NEW TV AD: Harold Ford Jr. He`s slick. He`s smooth. But his record? A little shaky.The ad makes a long string claims. Chris asked A. B. Stoddard to comment. Heres the exchange which ensued:
Ford is Tennessees most liberal Congressman. He campaigns in a church, but took cash from Hollywood`s top X-rated porn moguls.
Ford talks values, but voted to recognize gay marriage, voted for taxpayer funded abortions 10 times, and wants to give the abortion pill to our school children.
Harold Ford: Smooth talk, Hollywood values.
The Republican National Committee is responsible for the contents of this ad.
STODDARD (10/25/06): I thought that it replaces the one that is completely below the belt and really tacky.Stoddard wondered if the claim about abortion pills was true. But no one had actually fact-checked the ad—not Stoddard; not fellow panelist John Harrius; not even Matthews himself. Nor did anyone ever wonder if the claim about t[aking] cash from Hollywood`s top X-rated porn moguls was true—or if the claim about voting to recognize gay marriage was true. The trio blathered about What It All Meant, but no one examined the truth of the claims. Matthews had had all day to do so. Sadly, the great man hadnt bothered. (On this mornings Imus program, Ford said all these claims were untrue.)
MATTHEWS: That was below the belt. This one here is just dancing around.
STODDARD: This one is actually, sort of, the average ad these days. The attacks are on policy. I think the abortion pills for school children might have crossed the line. I think that you hear that and you wonder if its really true. But the rest of it is saying, This is why he is too liberal.
CHATTANOOGA TIMES (10/25/06): The RNC's "Hollywood values" ad is almost as bad in its lies and innuendo. It says Mr. Ford "campaigns in a church, but took cash from Hollywood's top X-rated porn moguls," for example. The fact is, Mr. Ford did receive, but immediately returned, a $3,600 contribution from a disreputable donor, much as many congressmen—and many Republicans recently—have returned contributions from unsavory lobbyists. This ad also lies about Mr. Ford's votes on several sensitive issues. In fact, Mr. Ford has voted twice in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, not against it; he never voted to give the RU-486 pill to schoolchildren as the ad claims; and he voted only to allow military service women abroad the same reproductive rights as they have under the law inside the United States.Out in the country, the occasional journalist still wonders if statements are accurate.
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 122): Al Gores Tennessee featured rough campaign combat, with a rising Republican Party, powerful gun-rights and anti-abortion contingencies, and a deep-seated distrust of the well-bred, such as a Harvard fancy pants who grew up living in posh Washington hotels (as Gore did).Ah yes, the fancy hotel—one of Jim Nicholsons favorites! In fact, Nicholson, then the RNC chairman, preferred for journalists to type the lie that Al Gore was raised at the Ritz (the Ritz-Carlton). Of course, Harris and Halperin know thats a lie, so bald a lie that they just cant repeat it. But they bow to the Nicholson legacy anyway, quickly pimping the fancy (posh) hotel. And omigod! They even go the old story one better! They pluralize the troubling noun, placing young Gore in posh hotels. (As every journalist surely knows, pluralizing—turning one into many—is a favorite trick of those who would overstate facts.) But then, as Washington journalists used to note before they started their War Against Gore, the posh hotel in which Gore grew up wasnt really all that posh or fancy. Heres the way Guy Gugliotta described the old place when Gore was selected to run for vice president. The War Against Gore hadnt started yet. So Gugliotta—writing in Harris Post—was still allowed to be truthful:
GUGLIOTTA (7/11/92): At times Gore boarded at St. Albans, but he usually lived with his parents in the Fairfax Hotel, a modest building with residential units that since has been refurbished and renamed the Ritz-Carlton.Oops! The Fairfax Hotel—originally known as the Fairfax Apartment Hotel—was still a modest building back in 1992, before boys like Harris and Halperin began to take their script from Jim Nicholson. (It became the Ritz in 1982. By then, Gore was in his mid-thirties.) In 1998, when it changed hands again, the Post published a retrospective about the venerable old building. Heres the way Sarah Ann Conroy described the old Fairfax—again, before the War Against Gore started:
CONROY (10/26/98): While some found the family hotel an attraction, others found it a distraction. [Louise] Gore said she once shared a ride from Union Station with a young man. When he heard she was going to the Fairfax, he complained about the noise, children playing baseball and strollers squeaking in the corridors and the playroom...Really sounds posh, doesnt it? For the record, thats Louise Gore, a distant (Republican) cousin of Gores—and the former owner of the Fairfax.
It also was a favorite with Foreign Service families, Conroy wrote—because [t]he hotel apartments were the only ones with kitchens that were within the State Department's usual stingy temporary-housing allowance. Yep! Thats the way the Post was describing this fancy hotel before the War Against Gore began. And it wasnt just the Post. Did Gore grow up in a fancy hotel? The trivia factor here is immense—as is the case with almost all Gore Lore narratives—but Marjorie Williams didnt think so in her 1998 Vanity Fair profile. Although the Fairfax Hotel later became the Ritz-Carlton, she wrote, it was not a posh place at the time Gore was growing up. Bill Turque agreed in his later biography. [T]he Fairfax was a bit more modest in Gores day, he wrote. [T]he bare linoleum floor and thick steel doors suggested transience and utility. None of this was ever worth discussing, of course; its all part and parcel of the studied irrelevance which drives the Freak Show which Harris and Halperin decry in alternate paragraphs of their strange book. But as you can see, before the press launched its War Against Gore and began to suck at the script of Jim Nicholson, Washington writers felt free to describe the Fairfax as it actually was. But so what? Seven years later, Harris and Halperin check in at the fancy hotel—and they even agree to make it plural! Seven years later, the boys see Jim Nicholson—and they raise his stupid tale at least one.
