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TRASHING BUSH-BASHING (PART 1)! Doonesbury had Bill O’Reilly disturbed. So he pimped a prime RNC spin-point:


BILL MAKES A RACKET: Deep inside his No-Spin Zone, Bill O’Reilly was deeply troubled. An 11-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit had overturned an earlier decision; California’s recall election could proceed, the panel now said. And O’Reilly knew why they had so ruled. He chatted with the Fox News Channel’s alleged former judge, Andrew Napolitano:

NAPOLITANO (9/23/03): Look, it is rare that a court would come down with a unanimous decision.

O'REILLY: Yes, they were scared.

NAPOLITANO: This was an incredible rebuke.

O'REILLY: They were scared.


O'REILLY: Because they knew if this held, it’d be a big spotlight put on the whole bunch of them. And they—it’s a racket out there. They’re like racketeers.

NAPOLITANO: Unfortunately, you’re right.

O’Reilly couldn’t name the judges, and he’d surely never studied their work. But somehow he’d gotten inside their heads, and announced they were “racketeers.” Napolitano agreed, as expected.

But something else was bothering Bill—the deadly decline in our public discourse. Judges were acting like “racketeers”—and Democrats were making rude comments! Moments after his “racketeer” comment, he opened another segment like this:

O’REILLY: In the “Personal Story” Segment tonight, trashing your opponents.
And no, this wasn’t a comedy segment. The racketeer-profiling wraith, O’Reilly, really did seem to be serious:
O’REILLY: Joining us now from Madison, Wisconsin, is Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, a liberal publication, and, from Washington, Stephen Hayes, a writer for The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine. Mr. Hayes, I thought it was bad under Bill Clinton. I mean, obviously, he gave his critics ammunition, but, you know, they demonized and vilified him all day every day. But it’s worse now under Bush. Do you agree?
Needless to say, Hayes did agree. “Absolutely,” the pleasing scribe said. “I mean, Bill, you’re right in your set-up to say that both sides do this, and, you know, when people cross the line, I think, people on both sides, good-spirited people on both sides should call even their allies when they step over the line.”

To Stephen Hayes, Bill’s always right. It’s what gets him back on the program.

At any rate, by the time the hand-wringing segment was finished, Hayes had shown his deep concern for a civil discourse, referring to comedian Al Franken as “a punk who’s not even funny anymore,” who “just seems to spew this hatred and this vitriol that doesn’t even make sense half the time.” The night before, O’Reilly had also showcased his civil side, referring to this self-same Franken as an “emotionally disturbed person.”

Yes, O’Reilly seems to come and go in his love of civil discourse. But—ironic for someone in a No-Spin Zone—O’Reilly’s basic take was the perfect expression of Prevailing RNC Spin. As complaints about Bush have begun gaining traction, conservative spinners have begun to offer a neatly scripted (and ludicrous) spin-point. They insist that the criticism aimed at Bush is much, much worse than that aimed at Clinton. The Bush-haters are worse—much, much worse—than the Clinton-haters were, they agree.

Scripted butt-boys who won’t stop reciting, they run to sing the latest song. But just how clown-like are their lyrics? Tomorrow, we recall some Clinton-hating that occurred right there on Bill’s network.

NO, WE’RE NOT MAKING THIS UP: Here were Bill’s first two examples of that deeply disturbing public discourse:

O’REILLY: In the “Personal Story” Segment tonight, trashing your opponents.

The comic strip Doonesbury is killing Arnold Schwarzenegger, focusing on his alleged sex life.

The far left columnist Robert Scheer, writing in the Los Angeles Times, is condemning a Republican woman’s group for endorsing Schwarzenegger, citing his Terminator movie, if you can believe it, in a scene where he roughs up a female robot. This is the same Robert Scheer who defended Bill Clinton’s real-life transgressions.

That’s right, folks. Bill was deeply troubled by Doonesbury, and by Robert Scheer’s column in yesterday’s Times. But just how unfair was the far leftist? At length, Scheer quoted Schwarzenegger’s comments about the pleasures of dunking actress Kristianna Loken into a toilet. He also quoted Schwarzenegger’s remarks about the silly “who-knows-what groups” that might object to such a scene in a movie. Here’s part of Scheer’s troubling critique:
SCHEER: The issue here is not puritanism, and I am on record as having defended Schwarzenegger in 2001 in this column when Gray Davis’ consultant, Garry South, made too much of a largely unsubstantiated and irrelevant Premiere magazine article concerning the actor’s alleged sexist and crude behavior on movie sets.

But the head-in-the-toilet-bowl remarks are in a very different category and raise issues that a political candidate should be expected to answer…

I don’t believe that there is a simple answer to these questions…[But] [w]hen Schwarzenegger mocks the “who-knows-what groups” that might have raised objections to his proposed sicko movie scene, he is certainly not just speaking of feminists, since the Christian right would presumably raise strenuous objections to such a scene.

Should voters be troubled by Schwarzenegger’s remarks? That is a matter of judgment. But Scheer notes that he has defended the actor on similar matters; says there is no simple answer to his questions; and defends the values of the Christian right as well as those of feminists. (He doesn’t call Schwarzenegger a “punk” or “disturbed.” He merely says that the Oprah Winfreys should ask about Schwarzenegger’s comments.) But to the deeply disturbed O’Reilly, this exceeds what was done to Bill Clinton! We like a fair hunk of O’Reilly’s work, but on these matters he is deeply, deeply strange. And oh yes—he’s reciting Pure Spin. Much more on this topic tomorrow.

