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RED KLOTZ NEVER DID! As Karl Rove plans Campaign 08, his thoughts may drift to Red Klotz: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2007

COMING NEXT WEEK: Scribes will be vouching for two honest men–Ole Fred and General David.

RED KLOTZ NEVER DID: By now, even we liberals can puzzle it out; almost surely, Al Gore won’t seek the White House next year (for the evidence, see below). Which brings us to one of the very few heroes found in Evgenia Peretz’s superlative piece in the current Vanity Fair.

That American hero–that active American citizen–would be a young woman named Jill Hoffman. In 1999, she was a senior at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire. And omigod–she and her classmates actually stood up and complained when the “press corps” devoured your democracy.

On November 30, 1999, Candidate Gore spoke to one of Hoffman’s classes–and Ceci Connolly and Katherine “Kit” Seelye “accidentally” misquoted something he said about the congressional hearings he’d once convened about toxic waste sites. Just like that, the “press corps” had done it again: Al Gore–who had plainly been misquoted–was again the World’s Biggest Liar! And omigod! Doing what few liberal heroes ever would, Hoffmann and her classmates and teacher actually stood up and complained:
PERETZ (10/07): At the time, the only people seeming to notice the media's missteps were journalists at the fringes or out of the mainstream...These last included the Concord High students, who were trying to correct the record on Love Canal. The footage was reviewed by a teacher, Joanne McGlynn, the day after the initial Love Canal stories ran. McGlynn spotted the discrepancy between Gore's actual words and what was being reported, and phoned the relevant news outlets to alert them. The Times and the Post printed the correction–about a week later. But by that time the story had been echoed widely and was accepted as fact.
Indeed, the “accidental” misquotation from Concord High was bruited far and wide, for months, even after it was grudgingly corrected. Once again, the mainstream press corps was telling the world that Gore was a delusional liar. Yep! Even after the corrections were made, “journalists” kept reciting that bogus quote–the one that was more fun to recite, the one that punished Bill Clinton’s vice president. Meanwhile, here’s the thanks Jill Hoffman got for doing what liberal heroes would not–for standing up to correct the record when the Washington Post and the New York Times made their latest, fateful “mistake.” Peretz tells an instructive tale, one we first heard way back when. Try to grasp the sheer dysfunction involved in what happened next:
PERETZ: At least one reporter who either made or repeated the misquote was not thrilled to have been corrected by high-school students and their teacher. Sometime after the Love Canal stories came out, Hoffman, the high-school senior, went to see Gore speak again at an event in New Hampshire. There she was introduced to one of the reporters who'd gotten it wrong. The reporter, Hoffman said, made it clear her help in fixing the misquote was not appreciated, and said that the article was written very fast, while riding in a van. "It's amazing what one word can do to a person's integrity," says Hoffman today.
Here at THE HOWLER, we were told this story in real time (not by Hoffman). As best we recall what we were told, the “reporter” in question was quite rude and abrupt with the student who had dared correct the record. But then, this may be why liberal heroes cowered and quaked, refusing to speak about the unfolding War Against Gore. Poor darlings! They might become despised targets too! What might this gang of “reporters” say to–or about–them? Speculation: No one was complaining–except high school kids. So they decided to keep their traps shut.

Hoffman did what she should have done–and, if we were told correctly way back when, this “reporter” dumped a ton of shit on the teen-ager’s head. By now, it’s fairly clear, even on the liberal web, that Gore will not seek the White House next year. So let’s review the ugly history that brought us to this point in time–the ugly history that slimed Al Gore, the ugly history that endangers the next Democratic nominee:

March 1999 through November 2000: An ugly, twenty-month war against Gore is waged by the mainstream press corps. (Not “by Fox,” although they play too.) Liberal writers cower and quake, refusing to speak, confront or challenge. Among liberal and progressive journals, the silence is deafening–and it lasts for two years. What does the record show? In the course of this twenty-month war, The American Prospect and The Washington Monthly publish single, stand-alone articles of complaint. Essentially, The New Republic says nothing at all. And as late as October 2000, The Nation is still printing this political porn, courtesy of Alexander Cockburn. To remember the way you were served by this crew, let’s revisit this crackpot’s sad musings. By the way, he’s a warming denier:
COCKBURN (10/16/00): What suppressed psychic tumult drives [Gore] to those stretchers that litter his career, the lies large and small about his life and achievements? You'd think that a man exposed to as much public derision as was Gore after claiming he and Tipper were the model for the couple in Love Story, or after saying he'd invented the Internet, would by now be more prudent in his vauntings. But no. Just as a klepto's fingers inevitably stray toward the cash register, so too does Gore persist in his fabrications.
“Disgraceful” doesn’t do justice here. At any rate, thanks to public crackpots like Cockburn–thanks to the cowardice of those who kept silent–the “klepto” with the “psychic tumult” and “the lies large and small” didn’t go to the White House. George W. Bush went there instead. Soon, we were off to Iraq.

