STEPHANOPOULOS (6/19/05): As you know, theres also been a lot of talk back here in the United States about the Downing Street memos, the minutes of a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the spring and summer of 2002 where they discussed their meeting with the US. I want to show you what one mother, Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a United States soldier, had to say about this memo this week.Yikes! Rice had been part of the very leadership to which Sheehan had referred! But how did Rice respond to Sheehan? How else? She responded as she always does—with a long, rambling, kill-the-clock non-answer, in which she didnt address a single word to the issue Sheehan had raised:
SHEEHAN (videotape): The so-called Downing Street memo, dated 23 July 2002, only confirms what I already suspected. The leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry-picked evidence.
STEPHANOUOULOS: How do you respond to Mrs. Sheehan?
RICE (continuing directly): [SORRY. Well post Rices minute-and-45 second reply when ABC gets off its keister and posts its transcript. Warning—this network is very slow and unconcerned. It often takes them a very long time.]Go ahead—read that over. Do you see even one word thats relevant to Sheehans allegation? Surely, the Stephanopoulos came back after Condi! But here was his follow-up question:
STEPHANOPOULOS (continuing directly): Before we go, I want to ask you a question about the presidents UN nominee, John Bolton...Thats right. Rices answer was completely irrelevant to the question she had been asked. But Stephanopoulos knows his brief. He moved on the next question.
No, lap-dogs like Georgie will never force the likes of Rice to speak to such issues. But tomorrow, well start a five-part look at the claims and apparent claims made in the Downing Street memos. Had Bush decided on war by July 2002? Was intelligence being fixed as a result? To provide a framework for the discussion, well work back through Bob Woodwards puzzling Plan of Attack, a book which was hailed by one and all when it appeared in April 2004. What kind of light does Woodwards book shed on these important Downing Street questions? Well start exploring that matter tomorrow, and continue throughout the week.
As well recall, Rice herself was closely involved in the apparent fixing of intel in 2002. But Stephanopoulos is paid millions of bucks not to notice. Working for free, well recall.
DANA MILBANK, DOWNING STREET BOZO: It was quite a weekend for the Posts Dana Milbank. On Friday, Milbank was battered by Rep. John Conyers for the astonishing story he wrote about the previous days hearing on the Downing Street memo (see Atrios, click on from there). And on Sunday, Post ombudsman Mike Getler criticized Milbank for an earlier, June 8 piece. In it, Milbank had used the term wing nuts to describe a group of people who wanted answers to the questions raised in the Downing Street memos. As Michael Kinsley would later do, Milbank derided these people for a great sin—for the sin of wanting to know if their president had lied their country into war.
Getler criticized Milbank for using the derisive phrase wing nut. But we were curious here at THE HOWLER. When had any Post reporter ever used this term, we wondered—in a news report, a news analysis, or even an op-ed column? Sp we conducted a Nexis search, and the answer was unsurprising; its almost impossible to find a Post scribe using this term of high ridicule. What are the values of the Washington Post, with its famous liberal bias? Here they are: Citizens will never get derided as wing nuts—unless theyre concerned when a document suggests that their president lied their country into war. At the Post, that weird concern—and only that—will get you called a wing nut.
How often do Post writers use that term? We will include all examples. On December 31, 2004, staff writer Philip Kennicott used the term—to refer to the Symbionese Liberation Army, the group which kidnaped Patricia Hearst thirty years ago. Before that, humorist Dave Barry had used the term on August 24, 2003, writing about the California recall election: [Governor Gray Davis] campaign strategy is to remind the voters that if they dump him, they'll wind up being governed by some wing nut. (Lets repeat the key word here: Barry is a humorist.) In June 2001, staff writer Cindy Skrzycki quoted William Kilberg using the term. Kilberg was a friend and defender of Eugene Scalia, who had been nominated for a Labor Department post: "People who think he's ideological are off base," Kilberg was quoted saying. "He's not a wing nut." And back in January of that year, columnist Charles Kruthammer had used the term, in defense of Justice nominee Ashcroft:
KRAUTHAMMER (1/19/01): "Christian Right" is a double negative in the liberal lexicon. It is meant to make decent Americans cringe at the thought of some religious wing nut enforcing the laws. Torquemada at Agriculture perhaps. But not Justice, God forbid.That takes us back more than four years. In short, its essentially impossible to find Post writers using this term to attack someone else. But all that changed on June 8, when Dana Milbank had heard enough. Some Americans citizens wanted to know if their president had lied their country into war. To Milbank, this concern made them wing nuts. Why on earth would rational people care about something like that?
Amazing, isnt it? To Kinsley, youre an extremist with a paranoid theory and the time to obsess if youre concerned by the Downing Street memo. To Milbank, youre just a wing nut. Getler criticized Milbanks weird conduct. We just thought you might like to know just how weird Milbanks conduct really was.
