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GROUND ZERO HERO! They pretended that Gore was lying. Saint Rudy actually is: // link // print // previous // next //

THIS SHOULD BE DEEPLY DISTURBING: Two separate segments of last evening’s Hardball ought to be profoundly disturbing—if you want a Democrat to win the White House next year.

The conduct of the program itself was disgraceful. But the problematic conduct extended to liberal guests on the program as well.

At issue was a recent comment by Michelle Obama. This “issue” has blown up in the past few days. So let’s do a quick review:

Last Thursday, Michelle Obama joined her husband on the stump at Iowa’s Cass County Fair. This is part of what she said during her speech that day:
MICHELLE OBAMA (8/17/07): One of the most important things that we need to know about the next President of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values? Is he somebody that respects family? Is a good and decent person? So our view was that, if you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House. So, so we’ve adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he’s traveling around, I do day trips. That means I get up in the morning, I get the girls ready, I get them off, I go and do trips, I’m home before bedtime. So the girls know that I was gone somewhere, but they don’t care. They just know that I was at home to tuck them in at night, and it keeps them grounded, and, and children—the children in our country have to know that they come first. And our girls do, and that’s why we’re doing this. We’re in this race for not just our children, but all of our children.
It would be hard to imagine less provocative prose—and we don’t meant that as a criticism. But over at the New York Times, a little guy with great big ears was listening intently as Obama spoke. The last time we looked in on fresh-faced Jeff Zeleny, he was crafting a non-story story about Candidate Biden, using a Standard Press Corps Script: Joe Biden talks too goddamned much. Last Thursday, out in Iowa’s Cass County, Zeleny’s scriptometer began to clang when he listened to Michelle Obama. The next day, he built a story around this theme: Barack Obama “has moved in recent weeks to sharpen his tone noticeably as he fights for the Democratic presidential nomination, increasingly drawing sharp contrasts with his rivals.” In his story, he pulled one line from Michelle Obama’s speech—and a story was about to be born:
ZELENY (8/17/07): Even Michelle Obama presented a contrast here on Thursday as she introduced her husband in an open-air barn at the Cass County fairgrounds. She told a crowd of more than 200 people that family values and trust were important in the next presidential candidate.

''Our view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House,'' Mrs. Obama said.

Later, she added: ''This election is about truth and authenticity. There is nothing more important than your word. Truth does matter.''

When he took the microphone, Mr. Obama used similar phrasing, saying, ''Part of the change, by the way, is telling the truth to the American people about the very serious and difficult challenges and choices that we face.''
Zeleny didn’t have the guts to say what he plainly meant. But his implication was perfectly clear; Michelle Obama was sliming the Clintons when she said, “Our view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House.” For the record, there’s no sign that Zeleny asked either of the Obamas if that was what Michelle Obama meant. Nor did he include the larger context of Obama’s statement—the context provided above. Our guess? The scribe just knew how his colleagues would love the chance to talk about this matter! Omigod! Another chance to discuss Bill Clinton’s sex life! For the past fifteen years, major “journalists” have lived this dream, tossing aside all manner of substance to focus attention on Bill Clintons’ blow jobs. (They have health care. They don’t care if you do.) Reading deep meaning into one line, Zeleny gave them their latest chance.

(For the record: Several other major newspapers, and the AP, covered the Obamas’ Cass County event. Only Zeleny mentioned that line—the deathless line he cleverly pulled from the middle of Michelle Obama’s statement.)

On Monday, a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times also focused on that troubling line. In this case, Jennifer Hunter came close to saying what she actually meant: The line “could be interpreted as a swipe at the Clintons,” the deep-thinking columnist mused. Here again, there’s no sign that Hunter asked the Obamas if that was what Michelle Obama had meant. But her column gave Matt Drudge an excuse to pimp the exciting new scandal on his low-IQ, thumb-sucking site. Presto! Last night, two separate panels of pundits were asked to discuss the new scandal on Hardball.

