Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

TRULY COMMITTED! Even in the face of a dangerous war, your pundits just won’t stop their clowning:


BOY, WAS THAT GORE SPEECH CONFUSING! Let’s “have a straight account of what Al Gore said,” E. J. Dionne suggested on Reliable Sources (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/30/02). But Dionne was describing a dream world. By late March 1999, the drama had been neatly scripted—everything Candidate Gore said and did had to reveal his bad character problems. Your press corps has pushed this treasured line for a period of almost four years. “A straight account of what Al Gore said?” Sorry—here are Four Pundit Rules which now obtain whenever Al Gore gives a speech:

  1. A disturbing contradiction must be found or invented.
  2. Questions must always be raised about motives.
  3. Important: The merits should not be discussed.
  4. The speech should be found to be puzzling.
Just how far will pundits go to pretend that Gore’s speeches are puzzling or weird? On last Saturday’s Beltway Boys, Morton Kondracke extended the project. See if you believe what Mort said:
KONDRACKE (9/28/02): Well, you know, I mean, previously he was going to, he was going to out-populist all the other Democratic candidates, and now he’s, he’s, it—this was a very confusing speech. I mean, you, you could say, on the one hand, that he was appealing to, to doves in the party. On the other hand, buried in the middle of the speech was, which contained a lot of vitriol against the president, was, was a basic endorsement of the policy of regime change through the U.N. It was just, you know, crowded with, with, with a lot of vituperation.
Spinning away for all he was worth, Kondracke called Gore’s speech “very confusing.”

Readers, could Al Gore’s speech have been less “confusing?” Confusing? Gore said that a unilateral War on Saddam would hurt the ongoing War on Terror, because it would alienate various nations on whom we must rely for intelligence. Readers, can you believe, for even one moment, that this was “confusing” to Kondracke? Confusing? Was Mort confused back on August 15? On that day, Brent Scowcroft made the very same points in his much-discussed piece in the Journal:

SCOWCROFT (8/15/02): [T]he central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism. Worse, there is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq, making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive. The most serious cost, however, would be to the war on terrorism. Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism. And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence.
Are Scowcroft and Gore correct in those views? Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t have a clue—and your pundits show little intention of ever debating the merits. But right or wrong, Scowcroft’s views were hardly “confusing”—and neither, of course, was Gore’s speech. But Kondracke knew the harsh pundit rule—speeches by Gore must always be puzzling. So Morton called the speech “very confusing.” It’s a story that beltway boys like.

By the way, Linda Chavez was confused by Gore too. Filling in as Kondracke’s co-host, she agreed with every word Mort said—and added a false, treasured spin-point:

CHAVEZ (continuing directly): You’re absolutely right, it was very confused. In fact, he even said at one point in the speech that he had been upset with President Bush back in ’91 for not going all the way to Baghdad. But if you go back and read what he was saying in 1991, Al Gore was singing a very different tune and in fact was defending President Bush. So I think this was a very confusing way to start a new presidential bid.
Good old Linda! She also called the speech “very confusing.” And she ran to repeat a treasured new pin, saying that Gore misspoke about his past views.

As we’ve noted, those alleged contradictions were simply invented, like so many Gore “contradictions” and “lies” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/26/02 and 9/27/02). In 1991, Gore defended Bush’s refusal to take the army into Baghdad, but criticized his failure to defend the Kurds and to downgrade Saddam’s capabilities. His speech was consistent with his past statements. Did Chavez know that her statement was bogus? Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t have a clue. Remember—the pursuit of facts plays almost no role in our devolving pundit culture. What does your pundit corps try to get right? They try to get their scripted spins right. Chavez knew the rules, and she knew the new spins. So she went on TV and recited.

Kondracke and Chavez found Gore’s speech “confusing?” Sorry, we just don’t believe that. Does somebody here have a character flaw? There’s every chance that it isn’t Al Gore.

