FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2003
YORK TAKES THE CURE: At National Review, Byron York was upset. He wrote a piece, Annals of Bush-Hating, complaining that current critics of Bush were wackier than anything seen by Bill Clinton. For some reason, we cant call up the piece on the NatRev site (or on Nexis), but Rich Lowry summed it up pretty well. According to Lowry, York had dipped into the anti-Bush fever swamps and come back with evidence of Bush-hating to rival anything directed at his predecessor.
But then, it had been stock RNC spin for months: Those crazy Bush-haters are far, far worse than anything directed at Clinton. Why had this pleasing new spin now been crafted? Simple: People had begun to gripe when Bushs critics were called unpatriotic, so this was the handy replacement attackBushs critics are just crazy/loony. The pleasing point is now being offered wherever pseudo-conservative misdirection is sold.
But can York and Lowry really believe that Bush-hating rivals the Clinton variety? If so, we think these worthies need a good dose of the cure that we call HOWLER HISTORY.
Of course, Clinton-hating was mighty, ubiquitous. Theres just no way to sum it up here. But how wacky, how crazy was Americas discourse only a few short years ago? Our thoughts drifted back to a slimy episode. We think it went something like this:
GENNIFERS SECRET: How ludicrous had press culture become by, lets say, the summer of 99? Press culture had become very ludicrous. By that time, Clinton-accuser Gennifer Flowers was running a tangy, for-profit web site, and the inventive cable TV show, Hardball, invited her on the air to discuss it. Early in her half-hour session, Flowers referred to the Clintons as murderers. Her host, Chris Matthews, claiming surprise, questioned what Flowers had said:
MATTHEWS: Murderers?Why didnt he know what was on his guests site? Needless to say, no press critic ever asked. But the session now took a turn that was partly comic, but was mainly an assault on American values:
FLOWERS (continuing directly): Well, there arethere are a number of deaths associated with Bill Clinton and the, and his administration and his operatives. And, and theres a, thereI would just suggest that they go on and take a look at it, becausePoor Matthews! As he examined the murder charges, we got a look at the repulsive standards now driving the Washington press corps:
MATTHEWS: And who did he try to kill that you know of? Give me one hard case.Apparently no, you dont, not on Hardball. Here was Flowers reply:
FLOWERS: Well, Iwell, I think if it looks like a chicken and walks like a chicken, perhaps its a chicken. I mean, come on.Sadly, when it came to accusing Bill Clinton of something, the perhaps its a chicken standard of proof had become the norm on cable. I mean, come on now counted as argument. But how bad did Flowers performance get? Her accusations of multiple murder continued throughout her half-hour session; she returned to the topic three separate times. But drink in, if you will, this comic exchange when Flowers claimed that Clintons White House staff was trying to get her engagements as a nightclub singer cancelled:
FLOWERS: Well, lets get something straight. I have been a victim. I mean, I dontFlowers returned to her murder allegations. Then, the buxom balladeer resumed her discussion of those phone calls:
MATTHEWS: I have no idea who, who called from the presidents office. Who called from the presidents office? I can list all the people that worked for him. Podesta, I can list George Stephanopoulos, I can list everybody who works in the White House. Name a name of somebody thereI have no idea who it was. You say somebody called from Bill Clinton land to kill your gigs out in, out in Vegas. Who called on the presidents behalf?Apparently the name was never supplied, because Matthews never announced it. And wouldnt you know it? It never turned up on Flowers web site, either.
For the record, the whos-on-first quality of these exchanges suffused the murder discussions as well. Despite repeated claims that Clinton was knee-deep in murders, Flowers could cite no evidence of same, and she said she didnt know that Jerry Falwell had repudiated his role in the Clinton Chronicles tapestapes which she cited as her source of knowledge. (Falwella deeply pious American clerichad been pimping the tapes before Flowers.) Matthewscompletely surprised by Flowers accusationsexplicitly said, right there on the air, that he dissociated himself from her comments.
