TIMOTHYS CHOICE! Russert knew that Cheney had lied. And Russert knew not to tell you:
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2004
TIMOTHYS CHOICE: Tim Russert makes a good place to start. Tuesday evening, in real time, Russert knew Cheneys claim was bogus—and he also knew enough not to say so. During the vice presidential debate, Cheney had icily turned to John Edwards and said the two had never met. And omigod! Russert knew this was false! He said as much the following day, speaking with Todays Katie Couric. Heres how his confession began:
COURIC (10/5/04): The vice president said he had never met John Edwards until tonight, talking about pretty much being an absentee senator, but you say that's not true.Even here, Russerts admission is a bit hard to follow. In fact, he is describing two different meetings between Cheney and Edwards, not just one, although his jumbled construction makes that hard to discern. But one of these meetings was on Meet the Press, Russerts own program. Did Russert remember this meeting on Tuesday night, even as Cheney made his attack? Couric knew enough not to ask. But as he continued, Russert made it clear—he knew that Cheneys statement was bogus even as Cheney was making it:
COURIC: On the other hand, if you—if you misspeak like that and, and are dishonest about it, that can backfire, right?I thought that Edwards would call him on it right at that very moment, Russert said. In short, Russert knew Cheneys statement was false. And Guess what? To all appearances, he also knew that he mustnt say so as he reviewed the debate Tuesday night.
Indeed, Russerts silence on Tuesday night is nothing short of remarkable. In the wake of the Great Veep Debate, his NBC/MSNBC colleagues couldnt wait to tell the world that Cheney had cleaned Edwards clock. Pundits said it; reporters implied it; between giggles, a vacuous liberal blogger confirmed it. And Cheneys biting attack on Edwards—Ive never met you before this night—well, it was widely flogged as Exhibit A of the VPs brilliance.
Wow! What a chance for Russert to score a Big Scoop! The kind of scoop all journalists long for! In tandem with bossman Tom Brokaw, Russert appeared on MSNBC shortly after 11 PM Eastern. The debate had before over for about half an hour. And, with apologies for the length of our excerpt, here are the first remarks Russert offered. Youll note that Russert highlighted Cheneys attack. And yes, youll notice something else. Youll notice that Russert never mentioned the fact that Cheneys statement was bogus:
RUSSERT (10/4/04): I thought Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, had a very interesting point, Tom. He said that last Thursday was not George Bush's best night.Amazing, isnt it? Russert highlighted Cheneys remark, and presented an heroic portrait of what Cheney was telling the voters. According to Russert, Cheney was saying, I am steady and resolute—if Im in charge, you dont have to worry. But in fact, Cheney was lying through his teeth to those voters when he launched this attack on Edwards. And yes—Russert knew that Cheney was lying. And he also knew enough not to tell.
As we suggested yesterday, the NBC/MSNBC coverage of this debate was little short of astonishing. Media Matters has offered an instructive synopsis, but even their worthy precis fails to capture the full extent of the networks remarkable spinning for Cheney. It was done by reporters; it was done by pundits; and yes, the anchors were spinning hard too. But gaze on the work of this horrid man, Russert, as he vouches for a man he knows to be lying. How have we reached the Fallen State where millionaire pundits abuse you this way? More on NBCs conduct tomorrow. But do you see why we incomparably say that its time for Tim Russert to go?
BEYOND BELIEF: Try to believe—just try to believe—the way Russert concluded this Tuesday appearance:
RUSSERT (10/5/04): Chris, I think the bigger spotlight on Friday will be on George Bush. He needs a good debate performance.Astonishing! Obviously, Republicans want a good performance from Bush. But according to Russert, independents want Bush to do well too! Russert has been astounding for years, but anyone with an ounce of sense can see him writing Fridays script with this bizarre bit of exhortation. Russert has been astounding for years, but after this oddball performance on Tuesday, its time for this bloated multimillionaire to retire to the island where he can hang with his multimillionaire friends, discussing how tough they all had it. Its time for this fake man to go.
More—much more—on NBCs amazing performance tomorrow.