SMILE-A-WHILE: Back in October 1999, the Post did quote a famous figure calling some Christian conservatives right-wing nuts. But uh-oh! No liberal bias was present this day! In fact, it was Jerry Falwell who had IDed the nuts in question. Falwell referred to Christian crackpot Fred Phelps, who thought Falwell wasnt being sufficiently nasty when it came to the rights of gays. Caryle Murphy was the reporter:
MURPHY (10/22/99): The scheduled meeting has stirred up Lynchburg, a city of 60,000 residents. Police Lt. Wayne Cyrus said four groups, including one led by the Rev. Fred Phelps, a prominent anti-gay Baptist, have been given permits for demonstrations at Falwell's church.If you criticize Falwell from the right, youre a nut. Or if you dare question Bush.
"I call them right-wing nuts," Falwell said. "They hate people, not just gays and lesbians. But they hate me because of what I'm doing this weekend."
PART 6—MORE LIARS THAN LIBERALS: Have we ever extended a series into Week 2? We cant recall it, but thats how much nonsense was on display when Sundays pundits gathered together one week ago, on June 12. We wanted to show you all their traits: Their devotion to the inane and the fatuous; their insistence that they could do no wrong; and of course, their well-scripted trashing of Dems. To all intents, your Sunday pundits have become scripted spokesmen for moderate Republicans—for McCain and Giuliani (and Arnold Schwarzenegger). And they ridicule major Dems. Indeed, on yesterday mornings Chris Matthews Show, NBCs David Gregory made this last trait quite clear.
The panel was discussing Matthews theory that the public luuvvvs moderates now. (Explicit translation: McCain and Giuliani. For an earlier example of Matthews theoretics, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/17/05.) And Gregory had a great example of the way those faker, phony Dems have lost the publics favor. Why do people thinks the Dems are big phonies? Try to grasp the reasoning involved in this bizarre presentation:
GREGORY (6/19/05): One of the areas where Democrats have gotten into trouble on judges in this compromise is, Where were their convictions? They let Janice Rogers Brown through, who by most accounts on the right and the left did not have the judicial temperament, to be considered in this zone of fair-minded people to be on the courts. There are people in the White House who have told me, who worked on this, that she had a very difficult time getting along with other people in California, on the high court there. But Democrats let her go...They may have traded some conviction there, and I think people dont like it.Try to follow Gregorys logic. According to Gregory, people on the left and the right agreed—Brown lacked the proper judicial temperament. Indeed, people inside the White House itself told him that Brown was a nut-case. But who has traded some conviction when Brown gets approved? Not the White House, which nominated Brown, despite the things they knew about her! Not the Republicans, who voted for her in a block and threatened to use the nuclear option if her nomination was filibustered! No, the Democrats have traded conviction because seven of their 45 members let her nomination go through, hoping to avoid the nuclear option! By most accounts on the right and the left, Brown didnt have the judicial temperament. But who broke faith by sending her through? Of course—the Democrats, the ones who opposed her! Gregorys logic is straight from the loony-bin—or straight from a modern Sunday talk program, in which every story is tortured and twisted to show the bad faith of the Dems. (By the way, are you surprised by Gregorys account of the White House view? More on that below.)
Yes, Gregorys presentation came straight from the cuckoos nest. But then, this is now the Standard Reasoning among your mainstream Sunday Pundits; this is the standard expression of their fierce and much-attacked liberal bias. Indeed, youre much more likely to see a liar than a liberal when you watch a Sunday talk show. On last Sundays programs—back on June 12—Joe Klein gave the perfect examples.
On the June 12 Chris Matthews Show, Matthews and the gang were up to standard tricks—trashing every Big Dem they could find and bragging on moderate Republicans. Twice, Matthews referred to the Dem party chairman as Dizzy Dean, and the gang staged an extended group attack on perfidious Dem faker Hillary Clinton. But readers, when Andrea Mitchell said that Clinton was having it both ways—that she had gone to the middle on several policies—poor Joe Klein had heard enough. Klein began to batter fake Clinton. But Matthews broke in on his claim:
KLEIN (6/12/05): She hasnt gone to the middle. She hasnt gone to the middle. She is still voting as a liberal! If she really wanted to go to the middle, where was she, where was she—Sometimes, a paper transcript can seem odd or confusing, but the meaning is clear if you just watch the tape. In this case, Kleins performance is just as strange, just as fake, when you actually watch it. He started attacking Mitchell for saying that Clinton had gone to the middle; Clinton is still voting as a liberal, he said. But Matthews interrupted, breaking a rule; he noted that Klein had said just the opposite, only minutes before. So Klein swiftly self-contradicted; she doesnt vote liberal, he now exclaimed. The panel, understanding what had occurred, quickly moved away from Klein, who simply sat there, blinking weirdly. But Klein, who became a clown years ago, had shown us the heart of this Sunday breed. To appearances, he was willing to do and say anything in order to take down Target Hill.
MATTHEWS: Facts! Put some facts on the table! You told me beforehand, in the dressing-room today, you said that shes not a liberal because she doesnt vote liberal.
KLEIN: She doesnt vote liberal. Where was she, where was she on the deal on the filibuster and the judicial appointments? If shes a moderate, shell be part of the sanity caucus. She hasnt been.