SPEAKING OF MEATHEADS: Bonus points for Adam Nagourney, who was willing to pen this ludicrous item in his report on Gore’s speech. Try to imagine that nonsense like this now goes into New York Times news reports:

NAGOURNEY (9/25/02): Mr. Gore’s advisers described his speech as a genuine expression of sentiment about an issue with which he has long been closely identified, rather than an attempt to position himself for the 2004 presidential election. He wrote it after consulting a fairly far-flung group of advisers that included Rob Reiner, the actor and filmmaker.
The purpose of that ham-handed item? Gore must be made to look silly. Charles Krauthammer, of course, was only too eager to rush the point into the Post:
KRAUTHAMMER (9/27/02): The New York Times reports that Gore wrote the speech “after consulting a fairly far-flung group of advisers that included Rob Reiner.” Current U.S. foreign policy is the combined product of Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz and the president. Meanwhile, the pretender is huddling with Meathead.
\ The purpose of this folderol? Ridicule—Gore is consulting with Meathead! Remember, there’s nothing so foolish or so unfair that the modern press isn’t willing to write it, if it comports with Standard Stories their cohort has decided to push. Incredibly, even in the face of a dangerous war, Nagourney and Krauthammer won’t stop this rank clowning. Will anything sober this silly crew up? Even war don’t seem to do it.

SIMPLE LYING: Then, of course, there’s the simple lying. By Sunday, pundits had worked for a solid week, pretending that Bush hadn’t crossed the line in his ill-chosen comments about Senate Democrats. Pundits pretended that Dana Milbank had misreported the story. Pundits pretended that Tom Daschle misunderstood what Bush said. But Sunday, in a lead editorial, the Washington Times went them all one step better. The Times penned a long editorial, “Daschle’s tantrum.” In the editorial, the pitiful paper savaged Daschle for his silly reaction to the sensible things Bush had said.

What made the editorial so perfectly Timeslike? The paper didn’t include the quote against which Daschle complained! The piece included long quotes from Bush’s speech. But oops! It didn’t include the offending line, where Bush said that the Senate is “not interested in the security of the American people.” That line—the point of the whole debate—was suddenly Missing In Action.

Here is the Washington Times’ account of what Bush said in last Monday’s speech. Remember—the people who penned this gonzo piece are the very same people who rubbed their thighs as they complained that Bill Clinton was devious:

THE WASHINGTON TIMES (9/29/02): Clearly referring to this issue—and his related concern that, if such a provision were enacted into law, it would take away future presidents’ ability to rapidly reassign employees of the new Homeland Security Department in the event of a terrorism-related emergency—Mr. Bush made the following statement: “On our borders, we’ve got three different departments dealing with our border security. We’ve got the INS and the Border Control and the Customs, all full of fine people, staffed by really great Americans, all working hard to make sure that border security is a part of the homeland security. Except, in cases now, they’ve got different uniforms, different cultures, different styles, perhaps different strategies, and for the sake of the country, I need to have the flexibility to meld these organizations together.”

Mr. Bush added:
“And my message to the Senate is: You need to worry less about special interest in Washington and more about the security of the American people.” In other words, Mr. Bush was saying that, since they are putting the interests of labor unions like the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union ahead of the president's ability to manage a critical security-related department in the event of an emergency, the Democrats’ priorities are badly skewed. In our view, the president is absolutely right on this issue, and would be derelict in his duty if he failed to point out the serious flaws in the Senate bill, as he did in the New Jersey speech quoted above.
No, readers, we really aren’t making it up—that was the Times’ complete account of what Bush said in his speech. Like Stalin’s gang fixing up naughty photos, the offending remark was just airbrushed away. And do you want to enjoy a good, hearty laugh? In the editorial, the Times complained that “Mr. Daschle’s minions were twisting the president’s remarks!” Truly, there is nothing this paper won’t say and do to pursue some silly advantage. When it’s time to lie in its readers faces, the paper will do so, quite openly.

Amazing, isn’t it? Even as we face a war, the Times won’t stop its gonzo deceptions. And there’s one other thing you might want to know—Howard Kurtz won’t say one word about it.

Over at Spinsanity, meanwhile, Brendan Nyhan has reported this matter in more detail. Brendan is more polite than we are; he allows for the possibility that the Times (and others) acted in error. Here at THE HOWLER, we’re more jaded than that. We don’t believe that the cited reporters are so grossly incompetent (and we’ve seen the Washington Times make the “news” up before). In fact, we’ve watched this process for years; these reporters are telling the story they like. And yes, E. J. Dionne had it right this past weekend. Why did reporters like this bogus tale? The erroneous story came from Rush—and from the White House. As Dionne said, Rush Limbaugh now “produces” your news. Even when Rush sends out baldly bogus tales, these “reporters” know to start typing hard.