NEW WORDS FROM JOHN HARRIS! In an age of slime and hoaxing, John Harris types a new set of words: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JULY 1, 2005
DEAN MAKES A MESSAGE: Howard Dean made the occasional misstep on Wednesday nights Hardball. For example, it takes a clumsy spokesman to say the following:
DEAN (6/29/05): There are terrible foreign terrorists over there. They have been drawn to Iraq, where they were not there before because we put our troops there. So, you could debate the wisdom of that.Aarrgh. No ones perfect, but only Dean would describe those bomb-throwing Baathists as people who are fighting for their country. Whatever the gentlemans strengths may be, one thing is clear—hes not slick.
On balance, though, we thought Dean did a good job on Hardball. His host had mocked him in Nashville one night earlier (and on his Sunday show two weeks before), but now was on his best behavior. And at times, we thought Dean began to articulate a winning anti-Bush message—the type of anti-Bush message Dems havent voiced often enough:
DEAN (6/29/05): Chris, I think the Downing Street memos and other pieces of evidence, including the 9/11 Commission, have indicated that the administration was not truthful with the American people about how we got to Iraq. I think that`s a fact. The administration would like it not to be a fact, but it is a fact. It has been confirmed by many mainstream organizations, including a commission lead by a Republican and a Democrat, a well-respected Republican and Democrat.In this passage, Dean starts by saying that Bush misled the nation on the march to war. But in our view, the more interesting message came moments later, when he said that Bush would like to defend the U.S., but lacks the judgment to do so. Most Americans now believe that there was deception on the road to Iraq. But many Americans still like Bush, and we think that Dems would be well-advised to play the card that Dean played here: George Bush surely means well, but he just isnt up to the job. Later, Dean returned to this general theme:
DEAN: The problem is not that the Bush administration lacks resolve. The problem is, they don`t think about what it is they`re doing and what the consequences of what they`re doing are. And they have trouble differentiating between those things that are dangerous to the United States and those things that are not dangers, but would be nice to get rid of.The president lacks vision and judgment. Many Americans dont want to think that their president is a crook—but theyd be willing to entertain this larger notion. Later, Dean went there again as Matthews kept trying to goad him into food-fights with Rove and Cheney:
DEAN: You know, I generally try to avoid getting into telling who the Republicans should run their party. And if the vice president wants to give us advice, we`re very happy to put it where we take most advice from this administration.Read the whole transcript. Dean kept side-stepping Matthews attempts to instigate food-fights—and he kept returning to a message that we dont hear often enough. The boats of many liberals float when they hear Bush denounced as a liar. But Dean kept saying something different: Bush just isnt up to the job. Wed guess that many centrist voters are prepared to revisit this view.
DIONNE, STILL ON THE DEFENSIVE: Meanwhile, E. J. Dionne got halfway there in his column this Tuesday. Slamming Karl Rove for the new McCarthyism of last weeks speech, the pundit explained how McCarthyite slanders work:
DIONNE (6/28/05): That's how guilt by association works. Make a charge and then—once your attack is out there—pretend that your words have been misinterpreted. Split your opponents. Put them on the defensive. Force them to say things like: "No, we're not soft on terrorism," or, "I'm not that kind of liberal." Once this happens, the attacker has already won.And thats right. If youre forced to say when you stopped beating your wife, youre already defeated.
But Dionne left out one part of the puzzle; he failed to say what Dems should do when theyre met by such hoaxes and slanders. He failed to say that Dems should fight back—that Dems should respond to fake, phony claims by making a truthful rebuttal:
DIONNE, REVISED AND EXTENDED: That's how guilt by association works. Make a charge and then—once your attack is out there—pretend that your words have been misinterpreted. Split your opponents. Put them on the defensive. Force them to say things like: "No, we're not soft on terrorism," or, "I'm not that kind of liberal." Once this happens, the attacker has already won.To all appearances, it doesnt occur to liberals like Dionne to prescribe a tough Dem counter-attack. At THE HOWLER, weve been prescribing this back-talk for years. But high-minded liberals are still tone-deaf. They can only picture defensive remarks, in which the attacker has won.
Why have New McCarthyites done so well in the hoaxing wars of the past several decades? In part, because they have a global message, and hapless Democrats still do not. The Pseudo-Conservative Noise Machine is driven by familiar complaints—against the liberals and their famed liberal bias. Democrats need a global message from which they can frame a truthful rebuttal. Wed suggest a counter-attack which has the advantage of being true: They just keep trying to play you for fools—as powerful interests have always done, all through human history.
It still doesnt seem to occur to Dionne to prescribe an aggressive Dem counter-attack. Its true: McCarthyites will win the day when the victim goes on the defensive. But alas! It still doesnt occur to the lib/Dem elites to take a more lusty approach to this problem. Dems need to frame a concise winning message, then punch hoaxers right in the nose.
By the way—did you hear that Bush would have beaten Clinton if Ross Perot hadnt been in the race? Whats it like for libs to be on the defensive? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/29/05. See one of Rushs favorite scripts—recited at a big liberal site.
NEW WORDS FROM JOHN HARRIS: Weve been reading The Survivor, John Harris fascinating capsule history of the Clinton years. Well discuss the book at length in the future, but as we head to a holiday weekend, we thought you might want to read Harris account of the Clintons marriage. King Slimeball, Ed Klein, has been out there all month, sliming his way toward fame and fortune. There theyve gone again, dear readers. But Harris offers a different view. What was the glue in the Clintons marriage? he asks. According to Harris, Even the cynics in the Clinton fold arrived in the end at the same noncynical answer: She loved him and felt loved by him in return:
HARRIS (page 379-380): Her Senate campaign provided a project upon which they could rebuild their marriage and remind themselves anew what it was that drew them to each other. They had been happiest together when they had separate endeavors, and unhappiest, as on overseas trips, when ceremony or public expectations forced her to play a secondary role to him. Now, they were like a couple that had separated. She was on the road in New York most nights; they might get an evening a week together. Yet the affection between them was more evident than it had been in years. She lit up when her called her while she was on the road. Her draft speech texts would fly back and forth between New York and Washington...He truly believed. And: She truly believed. And better and smarter. And more idealistic. Yes, there are problems with Harris book. But in an age of slime and hoaxing, Harris types words that have rarely emerged from sneering press corps mouths.