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TRUTH TOLD SLOWLY (PART 1)! Seven years later, Harris and Halperin start telling the truth—very slowly: // link // print // previous // next //

WHAT SOMEONE ELSE SAW AROUND HOT METAL STREET: After yesterday’s post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/23/06), we received a respectful dissent from a Pittsburgh observer of the late mayor, Bob O’Connor. Without wishing to speak ill of the late Steeltown mayor, our reader suggested that O’Connor’s work didn’t serve “the average person” to quite the extent that some would believe. As outsiders, we can’t judge this matter. We do think that O’Connor’s son gave the perfect description, at Friday night’s dinner, of what Dem politicians should do. In our view, Dems should work hard for the average person. And Dems should never give up.

CEMENT IS THE WORD: At long last, her colleagues have started telling the truth—very slowly—about the past work of Katherine “Kit” Seelye (see below). But the utterly fatuous New York Times scribe continues to work her magic in the paper of record. In today’s Times, Seelye writes about Barack Obama’s interview with David Remnick. And what does the addled scribe choose to emphasize? Of course! The fact that Bill Clinton once said—fourteen years ago—that he “didn’t inhale!” Yes, Obama apparently gave her the opening. But her obsessive mind took it from there:

SEELYE (10/24/06): Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who said Sunday that he was considering running for president in 2008, created a little sunlight on Monday between himself and both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

For one thing, he said that as a youth he had inhaled.
''When I was a kid, I inhaled,'' Obama apparently said in his interview, before an audience of magazine editors. (We say “apparently” because Seelye has a history of “accidentally” “quoting” folk wrong.) The obsessive script-reader typed it from there:
SEELYE: The direct admission was in contrast to Mr. Clinton's denial in his 1992 campaign for president that he had smoked marijuana.

''I didn't inhale,'' Mr. Clinton said, cementing the idea that he liked to have things both ways.
“Cement,” of course, is the perfect word for discussing Seelye’s range of “ideas.” Fourteen years and one large war later, it’s still stuck in cement in her head. She still can’t get over the troubling thing the troubling Bill Clinton once said:
SEELYE: Since Mr. Clinton's statement, the question of drug use has become a standard one for politicians, sometimes as a test of their ability to be straightforward. If the politician has used drugs, conventional wisdom says it is best to try to get the question out of the way early.
Of course, as everyone (including Seelye) knows, the question of drug use was quite standard for White House candidates in 1988 as well. But as with obsessives of every stripe, Seelye “remembers” what she wants to remember—and forgets almost everything else. For example, gone are the memories of Candidate Bush’s evasive responses to this question, eight years after Clinton’s answer supposedly made this a measure of “straightforward” politics. Bush’s evasions have flown from her head. But she can’t stop obsessing on Bill.

Katherine “Kit” Seelye is a full, flat-out nut. Seven years later, two of her colleagues have finally begun to tell the truth about her past misconduct (see below). But uh-oh! As usual, they’re telling the truth very slowly—and they’re telling the truth about their colleague as obscurely as they possibly can.

Special Report: Truth told slowly!

PART 1—BURY THE TRUTH: Deep inside their important but deeply flawed book, John Harris and Mark Halperin tell an astonishing story about the most important political event of the past twenty years. How did George W. Bush reach the White House? In the following passage, Harris and Halperin refer to the “Gang of 500"—roughly speaking, to “the group of columnists, consultants, reporters and staff hands” (page 24) who constitute Insider Washington:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 129): A number of members of the Gang of 500 are convinced that the main reason George W. Bush won the White House and Al Gore lost was that Gore’s regular press pack included the trio of Katherine “Kit” Seelye (of the New York Times), Ceci Connolly (of the Washington Post), and Sandra Sobieraj (of the Associated Press).
Simply put, that’s an astonishing statement—but it appears as a minor aside, buried deep inside a very long book. In this passage, Harris and Halperin—major press corps insiders themselves—say that some of their well-placed colleagues believe that George Bush reached the White House because of the work of just three Gore reporters! Harris and Halperin have dropped a bomb here. And as they do so, they pretend they have not.

How astounding is that statement by Harris and Halperin? As with much that they write in this book, the statement is carefully couched and qualified; for example, the writers don’t tell us how many members of the Gang of 500 think that Bush became president because of Seelye, Connolly and Sobieraj. But make no mistake about the significance of the passage we have quoted. Harris and Halperin are discussing the three most important Gore reporters of Campaign 2000—and here’s the paragraph which immediately precedes the one we have just presented:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 129): No one who kept a close eye on the media coverage of the 2000 campaign would deny that the press corps assigned to Gore was more aggressive and more hostile toward the candidate than those assigned to Bush ...This discrepancy made Old Media reporters much more likely to buy into political party press releases, late-night comic jokes, and the general story line that mirrored the Bush campaign’s crafted version of Gore.

A number of members of the Gang of 500 are convinced that the main reason George W. Bush won the White House and Al Gore lost was that Gore’s regular press pack included the trio of Katherine “Kit” Seelye (of the New York Times), Ceci Connolly (of the Washington Post), and Sandra Sobieraj (of the Associated Press).
We begin to see how astounding their statement really is. According to Harris and Halperin, no one denies that the reporters assigned to Gore were “more hostile” toward Gore than those assigned to Bush. It is in that context that they makes their next statement—saying that some insiders “are convinced” that Bush reached the White House just because of three such reporters. For the record, Harris writes for the Washington Post—the newspaper for which Connolly covered Gore. Indeed, as we will see at the end of the week, Harris co-authored some of the reports in which Connolly made up fake tales about Gore! Yep—Ceci Connolly made it up about Gore for twenty straight months. And on occasion, John Harris helped out.

As such, this statement by Harris and Halperin is little short of astonishing. And make no mistake—Harris and Halperin don’t believe that the three reporters they name were alone in their journalistic misconduct—in the “hostile” way they “b[ought] into...the general story line that mirrored the Bush campaign’s crafted version of Gore.” As we noted in a post last week, they go on to say that the entire press corps behaved in this startling fashion:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 129): And it was not just those three tone-setters who latched onto a negative image of Gore. Nearly every newspaper and television network in the country did stories at some point during the campaign raising the question of whether the vice president was a big liar or merely a small one. As Rolling Stone pointed out long after the election, “Journalists just refused to drop unflattering Gore stories, no matter what the facts revealed.”
As we noted last week, Harris and Halperin accept the judgment of Eric Boehlert, who wrote that statement for Rolling Stone. Incredible, isn’t it? According to Harris and Halperin, “no matter what the facts revealed,” their colleagues just kept repeating their negative tales about Gore! Indeed, what do Harris and Halperin say about the press corps’ endless assaults on Gore’s character? “Nearly every one of these controversies was overplayed or mischaracterized” by the mainstream press corps, they write on page 128.

Truly, these are astonishing statements—statements about the White House campaign which has now transformed U.S. (and world) history. And yet, this analysis is buried deep in this book—thrown away as a mere aside on two pages of a 413-page book.

The good news? Seven years later, on those two pages, the insider press has finally started to tell the truth about the conduct of Campaign 2000. But as usual, they’re telling the truth very slowly. And, as we’ll start to see tomorrow, they’re telling the truth about their cohort as obscurely as they possibly can.

TOMORROW—PART 2: Amazingly, the gentlemen say that the whole darn thing was (somehow) Al Gore’s fault!