MORE THAN NINE YEARS LATER! Kurtz and Blitzer debunk a non-event. More than nine years later: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JULY 7, 2008
FRANKLY, THATS STILL RICH: Frankly, he had a decent column going. And then, once again, this was Rich:
Frank Rich never quits.
So youll know, the question Rich quotes was the second question Roberts posed to McCain. McCain gave a full answer to that questionbut Rich didnt say what it was. Instead, he gave you fragments of McCains answers to Roberts third and sixth questions. Back in 2002, he did something similar to Gore (slightly worse), back when Gore was warning against going to war in Iraq. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/25/02. This guy never quits.
If Rich doesnt like you, he makes sh*t up. Frankly, hes played it this way for a very long time. Hes done massive damage in the process, going back to the Love Story crap (December 1997, in tandem with Dowd). But he just keeps making sh*t up.
Meanwhile, has Dowd completely lost her mind? Or was Sundays column some kind of job action? Readers, must we state the obvious? Clark Hoyt just keeps getting results!
MORE THAN NINE YEARS LATER: We disagree slightly with a few parts of Paul Krugmans Friday column. But in his opening paragraphs, Krugman described a remarkable state of affairs. In large measure, we discussed this same situation in Thursdays post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/3/08). People who want to discuss modern politics must learn how to describe this remarkable state of affairs:
Well disagree slightly about the Clark matter; if Clark didnt impugn McCains service, he took an odd, slightly snide approach to his discussion of same. But its true: Our politics in the past sixteen years had been driven by an array of fake scandalsby firestorms ginned up about incidents that simply didnt happen. Routinely, these firestorms have been driven by the mainstream press corps. Yesterday, one of the most consequential of those storms was discussed on CNN.
Al Gore never claimed that he invented the Internet, Krugman said at the start of his piece. But so what? The firestorm that grew from Gores non-statement statement drove press coverage of Campaign 2000; almost surely, it sent George Bush to the White House. By happenstance, this week marked the tenth anniversary of Wolfs Blitzers CNN show, Late Edition. And uh-oh! In March 1999, it was on a special week-night broadcast of Late Edition that the non-event in question non-occurred.
Thats right! Al Gore made his famous non-statement statement in a week-night broadcast of Late Edition. Almost surely, it remains the most consequential event in the programs ten-year history. Thats why we were surprised by yesterdays Reliable Sources, in which Howard Kurtz reviewed Late Editions history with Blitzer. Heres how Kurtz started the discussion of Gores remark. Can this really be true?
Can that be true? According to Kurtz, he had not realized until recently that Gores history-changing non-remark remark occurred on Late Edition. Kurtz is the highest-profile media reporter in our upper-end press corps. Is it really possible that he has paid so little attention to this issue until recently? Well assume he was posturingtaking dramatic license. But we were also struck by what Blitzer said:
Nine years later, Blitzer can say it: Al Gore never said he invented the Internet. It never dawned on me, Blitzer said, that Gores remarkwhich was to a certain degree misreportedwould be exploded into such a damaging story. Indeed, weve noted this point for years: In real time, Blitzer showed no sign of thinking that Gore had made an unusual comment. Quite literally, no one in the press corps showed any such signuntil the RNC began to clown about Gores remark, two days later. Indeed, even the Gore-hating Washington Times offered no reaction to Gores remark! In two different forums (an editorial and a column), the Times discussed Gores session with Blitzer. But even they didnt mention Gores non-comment commentuntil the RNC began clowning at mid-day on March 11, two days after the broadcast.
Kurtz and Blitzer discussed the point a bit further. For what its worth, we think Blitzer is clearly wrong is the framework he presents here:
Huh! The media kind of twisted the meaning of [Gores] words, the scribes seemed to agree. The media created a phony headlineand that headline really hurt him a lot.
Nine years later, Kurtz and Blitzer feel free to discuss it.