Before we look at what happened on Hardball, let’s make a few basic observations.

First, an obvious question: Was Michelle Obama “taking a swipe at the Clintons” when she made that remark? Like Zeleny and Hunter, we have no way of knowing—although it’s far from clear that she was. Both Barack Obama and his campaign have now aggressively said that this wasn’t her intention. And in fact, Michelle Obama has discussed “family values” issues many times—seeming to use the theme to “take a swipe” at the Bush Administration’s skewed priorities (examples below). But yes, her cherry-picked remark “could be interpreted” as a swipe at the Clintons—and for addled children like those in our press corps, this would be the obvious reading; they’ve spent their lives chasing Bill Clinton’s penis around, and nothing else really matters to them, or gets their dead blood flowing. When the chance for such discussion presents, these hapless, broken-souled losers will seize it. To borrow from a stale old jibe: Our “journalists” think with Bill Clinton’s penis! They’re empty, overpaid, broken-souled losers—and our nation will be at their mercy forever, unless we progressives can find a way to make their conduct stop.

This brings us up to last night’s Hardball—to the disgraceful conduct of the program itself, and to the problematic behavior of several liberal guests.

What was wrong with Hardball’s conduct? Let’s start with the tape Mike Barnicle played for Amy Goodman and Robert Tyrell, the first panel with which he discussed this matter. Here’s how Barnicle introduced this segment—the first of two separate segments he spent on this brain-dead topic.
BARNICLE (8/22/07): Welcome back to Hardball. Barack Obama`s wife, Michelle, has roughed up the campaign with a line that some believe is a back-handed swipe at Hillary Clinton’s marriage. Take a look at what she said in Iowa last week:

MICHELLE OBAMA (videotape): One of the most important things that we need to know about the next president of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values? Is he somebody that respects family, is a good and decent person? So, our view is that, if you can`t run your own house, you certainly can`t run the White House. (end of videotape)

BARNICLE: So, did Michelle Obama take a shot at Hillary there?
At this point, Barnicle introduced Tyrell and Goodman. “Bob, was she taking a shot at Hillary and the Clintons?” he now asked the well-known crackpot.

What was disgraceful about Hardball’s conduct? Note the way this tape was “edited.” On Tuesday night, this same topic had been explored on Countdown, Hardball’s companion program. But Countdown aired the fuller tape, letting people see what Michelle Obama said after that highlighted sentence. Just for the record, here’s the text of the fuller tape which Countdown played Tuesday night:
MICHELLE OBAMA (videotape; played on Countdown, 8/21/07): One of the most important things that we need to know about the next president of the United States it is he somebody that shares our values? Is he someone that respects family, is a good and decent person? Our view is that you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House. We have adjusted our schedule to make sure that our girls are first. While he is traveling around, I do day trips. I get the girls up in the morning, get them ready, get them off, go and do trips. I’m home before bedtime.
Do you mind if we make the obvious point? MSNBC possesses the longer tape—the tape which shows the fuller context of what Michelle Obama said. It shows her talking about adjusting her schedule around her girls—and no one has ever said that the Clintons didn’t do this when they were raising their daughter. On Tuesday, Countdown played the longer tape—and Chuck Todd immediately cited Barack Obama’s insistence that this statement wasn’t a swipe at the Clintons. But on Hardball, they wanted to chase Clinton’s penis around, so they “edited” Michelle Obama’s fuller comments—and Barnicle forget to mention what the Obama campaign has said. Hardball wanted a good penis-chase—the work it has specialized in for a decade—and the repulsive program was gimmicked again to make the chasin’ good.

This conduct by Hardball was disgraceful—although, of course, it was perfectly typical. But we were also deeply frustrated by the performance of two liberal guests.

These people do a great deal of superlative work. We thought they fell short last night.

