TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2003
RAINES MAKER: You really need contempt for your readers to play them the way Bernie Goldberg does. Is Margaret Carlson the queen of all Hillary Shills? Bernie wanted readers to think so. So he cadged a quote from a piece by Carlsona piece which focussed on Clintons alleged character flawsand he let his readers enjoy a good cry about the way mainstream pundits love Hill (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/17/03). Carlson was showing her endless devotion to Ms. Hillary, Bernie saidoffering as proof a quote from a piece which mocked the senators greed and ambition! Readers werent told that Margaret Carlson routinely trashes Hillary Clinton. Bernie wanted his readers cashso he fed them a story theyd pay for.
But so it goes all through Goldbergs work. Yes, it takes a special kind of man to mislead readers the way Bernie does. But he did it all through his clowning work Bias, and he does it all through Arrogance, too. Consider the way he misleads his readers about the appalling New York Times.
To state the obvious, no pseudo-conservative can enjoy a good cry without lambasting the evil Timeswithout engaging in endless clowning about that papers intense liberal bias. Bernie was eager to fool the rubes. So he handed the rubes some pure bullsh*t:
GOLDBERG (page 66): A lot of peopleand not just conservativesthink [the Times] hit rock bottom in 2001, when Howell Raines took over as executive editorThere you have it. Bernies readers can enjoy a good cry about the way Raines just loved Mr. Bill.
Did the Times hit rock bottom when Raines took control? Were not sure, but Goldberg is careful to avoid discussing Raines prior record as editorial page editor. Yes, its trueRaines showed poor judgment during his career at the Times. But how did he show that poor judgment before 2001? Goldbergs readers will never find out, but Raines showed his judgment with years of editorials trashing the monstrous Bill Clinton! And its not like Bernie doesnt know this fact. Indeed, just before the quote from Charlie Rose which Goldberg cites, Rose and Raines mordantly chuckled about the way Raines beat up on Clinton. This January, in the Nation, Eric Alterman took a look at the record:
ALTERMAN: When [Raines] ran the editorial page, it sounded almost like the Wall Street Journal on Bill Clinton and Monicagate. Until it was measured by Kenneth Starr, thundered the voice of the paper of record, no citizenindeed, perhaps no member of his own familycould have grasped the completeness of President Clintons mendacity or the magnitude of his recklessness. Meanwhile, the only problem with Starrs Torquemada-like investigation, opined the Times, was legal klutziness In the main, Mr. Starr did his legal duty. As Michael Tomasky pointed out in these pages, as of December 13, 1998, the day after the House Judiciary Committee voted on the fourth and final article of impeachment, this alleged bastion of Upper West Side knee-jerk liberalism had published some fifty-five editorials in re Monica Lewinsky. Exactly two concerned themselves with Starrs egregious investigative techniques. The other fifty-three found fault with the President.According to Raines, he only opposed Clintons removal from office, not his impeachment; he said this to Rose only moments before the quote which Goldberg cites. Bernie knows thatbut his readers wont have to. Goldberg wants them to enjoy a good cry, so he cherry-picks quotes about Reagan and Clinton, and lets them draw their own (misleading) conclusions. Nor will Goldbergs readers know about front-page Times clowning before Howells reignfor example, about the way the Times invented the Whitewater pseudo-scandal with a series of deeply-flawed front-page reports whose errors have never been explained. An honest story would defeat Bernies purpose. So that story just cant be told.
