gap troubles many in the party.In some recent polls, this performance gap has been larger than Dionne indicates. In a June 10 Los Angeles Times poll, for example, voters said theyd prefer a Dem to a Rep by an eight-point margin (49-41). But in the same poll, Clinton ran ten points behind Giuliani. This poll is an outlier, but the party-wide performance gap is a deeply serious problem. (For recent performance gap polling, click here.)
But then, theres that other performance gap—the gap between liberal and conservative pundits. Conservative pundits will scream all day about the medias liberal bias, even when it doesnt exist. By contrast, its impossible to get liberals to raise their voices, even when bias against liberals and Dems seems quite apparent. Why do voters want a Democratic president—until the candidates names are mentioned? Dionne doesnt say, but well offer an obvious answer: This performance gap is a reaction to the mainstream press corps messaging in the past several years—messaging in which demon tales have been dumped on Big Dems, with hero tales fashioned for Reps.
Do McCain and Giuliani run ahead of their party? Yes—and why would that be a surprise? McCain has been praised for eight years for his mighty straight talk, even when he flips and reinvents madly. Giuliani has been endlessly tagged as Americas mayor. In short, the mainstream press corps tends to recite these pols slogans for them, as weve recorded many times.
By way of contrast, lets just say this isnt a problem Hillary Clinton has been forced to endure. Just yesterday, we saw the remarkable way the mainstream press refashioned part of Carl Bernsteins new book, presenting Clinton as a strong-arming, borderline-criminal mobster. (This was a complete reinvention of Bernsteins book. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/18/07.) Step two of this ugly, three-step process occurred on the front page of Dionnes newspaper. Step three occurred on an ugly show where Dionne is a frequent, meek guest.
How do these hero and demon tales work? Al Gore is one of the worlds most honored public servants; Fred Thompson is a mediocre, occasional pol. But last month, we saw the way the mainstream press began showering hero tales on Thompson when he suggested that he might run for president. Meanwhile, the Washington Post was still mocking Gore as an example of roadkill. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/21/07—and see our new series below.
But you wont see this challenged by scribes like Dionne; the pundit performance gap is quite wide. In particular, Hillary Clinton has been demonized in the way weve described over the course of the past fifteen years. But this has been done by the mainstream press—and mainstream liberals are quite meek and mild. Almost surely, this process will continue, on the front page of the Post. If Clinton is driven out of the race, the demonizing of Obama and Edwards will quite likely follow.
By the way, readers: Have you heard how much Edwards paid for that haircut? How big his disgraceful house is?
THE PUNDIT GAP IN ACTION: How pitiful are the liberal columnists in our mainstream press corps? In todays Post, Richard Cohen writes his latest column about the Scooter Libby matter—and he takes his critique to a new, even more ludicrous level. Who does Cohen blame for this mess? Omigod! The liberal press!
COHEN (6/19/07): With the sentencing of Lewis Scooter Libby, [Patrick] Fitzgerald has apparently finished his work, which was, not to put too fine a point on it, to make a mountain out of a molehill. At the urging of the liberal press (especially the New York Times), he was appointed to look into a run-of-the-mill leak and wound up prosecuting not the leaker—Richard Armitage of the State Department—but Libby, convicted in the end of lying. This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.Every sentence is absurd, but note the blame that Cohen casts—and gaze upon your mainstream press corps! Inside that puzzling game preserve, even the best-known liberal columnists will explicitly blame the liberal press for societys troubles!
Well assume that the lazer-like team at The Lake will go through Cohens ludicrous piece. But in the passage weve highlighted, you see that pundit performance gap in action. But then, during Campaign 2000, Cohen praised McCains brilliant character—and griped about Gores troubling clothes. Fifteen years of these foolish tales lead us to Dionnes column today—to the Dem-Rep performance gap Dionne didnt choose to explain.
DOWD MOVES SCRIPT: Yesterdays column by Maureen Dowd was typed deep inside Versailles. Heres how the powdered pundit began:
DOWD (6/18/07): The busty brunette wriggles around in her pink bikini beside a picture of Barack Obama....Sadly, that mentality has driven your mainstream press for at least the past fifteen years.
Dowd types from so far inside Versailles that she cant hear your cries from the street. But inside the palace, Script Never Sleeps—and script drove Dowds bizarre column. In her piece, Dowd wrote about the Obama campaigns recent attacks against both Clintons—attack memos Obama himself has now denounced as stupid. But inside Dowds chamber, Script Never Sleeps. Remember: Obamas campaign attacked the Clintons. But so what? Heres how she ended:
DOWD (6/18/07): Hillaryland was panting for an opportunity to paint Obama as a hypocrite for saying he was different and above it all, while acting the same. And its best ally in undermining Obama is Obama, who hoists his pedestal so high he's bound to fall off. He seems more intent on proving he's pure than proving he's tough.See how it works? Clinton gets attacked by Obamas campaign—but its Clinton who moves like a shark, who employs a staff of hit men. By the end, shes being tied to Al Capone. (On that Chris Matthews Show, it was Luca Brasi.) And of course, Charlie Cook is always on hand with a quote to fit the occasion.
This anti-Clinton messaging has been churned for fifteen years. But the E. J. Dionnes dont complain. This morning, E. J. worries about that performance gap—and agrees not to say where does it come from.