Start with Goodman, the super-bright host of the progressive program, Democracy Now. She clearly knew the fuller context of what Michelle Obama had said; immediately, she began to read from the longer transcript about taking care of the girls. But at no point in this endless segment did she ask the obvious question: Mike Barnicle, why are you running a doctored tape? Why aren’t you letting your viewers see Michelle Obama’s fuller statement? Did it not occur to this super-bright guest that Hardball was playing a slick, contrived game? That Hardball was putting its thumb on the scale, playing its viewers for fools once again? Obviously, we don’t know the answer to that. But Goodman has become a semi-regular guest on Hardball—and you don’t remain a semi-regular guest if you challenge this program’s conduct. And here we see the contradiction which has dogged liberal politics for the past dozen years—the contradiction which is likely to doom Democratic hopes for the White House.

Over the course of the past fifteen years, it has become increasingly clear that big mainstream news orgs are essentially tools of Republican interests when it comes to electing our president. The Washington Post and the New York Times? NBC News and its cable step-child? All these orgs were deeply involved in the lengthy Wars Against Clinton and Gore—but for the most part, career liberals sat around and stared, refusing to say one word about it. When these orgs staged their two-year War Against Gore, career liberals took a near-total pass—and Bush ended up in the White House. We’ve told you this story for many years—but on the whole, you just can’t make the nation’s career liberals deal with this critical contradiction. For career liberals, career success runs through these big news orgs—orgs which might hire them as writers, orgs which give publicity to their publications. To all appearances, many career liberals have no intention of blowing their own financial interests in the interest of liberal politics. No, we won’t name individuals here—we can’t mind-read individuals’ motives—but this group story has been blindingly evident over the course of the past dozen years. Even now, our timid, mewling career liberal players sit around trembling at career liberal redoubts, unwilling to let average people know the shape of our modern press/politics. This silence has killed Dem interests in the past (see Gore). It could doom us again in 08.

Last night, Hardball was up to its standard old tricks—and two liberal guests didn’t manage to say so. Let’s move past Goodman, who failed to ask for the fuller tape. During Hardball’s second segment about Obama, it would have been easy for smart-and-feisty Joan Walsh (Salon) to chide Barnicle thusly:
COULD HAVE SAID THIS: Mike, come on! I’d like you to play the fuller tape of what Michelle Obama said. If you would just show the fuller tape, it becomes perfectly clear that she wasn’t talking about the Clintons. Come on, Mike! Why are you playing the “edited” tape—the tape which omits what she really said? Why aren’t you letting your viewers see the fuller tape? Why can’t they see what she said?
It would have been easy for Joan to say that. At some point, average people in Hardball’s audience deserve the chance to hear such comments. If we’re progressives—and not just self-dealers—then average people deserve to be told about how they get played by the swells.

In the series we continue below, we’re starting to describe the sorry shape of next year’s presidential presspolitics. If history is any sort of a guide, this is what is going to happen: Mainstream new orgs will keep finding “character problems” in the Democratic nominee; in Rudy Giuliani, those same mainstream orgs will find no moral flaw. Only one questions remains to be answered: Will career liberals be willing to notice this time? Will they holler, long and loud? This time, will we finally be honest?

Will we finally name the orgs that are trying to elect a Republican?

For the record, we’ve sent e-mails to Amy and Joan; we’d like to ask them about their strategies in their Hardball sessions last night. Each does tons of excellent work. But liberals have lost the White House before because of the onslaught of character sliming, and we’re going lose to Rudy next year if last night is a guide.

MICHELLE OBAMA’S FAMILY VALUES: Michelle Obama has routinely discussed these issues in the past. In July, this was part of a profile by the AP’s Jessica Gresko:
GRESKO (7/19/07): Michelle Obama also talked about the challenges facing her husband's campaign and the difficulties women face in balancing work and family...

An administrator at the University of Chicago Hospitals, Michelle Obama has scaled back her hours to campaign for her husband, though she generally makes day trips to be home in the evening for the couple's two young daughters.

"We want to be the best parents that we can be with fewer and fewer resources and support systems to make it happen," she said. "Affordable child care is becoming less of a thing that women can count on. Quality education in the public school is a hit or miss. Health care, keeping your family healthy. I could go down a list of struggles and challenges."

