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MAKE A SAD SONG BETTER! In Minnesota, Rick Kahn went over the top. In Washington, the lies quickly started:


KELLYANNE CONWAY’S PROBLEM WITH THE TRUTH: We thought Rick Kahn showed very poor judgment in Tuesday night’s eulogy of Senator Wellstone. Kahn created an awkward, surreal situation by urging Republican pols in attendance to help “win this election for Paul Wellstone.” Minnesota Dems are now paying the price. And by the way, this is almost surely not the way Wellstone would have wanted the event to be handled. Among his other public virtues, Wellstone was courteous and fair.

Everyone claimed to be upset by what happened. But back in Washington, it didn’t take long for the lying to start about Tuesday night’s event. On Wednesday morning’s Washington Journal, for example, Kellyanne Conway (formerly Fitzpatrick)—one of our most disingenuous pundits—made the following ludicrous statement. Try to believe that she said it:

CONWAY: I would commend the viewers’ attention to this morning’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which I thought did a bang-up job of reporting on this memorial service. Among the excerpts, Steve and Celinda, you’ll note that the Star-Tribune covers the fact that the people who were in attendance were told by screen when to cheer and when to jeer, and they were told to cheer when the Clintons and Ted Kennedy were displayed and they were told to jeer when Trent Lott and Rod Grams, former senator of Minnesota who lost in 2000, were displayed.
Amazing, isn’t it? Who on earth could really believe that attendees were “told by screen” when to jeer? The Star-Tribune, of course, had said no such thing; we provide the paper’s report below. But that didn’t keep the hatchet-heart Conway from lying to her host, Steve Scully. Nor was she kept from her favorite pastime—lying in the faces of viewers.

And Conway was hardly alone in her conduct. On Crossfire, Tucker Carlson quickly engaged in some pleasing embellishment. He offered this gonzo misstatement:

CARLSON: Walter Mondale. The political world is still reeling tonight from yesterday’s nauseating display in Minnesota, where a memorial service for the late Senator Paul Wellstone was hijacked by partisan zealots and turned into a political rally. Republican friends of Senator Wellstone were booed and shouted down as they tried to speak.
Clearly, Carlson knows a few things about “nauseating displays.” But were Republicans “booed and shouted down as they tried to speak?” To state the obvious, no, they were not. Maybe Carlson just didn’t know. Or maybe he was—yes—simply lying.

The pattern continued when Greta Van Susteren went On the Record a few hours later. Bill Kristol was one of her guests. He too (lightly) embroidered:

KRISTOL: When Rick—when Rick Kahn said, “We can redeem the sacrifice of Paul Wellstone’s life if you help win this election with Walter Mondale,” that’s a little crazy. I mean, you can’t redeem the sacrifice of Paul Wellstone’s life by electing Walter Mondale. So there’s a kind of, there’s a kind of politicization of things like death, which is a little weird.
That’s the way the official Fox transcript is punctuated, and that’s the way the statement sounded. Kahn, of course, didn’t mention Mondale’s name. Neither did any other speaker at the “politicized” event.

Readers, we haven’t made any special attempt to compile examples of lies and embellishment. These are simply three examples we encountered in our personal viewing. But what does it mean when bald misstatement is such a staple of our discourse? What does it mean when rank deception is encountered so routinely?

Let’s consider Conway’s performance—the type of performance she offers so frequently. Affecting the friendly style that is her trademark, Conway lied in the face of her host—and lied in the face of American voters. And she dragged our discourse into the weeds with a claim so absurd as to be insulting. But what does it mean? What does it mean when such a disingenuous person is invited back, again and again, to engage in more of her televised lying? Conway, of course, is the loathsome beast who has always stalked democracy. But what does it mean when such dishonest people are the stewards of our devolved public discourse?

Like many others, we greatly admire the work done by C-SPAN. But we have two questions for the estimable Scully, whose work we also greatly admire. Steve: How will C-SPAN inform its viewers that they were misled—once again—by Conway? And why in the world does a net like C-SPAN keep putting such a person on the air?

WHAT THE STAR-TRIB SAID: What sane person could believe Conway’s statement? Just for the record, here is the passage to which she referred. “Republicans decry service as partisan,” said the Star-Tribune headline. Lead writer: Kavita Kumar:

KUMAR: State House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said it was disrespectful that the crowd cheered when former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., appeared on the big monitors and that the crowd jeered when U.S. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former GOP Sen. Rod Grams of Minnesota were on the screens.
“Paul Wellstone needed to have a memorial service as tribute to a…wonderful life, not a political rally,” he said.

Sviggum is right about the jeering—although, with 20,000 people in attendance, it’s hard to insist on perfect decorum. But Steve and Celinda, “you’ll note” that nothing in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said that attendees were directed, “by screen,” to engage in such conduct. That was just the latest example of Conway’s repetitive, gonzo dissembling. What does it mean when nonsense like this is larded all through our great discourse?

For the record, Conway went on to imply what many have said—that Lott left early because he was jeered. That turns out to be untrue too (and it wasn’t reported in the Star-Tribune). In today’s Star-Trib, Rochelle Olson reports:

OLSON: Daschle dismissed reports that Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., left because the memorial turned political. “It had nothing to do with it,” said Daschle. “He made a point of emphasizing that to me before he left.”
Daschle said Lott had a flight to catch, which was confirmed by a Lott aide Wednesday.

Final question: To what extent were Lott and Grams jeered? At THE HOWLER, we don’t have a clue. We watched almost all of Tuesday’s event, but we missed the very earliest segments, when the conduct would have occurred. But the Star-Tribune described the conduct on October 30, before it became a cause celebre. Lead writer: Chuck Haga:

HAGA: The biggest cheer was for Walter Mondale, the former senator and vice president who is expected to announce today that he will seek to take Wellstone’s place on the ticket. Moments later, scattered boos greeted Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., as he entered the arena. Lott smiled and waved.
In a crowd of 20,000, the Star-Tribune reported “scattered boos.” But don’t worry. Twenty-four hours later, Carlson had Republican speakers “shouted down” as CNN’s viewers were deceived once again. But this is how our discourse now works. Our question: Why are people who dissemble so freely hired to go on our air?

A NOTE ON LINGO: Why do we call Conway’s statement a “lie?” Because her misstatements are so grindingly common. We wouldn’t make such a judgment about Kristol, for example; Kristol is smart, mature and fair. He routinely makes the kind of statement he made earlier on On the Record:

KRISTOL: I think Norm Coleman has behaved quite well in these very difficult circumstances. You know, you don’t want to look political. He’s been appropriately respectful of the late Senator Wellstone. He hasn’t tried to grandstand…Some Republicans I’ve talked to I think are a little silly. They think they’re going to attack Mondale for votes he made 30 years ago in the Senate or for being Carter’s vice president. I don’t think that works. I think Coleman’s best tack is to stay very positive and say “I’ve been making my case to the citizens of Minnesota. I now have a new opponent, due to these tragic circumstances. The citizens deserve to see us the two of us having a very civilized, serious debate Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday night on TV statewide on the issues.”
An intelligent discourse, built on good faith? It would feature men and women of the left, right and center who were able to show some maturity and balance. Conway isn’t that kind of person. What does it mean when a great net like C-SPAN keeps putting her lies on the air?

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Conway loves to make things up. For a comic example from Campaign 2000, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/24/99.