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GORE WAR! The fight for the soul of the press corps is on as Target One heads back on stage:


HOW TO SPIN GORE (PART 1): On the Thursday before the election, Al Gore appeared with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend at a Maryland get-out-the-vote event. In the next day’s Washington Times, Bill Sammon limned Albert’s performance. “Mr. Gore played stand-up comedian and turnout booster to a mostly black audience of several hundred at Bowie State College,” Sammon said. According to Sammon, that audience “could not stop laughing during his speech.” Over at the Baltimore Sun, Stephanie Desmon told the same tale. Gore “may have a future in stand-up,” she wrote; “he sure got a lot of laughs.” Like Sammon, Desmon recorded a string of Gore’s jokes—the same jokes he used on last Friday’s Letterman. At Bowie, “a comedian was on hand to warm up the crowd, not that they needed it,” Desmon said.

For the record, that unneeded comic was “San Francisco democrat” Will Durst, whom we had driven to the event. Indeed, our entire staff was on hand with ol’ Will; for that reason, we can confirm the jocular nature of Gore’s remarks. Gore rattled a string of jokes about Election 2000—and the college kids somehow figured that out. But a group of Big Pundits, spinning large, were oddly unable to do so.

That’s right, kids. On the next evening’s Special Report, the stars had some Big Spin to sell. Tony Snow played tape of one of Gore’s jokes. The official Fox transcript records audience [LAUGHTER]. But how did the all-stars spin the veep’s mood? Gore’s “a bitter man,” they all said:

KONDRACKE (11/1/02): You know, what’s happened is that Al Gore announced that he was going to let it rip. And so anything he feels—and anything he says, he is going to come out, you know? And so—and obviously, what burns him still is Florida. He thinks he deserves the presidency, that people were disenfranchised, that he was robbed. And so—

SNOW: A bitter man.


Phew! It just doesn’t get any dumber. Gore is “a bitter man,” the shrinks said. According to Sammon, the audience “couldn’t stop laughing” at Gore. At Fox, they wiped the grin off his face.

And guess what? Last Friday, the doctors were IN again, reacting to more news of Gore. The Washington Post had excerpts from two recent interviews about the 2000 election. According to Dan Balz, Gore had said that his loss was a “crushing disappointment” (surprise!); that the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision was “completely inconsistent” with the Court’s philosophy; had said “I believe that if everyone in Florida who tried to vote had had his or her vote counted properly, that I would have won;” and had said, “But I respect the rule of law, so it is what it is.” At Fox, the shrinks swung into action. Gore “is now out complaining bitterly,” Dr. Snow said. Dr. Mort had a better word—“venting:”

KONDRACKE: Al Gore has announced the new, new, new, new, new, new, new Al Gore is going to let it rip and say what he really, really, truly feels. And that concession speech [CROSSTALK] It’s obvious Florida sits in his craw. He is furious about it and he is letting it out. You know, he’s venting. And it’s amazing because—well, if you read the quote, he said, I believe that if everyone in Florida who tried to vote had his or her vote counted properly, I would have won. That’s true. But the fact is that the surveys have shown that the recounts, the newspaper recounts expensively done, showed that if—that all those people that properly voted and had their votes properly counted in Florida, he would have lost. And he cannot accept that.
Dr. Mort—agreeing that what Gore said was true, and working from a couple of edited quotes—was ready to limn the state of the soul of the new new new new new new Gore.

One thing that isn’t new in all this? That would be Kondracke’s stale, shopworn spin. (Al Gore is always reinventing himself. In Campaign 2000, it was hard press corps dogma.) And something else that isn’t new? The pundit’s stale, dim-witted blather. Is there any other professional cohort that feels free to be so inane out in public? And is any cohort—except movie actors—paid so well to recite Approved Lines?

The crowd “just couldn’t stop laughing,” Sammon said. At Fox, that meant that Gore is bitter. But then, the fight for the soul of the press corps is on as Al Gore returns center stage. In Campaign 2000, this press corps spun the nation blue as it conducted a twenty-month borking of Gore. Kondracke shows that the nation’s pundits remember their old old old scripts. Will the press corps make a joke of this election, as they made such a joke of the last White House race? The fight for the soul of the press corps is on. Will the empty vessels who steward our discourse walk away from their old old old blather?

Note: Howard Fineman is also reciting the “bitter man” script. More on this spin-point tomorrow.

HOW TO SPIN GORE (PART 2): Sometimes we wonder if they even know that they’re mouthing old RNC spin-points. Last Friday, Anthony York limned the Dems for Salon. And when York talked turkey about Hopeful Gore, was there even one sentence that wasn’t stale spin? Did Rip Van Winkle churn out this cant? Why on earth can’t Salon do much better?

