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Caveat lector

THE SLANDER THEY LIKE! What Gore said was perfectly accurate. But Brit Hume told a story he liked:


RETELLING THE STORY THEY LIKE: What a week to be eaten up by time-consuming obligation! But before we run to our latest meeting, we want to direct your attention to one prime attack that has followed Al Gore’s Monday speech.

Starting in 1999, the press corps—typing RNC spin—invented a story it very much liked: Al Gore is a great big liar. Al Gore has a problem with the truth. And the treasured theme has been dragged out again in the wake of Gore’s speech this past Monday. Was Gore correct in his seminal claim—the claim that a War on Saddam would harm the War on terror? Spinners don’t want to bother with that. Instead, many ran to a treasured claim—Al Gore is lying again. In particular, they claimed that Gore was lying about his reaction to the Gulf War in 1991.

On Tuesday evening’s Special Report, Brit Hume spun the spin quite nicely. First he played video from Gore’s Monday speech:

GORE (9/23/02): Back in 1991, I was one of a handful of Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in favor of the resolution endorsing the Persian Gulf War. And I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration’s hasty departure from the battlefield.
“All right,” Hume remarked, continuing directly. “Hasty departure from the battlefield.” Then he quoted something Gore said back in 1991:
GORE (4/18/91): I want to state this clearly. President Bush should not be blamed for Saddam Hussein’s survival to this point. There was throughout the war a clear consensus the United States should not include the conquest of Iraq among its objectives. On the contrary, it was universally accepted that our objective was to push Iraq out of Kuwait, and it was further understood that when this was accomplished, combat should stop.
Hume implied that Gore had contradicted himself. “How do we explain that, as against what he said yesterday?” he asked his crack, “all-star” panel.

But, as is so often the case in these GORE LIAR tales, Hume was quoting selectively. Here is the fuller text of what Gore actually said on Monday:

GORE (9/23/02): I was one of the few Democrats in the U.S. Senate who supported the war resolution in 1991. And I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration’s hasty departure from the battlefield, even as Saddam began to renew his persecution of the Kurds of the North and the Shiites of the South—groups we had encouraged to rise up against Saddam.
Absent-mindedly, Hume forgot to include the highlighted passage. When the highlighted statement is omitted, Gore’s comment on Monday seems to contradict what he said in 1991. With the highlighted passage left in, the statements are not contradictory.

Did Gore criticize Bush in 1991? Yes, he unmistakably did. He defended Bush’s decision to leave Saddam in place, but criticized his failure to protect the Kurds when Saddam began to persecute them (many others made this complaint). Here for example is a story segment from the 4/13/91 New York Times:

NEW YORK TIMES (4/13/91):

Gore Criticizes Bush

The difficulty for President Bush is that before he can extricate himself from Iraq, his postwar policy may become the centerpiece issue at the outset of the 1992 Presidential campaign season. One possible Democratic contender who supported Mr. Bush’s decision to go to war, Senator Al Gore of Tennessee, said today that Mr. Bush’s handling of the postwar insurrection in Iraq “revives the most bitter memories of humankind’s worst moments.”

That sounds like a criticism to us—and, of course, that “postwar insurrection” was the matter involving the Shiites and the Kurds. In short, Gore’s statement on Monday was perfectly accurate—if you quoted the statement in full. But Hume chopped off the passage which explained what Gore meant, and then Hume and his hapless band began to do what they do best—slander Gore.

How utterly stupid was Hume’s hapless panel? Greatest Hits began to fly by as they replied to Hume’s presentation:

HUME: How do we explain that, as against what he said yesterday?

BILL SAMMON: It’s inexplicable. It’s puzzling why he would flip-flop on something so easily checkable.

MORTON KONDRACKE: He invented the Internet. He’s got a bad memory.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: He’s the guy who told us about prescription drugs, the mother-in-law and the dog. He hasn’t learned.

“It’s inexplicable,” said the hapless Sammon. “He hasn’t learned,” Krauthammer said. And Kondracke took the big prize, calling “invented the Internet” back for a bow. Can a democracy function without a press corps? Hapless spinners like these worthless men suggest that we may soon find out.

Last week, Peggy Noonan drew back the curtain. How does your “press corps” actually function? “It’s not hard to imagine,” the hapless scribe said. And it’s “not hard to imagine” pleasing tales, or to repeat those tales again and again. Engineers who behaved like Hume did would have to be fired, on the spot. But tonight, Brit Hume will broadcast again. And don’t worry—the dissembling will continue.

WHAT GORE SAID ON MONDAY WAS PERFECTLY ACCURATE: What Gore said this past Monday was perfectly accurate. Here is an AP report from April 13, 1991:

THE AP (4/13/91): Later Friday, Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn., delivered a broad policy speech to the editors. He said President Bush has failed to adequately protect the environment, help the middle class and, more recently, aid Kurdish refugees…

Gore noted that he supported the war against Iraq to liberate Kuwait, but he said Bush has since let down the Kurdish and Shiite rebels who sought to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

“We should not have allowed Saddam Hussein to violate the terms of the cease-fire and use his helicopters to slaughter men, women and children,” Gore said.

The Bush administration has insisted it would be unwise to send U.S. troops into Iraq to support rebels, but recently warned Iraq not to attack refugees fleeing north.

Vice President Dan Quayle defended Bush's position in a speech to the editors on Thursday.

What Gore said this past Monday was perfectly accurate. We wonder if the hapless Hume will let his viewers know that.