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FIRST IN AN OCCASIONAL SERIES! Four years ago, Robert Novak’s seminal column limned the state of the Bush-Gore campaign: // link //

FULL OF INSIGHT: Maria Full of Grace is sensational. It took our breath away the first time we saw it. The second time, we did keep breathing, but we were struck again by its moral brilliance. Two-thirds through, there is a conversation in which Carla, the sister living in New York, explains how it felt the first time she was able to send money home to her family Colombia. Yes, this scene is full of moral irony, for reasons you’ll see if you go to the film. (No, Carla isn’t involved in the drug trade.) But that’s a conversation that goes on among immigrants every hour of every day of every year.

Or you can see vacant film-making about vacant people (We Don’t Live Here Any More). Of course, we’re well on our way to becoming a Central American state, so your grand-kids won’t likely become the blubbering ciphers we see in this blubbering idea of a film. The moral problems of middle-class affluence may soon be a dream from the dim, distant past. Your grand-kids will likely be more like Maria—but they won’t have a Queens they can flee to.

At any rate, as happenstance would happen to have it, we ran into Post film critic Ann Hornaday at our bagel joint just last week. We’re pleased to see that she had already penned these words about Maria Full of Grace:

HORNADAY (7/30/04): "Maria Full of Grace" is a gripping, deeply moving film...[I]t unfolds with an urgency and authenticity that many of even its most noble nonfiction contemporaries lack. "Maria Full of Grace" seems to have been sent from the cinematic heavens to remind viewers of the honesty and sobering realism of which movies are still capable.
Hornaday praises the film’s new star, Catalina Sandino Moreno. “In this captivating, unforgettable performance, Moreno lives up to the movie's title, never letting viewers forget the inherent moral worth of a young woman they would otherwise think of with disdain or condescension, if they thought of her at all.” But then, we all should start thinking of Maria. As our nation moves toward “banana republic” status with the help of our state-run media, we approach the day when we’re all Marias. The Washington “press corps” drives home each night to the world of We Don’t Live Here. But, with their continuing help, your grand-kids may live full of grace.

SCHEDULE: We have an event tomorrow night for which we have to prepare. For that reason, our posts will be somewhat truncated through Thursday. That said, we’ll soon be starting a multi-part report about John O’Neill’s abysmal, self-pitying Unfit for Command. If we can paraphrase O’Neill’s basic message, “Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo!” It’s no wonder we lost the Vietnam war if we sent weak men like this off to battle. Meanwhile, you truly have a state-run media when a book like this can turn an election with barely a peep from the mainstream press. Of course, fake men also started the Whitewater hoax, the hoax which defined the Clinton presidency. The Washington press corps has a long history of putting up with men like O’Neill. In closing, let’s review his basic message one more time: “Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo. Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo.”

HOWLER HISTORY—THIS DATE FOUR YEARS AGO: Over the course of the next two months, we’ll provide occasional Howler History—reminding you of the way the press corps engineered the outcome of Campaign 2000. On this day four years ago, Robert Novak wrote a seminal column, defining the state of the Bush-Gore race shortly after Labor Day. Our “Howler History” reports will start there.

What wazzup four years ago? After the Dem Convention (August 14-17), Gore shot to a significant lead in the polls. Post-Labor Day, with his lead holding, Insider Washington had decided that the White House race was essentially over. Ah yes, we remember it well! All our Hotline buddies (Reps and Dems) were telling us the race was decided. Result? On this day four years ago, Novak described the “undeniable panic” that was gripping Republicans. This is what you were reading four years ago today:

NOVAK (9/7/00): Undeniable panic is gripping partisan Republicans, from rank-and-file voters to seasoned political operatives, with two full months left before the presidential election. They are dismayed not so much about the surge by Al Gore but the loss of confidence in George W. Bush.

...Perplexed by the boost the vice president was given by his pedestrian acceptance speech in Los Angeles, they are panicked by Bush's seeming inability to counter it.

Polling at the conclusion of the Labor Day weekend not only shows that the Democratic base has returned to Gore. More troubling are defections of vital independent voters from Bush. Since Los Angeles, it is not so much a case of the Democrats succeeding as Republicans failing. The Bush campaign's attempt to undermine Gore's credibility through its maneuvers on presidential debates has flopped.

No, Novak didn’t say the race was over. But he kept describing that sense of panic.”Republican morale is drooping,” he wrote. “There is little doubt that Bush needs to change the atmosphere to keep panicky backers from heading for the high grass.”

And then, guess what? Eleven days later, on September 18, something did happen to “change the atmosphere” of the race. (Something else happened on September 20.) But it was the mainstream press corps, not George Bush, who managed to change the state of the race. We’ll recall what the press corps did on September 18 and 20 when we reach those dates later this month.

That’s right, kids! Four years ago, Insider Washington, R and D, believed Gore had the White House won. What changed the dynamic of that 2000 race? Democrats need to understand the way their party lost the White House. As the next two months unfold, we’ll help you remember what actually happened. Remember—through its surrogates, the Bush campaign is the driving force that has turned around the current race. Four years ago, the dynamics were different. It was the Washington press corps that turned that race, although they will never admit it.

COMING SEPTEMBER 18: More Howler History! The press corps’ new line of attack.

TOMORROW: Frank Rich spins Naomi Wolf! Remember—they will simply never tell you what happened.

THE DEAN FIGHTS OFF HIS LIBERAL BIAS: On Sunday, David Broder wrote his Standard Quadrennial Column examining Bush’s convention speech. As usual, Broder hid his liberal bias quite well. He said that George Bush had been brilliant:

BRODER ON BUSH (9/5/04): It demonstrates how much confidence Karl Rove has in his candidate that he left so much of the necessary work of the Republican National Convention to be accomplished by President Bush’s acceptance speech on the final night in Madison Square Garden.

