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||TRY TO BELIEVE THAT THEY SAID IT! Brian and Howard found a way to spin Gore. Just try to believe that they said it:|
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2002
OUR EMPTIEST SUIT: Did we note that a fight for the soul of the press corps is on? With that in mind, try to believe the following transcript, from Tuesday nights News with Brian Williams. During Campaign 2000, Williams was one of the press corps most mindless Gore-bashersauthor of some of the most vacuous commentary ever seen on American TV. On Tuesdays program, Williams interviewed Liza Mundy, who profiled Gore for the Posts Sunday magazine. Also appearing was Howard Fineman. Try to believe that this happened:
WILLIAMS: Good evening to you all. And Liza, you knew you this was coming. You get to start this off. So youre home this weekend. You filed this story for the Sunday magazine. The phone rings, and take it away.
Just try to believe that Williams did thiswasted time on so pointless a matter, then offered the ludicrous assessment weve read, in which Gore seems to be at fault because Mundys daughter answered the phone. And try to believe that the well-scripted Fineman then offered this instant analysis:
MUNDY: Well, it was a Saturday morning, the phone rang, and my daughter answered, my seven-year-old. We were getting ready to go to a birthday party, and she took the call, and she gave the phone to me, and I said, Hello. I thought it was somebody calling to ask for a ride to the birthday party, but it was Al Gore.
WILLIAMS: And what did he have to say?
MUNDY: Well, he was unhappy. My story had come out that morning. He was unhappy not at the story, which he said he hadnt read, but because a couple of quotes from it had appeared in the Washington Post the day before. There had been an agreement that we would not release transcripts from the story, but some other news organization had released their transcript early, and the newspaper felt once they were doing a story on those transcripts that we had to mention the fact that we had a story too and include a few quotes. It was a conversation he was certainly entitled to have. It would have made more sense, I think, to have it with an editor at the Post in the office, since it was not a decision that I had been involved in. It was above my pay grade, as they say.
WILLIAMS: Well, while were talking journalism here and where it connects with politics, Howard Fineman, why would the former vice president, presidential candidate care that much to call, in this case, a seven-year-old and talk totalk to the mom of the house, but raiseraise this point during this media campaign?
FINEMAN (continuing directly): Well, I think there are many pluses and minuses to Al Gore as a public figure, and one of the minuses might be a tendency to micromanage down to the seven-year-old level. It was clearly unnecessary.
And no, were not making this up! The fact that the seven-year-old daughter answered the phone is, to Fineman, Gores fault and doing. It was clearly unnecessary, The Scripted One saysas the battle for the soul of our press corps continues. By the way, note the logic of this mindless discussion. The Washington Post breaks a promise to Gore. When he calls to ask why, he gets trashed.
But then, Williams and Fineman engaged in such sessions all through Campaign 2000. As long as the pair could express Standard Spin-Points, there was simply no subject too trivial to ponder, no judgment too numbingly stupid to express. Without question, Williams is one of the emptiest suits ever seen on so major a stage. And clearly, Fineman is willing to do and say anythingas long as he can shape-shift events into stories his cohort prefers.
One person here was still normal. That person, of course, was Liza Mundy. Here is the exchange which ensued when Williams returned to his guest:
WILLIAMS: Liza, just so people dont think you spend your time going to birthday parties, that was an extraordinary piece of journalism in the Sunday Washington Post magazine section, the way you trailed him and illustrated what hes like on the road. How is he in the humility area? After all, what a come-down to then make a conscious decision to go out and meet those same people across the country face to face again.
Of course, if Mundy doesnt want to make a big deal out of trivia, she should stay away from this empty mans program. (By the way: Imagine Williams questioning someones humility!) But, finally answering the question on Gore, the scribe made the following statement:
MUNDY: Well, I think hes reallylet me say, I dont want to make a too-big deal about the call at home. Itsits, its sort of legendary in my family now and
WILLIAMS: Well, it is now.
MUNDY: He has achieved, I think, a real grace on the road, and he does a very good shtick about his come-down. And he likes to say to audiences, you know, Imagine what my life has been like for the past two years. And theyll sort of get alarmed theres going to be some terrible confession, and then hell say, They let other cars on the road with me now. And then people will laugh, and hell say, It slows you down.
That, of course, is the same shtickwhere audiences laughwhich led the self-described all-stars over at Fox to tell us how bitter Gore is (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/02). Mundywho was therereferred to Gores grace. They werent thereand they told preferred stories.
According to Mundy, Gore has achieved a real grace on the road. Its too bad Brian Williams hasnt. Williams is one of the emptiest humans ever to hold so high a place in our public discoursean illustration of the terrible problem afflicting our troubled democracy. In Campaign 2000, Williams insulted the public interest again and again with his endless spinning of Gore; there is every sign that his work will continue. As weve told you, the fight for the soul of the press corps is on as Target One comes back center stage. Just try to believe that this mindless discussion occurred. And oh yeahget ready for others.