BUSH LIES, PRESS CORPS SIGHS: But lets face it—theyve now been reduced to endless lying. On Tuesday night, Cheney said this in the Great Debate:
CHENEY (10/5/04): Gwen, the Kerry record on taxes is one basically of voting for a large number of tax increases—98 times in the United States Senate.Sadly, Cheneys claim is false. On Wednesday, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post summarized FactCheck.orgs assessment: Nearly half [of the 98 votes] were not for tax increases and many others were [votes] on procedural matters. But thats barely the start of the kooky dissembling coming from the Bush-Cheney camp. How kooky has the Bush camp become? Here at THE HOWLER, we awoke Wednesday morning to an ad on MSNBC which revived an earlier, grosser deception. In Tuesdays Boston Globe, Rick Klein described the new ad to which we awoke:
KLEIN (10/5/04): [Bushs] campaign is underscoring that contention in the new advertisements. One says John Kerry and the liberals in Congress have voted for higher taxes 350 times.Ah yes, back to that phony number! As Klein explains, the figure includes many instances where Kerry voted for a smaller tax increase instead of a larger one that was being offered, according to the Bush campaign. And as FactCheck.org explained long ago, the figure also includes at least 70 instances in which Kerry voted for a tax cut! For a bit of background on this absurdly misleading claim, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/7/04.
So just drink in the kookiness. Voters are met with a pair of bogus claims—bogus claims which are, on their face, contradictory! Kerry voted for tax increases 98 times! And not only that—he voted for higher taxes 350 times! The first claim is simply false, FactCheck says—and the second claim is absurdly misleading. And yes, theres a word for a world which accepts such twin claims. That word, of course, is insanity.
Kerry voted for tax increases 98 times! No, he voted for higher taxes more than 350 times! The claims are being made simultaneously, and even the smaller claim is just wrong. Meanwhile, out in LA,. Michael Kinsley boo-hoo-hoos. He doesnt know how to address such deceptions, the fallen star sadly says. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/6/04.
VANDEHEI V. KINSLEY: Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Kinsley doesnt know what to do when Big Pols go out there and tell him big lies. Luckily, the Posts Jim VandeHei does. This morning, he reports Bushs speech in Wilkes-Barre:
VANDEHEI (10/7/04): After a contentious debate Tuesday night between Vice President Cheney and Sen. John Edwards, Bush picked up the assault on Kerry's record with sharp and sometimes misleading criticisms designed to reverse the gains Kerry has made since winning the first debate last week in Florida.Poor Kinsley! Weeping in the Hollywood hills, he cant see how easy VandeHei makes it. Later on, the Post scribe offers another free lesson:
VANDEHEI: Bush reached back to comments from the early 1970s to portray Kerry as someone who would bow to international pressure and require a "global test" before protecting the nation. In doing so, he misrepresented Kerry's stated position: the Democratic nominee has repeatedly said he would consult with but never allow other nations to veto U.S. actions.Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! When pols say things which are false or misleading, reporters can simply sit down and say so.!At Malibu, Kinsley stares far out to sea. Its time for him to go too.
BUT WHO WILL FACT-CHECK THE FACT-CHECKERS: Good Lord! How odd is your Washington press corps? Try to believe the press corps bizarre reaction to John Edwards accurate statement.
On Tuesday night, Gwen Ifill asked a question about Clevelands thirty-one percent jobless rate. What will you do about it? she asked Cheney and Edwards. Cheney spoke about education. In rebuttal, Edwards talked about jobs—and he stated an accurate fact:
EDWARDS (10/5/04): Gwen, your question was about jobs?Edwards stated an accurate fact. In the time that [Bush and Cheney] have been in office, in the last four years, 1.6 million private sector jobs have been lost, he accurately said.
But you now live in Bizarr-o World—a world where Russert will cover up for false statements, where big news orgs will go after Edwards for daring to say something accurate. Whatevers to blame for all those lost jobs, Edwards factual statement was accurate—1.6 million private-sector jobs have been lost since Bush took office. As well see, no one really disputes that fact; its an official US Government number. Is it Bushs fault that these jobs have been lost? That, of course, is a matter of judgment. But Edwards number was right on the mark. As a matter of fact, it was accurate.
But so what! Instantly, major news orgs got busy, correcting Edwards accurate statement!
Lets start at the New York Times. While Russert was covering up for Cheney, the Times David Rosenbaum was composing a fact-check. In a debate laden with detailed assertions and rebuttals more than by rhetorical flashes, Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards often stretched the facts last night, he began. But weirdly, in a section called Jobs, Rosenbaum started with this:
ROSENBAUM (10/6/04):Say what? According to Rosenbaum, Edwards statement about private-sector jobs comes from isolating private-sector jobs! Only at the New York Times could you find such a risible statement. No, Rosenbaum doesnt say that Edwards statement is false, but it takes a careful reader to see this. Meanwhile, the scribe rushes to say that Mr. Cheney was just plain correct:
ROSENBAUM (continuing directly): Mr. Cheney was correct in saying that the nation has added about 1.7 million jobs in the past year. What he did not say is employment has yet to return to its level before the recession of 2001 and the sharp decline in manufacturing employment that continued nearly two years after the recession officially ended in November 2001.But theres an obvious problem in rushing to say that Mr. Cheney was correct in this exchange. In fact, Mr. Cheney made another statement in response to Edwards—a statement which was blatantly false. Here is Cheneys full rebuttal to Edwards remark about jobs:
CHENEY (10/5/04): Gwen, we've got 111 million American taxpayers that have benefitted from our income tax cuts. We've got 33 million students who've benefitted from No Child Left Behind.The data hes using is old data, Cheney said. It doesnt include any of the gains that weve made in the last years. But uh-oh! That statement by Cheney was blatantly false. Edwards job-loss number is right up-to-date, as Rosenbaum himself makes quite clear.