In Concord, high school students had corrected the record. One year later, in the wilds of Manhattan, Katrina vanden Heuvel waved that porn into print. In the same month, Lawrence O’Donnell sat in the liberal chair on The McLaughlin Group–complaining about Gore’s endless lying. This is how liberals and progressives behaved when the “mainstream” “press corps” was waging the war which Peretz so capably describes.

Summer 2002: By now, our smartest young liberal was writing that Candidate Bush “had beaten a sitting vice president with seemingly every advantage.” And this: “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...” The only problem appeared to be the voters! Plainly, such accounts of Campaign 2000 were delusional. But by now, this had become Standard Press Dogma–the mainstream press corps’ Official Group Story about the way Bush got to the White House. When we helpfully noted this problem in August 2002, we were told our “stupid comment” was part of a “blundering screed,” evidence of a “deeper foolishness.” But so it went as our smartest liberals refused to describe what was real.

Fall 2002: Gore’s book tour was treated as a possible prelude to a run in 2004. In the press corps, the ugly insults continued. And liberals still distinguished themselves by their silence–except, of course, for the brilliant Frank Rich, who baldly misstated what Gore had said during a Today Show interview, assuring us that we were seeing the same “Gore equivocation and hair-splitting that he perfected in the 2000 debates.” There was more, of course–there always is. “And of course he is still running for president,” the brilliant mind-reader said. “...what else does the guy, a political lifer, have to do with himself?” Rich wrote this on November 23; a few weeks later, Gore confirmed that he wouldn’t be running. In the years that followed, of course, Gore somehow managed to show the world “what else he had to do with himself.”

February 2004: The spinning of Nominee Kerry begins. Liberals have now spent almost five years refusing to discus what happened to Gore. Result? Similar things start to happen to Kerry. Voters have been given no framework with which to evaluate this.

Spring 2006: Showing us “what else he had to do with himself,” Gore begins to roll out the film which will change the world’s discussion of warming. Liberals begin to imagine Gore running for president in 2008–still refusing to discuss the journalistic realties which would make such a campaign quite hard.

Spring 2007: When Gore goes on tour for his latest book, the Washington Post swings into action. In the process, we get a taste of what a Gore campaign for the White House would be like. A Sunday “Style section” report is devoted to the fact that Gore is too goddamned fat. An “Outlook” piece is devoted to the complaint that Gore’s new book has no footnotes–ignoring its twenty pages of end-notes. Dana Milbank devotes an entire “Washington Sketch” to the notion that Gore uses too many big words in his speeches. (Specifically, he complains that Gore said “marketplace of ideas” in a speech.) An “Outlook” pieces swoons for smartsexyhandsomeauthentic Fred Thompson, ridiculing Gore as “road kill.” (The “balancing” piece is by Lawrence O’Donnell!) The op-ed page prints a ludicrous, uninformed column about global warming; it complains that Gore is publishing a children’s book on the subject–one that will scare the kids. And when “Book World” prints its review of Gore’s book, Alan Ehrenhalt says this: “Al Gore possesses a skill that no other American politician can match–or would want to. He has a consistent ability to express fundamentally reasonable sentiments–often important ones–in ways that annoy the maximum possible number of people.” So true! By now, Gore has annoyed so many people that his brilliant film has won an Oscar–and he’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize! But at the Post, the war against the vile man hasn’t ended–and neither has the liberal world’s silence. Go ahead! Search the work of your liberal heroes! Tell us where they spoke up about the abject, endless nonsense being spewed, once again, by the ludicrous Washington Post, now our most foolish newspaper.