Script Never Sleeps inside Versailles. And it never gets mentioned by liberals.
POINT OF INFORMATION: Yesterday, we discussed Bill Clintons speech to the Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles (or Long Beach—see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/18/07). How greedy has Clintons speech-making been? A reader sent us to this passage from an on-line Washington Post news report:
WASHINGTON POST (6/14/07): Bill Clinton's speech-making prowess has also been reported previously, although today's disclosure form added specificity on his earnings, cementing his reputation as one of the world's highest-paid public speakers—as well as an exceptionally busy one...According to the Post, 295 of Clintons 352 speeches were give for free, or for a donation to his foundations causes.
Meanwhile, were puzzled by the provenance of this Post report. The Posts web site is completely screwed up, as youll see if you explore the link. (What a shock.) Suffice to say this: This material appeared on the Posts web site—but it didnt make the front-page news report which implicitly scolded Clinton for his greed in delivering that speech to the Boys and Girls Club. As we predicted, Tucker Carlson thundered about Clintons vast greed, then headed off on vacation. (Maureen Dowd typed it up too.)
This has gone on for the past fifteen years. Flawlessly, Dionne fails to notice.
Special report: The assault on...Al Gore!
PART 1—HOWELL MEETS HOWLERS: Weve begun to feel sorry for Deborah Howell, the vastly overworked ombudsman at the puzzling Washington Post. Surely, there are many things Howell might like to discuss in her once-a-week Sunday columns. But due to her newspapers kooky culture, she now has to spend almost every week correcting its coverage of that demon, Al Gore. Howell was the Post ombudsman. Lately, it seems that her principal job is apologizing for the childish assaults her paper directs toward Gore.
Poor Howell! On June 3, she had to deal with Alan Ehrenhalts puzzling review of Gores new best-seller, The Assault on Reason. For ourselves, we have mixed views about Gores book; we can imagine a reviewer finding fault with large parts of its argument. But Ehrenhalt said he agreed with Gores thesis; he just had his shorts in a very large wad about how smug and annoying Gore is. Well examine Ehrenhalts review in more detail a bit later this week. But on June 3, Howell spent the last chunk of her column letting Book editor Marie Arana explain the gentlemans puzzling work. Lets just say that Arana found few good things to say about Ehrenhalts effort.
And then, this Sunday, omigod! Poor Howell was stuck with the Gore beat again! On June 10, the Posts Outlook section had trashed Gore hard. As usual, the paper had bungled:
HOWELL (6/17/07): Al Gore partisans were furious about a piece by Andrew Ferguson titled Fact Check in Outlook last Sunday. It started by saying: "You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book The Assault on Reason. It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver." Ferguson, senior editor of the conservative Weekly Standard went on to say that he didn't believe an Abraham Lincoln quote in the book was authentic.Good God! In short, Ferguson called Gore every name in the book—then made the worlds most foolish mistake, enabled by Outlooks slumbering editors. In her piece, Howell quoted Ferguson, who was moved to say: "I'm mortified about this. It was incredibly stupid. How I missed them [the endnotes] is inexplicable." Howell noted that Outlook had failed to call Gore about the matter, and she quoted Kalee Kreider, Gores communications director. Well before the Outlook piece, [Gore] had learned the quote was questionable, so he requested a change in the second edition" of the book, Kreider said.
[Beginning to feel the spirit herself, Howell said that the Post had corrected its error on Monday (June 11). In fact, the correction appeared in Tuesdays paper. Who knows? Perhaps Howell meant that the papers correction had been written on Monday night. But even the ombudsman was misstating now, so vast and dismal was the swamp the Post had spread around Gore. As Plato himself might have asked: But who will correct the corrections? ]
Poor Howell! Increasingly, she is condemned to spend her time addressing the Posts kooky coverage of Gore! But then, has any newspaper ever spent so much time printing so much BS about one person? Has any paper ever displayed such an utterly childish culture?
Gore is too fat, the Post told us in April, devoting a front-page, Sunday Style piece to the issue of Gores deeply troubling waistline. Calling Planet Girth, the Post profile cleverly said.
No, Gore is just road-kill, the Post said in May, in an insulting, front-page Outlook piece about how brilliant Fred Thompson is.
No, Gore is too pompous, the paper then said. Dana Milbank had seen Gore give a speech—and he was troubled by all the big words Gore had said. In particular, Gore had used such social science phrases as marketplace of ideas, we were told.
No, Gore is annoying, Ehrenhalt said. No, Gore is untidy, Ferguson countered. And this last scribe was too big a Magoo to find twenty pages of endnotes! Deborah Howell, uttering sighs, was forced to go back into action.
Readers, what is up with the Washington Post? What explains its childish obsession with this former vice president? In the past year, Gore has won an Oscar; hes been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize; and his film and book, An Inconvenient Truth, have transformed the worlds discussion of warming. But so what? At the Post, hes still too fat, his words are too large—and hes still just too godd*mn annoying. When he speaks English, the newspaper howls. This isnt Howells fault, of course—but she has been forced to spend two Sundays back-tracking for her papers clowning. But uh-oh! Unless somebody hires a good solid shrink and lets the children get much-needed help, it looks like shell be spending more time explaining their inane, childish groaners.
Readers, what is up with the Post? What on earth is going on inside this inane, childish newspaper?
TOMORROW—PART 2: Reading Gore.