So heres what happened in this exchange—and heres how Rosenbaum handled it. First, Edwards made an accurate statement. In reply, Cheney made a blatantly inaccurate statement—and he said something that was correct. Rosenbaums approach? First, he fails to mention Cheneys misstatement—wipes the misstatement right off the map. Then, he makes it sound like theres something wrong with Edwards accurate claim—after which he explicitly says that Cheneys job-statement is correct.
But Rosenbaums work is a model of sanity compared to what appeared in the Post. Heres what Glenn Kessler reported in his own fact-check piece:
KESSLER (10/6/04): Edwards asserted that "in the last four years, 1.6 million private-sector jobs have been lost." The actual number is close to 900,000 and will likely shrink further when Friday's jobs reports is released, though Bush is the first president in 72 years to preside over an overall job loss.Uh-oh! By all accounts, Kessler is wrong (full data below). But so what! Last night, Hardballs David Shuster also reported that Edwards invented his fact:
SHUSTER (10/6/04): Edwards also overstated the number of U.S. jobs lost by the administration.Shuster doesnt know his keister from a man-hole cover. But so what! The scribe was speaking on MSNBC, where Russert covered up for Cheney and where every hireling seemed to be scripted to say how the Great Cheney won. Full examples tomorrow.
So lets summarize. Edwards makes an accurate statement. Cheney responds with a plainly false statement. But so what! The New York Times made it sound like Edwards misspoke, and the Post and Hardball flatly say that he was wrong. Meanwhile, Cheneys plain error is sent down the hole. But then, right is wrong and up is down inside your crazy, crackpot press corps. Can you see why we often incomparably say that its time for this whole gang to go?
FULL FACTS: No, this really isnt hard, unless youre Rosenbaum, Kessler or Shuster. For example, Janet Hook made it look easy in the Los Angeles Times:
HOOK (10/6/04): On the economy, both candidates cited employment figures that suited their purposes. Edwards referred to the loss of 1.6 million private-sector jobs during the Bush administration. But the more commonly used measure of employment looks at all jobs, which produced the less dramatic job loss of 900,000.We wouldnt frame it that way ourselves, but at least her figures were accurate. But alas! Even Hook deep-sixed Cheneys false statement—his false claim that Edwards was using old data. You know the rules, the old Bush-Gore Rules. In these debates, the Rep gets to call the Dem a Big Liar. And yes, theyre allowed to misstate when they do it. All good pundits know not to notice. By law, the Rep gets to yell it loud: Phony numbers! And oh yes: Fuzzy math!!
At any rate, if its facts you want, heres Kathleen Hays, on last nights Paula Zahn Now:
ZAHN (10/6/04): All right, Kathleen Hays, your turn. Listen to what both candidates said about jobs.Omigod! She called the Labor Department! She actually got the real facts! But even Hays seemed to know that she mustnt respond to Zahns simple question: Old data, new data—who got the numbers right? Uh-oh! Cheneys old data charge had plainly been wrong. But Hays side-stepped Zahns direct question. Even Hays knew not to tell.
THE IRONY: How uninformed can our Major Scribes be? At several web sites, scribes have criticized Kerry all year for his technical errors on this subject. Throughout the year, Kerry has publicly noted the number of jobs lost in the private sector. But when he has given this number, he has generally failed to make the distinction his running-mate made; he has failed to say that hes talking about private-sector jobs, not about jobs in general. This has always struck us as another odd bungle; in fact, it sounds better, from the Democratic perspective, to say that this many jobs have been lost in the private sector, where Bushs policies are supposed to be king. At any rate, we saw the inevitable after Tuesdays debate. Edwards, correcting his boss error, made the accurate statement about jobs—and was slammed for a misstatement all the same! This mini-dispute has been out there all year. What have Kessler and Shuster been doing? And can explain that oddball construction in the great New York Times?