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TELLING THE TRUTH VERY SLOWLY! Two scribes finally admit that the corps borked Gore. But where were these scribes in real time?:


TELLING THE TRUTH SLOWLY: In our fair and balanced way, we’ll start off with the good news. Several pundits have finally acknowledged the press corps’ “contempt” for Gore. Last Saturday, the topic was explored on Reliable Sources. Josh Marshall gave the nugget assertion:

HOWARD KURTZ: Josh Marshall, don’t a lot of reporters believe deep down that Gore ran a horrible campaign and doesn’t deserve another shot?
MARSHALL: I think it’s even more than that. I think deep down most reporters just have contempt for Al Gore. I don’t even think it’s dislike. It’s more like a disdain and contempt.
Marshall said the problem isn’t recent. “[T]his was, you know, a year and a half before the election, I think you could say this,” he said. “This wasn’t something that happened because he ran a bad campaign. If he did, it was something that predated it.”

No one really disagreed with these statements. By way of confirmation, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank offered a semi-explanation:

MILBANK: You know what it is, Howie, I think that Gore is sanctimonious and that’s sort of the worst thing you can be in the eyes of the press. And he has been disliked all along and it was because he gives a sense that he’s better than us—he’s better than everybody, for that matter, but the sense that he’s better than us as reporters. Whereas President Bush probably is sure that he's better than us—he’s probably right—but he does not convey that sense. He does not seem to be dripping with contempt when he looks at us, and I think that has something to do with the coverage.
Milbank nearly loses us here. What sane person wouldn’t think he was “better than” the Washington press corps?

Whatever one thinks of Milbank’s explanation, these statements do represent a milestone in the press corps’ long war against Gore. Two reporters have finally acknowledged the corps’ contempt, and they’ve said it went on “all along.” You could see it “eighteen months before the election,” Marshall correctly observed.

There’s only one problem with Marshall’s statement; he didn’t say a word in real time, when voters deserved—indeed, needed—to be told. What Marshall says is dead-dog true; it was quite clear, by mid-1999, that something was crazily wrong with Gore’s coverage. In June 1999, Kurtz himself wrote the Washington Post column which questioned the “harsh coverage and punditry” Gore was getting. But Marshall didn’t say Boo when it mattered. Indeed, as recently as April 11, 2002, he wrote a retrospective on the Gore campaign. Let’s quote his opening once again:

MARSHALL: When Al Gore kicked off his presidential campaign in 1999, he enjoyed near-unanimous support from his own party, including the Democrats’ chief officeholders, political operatives and the most deep-pocketed fundraisers. The only problem appeared to be the voters, who didn’t seem to have particularly strong feelings about Gore one way or another.
Writing just four months ago, Marshall still didn’t mention his colleagues’ conduct. He stuck to the Official Press Corps Account, in which Gore had every advantage in Campaign 2000. This weekend, the story finally advanced. The press corps’ role was finally acknowledged.

It’s known in the business as “telling the truth slowly”—and you can be sure that the process continues. Watching Reliable Sources, we couldn’t help noting that no one mentioned the possibility that “Clinton payback” explained the Gore-trashing. Milbank’s explanation made Gore the big villain. No one suggested that the corps’ rancid conduct may have come from the press corps itself.

Readers, Democrats need to understand how their party lost the White House. Marshall and Milbank have moved the tale forward. But much more has yet to be said.

TELLING THE TRUTH VERY SLOWLY: To his credit, this isn’t Kurtz’s first attempt to discuss the trashing of Gore. In real time, he raised the topic on the Reliable Sources of October 16, 1999, and again six weeks later, on November 27. In each case, his panelists seemed completely stumped by the negative treatment of Gore. Journalists stammered and fumbled around, unable to explain what was happening. And no one ever dared suggest that “Clinton payback” might be involved. Roger Simon scorned the notion. How could people think something like that?