Judged by any rational standard, Flowers outing was a disaster. In any sort of a rational world, the yellow-haired yodeler would have had a tough time getting back on any news show. But this was not a rational world; this was American cable news, and this was the summer of 1999. And so, precisely because she behaved inexcusably, Flowers turned up just two weeks later on Hannity & Colmes, a program with even lower standards than those observed on Hardball. In fact, Hannity & Colmes rewarded Flowers for her egregious misconduct on Hardball; they booked the sultry chanteuse for the programs full hour. Would her hosts avoid her murder charges? Hardlyalmost instantly, Sean Hannity invited Flowers to recite the accusations again. (Repeatedly, the fake, phony host feigned deep concern at his guests complete lack of evidence.) And the clowning continued in the deeply troubling Case of the Cancelled Nightclub Engagements. Sixteen days after Flowers said that shed call Matthews back and give him those names, Whos On First was enacted again:
ALAN COLMES: Lets talk about you making charges that the Clintons or people acting on their behalf have made calls to stop you from getting jobs. Who?Mercifully, Hannity said it was time for a break. Soon after, Colmes spent two more minutes pursuing those names. He asked eight questions on the topic. The song-and-dance ended like this:
COLMES: But I wantcan you chase that back to somebody who we know? A lot of peoplepeople in the White House, theyre well-known people, who would be behind this?Oh. At this point, even Colmes gave up quest and pursued a new line of discussion.
To state the obvious, these cable outings were simply remarkable. Flowers repeatedly accused a sitting president of murder, and accused his aides of ruining her career, while engaging in conversations about how she knew that would have been over-the-top as examples of slapstick. But what was most remarkable here? It was the utter lack of any comment from anywhere else in the press corps. In the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz had recently scolded the national press corps for its conduct in covering John Kennedys death. But he mentioned the Flowers appearances in passing, noting only that CNBCs Chris Matthews even trotted out Gennifer Flowers for the umpteenth time to comment on the Clintons. Her accusations werent even mentioned. How low had the press corps standards sunk? Absurdly bogus accusations of murder no longer rated a word of comment. But then, the press corps had long accepted such conduct from Matthews. During a Hardball interview in May, he had goaded Kathleen Willey, another Clinton accuser, into saying that a certain journalist had tried to intimidate her into recanting her claims. [Note: In his final report, independent counsel Robert Ray called Willey a liar, saying that he had considered charging her with perjury.] When Willey refused to name the offending scribe, Matthews blurted the name out for her. As it turned out, the accused scribe had definitive proof of his innocence, and Matthews was forced to apologize on the air. But in the meantime, a deranged viewer had appearedwith a shotgunat the home of the accused scribe; luckily, the intruder was arrested before damage was done. But did this slow Hardballs accusation machine? Hardly. Just one week later, Matthews began accusing nuclear physicist Wen Ho Lee of g[iving] away the entire nuclear capacity of the United States to the Chinese. He based his claims on a string of New York Times stories which the hapless paper would later retractbut not before Lee himself received a wave of anonymous death threats. Matthews wild accusations, by the way, went well beyond the misguided claims which actually appeared in the Times bungled articles. But on Hardballand elsewhere on American cableaccurate paraphrase was almost verboten. The attack-and-accusation machine spun on, cable hosts driven wild by ten blow-jobs.
Those laughable interviews with Gennifer Flowers? They were just a minor, tragicomic example of the press corps Clinton-hating machine. In his deeply troubled recent article, York searched out obscure web sites to claim that Bush-hating is worse, so much worse. But the Clinton-hating was right on TV, where a crazy half-hour only earned you more airtime. Disgraceful frauds like Matthews and Hannity stroked their thighs as their pleasing guests ranted. And it wasnt just Clinton who was actively hatedyou and your values were being trashed too. And guess what? The troubled York had nothing to say; butt-boy Lowry was MIA also. These men are disgraceful, laughable frauds, eager to sell off your most sacred birthrights. Nothingnothingwill stop their propaganda. They want to fill their pockets with cash, and they want to get clapped on the back by the assortment of fake, phony spin-pimps who run them. Todays Bush-hating is far worse, they say. But theyre lying. Its their one basic skill.
