WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2002
WE PLAN AN INCOMPARABLE LOOK AT OUR PUNDITS:Was Al Gore right in last Mondays speech? Here at THE HOWLER, we dont have a clue. But press reaction has been wholly predictableand startling at the same time. Even in the face of impending war, Americas pundits wont stop the silly games theyve played with Gore since March 99. Even in the face of a dangerous war, our pundits wont put down their silly scripts and examine major claims on the merits.
Did Gore make reasonable claims in his speech? He basically offered the same critique Brent Scowcroft offered in August. Again, here was Scowcroft in the Wall Street Journal on August 15, 2002:
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.
And here was Gore, in last Mondays speech:
GORE (9/23/02): We need to look at the relationship between our national goal of regime change in Iraq and our goal of victory in the war against terror. In the case of Iraq, it would be more difficult for the United States to succeed alone, but still possible. By contrast, the war against terrorism manifestly requires a multilateral approach. It is impossible to succeed against terrorism unless we have secured the continuing, sustained cooperation of many nations. And heres one of my central points: Our ability to secure that kind of multilateral cooperation in the war against terrorism can be severely damaged in the way we go about undertaking unilateral action against Iraq. Now, if the administration has reason to believe otherwise, it ought to share those reasons with the Congress, since it is asking Congress to endorse action that might well impair a much more urgent task; that is, continuing to disrupt and destroy the international terror network.
Scowcroft and Gore voiced the same central point. A unilateral War on Saddam could endanger the ongoing War on Terror, due to the loss of needed assistance from nations who disapproved of our actions.
Were Gore and Scowcroft right in that judgment? Here at THE HOWLER, we dont have a clue. But E. J. Dionne made a simple request. Why couldnt you have a straight account of what Al Gore said, and then a debate, including all the questions? he asked. If you want to have Rush Limbaugh on trashing Al Gore afterward, fine, he sensibly said. But report the news, Dionne advised. Report what he said, and then criticize him.
Gore and Scowcrofttwo public officials of experience and substanceoffered the same critique. But did our pundit corps report what Gore said? Did it hold a debate, including all the questions? Hardly. Instead, we saw the press corps Standard Scripted Reactions to Any Gore Statement Whatever. Your pundits showcased their usual tricks. They invented contradictions in lesser remarks. They complained about Gores unappealing delivery. They speculated about Gores motives. They wondered how the speech might help/hurt him politically. All the usual dimwit twaddle was on display as the cohort reacted. And it was almost impossible to find a pundit responding to this speech on the merits.
Readers, your Washington press corps is deeply dysfunctional, our most dysfunctional professional sector. Over the course of the next few days, well take a look at a few of the pundits who did address Gores critique. Could high school students conduct themselves in the manner of some insider pundits? Tomorrow, well start with Andrew Sullivan, railing at Gores rank address.
MEANWHILE, LOOK WHAT THEYVE DONE TO WILL SALETAN: How predictableand slimywill your pundit corps be? On Monday, Will Saletan splained the fall of New Jerseys disgraced Torch. How did Torricelli go down the drain in a state thats filled with so many Democrats? By combining the worst of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Al DAmato, the daring scribe bravely told us. According to Saletan, Torch didnt go down because he done wrong. No, Torch went down because he seemed like Al Gore!
Slimy is as slimy does. Linking targeted pols to one deemed a crook, Will Saletan was suitably slimy.
At any rate, here is Saletans chin-pulling theory on how The Torch Is Just Like Debbil Gore:
SALETAN: Maybe Torricellis offenses werent inherently fatal. Maybe if Clinton had been in Torricellis shoes, he could have survived. But Torricelli didnt have Clintons personality. He had Gores. He accused Forrester of risky schemes and talked endlessly about fighting. So many years and so many fights, he recalled fondly at Mondays press conference. Like Gore, Torricelli spoke like a caricature of a senator, arranging pauses and facial expressions to milk every line for effect. Like Gore, he seemed relentlessly scripted. Like Gore, he looked as though he was lying even when he was telling the truth.
Can you see how much alike they are? Torricelli said that he would fight. And Gore said hed fight for you also!
Comically, Saletan accuses Torch of seeming scripted while dusting off hoary old scripts about Gore. Gore looked as though he was lying even when he was telling the truth, the scribe recited. Why not also note that Gore acts like the kid in the front row with his hand in the air? Or that hes been planning from Day One to be president? When modern scribes accuse pols of scriptation, the pot has called gray objects black.