YORK: Nobody wants to be the next Al Gore this time around, including Gore himself. In an effort to erase memories of his lockbox-toting, Buddhist-temple fundraising, truth-stretching, no-controlling-legal-authority invoking former self, Gore is taking a different approach. Friday, Gore begins a soft launch to his presidential campaign. First he’ll appear opposite Barbara Walters (Gore aides assure us that no tears were shed), then he’ll stop in with David Letterman.
Incredible, isn’t it? And beyond that, what a tragedy. York strung a string of the tired old spins that our “journalists” made us sit through the last time. Yes, he did say it: “Lockbox-toting!”

Do these programmed fellows really plan to hand us their spin-points all over again? And how on earth can this consummate crap be the best that our press corps can muster? For twenty straight months, they sold us their tales, making a joke of Election 2000. Question: Do the script-reading junkies who steward our discourse really plan to recite once again?

HOW TO SPIN THE BUDDHIST TEMPLE: York is still pushing that ol’ Buddhist temple. But sometimes we wonder how much pundits know about this well-flogged event. After all, there were very few topics in Campaign 2K where the press corps struggled and strained so hard to keep basic facts out of view. Here are three elementary facts which were widely concealed in their work. It is virtually impossible to learn these facts from the blizzard of shopworn, scripted old stories published during Campaign 2000:

  1. A free lunch: There was no charge to attend the temple luncheon. That’s right, kids. The world’s most famous “fund-raising luncheon” was free of charge. No cost to attend.
  2. Separation of temple and state: Plans to charge a fee were dropped when the temple became the venue. When the luncheon was going to be held at a restaurant, Dems planned to charge a large fee to attend.
  3. Who knew? Was Gore involved in Maria Hsia’s illegal conduct? Pshaw! In open court, Hsia’s prosecutor, Eric Yaffe, said that neither Gore nor the DNC knew what Hsia had done.
Perhaps York even knows these facts. But during Campaign 2K, the press corps struggled, strained and strove to keep these facts from view. And some pundits—Chris Matthews by far the worst—actively worked to distort them. The dissembling on Hardball was simply egregious—an active assault on the American public interest. When Hsia was convicted in March 2000, Matthews struggled—for weeks on end—to link his target, Gore, to her crime. For months, the talker worked as hard as he could to mislead America’s voters.

How egregious was Matthews’ dissembling? Hsia received laundered contributions from nuns and monks on the day after the luncheon. During her trial, Yaffe said that neither Gore nor the DNC knew. But here was Matthews on March 2, 2000, the day Hsia was convicted:

MATTHEWS: Let’s talk about the bonanza today, the incredible incursion of politics into religion. Why does Al Gore face the, what I look to be the favorite status in this race for president, given the fact that he was at the heart of a huge fund-raising effort to raise 100,000 bucks, and now the chief agent in that scam, Maria Hsia, has been convicted of five counts, felony counts? She faces 25 years in jail, and he’s out there dancing around doing the Gore dance as if he’s not even involved, when it was his fund-raising event, when those nuns were writing those, ripping off those checks for 5K apiece, and he was the beneficiary. There he is. [VIDEO of Gore.] There he—there he is! There, you see it! And he’s not had a scratch on him today by your Republican Party. When are you guys going to start hitting hard?
Matthews spoke with William Kristol, who didn’t correct the misstatements.

On Hardball, this sort of thing went on for weeks. Repeatedly, Matthews asked why Gore wasn’t being prosecuted—even though Yaffe had said in court that the veep was uninvolved in Hsia’s conduct. And Matthews persistently pictured the nuns “ripping off checks” at the luncheon. On March 6, for example, he referred to “this Buddhist temple embarrassment, where the vice president of the United States was out there, you know, dancing for money, and he was taking money from nuns, they were whipping off $5000 checks, it was ludicrous.” Astonishing, isn’t it? But Matthews misled his viewers for weeks, engaging in inexcusable conduct. There used to be a name for such demagogues: Enemies of the people. Now there’s a new name: Millionaires.

Incredibly, Hardball viewers were never told what Yaffe said in open court. So here’s a question: If York wants to yak about Buddhist temples, why don’t he yak about pundits like Matthews? Oh, that’s right. We almost forgot. Josh Marshall will be handling that!

(Sorry—we couldn’t resist a little good-natured joshing. For the record, Marshall did superlative work on the South Dakota senate race. If we gave awards, this dude would get one.)