Even more laughable is Goldbergs take on the way the Times covered Al Gore. As readers will know, the Times coverage of Campaign 2000 was so unbalanced that even the mainstream press finally noticed; by the summer of 2000, industry shills were trying to explain why Frank Bruni was going so easy on Bush while Katharine Seelye was chopping up Gore. In August 2000, the Financial Times finally stated the obvious; in her coverage of Gore, Seelye was doing little to hide [her] contempt for the candidate and his team, the London paper correctly noted. But Bernie wanted readers to think something false; Bernie wanted readers to think that the Times pandered hard to its darling, Al Gore. He knows this is consummate bullroar, of course. But he found a slick way to imply it:
GOLDBERG (page 65): By now some of the stuff the paper was running, even on its front page, was so slanted it was funnyalmost. For example, during the 2000 presidential campaign, on September 12 to be exact, the Times ran a page-one piece headlined Democrats See, and Smell, Rats in G.O.P. Ad. The story, which turned out to have been fed to the Times reporter by the Gore campaign, claimed that the Republicans were trying to slip voters negative information about the Democrats subliminally, under the radara charge that was categorically denied by the ads producerGoldberg goes on to weep and moan about this story by Richard Berkea story which we described at the time as the latest example of the press corps devotion to trivia. (For a second, fuller quote, see below.) But Berkes report, however absurd, was unlike the vast bulk of New York Times coverage. This story appeared in the brief, three-week period when the mainstream press corps swung in Gores favorthe period after the Democratic convention, when Gore took the lead in the national polls. But Gores strange honeymoon would be brief. Six days after Berkes story appeared, the press corps was once again gimmicking tales about alleged lies which Gore never told (see below), and Berke was writing nasty stories explaining why Gore was such a Big Liar. Why was Gore such a liar, by the way? Because his mom was a Big Liar too, Berke explained. Goldberg brushes these moments aside as he peddles his rank, phony story.
It really takes a special man to mislead readers the way Goldberg does. It takes a man with contempt for their soulsand a man with contempt for your discourse.
BERKES FOLLY: Berkes RATS report was utterly laughable. But because the story hurt Bush and helped Gore, it was hugely unlike the Times overall coverage. For the record, heres how we began one piece that September. We wrote this as part of our Howlings column for Speakout.com. Links are no longer available:
HOWLINGS/SPEAKOUT.COM (9/20/00): When it put the RATS story on page one, the New York Times bowed low to King Trivia. And the national press corps also bowed down, having fun with the tale for a week. It also was trivial when Governor Bush said a naughty word [major-league asshole] near an open mike. Issues like these arent worth a rats #$$. But they bring squeals of delight to the press corps.As Goldberg notes, the RATS story appeared on September 12. But quickly, the press turned back against Gore. On September 18, the Boston Globes Walter Robinson broke the ludicrous doggy-pill tale; on September 20, Walter Shapiro came up with the inexcusable union lullaby nonsense. The coverage turned back hard against Gore. In the Times, Richard Berke was soon explaining what a Big Liar Gores mother was.
So Goldberg types an edited tale. He wants to give readers a good, soothing cry. If he has to mislead them, hes eager to do soand to show his contempt for your discourse.
LOOSE END: By the way, what about that oddly truncated quote from Rainesthe one in which he says that Reagan couldnt tie his shoelaces if his life depended on it? Careful! Its clear that Raines thought poorly of the Reagan Admin, although he told Brian Lamb in a 1994 Booknotes that President Reagan himself was as genial a person as one could want, and I think at bottom a caring person. (File under: Quotes youll never hear from Bernie.) But what about the shoelaces quote? Careful! Weve never seen the full quotationit doesnt seem to exist on Nexis or Googlebut it comes from Raines 1993 book, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis, a book that is largely about fly fishing! (Kirkus capsule: A bold and eloquent work in which New York Times editorial page director looks at his obsession with fly fishing.) Meanwhile, Goldberg has cadged the shoelaces quote from the Media Research Center, a gang that routinely sets the gold standard for taking quotations out of any sane context. Theres no doubt that Raines thought poorly of the Reagan Adminbut what was the shoelaces quote all about? Here at THE HOWLER, we wont be shocked if the quote is connected to that books discussion of fly-tying. (Yes, the book discusses several fly-fishing presidents.) Any chance that the shoelaces quote is a rumination about a certain genial personabout how hed do on the river or stream? Here at THE HOWLER, we simply dont know. But with Goldberg, one must always ask.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: In Bias, Goldberg ranted and railed about a vile quotea quote which, as it turned out, concerned insects! Can you see why you have to look everything up? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/12/02. Enjoy a good laugh, but remember one point: Bernie Goldberg has contempt for your discourse.