IF YOU CAN KEEP IT! What really happened on Thursdays Hardball? Incomparably, we sketch it all out:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, 2004
IF YOU CAN KEEP IT: Lets make sure we all understand what happened on Thursday nights Hardball. Well focus on the interview with Swift Boat Veteran Larry Thurlow, not on the nonsense with Michelle Malkin.
Thurlow is an important man because hes a leading Kerry-accuser. His group is seeking to change the outcome of a White House campaign. Youd think hed be held to a very high standard. But heres what happened when Thurlow appeared (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/20/04):
First, Matthews asked Thurlow to [t]ell me about the time you discovered that [Kerry] wasn't honest about his account of events in Vietnam. Thurlow was eager to pass on his knowledge. Well, on a firsthand basis, I understood that the Purple Heart that he received at Cam Ranh Bay was fabricated and wasn't based on any factuality at all, he replied.
Second, Thurlow was asked how he knew that his charge was accurate. I learned that from the people who had been with him at that time, when he reported that he received an injury from hostile fire, when in fact, there was none, Thurlow said.
Then the comedy segment began, as Matthews asked for the names of these people. After a bit of Whos On First, Thurlow gave him a name: Steve Gardner.
But thats where your system broke down. As anyone familiar with these events would have known, Steve Gardner wasnt present during any of the incidents the Swift Boat Vets have disputed. In particular, he wasnt present during the first Purple Heart incident, the one to which Thurlow alluded. In short, Thurlow had no firsthand knowledge of this incident—and neither did the source he mentioned. At best, Thurlow had third-hand knowledge of the event he had come on TV to describe. Thurlow had made a very tough charge—and at best, he had third-hand knowledge.
So how did your system break down at this point? Chris Matthews, Hardballs host, wasnt prepared for his job this day. He didnt challenge Gardners name, presumably because he didnt know the basic facts about these matters. Hardball viewers got the impression that Thurlow had named an actual witness. And they got the impression that Thurlow was a more capable witness than he actually is.
You have a republic—if you can keep it, Franklin said. But can Americans keep their democracy when dissembling witnesses can come on the air and be confronted by unprepared hosts? On last nights Hardball, Andrea Mitchell said Matthews was on vacation. Maybe this lazy millionaire can read a few books as he languishes on those white sands.
NOTE TO THE SCRIPTED: Please dont send e-mails explaining that a republic is not a democracy.
WHERE IT BEGAN: It was really something to see Michelle Malkin bluster and whine on C-SPAN Friday morning. We hate to see pundits lie right in Brians face. But Malkin was up to the task.
More on Malkins dissembling on Monday. But can we really keep our democracy when baby-faced assassins like this crawl the land? And how have we reached the perilous point where such questions can even be asked? On Thursday, Malkin provided a clue. Heres an early part of her session with Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Well, back when we had the Willie Horton ad, back in 1988, all that Jim Baker or anybody at the White House campaign had to do was call on behalf of President Bush Sr., and say stop running that racist ad. Nobody ever did, OK. I'm asking if you're speaking on behalf of President Bush, why doesn't he make a phone call to these veterans, including Mr. Thurlow, and say stop running the ads. Why doesn't he do that?Can we really keep our democracy with people like this deceiving the public? As soon as Matthews mentioned Horton, Malkin pulled out the scripted response. No, readers—Al Gore never brought up or even mentioned Willie Horton. But so what? Every good Republican hack knows what to say as soon as Hortons name is mentioned. But uh-oh! A bit out of practice, Malkin failed to give the scripted response. As you know, Republican hacks are supposed to say that Gore brought up the Willie Horton issue (links below). Scrambling to recover from her mistake, Malkin did say the word issue on her next pass. She did this for an obvious reason—she wanted to mislead the public while saying something that was technically accurate . To use a word her tribe invented, little Malkin was being Clintonesque.
Can we really keep our democracy when people like this are crawling the land? On Friday, she lied right in Brians face. Can we really keep our democracy in the face of these skilled anti-democrats?
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: As we have explained in the past, RNC hacks are trained to say that Gore brought up the Horton issue. They say that so they can mislead the public. Slick-talkin Malkin almost bungled her task, forgetting to say issue the first time.
How does this bit of deception work? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/1/02, to recall how this scripted point works.
To see Alan Colmes try to set affairs straight, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/4/02.
To see Cokie Roberts recite this same script, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/13/04. By now, Roberts is a consummate hack. If you doubt that, review this submission.