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MEADOWLARK BLANKLEY! Some say the press corps is just like pro wrestling. For us, another great act comes to mind:

THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2002

MEADOWLARK BLANKLEY: Just try to fathom the sheer inanity of Tony Blankley’s column in yesterday’s Times (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/21/02). Everyone knows that internal combustion will eventually be replaced in our cars. World car companies signed on to this notion years ago, as was reported in page-one lead articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Earlier this year, the Bush administration signed on to the notion. It is now abundantly clear that Al Gore’s statement in Earth and the Balance represented an accurate understanding of this technological point. Everyone knows it: There was nothing weird about what Gore said. As a matter of fact, Gore was right.

But none of that has a thing to do with our gong-show public discourse. The Republican Party has a ten-year investment in the idea that Gore said very weird things in his book, and Blankley lied in his readers’ faces once again in typing up yesterday’s column. And how can he safely engage in such clowning? Simple. He knows the structure of our national discourse. He knows that he can misstate about Gore all he wants, and no one will ever say Boo. He knows that the nation’s “good guy” journalists are committed to ignoring misstatements.

How else to explain the way this spin-point survived the past ten years? Repeatedly, GOP pundits put forward sheer nonsense, knowing that the nation’s journalists would pretend not to notice their statements. And indeed, their faith in the nation’s scribes was rewarded; hambone pundits pounded Gore for wanting to “eliminate the automobile as we know it,” and major pundits stood silent. In the process, they agreed to turn truth on its ear. Voters weren’t told that Gore had been right about this matter. Instead, they were told that Gore was a very weird dude, putting forward some very strange plans. So it went as your national press corps made a joke of your White House election.

In the process, silent pundits helped us see the structure of our discourse. Some of you have begun comparing our discourse to professional wrestling. That comparison is certainly apt, but we also think of the Harlem Globetrotters and their hapless foils, the Washington Generals. Night after night, year after year, the Generals would play out their role on the court, losing to their more talented foes—and pretending to be fooled by the Trotters’ routines. They’d fall for the same silly tricks every night. Meadowlark pulled the same routines every night of the year. The Generals always knew to be fooled.

Say hello to your modern-dayWashington Generals, and notice the names of their jerseys. HUNT, DIONNE, RASPBERRY, KINSLEY—they were fooled by the “internal combustion” routine every single time out. They get paid good money to stand and be fooled, and for years they have played the part to perfection. In the process, the voters are played for rank fools. Yo Generals! We hope the money spends good.

THE GENERALS KNEW NOT TO NOTICE: When the Bush Admin signed on to fuel cells this year, everyone knew not to notice the irony. Everyone except the “Inside Washington” column in National Journal:

NATIONAL JOURNAL (1/12/02):
But Why Wasn’t Al at the Announcement?
Well, you know what they say about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham went to his old stomping grounds in Detroit this week to tout a new government partnership with the auto industry. Their goal—to replace the internal combustion engine with motors powered by cleaner, more efficient hydrogen-based fuel cells. Sound familiar? You may recall that Abraham, in his unsuccessful bid to be re-elected to the Senate from Michigan in 2000, loved to mock then-Vice President Al Gore for supporting the elimination of the internal combustion engine. He and his current boss, President Bush, heaped derision on Gore for that and other recommendations to clean up the environment in Gore’s book Earth in the Balance. At the GOP convention in 2000, during the delegate roll call, Abraham even made sure to note that his state is a “friend of the combustion engine.”
A larger story is involved in this nonsense—the Washington press corps’ undying tolerance for RNC spin in Campaign 2000. As you may recall, the press corps was deeply, profoundly concerned with all signs of embellishment, embroidery or exaggeration—when such traits were observed in Al Gore. In fact, the corps was so upset by Gore’s misstatements, they even agreed to make up misstatements and pretend that Gore had said them! But with the RNC and its head, Jim Nicholson, the rules of the game were quite different. Nicholson cranked out endless misstatements; these points were picked up by Republican spinners, and ignored by the Washington Generals. The notion that Gore “wanted to get rid of the car as we know it” was one of these inane gong-show tales.

But the Washington Generals always knew not to notice, and Meadowlark Blankley knows his helpmates quite well. He still feels free to lie in your faces about this treasured bit of lore. And he knows that HUNT, DIONNE and the rest of the Generals will be fooled again. They’ve been fooled every time.