SIMON (Reliable Sources, 10/16/99): The Gore campaign feels that it’s the victim of a vast press conspiracy that goes something like this—because the media were unable to get Bill Clinton, they’re going to try to get Al Gore. I don’t believe that for a second.
It was odd that Simon would say such a thing, because in June he’d said something quite different. On June 25, 1999, Kurtz wrote his piece in the Post about the “harsh coverage.” And Simon did what scribes rarely do. He spoke freely about the corps’ conduct:
SIMON (quoted on 6/25/99): [The Lewinsky story] is still the story that has shaped our time. We want to hear [Gore] say what a terrible reprobate the president was, while defending his record. We’re going to make him jump through the hoops. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
That’s what Simon said in June. Now, in October, he said something different. But scribes are extremely polite to each other. No one mentioned the apparent contradiction, and no one said that the press corps’ war on Clinton might explain its new war on Al Gore.

Marshall’s comment this weekend was accurate. By the time that Kurtz conducted those panels, the press corps’ trashing of Gore was apparent. But say hello to your self-dealing press corps. This weekend, two scribes finally told the truth—three years after you should have been told

THEIR CONTEMPT IS AIMED AT YOU ALSO: Guess who else didn’t mention the borking? Mary McGrory forgot to discuss it; she was too busy trashing Gore herself. On October 27, 1999, Gore and Bradley held their first debate. Their long discussion about health care was joined. Citizens asked many thoughtful questions. And here’s the way McGrory’s column started four days later:

MCGRORY: Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.
The scribe was concerned with Gore’s clothing. “Was it part of his reinvention strategy?” she asked. “Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—‘I am not a well-dressed man.’ It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation’s earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station.” A hail of other insults followed. Four days later, McGrory wrote again, complaining about Gore’s “distracting new suit, a three-button brown affair that caused much nostalgia for navy-blue serge.”

This first debate was discussed for weeks. It may have been the most remarkable event of the entire 2000 campaign. As three reporters later stated, the press corps booed and jeered Gore throughout the debate as they watched on TV in the press room (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/14/99). And their bizarre misconduct didn’t end there; in their punditry, they subjected Gore to a mindless group trashing. Gore was criticized for getting off his stool when he spoke; for walking to the front of the stage when he spoke; for daring to address his questioners by name; and for taking more questions after the debate. He was trashed in overtly sexual terms. Jacob Weisberg said that Gore had behaved “like some sort of feral animal.”

How repulsive was the press corps’ performance? According to McGrory, Gore “demonstrated hyper-animation, quizzing his questioners, asking them about their children.” Here’s the exchange to which she referred:

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Corey Martin and I live in Hanover. There’s been talk tonight about health care reform. And I am the parent of a child who has diabetes and I spend a lot of time dealing with the insurance companies and what’s covered and what’s not covered, and it eats up a lot of time and effort. So I’m wondering, if you were to implement health care reforms, who would be the decision-makers? Who chooses what’s covered?
Gore asked Martin, “How old is your child?” (she was five), and asked if Martin had good insurance (she did). For this, he was savaged all over the press corps. Here was the repulsive Gail Collins, writing in the great New York Times:
COLLINS: Al Gore has a personality without a thermostat, and when he tries to look animated he practically crashes into the wallboard. On Wednesday he hijacked the auditorium early on, begging for a chance to do a pre-debate Q.-and-A. (“This person has a question! Do we have time for his question?”) He tossed in a little Spanish and a long joke, and made endless attempts to create Clintonesque mind-melds with the audience. (“How old is your child, Corey? Are you unionized, Earl?”)
For asking a woman about her sick child, Gore was called—what else?—Clintonesque. A few weeks later, the slow-walking gang on Kurtz’s show had no idea why this was happening.

By the way, who was right in that health care debate? “Distracted” by Gore’s three-button suit, McGrory forgot to tell you. Like others in her overpaid tribe, Mary McGrory has excellent health care, and she showed no sign of giving a damn whether Corey Martin or anyone else is so lucky. Meanwhile, her scripted, vacuous insults about Gore continued apace in yesterday’s Post. From which of her cohort’s tired old scripts did she type? Readers, she picked out a dog-eared old text. Al Gore doesn’t know who he is!

Make no mistake—your “press corps” is still acting out its contempt. Unfortunately, their contempt is directed at you and Gore both, and will continue until we all stop it.

NOT TELLING THE TRUTH AT ALL: The corps booed Gore throughout the debate. Three hundred scribes were there to see it. And no one wrote a column about it! To understand the corps’ moral squalor, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/14/99. We repeat: Democrats need to understand how they lost the White House.