BOYS WOULD BE BOYS: Alas, poor York! He searched through dusty corners of Google, horrified by the hatred of Bush. But you didnt have to conduct lonely searches to find the gruesome, inexcusable Clinton-hating. Consider the clowning on August 23, 1999, when a group of predictable all-star butt-boys gathered on Special Report. A few days before, Clinton had described how hed fallen in love with his wife when they both were students in law school. In response, Hume posted a photo of a young Mrs. Clintona photo which he found unattractive. For the next several minutes, Humes panel staged the kind of discussion that was increasingly a stain on the press:
HUME: The picture he paints of Mrs. Clinton is of a sort of a femme fatale. Now [posting the picture] thats about what she looked like then [group laughter]. And oneone cant help but wonder about this [group laughter].Apparently, the photo didnt evoke Pamela Anderson, so Humes all-male panel enjoyed a good laugh. After speculating about how the Clintons were getting along in their marriage, they returned to that decades-old photo:
JUAN WILLIAMS: The problem, Tod [Lindberg], is that nobody can believe, one, that she was this beautiful woman in collegeanyone whos seen the picturesand, two, who can believe that she didnt know that this guy was a skirt-chaser all along?Hume gained another round of appreciative chuckles. Only Lindberg took a pass on mocking Mrs. Clintons appearance. But Lindberg, a conservative, is a serious, decent person. The other all-stars rushed, real fast, to make their low caliber known. (Williams, of course, was the liberal.)
Seen anything like this on TV lately? If so, pass it on to poor York.
FROM OUR PLANET OF THE PUNDITS FILE: Try to remember, these pundits arent human. You can throw them food and laugh at their antics, but try not to get up real close. This past Wednesday night, Jerry Nachman helped brilliant Matthews preview Californias gubernatorial debate. Soon, Nachman was saying how brilliant Matthews is at judging such encounters. (Nachman is Matthews MSNBC boss.) Matthews started by asking who was going to win that evenings debate:
NACHMAN: Arnold is He is going to do very, very well tonight. I think the problem is that where you live, and the people you deal with, the pundits still think because hes a Republican in general and an actor in particular, he is going to belly up tonight. Hes not.Wow! According to Nachman, Matthews correctly gave George Bush three out of three falls in the debates against Al Gore. The humble Matthews quickly agreed. But what did Matthews really say about those debates? Heres what he really said, on MSNBC, just as soon as Debate I was over:
MATTHEWS (10/3/00): Not long ago, maybe it was a year or two ago, I saw Al Gore in a marathon, a 26-miler. Tonight was a marathon event. He was in training for tonight. He was overpowering. He had the stamina. He had an encyclopedic ability to talk about any issue Al Gore did not sweat, as I thought he might. Al Gore was effective in dominating the format. He dominated the time, and I have to say he dominated the debate.Does it sound like Matthews thought Bush won? The next night, he scolded all those liberal pundits for refusing to say what had happened:
MATTHEWS (10/4/00): I couldnt believe the number of people who chickened out last night. It was clear to meand Im no fan of either of these guys entirely, and I can certainly say that about the one who I thought won last night, thats Al GoreI thought he cleaned the other guys clock, and I said so last night. All four national polls agreed with that I dont understand why people are afraid to say so.Nor did Matthews think that Bush won Debate III. Here was his next-day assessment:
RON INSANA (10/18/00): Chris Matthews talks to us tonight as he does just about every night as we approach Election Day Do you think the debate last night changed anyones mind either in the [electoral] college or out there amongst average citizens?On the Today show that morning, he had called it a draw. But eventually, Matthews selected a more pleasing tale. Reason? The cable crowd loves to be told that Bush really won, and the fake, phony Nachman now fakes along too, pretending that Matthews said as much in real time. Our question: Do you know of any sector like this one? Do you know of any American sector so overrun with complete, total frauds?
NEXT: Part 4! Walter does Sidney!