By now, it has become abundantly clear–Gore won’t be seeking the White House next year. We don’t know why he decided as he did. But in 2006, we explained why such a run would be very hard. And your liberal heroes did what they’ve done for eight years: They stared off into space and pretended. They offered pretty tales to their readers, dreaming about the brilliant Gore. They refused to discuss the long, stupid war that still raged in the mainstream press.

In 1999, Jill Hoffman spoke up. Eight years later, few liberals ever have. And our silence endangers our future–and that of people around the world. Don’t worry: Even as we type, Karl Rove sits in some rustic log cabin, planning the ugly string of attacks to be aimed at next year’s Dem nominee. It’s very likely that these attacks will be cheerfully borne by the mainstream press, as they were against Candidate Gore, then against Candidate Kerry (to a lesser, but appreciable, extent). But the liberal world has spent eight years refusing to discuss Campaign 2000–the campaign in which the world has been told that Gore enjoyed “seemingly every advantage.”

Go ahead. Read Evgenia Peretz’s superlative work–then rethink that astounding description.

Thanks to the liberal world’s polite silence, most voters have never heard a word about what happened in Campaign 2000. When the ugly attacks begin next year, they will have no framework from which to assess them. (Last Friday, they saw Tom DeLay all over TV, complaining about liberal bias.) But then, there are really two teams in American politics–the Globetrotters and the Washington Generals. The Washington Generals were always well-paid–and they always agreed to lose. They were fooled each night by the other side’s tricks; they pretended to be surprised, every time. They were very polite–good sports, good chaps. They make us think of E. J. Dionne–who, unlike those high schools students, has never breathed a single word about what happened in Campaign 2000. And go ahead–throw in all the other great names There’s no way it should all be on E. J.

Jill Hoffman spoke up in 1999. To this day, few liberals have. But then, they know the rules of the game. Yes, they do recall the day when Hoffman and her young classmates complained. But they also know which team they’re on, and they recall that Red Klotz never did.

THE EVIDENCE: What’s the evidence that Gore won’t run? First, we’d submit the Peretz piece, in which Gore and his campaign staffers criticize the press coverage for the first time (albeit gently). Beyond that, we’ll suggest this interview, in which Gore is starting to talk about his plans to endorse in the primary:
Will you endorse a candidate in the primary?

Odds are that I will.

Who?

I haven’t made that decision yet.
But then, we’ve played it dumb for the past eight years, refusing to discuss the shape of this problem. Why not play it dumb a bit longer–as we wait for the nasty attacks on next year’s Dem nominee? It’s amazing to see how hard we work to avoid the real facts of political life. But then, the Generals were always like that. They got surprised every night.

HOW IT SEEMED TO HOFFMAN: One more part of Peretz’s piece is worth citing–the part where Hoffman recalled how it seemed when Gore spoke to her class:
PERETZ: On December 1, 1999, Connolly–and Seelye–misquoted Gore in a damning way. Their error was picked up elsewhere and repeated, and snowballed into a political nightmare. Gore was speaking to a group of students at Concord High School, in New Hampshire, about how young people could effect change. He described a letter he had received as a congressman in 1978 from a girl in Toone, Tennessee, about how her father and grandfather had gotten mysteriously ill. He had looked into the matter and found that the town was a toxic-waste site. He went on:

"I looked around the country for other sites like that. I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. I had the first hearing on that issue and Toone, Tennessee. That was the one you didn't hear of, but that was the one that started it all.… We passed a major national law to clean up hazardous dumpsites, and we had new efforts to stop the practices that ended up poisoning water around the country.… It all happened because one high-school student got involved."

Jill Hoffman, a high-school senior in the audience who was helping to film the event, says, "I remember thinking, I really, really like what he has to say."
“It all happened because one high-school student got involved." Thanks to Seelye and Connolly, the press corps turned that into a morality tale, in which the delusional Gore had claimed it all happened because of him!

Gore was urging the high school students to get involved, like that kid in Toone. Tennessee. (He had told this same story in Earth in the Balance.) “I really, really like what he has to say," Hoffman thought. Who knows? Others might have thought that too! But they never got the chance to find out. Instead of reporting what Gore had said, the “press corps” began to bitch and complain about that phony “quotation.”

One last word from Peretz’s piece. She refers to Seelye and Connolly:
PERETZ: "They just wanted to tear Gore apart," says a major network correspondent on the trail.
Where does Peretz get this stuff? The reporters just flat-out deny it.