SINGLE BRAIN CELL: Michael Kelly is good with his spin-points. Heres how he started on Wednesday:
KELLY: A terrible banality is born. Again. The rollout of the new, putatively 2004, model Gore is now well underway.
Hay-yo! As we told you on Tuesday, Al Gore is constantly reinventing himself is one of the pundit corps great, mighty themesapplied in every situation during Campaign 2000 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/02). And Kelly loves the mighty spin-pointhe flogs the new Al Gore, a new Gore, and the effort to reposition Gore throughout this well-scripted column. But when Kelly speaks of a terrible banality, he seems to be describing himself. If Gore runs, what will his stand on health care be? At this point, we dont really know, but that doesnt stop Kellys shouting:
KELLY: The unsubtle Gore made his initial move with a strategy declaration that, henceforth and in implicit contrast with his posture of 2000, he would speak from the heart and let the chips fall where they may. He followed this with strident but incoherent attacks on President Bush over the handling of the war on terrorism and the economy, and, most recently, with the pronouncement that Gore had reluctantly come to the conclusion that the solution to the impending crisis in American health care was the single-payer national health insurance planthe idea he savaged his 2000 Democratic primary opponent, Bill Bradley, for supporting.
Has Gores critique of Bush-on-terrorism been incoherent? In fact, its the same critique Brent Scowcroft made; it may be right or it may be wrong, but its only incoherent to half-wits. But then, this is Michael Kelly. Does the man ever know what hes talking about? For example, did Bradley support single-payer insurance? Sorry. Kellys own paper never described Bradleys plan that wayexcept to draw a contrast. Here was the Posts John Harris on December 21, 1999, in a lengthy profile of the Gore/Bradley health plans: Bradley does not accept some of the more far-reaching proposals of some Democrats, such as the idea that government should impose a single-payer system covering all people equally. And here was Mike Allen, about six weeks earlier:
ALLEN: Bradleys audience today was the American Public Health Association, a largely liberal group whose leaders want a plan even bigger than his. Some argued for medical insurance for homeless people, and for illegal aliens. Victor A. Sidel, professor of social medicine from the Bronx, N.Y., wore a button saying, We Want F.D.R. Again.
No major paper described Bradleys plan as single-payer because, of course, it wasnt. What will Gore propose if he runs? At this point, we dont really know. But dont worry. Whatever Candidate Gore does propose, Kelly will instantly bungle the factsand hell flawlessly state his great spin-points. Just try to believe that this hapless man still sits as a steward of our discourse.
Many in the audience of doctors, nurses and other public health workers strongly favor a single-payer national health insurance program, which would amount to a complete reconfiguring of the nation's medical system.
Afterward, the groups executive director, Mohammad N. Akhter, called Bradleys plan the very best we have seen from a politician, but we need to go beyond this.
HE WORKS RIGHT OUT OF HIS VAN: The notion that Gore was psychiatrically strange was widely spun during Campaign 2000. On Monday night, a free-lancing doctor was once again IN as some all-stars tried to puzzle out Gore. The session began with Mara Liasson presenting a great, mighty spin-point. On Special Report, its the law:
LIASSON: I hope this is the last invention of Al Gore, but to me it is the most interesting one. I mean, he says its going to let it rip and he seems to be doing that. He now is talking about a single-payer health system. He has gone farther than that timid speech he gave at Brookings, about the economic plan. He said he actually would roll back some of the tax cuts and tilt them more to the middle class.
Liasson found the invention intriguing. But then, a brilliant doctor was IN:
MORTON KONDRACKE: In the aftermath of the election, he is, you know, he is making himselfmaking people pay attention to him. I watched him on Letterman and I watched the Barbara Walters interview and Ive read these various interviews of his, and he was hilarious on Letterman. You know, and then you get these sort of angry strident comments about Bushwe want to dominate the world? And all I can conclude is that Althe new iterationthe new, new, new, new Al Gore is kind of bipolar. Hes sort of laughing on the one hand and a lefty on the other. And you dont know which one youre going to get which time.
Just try to believe that you read that! Sometimes Gore jokes, and sometimes he doesnt. To Kondracke, that make him bipolar.
Kondracke is pushing some old old spin as he hammers away at the new new new Gore. But the shrink talk is really intolerable. It was widespread in Campaign 2000; some are toying with the theme once again. But then, a fight for the soul of the press corps is on. So far, Kondracke keeps losing.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For a taste of Brian Williams vacuous work in Campaign 2000, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/11/01, with links to earlier entries. Trust usthis is only a taste.
TOMORROW: HOWLER hosannas will go to Josh Marshall. You know what to do. Just click here.