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SEEING NO EVIL! Keller said the Globe was “usually dependable.” But why would a pundit think that?


THE GLOBE REVEALS CHARACTER FLAWS: Nasty cant about White House hopefuls is nothing new for Michael Crowley. On April 11, 2000, he co-wrote the Boston Globe’s remarkable page-one piece about What A Big Liar Gore Is (headline: RECORD SHOWS GORE LONG EMBELLISHING TRUTH). Two years later, should we be surprised when Crowley crafts kooky cant about John Kerry’s “character flaws?” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/11/02) The real surprise should be the fact that the scribe is still working at all.

Crowley’s April 2000 piece was co-written with the Globe’s Walter Robinson. It was one of the most remarkable articles of the 2000 campaign. How hard did Crowley and Robinson work to make Al Gore a Great Big Liar? As we recently noted (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/8/02), the pair pretended—two separate times—that Gore had engaged in some shady dissembling when he claimed “seven years of journalistic experience.” But why had Gore claimed seven years as a scribe? Duh. He spent two years as an army journalist, then five more years at the Nashville Tennessean. Crowley, of course, knew those facts; with Robinson, he made sure that the Globe’s readers didn’t. Nowhere did the lengthy piece explain the facts behind Gore’s perfectly accurate claim. So it went as two great men informed the world about Gore’s troubling character.

How ludicrous was the Robinson-Crowley piece? Consider another building-block in the claim that Gore Was A Liar. Midway through their lengthy piece, the pair unloaded this bombshell:


Dukakis responds

In the 1988 presidential primary campaign, then-Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis, needled once too often by Gore, upbraided him during a debate: “Please get your facts straight. If you want to be president of the United States, you better start by being accurate.” Another candidate, former Senator Paul Simon, scolded Gore during another debate for making “sweeping charges.”

In recent interviews, Simon and Dukakis were reluctant to discuss their scrapes with the man who is now their party’s standard bearer.

The building-block here was Dukakis’ quote, in which Gore was accused of misstating the facts. How bad was Gore’s troubling character problem? Globe readers were led to believe that, all the way back in Campaign 88, Candidate Gore had been out on the trail, making inaccurate charges.

But Crowley and Robinson were spinning wildly, as they did all through their piece. The Dukakis quote came from an exchange in a 2/18/88 Dallas debate. But it was perfectly clear back in 1988 that Gore’s disputed statement had been perfectly reasonable. Eleven days earlier, Dukakis had made a remark on Meet the Press which he himself would later amend. Here’s the way the Washington Post reported what Dukakis had said:

PAUL TAYLOR, The Washington Post, 2/8/88: Dukakis, appearing on “Meet the Press,” predicted a “photo finish” [in the Iowa caucuses] Monday night. Questioned about the Monroe Doctrine, he said that as president he would not tolerate the introduction of offensive weapons by the Soviet Union into a client-state in the Western Hemisphere, but implied that he would not object to the mere creation of a Soviet client.
Gore criticized this statement in the Dallas debate. The moderator was Roger Mudd:
GORE, Dallas debate, 2/18/88: Now, I listened to Mike talk, and it sounds a little bit different from what he said in Iowa about a week ago, on the eve of the caucuses there, when he implied that it would be all right to have a Soviet client state established in Central America.

DUKAKIS: I never said that. I’m not going to—sorry, sorry—I’m not going—

GORE: And if a president of the United States made a statement like that in office, it could have catastrophic consequences.

DUKAKIS: Roger, I’m not going to sit here and listen to that. I never said that, Al. I never implied it.

GORE: Well, that’s the way it was reported, and I read the transcript, and what you said is if they had offensive missiles there, offensive weapons, then you wouldn’t tolerate that, but if they didn’t, then a Soviet client state might be just fine.

It was at this point that Dukakis warned Gore that he’d “better get his facts straight.”

Had Gore dissembled about Dukakis? It was widely judged, all through the press, that The Duke had implied just what Gore said. Indeed, Gore was virtually reading from the Washington Post as he characterized Dukakis’ statement. Months later, pundits were still citing the Dukakis remark as one of his foreign policy flubs (Dukakis had long since agreed he should have said something different). And was Gore alone in critiquing The Duke? Two major Republicans—Bob Dole and Jack Kemp—also hammered Dukakis for his Meet the Press minute. In the primaries, Dem hopeful Dick Gephardt also took on The Duke for suggesting a client state was OK.

In short, Gore’s account of what The Duke said had been completely pedestrian. But twelve years later, Crowley and Robinson led readers to think that Gore had baldly dissembled. But then, when writers won’t even explain “seven years of experience,” would you expect any less from the rest of their work? And are you surprised that, with a new race approaching, Crowley is penning weird discussions of Kerry’s “character flaws,” saying that—among other troubling matters—he wind surfs, and he plays a guitar?

This gang keeps making a joke of our public discourse. But how do we drive them from office?

SEEING NO EVIL: Last Saturday, Bill Keller seemed to retract his sneering comments about Kerry’s meaningless, ancient home movies (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/9/02). But why had he made these foolish remarks in the first place? According to Keller, he had gotten his account of the matter from “the usually dependable Boston Globe.” Usually dependable? In fact, the Globe stood out in Campaign 2000 for its weird attacks on Gore, and the paper has engaged in notably slimy attacks on Kerry in the past. Late in Kerry’s 1996 Senate race, for example, Globe business columnist David Warsh wrote a smarmy column in which he “conjectured” about the “ugly possibility” that Kerry committed war crimes in Vietnam. Warsh later acknowledged that he had overreached. “The term ‘war crime’…did not belong in the column,” he said. The Globe’s ombudsman, Mark Jurkowitz, was more categorical. “[T]he issue is whether the column belonged in the Globe. The answer is no,” he wrote. Intriguingly, Jurkowitz quoted the Globe’s Charles Sennott in his critique of Warsh’s work; Sennott was upset because Warsh had drawn on his earlier profile of Kerry. “Sennott—who believed Warsh’s conjecture was wrong based on extensive reporting—is angry that Warsh ‘was willing to use my name to buttress his argument,’” Jurkowitz wrote. But last Saturday, Keller seemed to say that Sennott’s profile had been factually wrong about those pointless home movies (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/10/02). Are you getting the picture on how “dependable” the Boston Globe “usually” is?

But pundits like Keller are in the business of seeing no evil among their fine colleagues. It’s to Keller’s credit that he retracted his statements, even in a grudging way. But why did Keller waste our time with cant about decades-old trivia to begin with? And will the day ever come when scribes like Keller drop their endless group denial? The Globe was one of Campaign 2000’s worst performers. Keller speaks up for it still.