For the record, we think Blitzer is wrong when he says that Gore, a very precise guy, was very precise in his comment. In fact, Gores answer to Blitzer was far from precise; it was rambling, imprecise and unstructured. For what its worth, here is the full Q-and-A which produced a twenty-month media firestorm. For two days, the press corps said nothing about these remarks. After that, the RNC said jumpand the press corps said, how high:
That was not a very precise answer. In the rambling, highlighted part of his answer, Gore said the word initiative three times in just two sentences, as he described his achievements while serving in the congress. He had t[aken] the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives, Gore clumsily told Blitzer that day. But of course, everyone knew that Gore had been the leader, within the Congress, in developing what we now call the Internet. This was a basic part of Gores political bio; it had been part of the Standard Gore Bio for years. As a result, Bitzer showed no sign of thinking that Gore had said something odd. In fact, no one in the press corps commented on Gores remark for two days. Then, the RNC struck. The rest is Americanand worldhistory.
Did Al Gore says he invented the Internet? No one thought so in real timeand the utterly foolish non-story story was never worth discussing. After the firestorm belatedly hit, Gore was asked to explain what hed meant by his statement to Blitzerand he gave an obvious answer, the answer everyone had assumed in real time. I did take the lead in the Congress, he said, stating what was blatantly obvious. (Translation: Instead of saying I took the initiative, he should have said, I took the leadership.) Under normal rules of the road, that would have been the end of this pointless matter; politicians make slightly unclear comments in extemporaneous speech all the time. But the press corps was looking for ways to wage warthey had been angered by Bill Clintons bl*w jobsand this slightly clumsy remark gave the gang their chance. (Once the RNC primed them, of course.)
Yesterday, we were struck by the sad performance of both Kurtz and Blitzer. If we are to believe his own words, Kurtz has given this matter so little thought that he didnt know, until recently, where this monumental story began. And he failed to ask Blitzer an obvious question: If you thought Gores meaning was being twisted, what did you do when it actually mattered? What did you say in real time? Today, more than nine years later, Blitzer thoughtfully parades about, saying Gores statement was misreported and twisted. But Daddy, what did you do when it mattered? And the same question goes to Kurtz! As our most high-profile media reporter, what did you do or say, in real time, about this misreported remark?
The answer is simple, of course. The pair did nothing about this matter in real time. (In fairness, Kurtz questioned the harsh coverage and punditry directed at Gore all through 1999.) Yesterday, on Late Edition, Blitzer waxed a bit more about his brush with fakeness. In this statement from that program, we see the germ of the crushing history of the seven-plus Bush years:
I invented the Internet! That was the way his enemies projected it, Blitzer slickly saidfailing to note that it was really his own mainstream colleagues who rode this mocking, distorted paraphrase for the next two years. And sure enough! Right to this day, more than nine years later, Blitzer and Kurtz refuse to describe the actual history of this monumental event. They forget to say who really drove this history-changing distortion.
Within the press corps, everyone knows he can say it now: Al Gore never said he invented the Internet. But Daddy, what did you say in real time? What did you say when it actually mattered? Isnt it true that you cowered and quaked? That you didnt say sh*t at the time?
NAMING A FEW OF THOSE ENEMIES: I invented the Internet! Gore never said it, Blitzer now says; thats just the way his enemies phrased it!
We thought you might be amused to see the names of a few of those enemies.
Gores remark about the Net was made in March 1999. Nine months later, in December 1999, a new firestorm was being concocted, about Love Canal and the Superfund. And Gores enemies, channeling RNC press releases (two on December 1 alone), linked it to that famous old mockery: Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Below, you see just a few of those enemies. Admittedly, some of these enemies have rather well-known names.
Just for fun, note the way the New York Post put a single word inside quotesthe one word Gore had never said! This was actually done fairly oftenand Howard Kurtz didnt say squat:
Trust usthose are just a few highlights, from a single two-week period. Al Gore said he invented the Internet! The mocking claim was recited by many other scribes during that periodand all through Campaign 2000. The Washington Post began to clean up the messin July 2006. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/25/06.
Today, Blitzer says this was done by Gores enemies. In that way, he still carries water for famous colleaguescolleagues who peddled this crap for two years. Right to this day, the actual names on that enemies list cant be named in a public forum. And of course, Blitzer didnt say a word about this in real time.