HOWLER HISTORY—NO JOKING MATTER: Was Wes Clark joking when he said that Karl Rove wouldn’t return his phone calls? That’s what Clark says, but certain spinners don’t seem to want you to know it. Yesterday Andrew Sullivan kept readers in the dark on this point. Today, he says that he shouldn’t have done it.

Was Wes Clark joking? We don’t have a clue. Neither, of course, does Sullivan. But make no mistake: The Washington press corps will lie about jokes. On Monday, Media Whores linked to a DAILY HOWLER from October 2000; it concerned Candidate Gore’s fateful joke about the “union lullaby.” It was perfectly clear at the time that Gore had told a joke to his union audience. But Walter Shapiro got his shorts in a wad, and soon the press made it Gore’s Latest Lie. They hooked it up to Walter Robinson’s groaner about the cost of doggy-pills, and soon the election turned around once again. More on that point at the end.

Everyone pretended that Gore’s statement was serious. But just how plainly had Gore been joking? We didn’t have Nexis in October 2000, so we couldn’t perform the full research. Of course, every Washington journalist did—and the press corps chose to lie in your face about what Gore had said.

Quick review: On September 18, 2000, Gore told the Teamsters convention that he had been sung “Look for the Union Label” as a lullaby in his youth. Brilliant historians like Shapiro discerned that the song wasn’t written until 1976; they loudly complained that the troubling comment was surely Al Gore’s Latest Lie. Gore explained that he’d only been joking. (“That was a joke,” he told a press conference. “You know? Nobody sings a lullaby to a little baby about union labels?”) He also said that he often told the joke to union audiences. Indeed, on the tape of the Gore speech, you could see Teamsters laugh at his comment. But the press was determined to make Gore a liar, and so they feigned a deep concern about his latest troubling comment (just as they do now with Clark). Indeed, the New York Times never even reported Gore’s explanation; incredibly, they never even told their readers that Gore had said he’d been joking. See Richard Berke’s astonishing voice-mail in which he defended his utter fakery. (Question: As citizens, why do we tolerate “journalists” like Berke, even for the shortest New York minute?)

But just how plainly had Gore been joking? Earlier this year, we entered “Gore AND union label” in the Nexis archives. And guess what? Just six weeks before this fake, ginned-up flap, Joel Siegel of the New York Daily News had interviewed Evy Dubrow of Greenwich Village, who thought that “her thirteenth time as a Democratic National Convention delegate may be the best of all.” Dubrow—88 years old, and a former union lobbyist—had known Gore since his childhood. Indeed, when she worked in Washington in the 1950s, Dubrow occasionally baby-sat Gore. “Al jokes that when he was a little boy, I used to sing him the ‘Union Label’ song,” Dubrow said, right there in the Daily News. And let’s make sure we understand that time-line: Dubrow said this to the Daily News on August 14, 2000—six weeks before the “union lullaby” flap. But so what? Six weeks later, your deeply destructive Washington press corps did the thing they always did best. They took Gore’s meaningless joke to the teamsters and turned it into Gore’s Latest Lie. For the record, Gore had begun to pull away in the polls at the time of the flap. The press corps’ newest GORE LIAR flap began to pull Bush back to even. (See Fineman’s comment below.)

Every scribe had access to Nexis. A search would have turned up Dubrow’s comment within minutes. But all of them knew to suppress what Dubrow had said—and Siegel kept his mouth shut, too. Your Washington press corps is worse than inept—your Washington press corps is deeply corrupt. It’s a cancer growing on our democracy. The obvious question comes to mind: How do we plan to destroy it?

WHY IT HAPPENED: You’re going to think that we’re making this up. But on Thursday, September 21, 2000, Howard Fineman explained why the press had turned on Gore in the lullaby/doggy-pill lunacy.

On that evening, Fineman appeared with Brian Williams on The News. Gore was still ahead in that day’s tracking polls, but it was clear that his fortunes had turned. Gore had experienced “his worst week in a month and a half,” Claire Shipman reported that night on the NBC Nightly News. She reviewed the doggy-pill/lullaby flaps, then played tape of biographer/pseudo-psychiatrist Bill Turque talking about Gore’s “tendency to take a pretty good story and try to make it a little better by embellishing.” “Gore aides admit it’s been a choppy week,” Shipman said as she closed her report.

Fineman offered the same assessment. “Bush has really had probably the best week he’s had since his convention speech,” he told Williams, “and Gore has had his worst.” It was too early to “write obituaries” for Bush, Fineman warned—and he reminded Williams that “the media pendulum swings.” Williams, asking a very good question for once in his life, wanted to know why that was.

Why had “the media pendulum” swung? Why was the press corps again trashing Gore? In response to Williams’ questions, Fineman made one of the most remarkable statements of the 2000 campaign:

FINEMAN (9/21/00): I don’t think the media was going to allow, just by its nature, the next seven weeks, the last seven or eight weeks of the campaign, to be all about Al Gore’s relentless, triumphant march to the presidency. We want a race, I suppose. If we have a bias of any kind, it’s that we like to see a contest and we like to see it down to the end if we can.
Fineman made an astonishing statement. According to Fineman, the coverage had changed in the previous four days because the press corps didn’t want Gore to run away with the race, as it seemed that he might be doing. According to Fineman, the Washington press corps was tearing Gore down because they wanted an exciting, close race.

According to Fineman, that’s what this “lullaby” flap was about. And that’s why all the fake, phony pundits suppressed what they found under “Gore AND union label” when they checked it out on Nexis. Readers, do you see why we speak of the press as we do? And do you see why we, as American citizens, have to take aggressive action against these rank thieves of our birthrights?

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: To read our real-time work on this fake, phony flap, enter “lullaby” in the search engines. Other work appeared in our “Howlings” columns for, but those archives are no longer living.