Saletanin thrall to Hard Pundit Lawslimes Gore with anothers dishonor. Big brave scribes do that sort of thing when a pol is an Approved Press Corps Mark. And by the way: Why did Gore seem like he was lying even when he was telling the truth? Because pundits like Saletanknees knocking hardwere very careful to stay very silent when Gore was slimed as a liar throughout Campaign 2000. Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? No, but boys like Saletan kept very still when this and a hundred canards were invented. Its just the way Dionne explained itincreasingly, Rush Limbaugh invents Americas news, and boys like Saletan know not to notice. Career prospects turn on being good. They know quite well who produces the news. And they know not to make boss-man angry.
Later, Saletan finds another similarity. Torricelli had something else in common with Gore. Politically, he held the upper hand on the issues. Weird! And how did Gore lose Election 2000, despite that upper hand he held? He lost because he was slimed for two years, while boys like Saletan stood and watched. You may recall the pundit corps scripting. Al Gore said he invented the Internet. Al Gore grew up in a fancy hotel. It was clear that Gore didnt know who he was. Why, he hired a woman to teach him how to be a man. But then, he was willing to do and say anything to be president. (Thats why he just kept reinventing himself!) Jesters recited these scripts for two years, but now report that our pols are too scripted! Readers, treat yourselves to a low, mordant chuckle as you peruse the latest slimingand shake your heads sadly as you lament What Theyve Now Done To Will Saletan.
POSTSCRIPTOUR INCOMPARABLE SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH: You know uswe thought wed conduct a thorough search to see how often the Gore-like Torch accused his rival of risky schemes. And it was weirdthe Bergen Record recorded no instance. Neither did the Philly Inquirer. In fact, we were almost starting to get the feeling that Saletan may have embellished a tad. Maybe he was willing to do and say anything. Or maybe he even had a problem with the truth. Goshmaybe he felt the need to embroider even when the truth would have been good enough. We found that it wasnt hard to imagine what probably happened when Saletan typed his piece up.
But finally! The New York Times replied to our search for Torricelli AND risky scheme. Here is the offending example, from a September 19 report by David Kocieniewski. For the record, this is the only response to Torricelli AND risky scheme on the entire NEXIS archive:
KOCIENIEWSKI: Mr. Forrester, who has tried to focus the campaign on questions about Mr. Torricellis ethics, has [used] the Social Security squabble to challenge the senators credibility. At a news conference in Trenton today, he said he would oppose the Bush administrations plan to privatize Social Security and any attempt to invest part of the trust fund in the stock market.
Weird, eh? In the one recorded case where someone yelled risky scheme, it was Forresters managerhes a Republicanyelling risky scheme at the Torch! Why, if we didnt know the press corps better, wed almost think that Wills factwhich helped slime Vile Gorewas mistaken. Or had just been made up.
He also cited Mr. Torricellis appearance on CNNs Crossfire program in October 2000, in which the senator appeared to embrace a proposal to invest part of the Social Security trust fund in stocks.
Its a risky scheme, with two pitfalls, said Bill Pascoe, Mr. Forresters campaign manager. First, as demonstrated by the stock market downturn, we could end up losing the money. Second, youd be in a situation when the government is picking stocks, choosing one company over the other, with the potential for political influence-peddling.
Mr. Torricellis campaign manager, Ken Snyder, said that the senator had been invited to appear on the television show because he opposes privatization and that it would be misleading to interpret a vague moment on a rapid-fire political talk show as a formal endorsement.
One last illuminating fact, for the recordTorricelli had not endorsed privatization, or anything like it, on that Crossfire show (10/5/00). Forresters man was dissembling about that. But of course, thats what youre allowed to do when your opponent is a Big Press Corps Target. Thats why pundits were allowed to dissemble and lie about Gore during Campaign 2000. And its also why our group-stepping pundits run now to compare him to Torch.
OMMIGOD! HES LIKE GORE TOO! This is really getting eerie. Agreed, Bob Torricelli is just like Al Gore. But now even Lautenbergs sounding like Gore! According to the New York Times, heres what the substitute hopeful said at yesterdays slapdash unveiling:
LAUTENBERG (10/1/02): This will be the shortest campaign I have ever been involved in. I say to my opponent: I am going to fight just as hard, just as energetically [as in past campaigns].
Crazy, isnt it? How do Democrats think they can win with another guy who sounds like Al Gore?