The confidence was not misplaced. Bush did almost everything he could on Thursday night, with a major assist from speechwriters Michael Gerson and Karen Hughes, who can write circles around their counterparts in John Kerry's campaign.

Wow! The Dub had delivered the goods once again! But then, Bush is always brilliant in these speeches, according to the Dean of All Pundits. Despite his powerful liberal bias, here’s how Broder reviewed Bush’s speech in Philly four years ago:
BRODER ON BUSH (8/6/00): Lifted by an acceptance speech of exceptional eloquence and powered by a party enjoying unusual unity, Texas Gov. George W. Bush embarks on the final stage of his quest for the White House with prospects that almost measure up to his brimming self-confidence.

He has passed the first three tests on the way to the presidency with room to spare. He won the nomination early and with minimal bloodshed. He picked a solid running mate in former defense secretary Dick Cheney...And the acceptance speech he delivered Thursday night was a success.

It contained almost everything good political rhetoric can provide—humor, personal warmth, effective jibes at the opposition and glimpses of what his father, the former president, used to call "the vision thing." And Bush had rehearsed it enough to make it his own.

Yes, Bush was brilliant that time too. “Gov. Bush, Powering Ahead,” was the headline atop that jaunty column.

But despite the press corps’ famed liberal bias, Broder never seems pleased with those Dem White House hopefuls. For example, when Kerry spoke at his Boston convention, the Dean was deeply disturbed:

BRODER ON KERRY (8/1/04): Students of political rhetoric generally agree on the elements that make for a successful convention acceptance speech. Over the years, the best of them have had some or all of these ingredients: a fresh and powerful personal narrative, strong ideas, memorable phrases and a rhythm that builds to an emotional climax.

John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night fell short in all these respects.

Yikes! The Dean of All Pundits socked it to Kerry. Broder complained about the laundry-list feel of the speech, and he did a little mind-reading too. “There was something of the feel of a State of the Union address to this speech,” Broder wrote, “but instead of being a compendium of topics successfully promoted by Cabinet departments and agencies, it was—I would guess—the top 50 hits in Kerry's polls.” Fighting off his liberal bias, Broder took a “guess” for his readers. He helpfully guessed that Phony Fake Kerry had simply been pimping his polls.

But Broder’s most remarkable column concerned Gore’s 2000 address. Of four such speeches in the past two elections, this one seems to have been most successful. Gore was behind in the polls when he gave the speech, and overnight polling throughout his convention showed no progress was being made. But after his speech, Gore surged ahead—and the he stayed ahead until the press corps staged its next attack on September 18. As we’ve seen, three weeks after Gore gave his speech, Novak was describing the “undeniable panic” that was sweeping Republican ranks. The troubling polls that were driving that panic took shape in response to Gore’s speech.

Plainly, Gore’s convention address rocked the world. But Broder? He not only battled liberal bias that night. Gore’s speech had been so deadly dull that he battled just to keep his eyes open:

BRODER ON GORE (8/20/00): In tone and substance, Vice President Al Gore's acceptance speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention was like nothing I have heard in 40 years of covering both parties' quadrennial gatherings.

Usually these acceptance speeches are attempts to take you to the mountaintop and show you the future. Gore's was more a request to step inside a seminar room, listen closely and take notes.

Openly, Broder mocked Gore’s address. “Never has a candidate provided more detailed information on his autobiography and the program initiatives he plans,” the Dean typed. “One more paragraph and he would have been onto the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.” Then came one of the most astounding paragraphs in recent pundit history:
BRODER ON GORE (8/20/00): I have to confess, my attention wandered as he went on through page after page of other swell ideas, and somewhere between hate crimes legislation and a crime victim's constitutional amendment, I almost nodded off.
Amazing. There he was, the Dean of All Pundits, telling readers that Gore was so bad (with his “swell ideas”) that he, David Broder, almost fell fast asleep! Of course, as we have noted in the past (links below), Broder also included every one of the press corps’ Standard Attacks against Gore. He mentioned earth tones and “invented the Internet” (his phrase). He remembered to mention Love Story too. Why, he even remembered to work in the claim that Gore had grown up in “the swank Fairfax Hotel!” He told readers that Gore “often has been accused of attack-dog tactics” and that “he often drags out his sentences in pedantic fashion.”And of course, he suggested that Gore was a Big Fake Phony, just as he did four years later with Kerry. Why did Gore have so many swell ideas? “[P]erhaps Gore just felt it necessary to throw a bone to every one of the constituency groups in the Democratic Party,” the mind-reading pundit guessed. Boldly fighting his liberal bias, Broder included all the key points in his cohort’s endless War Against Gore.

The public disagreed with the tired old pundit; the speech shot Gore ahead in the polls. Three weeks later, Robert Novak described the growing Republican panic. But the insightful Dean stayed nicely on message when he limned Gore’s powerful speech. It almost put him to sleep, he complained, doing his best to sink the Dem hopeful. Our conclusion? If we’re ever going to take back our country, someone must drag this tired old man off the main stage of American journalism.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: We’ve discussed Broder’s column on Gore’s speech before. For details about the Dean’s struggle for consciousness, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/26/03 and 2/13/02.

DEAN DOMES: Broder’s liberal bias was neatly suppressed in the headlines atop those four columns:

BRODER ON BUSH 2004: A Speech That Delivered the Goods
BRODER ON BUSH 2000: Gov. Bush, Powering Ahead

BRODER ON KERRY 2004: A Speech Without Wings
BRODER ON GORE 2000: Gore Tells All

Even with his liberal bias, those were the headlines on Broder’s columns! Imagine how bad it will be for the Dems if The Dean ever drops his famous bias and decides he should play this thing straight!