HER LATEST GURLEY BOY: Swingers of birches have long since lost favor, but our newest counter of footnotes has appeared. Where on earth does the press corps find these people? The latest script-reader is the New York Observer’s thoroughly hapless George Gurley. He typed script in yesterday’s edition:

GURLEY: The gaunt Connecticut beauty emitted a horsy laugh. There are 780 footnotes in the back of Slander, and so far, Ms. Coulter said, only two minor, irrelevant errors have surfaced. “Do you realize what this means?” she said she told her agent. “This means the rest of this book is true! This is scandalous!”
We also emitted loud, horsy laughs. Where do they find these hacks, these boys, who will type up such scripts for their pay-masters?

Meanwhile, Coulter’s pathology seems to continue. On Tuesday, Crossfire embarrassed itself by having her appear as a guest. She was asked about the recent New York Times article concerning conservatives with doubts on Iraq:

COULTER: I actually think it’s rather old news that the New York Times promotes editorial positions on its front page…And I also find it especially interesting how Representative Dick Armey from Texas, the Republican, who has been described in the pages of the New York Times, by the exact same reporter, in fact, as the crazy woman who had to be kept in the attic just a few years ago, now that he opposes invading Iraq, is suddenly given puff pieces in which he's described as former economics professor, free market conservative, who has opposed wasteful spending. That is really the most striking thing about the Times, that it will elevate anyone who agrees to its position to sudden status as senior statesman in the Republican Party.
Two more times, Coulter stated this point. In the New York Times, the pundit said, Armey had gone from being “the crazy woman who had to be kept in the attic” and a “crazy ultra-conservative who need[s] to be kept in the attic” to being “this senior statesman of the Republican Party.”

The article in question was penned by Todd Purdum and Patrick Tyler. Has either journalist ever described Armey as a “crazy woman who has to be kept in the attic?” A Nexis search revealed nothing resembling this statement. The closest we could come was a 1998 article in which Purdum quoted a Dem consultant:

PURDUM (10/31/98): “It’s like bookends,” said Bill Carrick, a South Carolinian who has been a Democratic political consultant in Washington and for nearly a decade here in California. “On the one hand, you have a national Republican Party increasingly dominated by Southern politicians, with a unique, Southern-fried Republicanism exemplified by Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay…”
By the gong-show standards of Coulter’s Slander, that may be the statement to which she refers. By Coulter’s pathological rules of reason, if a journalist quotes someone making a statement, the journalist has made the statement himself. That’s how Coulter lyingly claimed that Katie Couric had called President Reagan an airhead. Several members of the Washington Generals pretended that Coulter was correct in that claim. They’re surely ready to enter the game and pretend that she’s right in this too. (By Coulter’s standards, “southern-fried Republican” is surely close enough to “a woman who needs to be kept in the attic.”)

But then, the Generals just love being fooled by Ann Coulter. That’s why America’s number-one basket-case felt free to make her latest strange statement. Gurley had asked her another question about New York’s Times:

GURLEY: “Is your tape recorder running? Turn it on! I got something to say.”

Then she said: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”

I told her to be careful.

“You’re right, after 9/11 I shouldn’t say that,” she said, spotting a cab and grabbing it.

Amazing, isn’t it? Let’s see. Coulter has now said that we should invade Middle Eastern countries and convert Muslims to Christianity. She has said we should kill John Walker Lindh as a warning to liberals. Now she says that Tim McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building. For this, she’s rewarded with guest spots on Crossfire. And the Washington Generals are playing hard, pretending again that they simply don’t notice.

IN HER OWN WORDS: What did Coulter say about Lindh? Incredibly, her comment provoked very little reaction. Alan Colmes questioned her on it::

COLMES (2/7/02): We’re back on Hannity & Colmes. Ann Coulter, you said this phrase when contemplating college liberals, you “regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise they’ll turn out to be outright traitors.” You hate liberals. You despise liberals.
COULTER: That was a huge hit with the audience, by the way.
COLMES: That is unbelievable. We should execute them to make liberals scared.
COULTER: Right.
COLMES: Explain that to me.
COULTER: Right. Because, I mean, you can see you’re—we were talking about college leftists, by the way, who are almost as bad as liberals…
Oh yeah. Coulter began her February 28 column with a reference to the recent beating death of an official in Afghanistan. “According to initial buoyant reports in early February, enraged travelers rose up in a savage attack on the secretary of transportation,” she wrote. “Hope was dashed when later reports indicated that the irritated travelers were actually rival warlords, the airport was the Kabul Airport, and Norman Mineta was still with us.”

Incredibly, that is now the caliber of our discourse. Little word from Red Klotz and the gang. The names on their shirts say HUNT and DIONNE, and they’re well-trained in failure-to-notice.