Obama said that isn't being talked about publicly, and she wants to change that.

"We suffer in silence, and it's almost as if we don't want to admit that it's as hard as it is, and that if we do that somehow we're failing when the truth is that we need more help," she said.
Did that sound like a swipe at the Clintons? No, and it also didn’t sound like something that people like Hunter waste time discussing. (In this same interview, Obama described her husband as a “Harry Potter parent.”) Meanwhile, here she is, explicitly discussing “family values” in a New York speech a few days before that:
MICHELLE OBAMA (7/8/07): You know, there just aren't enough hours in the day. I know we all feel that, so we do what we can, and many of us do it in spite of the lack of adequate government and social support.

The reality is, ladies, that women and families just are not getting the support that they need not just to survive, but to thrive. We have spent the last decade talking a very good game about family values, but I just haven't seen much evidence that we actually value women or families.

We have essentially ignored the plight of women and families, and we've essentially told them, "You go figure it out." Figure out how you're going to support a family on minimum wage with no benefits. You figure it out. Figure out who's going to watch your children without quality and affordable childcare. You figure it out.

Figure out how you're going to keep your family healthy without access to affordable health care. Figure out how to ensure that your children are going to get the best education possible, if all of our schools are not sufficiently funded. Figure out where you're going to live without access to affordable housing.

So essentially, we've told women, "Dream big." But after that, you're on your own.
“We have spent the last decade talking a very good game about family values?” Did that sound like a swipe at the Clintons? Why, it almost sounds like a swipe at the Bushes! But when Jack Welch went out and purchased his gang of “Lost Boys,” he bought himself a group of lost lads who don’t react to matters like that. They want to chase Clinton’s penis around—and invent tall tales about Gore’s lies. Next year (see Part 2, below), they will find no fault in Rudy—and they’ll find big character problems with the Dem nominee. And with the unfortunate spouse.

That’s what happened on last night’s Hardball. If we liberals still refuse to respond—if we’re still prepared to pretend we don’t see—then you can make way for President Rudy. If we still pretend we don’t see what’s occurring, the next crazy war you’ll be crying about will be the one Saint Rudy starts.

TOMORROW: Humans can’t understand spacetime. And liberals just can’t grasp presspolitics.

Special report: Only Dems!

BE SURE TO READ EACH THRILLING INSTALLMENT: In modern press corps culture, character problems are only for Dems. Read each thrilling installment:
PART 1: Only Dems have character problems. Reactions to Rudy prove it. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/21/07.
In Part 2, we get our first look at our brilliant “Ground Zero Hero.”

PART 2—GROUND ZERO HERO: To his credit, Tucker Carlson raised the point, late in Tuesday evening’s Tucker. The issue had been around for weeks; it had then been fleshed out, in substantial detail, on the front page of Friday’s New York Times. But you know the culture of today’s store-bought press corps! In their store-bought, scripted world, character problems are only for Dems! So the pundit world had been looking away—but to his credit, here was Carlson’s introduction:
CARLSON (8/21/07): Rudy Giuliani has stayed atop of polls of Republican voters thanks largely to his image. Americans think they know Rudy Giuliani. They see him as a mayor who stood tall after 9/11. But could he be overplaying his hand when it comes to those tragic days? Possibly.

First, Giuliani had to backtrack after comparing himself to rescue workers that toiled at Ground Zero. Now we learn from the fervently left-wing, but occasionally accurate, Salon.com that Giuliani actually spent more time cheering on the Yankees than he did at the World Trade Center site. He even crossed the country to watch them play.