Indeed, Klein was in rare form this, day, battering All Things Hillary. At one point, the gang was attacking Hillary Clintons lack of political skill, saying that shed never be able to campaign successfully, like her husband. But uh-oh! Mitchell stepped in and briefly contradicted. That was enough for poor old Klein. Once again, had to speak:
KLEIN: But Bill Clinton wont be able to debate for Hillary. And he wont be able to be on the stump for Hillary—When Mitchell suggested that Clinton debated well in Campaign 2000, Klein knew he had to step in. She only seemed to debate well in New York because her opponent had been such a shlump.
MITCHELL: Have you seen her debate in New York?
KLEIN: Yes I did. Yes I did. Well, she was debating against someone who was lighter than your average feather.
MITCHELL: Thats true. Rick Lazio—
KLEIN: You know, shes going to be up against some very—
MATTHEWS: The other guy looked like a process server. Thats one reason why she won. Ill be right back with some scoops from the group.
But readers, weve come to know the hearts of men like Klein—fallen men who lie much as other men breathe. So we decided to check what Joe said in real time, when Clinton and Lazio were battling. Result? Nexis records one remark by this fake, phony man about the Clinton-Lazio debates. On September 15, 2000, Klein appeared on CNN Newsstand. Clinton and Lazio had debated two nights earlier. Jeff Greenfield asked his pal to judge it:
GREENFIELD (9/15/00): I want to show you a line from the New York Times coverage of this, just as a matter of historical record or amnesia. It was, the New York Times described this debate as one of the most—I think that—yes, they said it was "one of the sharpest debates between two candidates for statewide office in a generation."Huh! That is Kleins one recorded comment about the Clinton-Lazio debates (there were two such sessions). Back then, he was trying to get Hillary defeated in Campaign 2000, so he said that Lazio had displayed quite a presence, and that Hill had been the big shlump. Last Sunday, he was trying to get Hillary defeated in Campaign 08, so he said that Lazio had been lighter than air. Two things never change in all this—Klein is trying to take down Hillary, and hell pretty much lie through his teeth to do it. But then, these are the traits of todays Sunday pundits. No liberals need apply for these posts. But liars are often on hand.
Now, call me a madcap, but I seem to remember Chuck Schumer and Al D'Amato going at it pretty heavily in 1998. And I also seem to remember Al D'Amato and Bob Abrams on Mr. Imus' show screaming at each other...How could anyone look at that debate and regard it as one of the most raucous New York debates in a generation? What's that about?
KLEIN: Boy, boy, I don't—it's about the fact that every time there's a debate, the press describes it as sharp and fierce and, you know, highlight, highlights those things. The striking thing to me about the debate was that Rick Lazio was far more of a presence than I thought he was going to be. And Mrs. Clinton made no emotional contact at all with the public.
JUST LIKE THE MASTER: Matthews has completely reversed himself about the 2000 Bush-Gore debates. To see a Sunday pundit in action, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/15/02 and 2/20/03. Yes, this really is the breed which runs your Sunday discussions. And youll only read about it here. Self-dealing career liberals wont tell you.
THE SOUNDS OF DAVIDS SILENCE: And then, there are the silent pundits. Were you surprised by Gregorys statement about Janice Rogers Brown? Lets print that statement again:
GREGORY (6/19/05): One of the areas where Democrats have gotten into trouble on judges in this compromise is, Where were their convictions? They let Janice Rogers Brown through, who by most accounts on the right and the left did not have the judicial temperament, to be considered in this zone of fair-minded people to be on the courts. There are people in the White House who have told me, who worked on this, that she had a very difficult time getting along with other people in California, on the high court there. But Democrats let her go...They may have traded some conviction there, and I think people dont like it.Remarkable! Even by most accounts on the right, Brown lacked the judicial temperament, Gregory said. Indeed, there were even people in the White House—people who worked on the Brown nomination—who told him this, he confided. But did Gregory ever report this news, back when it actually might have mattered? The answer is obvious—no, he did not. We ran a Nexis check. Here is Gregorys one recorded statement about Brown, from NBC Nightly News:
GREGORY (5/17/05): Rogers Brown, 55 years old, and since 1996 an associate justice on California's Supreme Court. Known among her supporters as a fiery, smart and independent conservative who favors strict limits on federal power, she holds controversial views about economic regulations. During a speech, she called laws upholding New Deal programs like Social Security and minimum wage regulations, quote, "the triumph of our own socialist revolution." Law professor Jeffrey Rosen on what her critics fear:That was the whole presentation! Gregory told us what her supporters said. He never mentioned those White House insiders—the ones who said that a kook like Brown had no business being on the bench.
ROSEN (videotape): She might strike down lots of federal and state regulations ranging from environmental laws to health and safety laws that liberals and conservatives have taken for granted for a long time.
But then, Gregory is another NBC Nantucket honcho, married on the magical isle back in June 2000. These hustlers are careful about what they say. Its how they lick the boots of power. Its how they get to be Sunday pundits.