BROOKS (11/13/04): Not that it will do him much good at this point, but I owe John Kerry an apology. I recently mischaracterized some comments he made to Larry King in December 2001. I said he had embraced the decision to use Afghans to hunt down Al Qaeda at Tora Bora. He did not. I regret the error.No, Brooks correction wont do Kerry much good. But for the record, the scribes misstatement didnt do Kerry all that much harm. After all, everyone else made this same bogus claim in the elections final week; everyone else said that Kerry had praised the use of Afghans at Tora Bora. As we noted in several posts (links below), the claim was blatantly inaccurate, but so what? All the Big Pundits were pimping it hard. Two days before the election, Tim Russert pimped the claim on Meet the Press; George Stephanopoulos did the same on This Week. Every Big Pundit seemed to know he should say it! As usual, all your Big Pundits chose to say the same thing. And that same thing they all said was quite wrong.
But before you rail against Brooks and Russert, remember one more thing we told you. Even on that final weekend, Democratic Party spokesmen didnt know that the Brooks/Russert statement was wrong! Bob Kerrey didnt know it on Meet the Press; Nancy Pelosi didnt know it on This Week. Before Dems get mad at David Brooks for pimping a claim that was baldly inaccurate, they might want to ask how their partys spokesmen were—as usual; just like always—completely unprepared to rebut.
David Brooks has acknowledged his error. But before you get mad at Brooks (several e-mailers have railed at his statement), have you heard any word from Kerry or Pelosi—or from the screaming incompetents at the DNC who should have prepared these two party spokesmen? As usual, the endless ineptitude of the DNC was on vivid display that final weekend. Before you get mad at David Brooks, you might get upset with them too.
I owe John Kerry an apology, Brooks said. But Pelosi owes Kerry an apology too—and she owes all Dems an explanation. Before you get mad at David Brooks, you might consider getting mad at your own. This ineptitude has gone on for years. Its time for Dems to stop it.
WHAT BROOKS SAID: For the record, heres what Brooks said about Tora Bora. Youll note a familiar pattern in his statement, delivered three days before the election. In the statement for which he has now apologized, Brooks used a blatantly bogus factual claim to drive home a stereotype about Kerrys flawed character:
BROOKS (10/30/04): [P]olitics has shaped Kerry's approach to this whole issue. Back in December 2001, when bin Laden was apparently hiding in Tora Bora, Kerry supported the strategy of using Afghans to hunt him down. He told Larry King that our strategy is having its impact, and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively, and we should continue to do it that way.Brooks had a Standard Script to pimp—Kerry is a soul-less flip-flopper. He proved his case with Tora Bora—with a pleasing example that was utterly bogus. The next day, Russert and Stephanopoulos pimped this claim too, reading it straight from the RNC playbook. And guess what happened when they did? Bob Kerrey and Nancy Pelosi didnt know sh*t from shinola. As DNC spokesmen routinely do, they had gone on the air unprepared.
But then the political wind shifted, and Kerry recalculated. Now Kerry calls the strategy he supported ''outsourcing.'' When we rely on allies everywhere else around the world, that's multilateral cooperation, but when Bush does it in Afghanistan, it's ''outsourcing.'' In Iraq, Kerry supports using local troops to chase insurgents, but in Afghanistan he is in post hoc opposition.
This is why Kerry is not cleaning Bush's clock in this election. Many people are not sure that he gets the fundamental moral confrontation. Many people are not sure he feels it, or feels anything. Since he joined the Senate, what cause has he taken a political risk for? Has he devoted himself selflessly and passionately to any movement larger than himself?
Lets make sure we grasp the chain of responsibility. It isnt the job of Dem Party spokesmen to research every current spin-point before they make a TV appearance. Pelosi and Kerrey should have been prepped by the DNC for this predictable topic. But completely predictably, the pair were not prepped. The DNC has performed this way for years. Its time for the bumbling incompetents who run this failed organization to go.