Does it matter? Or should Giuliani’s polished persona—could it possibly lose its luster? Here to tell us, Mort Zuckerman and Rosa Brooks.
Long story short: Giuliani has paraded about in the past several years, vastly embellishing his personal history concerning 9/11 and the work at Ground Zero. Yes, Russ Buettner’s report in Friday’s Times was a masterwork of journalistic restraint. But as Buettner began, he began to lay out Giuliani’s groaning veracity problems. These problems would drive the press corps wild—if only a Dem would display them:
BUETTNER (8/17/07): As Rudolph W. Giuliani campaigns around the country highlighting his stewardship of New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks, he is widely hailed for bringing order to a traumatized city. But he has also raised the hackles of rescue and recovery workers by likening his experience to theirs.

On at least three occasions, in responding to accusations that the city failed to adequately protect the health of workers in the wreckage, he has boasted that he faced comparable risks himself. In one appearance he declared that he had been in the ruins ''as often, if not more'' than the cleanup workers who logged hundreds of hours in the smoldering pile.

Another time he brushed aside safety claims by asserting that his long hours at the site had left him susceptible to ''every health consequence that people have suffered.''
“On at least three occasions,” Giuliani has told the world about his own brilliant Ground Zero heroism. He had been in the ruins at Ground Zero “as often if not more” than the actual clean-up workers, he has said. Later in his report, Buettner recalled what Giuliani told the Associated Press on September 11, 2006—the fifth anniversary of the attacks. “I spent as much time here as anyone,” the heroic ex-mayor admitted that day. ''I was here five, six times a day for four months. I kind of thought of it as living here. And there were times when I wore a mask when you got near the pile. Times when I didn't. Those were the instructions.”

For Giuliani—the brilliant Ground Zero Hero—there’s the good news and the bad news. First the bad news: These heroic statements simply aren’t true; Giuliani has been wildly overstating, lying about his work at Ground Zero. Then the good news: In the modern American press corps, “character problems” are only for Dems! Within the past decade, a Major Dem was savaged, for years, for making self-serving misstatements like these—even though his alleged “misstatements” were simply inventions of the press corps. But right up through Carlson’s show Tuesday night, few very pundits had even said boo about Giuliani’s lying.

And make no mistake: Giuliani’s lying about Ground Zero is only one part of the recent revelation of what would be called his “character problem”—if he were a Democrat. On August 7, biographer Wayne Barrett published a lengthy report in the Village Voice, “Rudy Giuliani's Five Big Lies About 9/11.” Barrett’s report helped start the discussion which Buettner continued in Friday’s Times. But Barrett’s listing of Rudy’s “five big lies” went well beyond the matters examined by Buettner. Buettner dealt with only one part of this big blowhard’s lies. Given the norms of newspaper work, Giuliani’s lying has been so vast that you can’t do it all in one article!

Let’s say it again: Within the past decade, a Major Dem was eaten alive for allegedly embellishing the truth in this manner. The press corps savaged him for years—even invented psychiatric theories about his deeply troubling conduct. (Al Gore lies even when telling the truth would be just as good!) World history changed when this Big Major Dem was savaged—attacked for his troubling “character problem.” And uh-oh! As the press corps has slowly begun to admit, reports of these lies had been greatly exaggerated! Al Gore never said he invented the Internet, the Washington Post finally told us—last year.

Now, eight years later, Saint Rudy is lying. In fact, he’s been lying all over the country, about the most sacred event in our recent history. But so what? Character problems are only for Dems—and we liberals are too dead-dog stupid to stand up and fight this double standard. We liberals said nothing in 1999, when the press corps went to war against Gore. We said and did little in early 04, when the spinning began about John Kerry. And today, we sit and stare into space as the press corps ignores this Republican’s lying. Rudy remains the Ground Zero Hero—because we’re simply too stupid to fight.

Giuliani, the GOP front-runner, has benn lying his way all over the country. But we liberals sit in our self-imposed puddles and stare. What a group of willing victims losers we liberals keep turning out to be! Get ready for foreign war with Saint/President Rudy—unless we ourselves learn to fight.

TOMORROW—PART 3: What Barrett said.

NEXT WEEK: Brooks and Zuckerman on the Ground Zero Hero. And: Romney’s reinventions.