But then, on every page of their chapter on Gore, the boys keep reciting the standard Gore Lore, even as they decry the way their troubling colleagues recited it. After checking out of the fancy hotel[s], they turn to another old chestnut:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 123): [At the start of Campaign 2000], Gore advisers knew there was also a negative story waiting to be told [about Gore]. He had never really explained his positions on some issues, such as his shift from being morally and politically opposed to abortion to supporting it as a legal right.But when did Gore fail to support abortion as a legal right? Early in his House career, he opposed federal funding of abortions. But he always supported Roe v. Wade; he never supported any of the eras proposed constitutional amendments, which would have overturned Roe. (By contrast, Dick Gephardt did support such an amendment as a young congressman. He favored overturning the legal right to abortion. Gore did not.) Here again, we see the boys doing the very thing they decry out of the other sides of their mouths; we see them overstating the facts so they can keep reciting Old Chestnuts. Why, a fellow could almost put it like this: No matter what the facts reveal, Harris and Halperin just refuse to drop unflattering Gore stories. And omigod! At one point, Harris even puts his name to this steaming pile of pure bull-roar:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (pages 130-131): In the eyes of Washingtons elite reporters and political operatives, Al Gores biggest political problems all derived from Bill Clinton. Gore had defended Clinton on the day of impeachment, then condemned his conduct when he entered the presidential race.What a phony Al Gore was! Of course, this presentation is perfectly bogus, as anyone who read the Washington Post in 1998 and 1999 would know. In fact, Gore condemned Clintons conduct from September 1998 on, as Ceci Connolly stressed, again and again, in the pages of that paper. But so what? When Gore kicked off his campaign in June 1999, a new mischaracterization came forth on the land: Gore has flip-flopped about Clintons conduct! And omigod! Even though Connolly had endlessly reported Gores prior statements, she did her best to play this card too—and Harris co-authored one such report! Tomorrow, well take you through this minor incident to show you how Harris mischaracterized Gore back then—just as he keeps doing now.
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 123): [Gore] had a penchant for tailoring his rhetoric to the occasion and for exaggerating his achievements.Its a familiar old story—but is it true? Did Gore have a penchant for exaggerating his achievements? Did he have a propensity to shade the facts, particularly about his record? Did he regularly exaggerate or bend his own record? Did he issue a steady stream of new careless remarks—careless remarks which let Bush (read: Ceci Connolly) keep him off balance? Wouldnt you know it? Although they make this claim early and often, the boys forget to provide an example! On page 129, they do offer a list of six things Gore said, and these seem to be the new careless remarks which Candidate Gore just wouldnt stop making. Sadly, pathetically, heres one example—one of the six they come up with:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 123): The vice presidents reputation for not telling the whole truth, particularly about his record, contributed mightily to his losing control of his public image. The campaigns of both his opponents [Bradley and Bush] made Gores propensity to shade the facts the centerpiece of their efforts to undermine him
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 123): Gore regularly compounded the violation of one Trade Secret (Do not exaggerate or bend your own record) with the violation of two others ones...
HARRIS/HALPERIN (pages 127-128): Bushs advisers took advantage of old Gore controversies and a steady stream of new careless remarks to keep him off balance for most of the campaign.
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 128): Gores joking claim that when he was a child, his mother had sung him a labor union tune as a lullaby; the song was not written until he was in his twenties.Pathetic, isnt it? The boys acknowledge that Gore was joking, but they list this as a careless remark all the same! One of only six they can think of! Others are equally strange, of course. Predictably but kookily, heres the first one they offer:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 128): Gores alleged claim that he and Tipper Gore were the models for the main characters in Love Story.Gores alleged claim? Did he make the claim or not? The boys know that he didnt, of course; they also know that this absurd incident dates back to 1997, which means that it wasnt a new remark, and they know that the two journalists who heard what Gore said have rejected the press corps treatment of it. (I was sort of appalled to see the way it played in the media, Karen Tumulty said. I thought it was very unfair.) But so what! Nine years later, these blithering idiots present this alleged claim as one of Gores steady stream of new careless remarks—one of only six they can think of. Buttressed by such overpowering evidence, they present a steady stream of comments about Gores propensity to shade the facts!
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 5): As it happened, folks at the Republican National Committee had been paying attention [to Kerrys hair], too. Sometime earlier, a tasty nugget of news raced around RNC headquarters. Would you believe that Kerry gets his hair cut at the Washington salon of Cristophe? Yes, exactly, that Cristophethe same guy who did Hillary Clintons hair. Cristophe was also the stylist who was trimming Bill Clinton that time in 1993 when Air Force One sat on the tarmac in Los Angeles while the whole world cooled its heels (never mind that reports about delayed air traffic turned out to be false).Remember why that highlighted sentence was striking? In the second half of the sentence, the boys let us know what is actually true: No one was delayed by Clintons haircut. But in the first part of that very same sentence, they present a version of the incident which they know is false; they say the whole world cooled it s heels while Clinton got his trim. But that pattern obtains all through this book. Before these boys can tell you whats true, they feel obliged to tell you whats false. As we said: Its sad to see what boys will do to keep themselves inside a club.