By the way, that last question from Brooks was utterly foolish. Had Kerry ever taken a political risk? Had he ever devoted himself to any movement larger than himself? For years, Kerry worked with Brooks hero, John McCain, on the issue of Vietnam POWs and MIAs. Result? All through the 04 campaign, Kerry was savaged by crackpots and kooks for the work he did in this area. For example, in the crackpot book Unfit for Command, John ONeill and Jerome Corsi savaged Kerry as a Communist simp for having engaged in this shocking conduct. Of course, many of the same crackpots and kooks savaged McCain for these sins during Campaign 2000. Four years later, David Brooks found a way not to realize. While Brooks is in the apologizin mood, he should probably apologize for that clowning too. But that would require a miracle.
But dont fail to note the familiar pattern in the matter for which Brooks did voice regrets. Youve seen it happen again and again: Working straight from RNC scripts, Big Scribes recite a bogus claim to showcase the flaw in a Dems fallen character. Weve seen this pattern again and again, from the Brookses and the Russerts. And again and again, weve seen DNC spokesmen unprepared to speak up for their man.
A POINT OF DISAGREEMENT: In the past few days, Josh Marshall has discussed variants of this general problem (for one example, just click here). But well disagree with one of Joshs assessment. This is not an argument that things would have turned out differently if wed only had better consultants and spin-meisters, Josh writes. We cant imagine why he writes that. At present count, the country voted for Bush 51-48. Of course things could have turned out differently if the campaign had been more coherent.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: When Russert said it, we knew that it had to be wrong! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/3/04 and 11/4/04, for background on the groaner that stumped the DNC—just as these things always do. David Brooks has voiced his regrets. Have you heard from the DNC yet?
FOR ONCE, WERE NOT DOUBTING THOMAS: We havent been big fans of Susan Estrich, and were semi-appalled by the tone of Evan Thomas campaign review in the current Newsweek (more to come). But given the way the DNC has performed in recent years, it isnt hard to believe that this happened:
THOMAS (11/15/04): In early August, when the Swift Boat story started to pick up steam on the talk shows, Susan Estrich, a California law professor, well-known liberal talking head and onetime campaign manager for Michael Dukakis, had called the Kerry campaign for marching orders. She had been booked on Fox's Hannity & Colmes to talk about the Swift Boat ads. What are the talking points? Estrich asked the Kerry campaign. There are none, she was told. Estrich was startled.Yes, Estrich complains about the disorientation of the Kerry campaign, not of the DNC itself. But the DNCs failure to prep its spokesmen has been endemic in recent years. Ask us some time about the orgs laughable conduct at the 2000 Dem convention—conduct we witnessed ourselves.
For the record, Estrich had actually been booked on Hannity & Colmes as guest co-host, replacing Alan Colmes on August 5 and 6. She debated the Swift Boat charges each night, and she did an aggressive, decent job.
STILL NO WORD FROM DOWD: As we said, it isnt that they dont know how to correct; Brooks made it look quite easy. But what about that phony quotation the New York Times ran throughout the election? You know—that phony NASCAR quote, the quotation Kerry never uttered (links below)? Brooks made a misstatement—and apologized. But Times pundits ran the phony quotation five times, mocking Kerry each time they did, and then they watched as the phony quote leeched over into general usage. Example: A reliable e-mailer tells us that Evan Thomas recited the quotation at a Kennedy School symposium just last Tuesday. I confronted him afterwards and told him that the quote was probably false. He thanked me and told me it is legend at Newsweek. Exactly the problem, our e-mailer writes. For the record, you owe this legend to Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, just as with the Love Story nonsense.
RE the Times: Presumably, they know they bungled the NASCAR quote. And they know their error has now turned into a silly legend. Still and all, they havent said Boo about the matter, except in the fishy explanation they seem to have given NPRs Mike Pesca. Before you get mad at David Brooks, you might get mad at Dowd and Rich—Timesmen who are far too big to correct the legends they spawn.
By the way—why dont your favorite liberal bloggers ever belly-ache about Rich and Dowd? Any chance theyre putting their own careers ahead of the nations interests?
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: That NASCAR quote is legend at Newsweek? Indeed, Howard Fineman recited the quote on November 3. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/6/04, with links to prior reporting.