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Caveat lector

THAT’S RICH! There’s a word for Rich’s column on Gore. Readers know that word. Frank Rich was lying:


TUMULTY 2: On Saturday’s Reliable Sources, Time’s Karen Tumulty made an accurate statement about Gore’s press coverage in Campaign 2000. She was following up on John Harwood’s statement that Gore is “right that he has been dissected more completely than most other American political figures:”

TUMULTY (11/23/02): And also, when you compare it to the kind of press treatment that George W. Bush got, I think that—you cannot argue that that was not uneven.
Wow! You “cannot argue” that Gore got even treatment! And what did other panelists say when Kurtz pursued this intriguing statement? Readers! Kurtz moved on to another topic! How many times do we have to tell you? Even where pundits pretend to “turn a critical lens on the media,” this aspect of the media’s conduct simply will not be discussed.

Tumulty has told the truth before. It was Tumulty to whom Gore made his fleeting comment about Love Story back in 1997. Tumulty was there to hear what Gore said. She was there to assess Gore’s intention. On September 7, 2000, she gave her assessment of the three-year flap that followed her fleeting mention of Gore’s fleeting comment about that trivial topic:

TUMULTY (9/7/00): I was sort of appalled to see the way it played in the media. I mean, it was an offhand comment made during a two-and-a-half hour conversation that was mostly about other things and it was a comment that was, you know, true in most respects. I mean, he was a model, Erich Segal said, for the preppy character in Love Story, and it had been reported in Tennessee newspapers that it was modeled on both of them [Gore and his wife]. But all of that got lost in again, this kind of snowball—I think that there was probably something there worth gigging him about, but the degree to which it became a symbol of the man’s integrity I thought was very unfair. And I say that as the person to whom he made the comment and who wrote it.
Holy cow! Speaking “as the person to whom [Gore] made the comment,” Tumulty said that she was “sort of appalled” at the way the media treated the incident. She thought the press corps’ use of the incident was “very unfair.” In fact, Tumulty has never identified anything said by Gore that was actually inaccurate. For the record, just how fleeting was Gore’s “offhand” comment. It was “two or three sentences, tops, in a two-and-a-hour conversation,” Tumulty told us several times.

Tumulty said that the Love Story coverage had been “appalling.” And what did she say when she was questioned further? Readers! No one has ever asked Tumulty to comment on her statement. And we have never seen any pundit ask anyone else about it. We tried to tell you last week, readers. Joe Scarborough is free to state the truth. Simply put, the press corps is not. The inside press corps simply won’t tell you the truth about their behavior and attitudes. When people like Tumulty offer a lead, people like Kurtz know enough to move on. The press corps’ coverage of Campaign 2000? It’s a wholly forbidden topic. Matthews moved on from What Scarborough Said. Kurtz did the same with Tumulty. Simple story: This corrupted cohort simply won’t tell you the truth about your own White House race.

Normal people have a word for it: Lying. We refer to Frank Rich’s inexcusable column in Saturday’s New York Times. Rich—the self-admiring incompetent who, along with Maureen Dowd, ginned up that fateful Love Story nonsense—doesn’t believe you should vote for Al Gore. But instead of trying to argue his case, he quickly started spinning you blue:

RICH: The [Gores’] books celebrate The Family, the one cause every Democrat feels compelled to embrace after Monicagate. The reviews for the author are thumbs up…
Rich—who, incredibly, can’t stop talking about Monica Lewinsky!—implies that Gore is “embracing” the family due to Lewinsky concerns. But of course, the Gores have staged a Nashville “Family Reunion”—a forum on issues facing the family—every year since the early 90s (see below). Like all pundits, Rich knows this fact; he simply doesn’t want you to know it. So he dumps the fact from his piece. Prepare yourself for a dark, mordant chuckle: In this baldly dissembling way, Rich warns you about Al Gore’s character!

But this was just the great scribe’s warm-up. His nugget deception begins soon after. “The new, spontaneous post-wooden Gore is determined to be spontaneous if it kills him,” Rich says. Then the brilliant, far-seeing scribe presents this rank piece of deception:

RICH (pgh 3): But it took Katie Couric all of three minutes to uncover the old Al Gore lurking inside the latest model. When he protested that he wouldn’t really, really decide whether to run for president until after the holidays, she spoke for many viewers by responding, “Why am I having a hard time believing that wholeheartedly?” Then came the Gore equivocation and hair-splitting that he perfected in the 2000 debates. Ms. Couric had to ask seven questions to pin him down on how he would “handle Saddam” if he were president. The answer? He said that President Bush was taking “the right course of action” by winning a unanimous Security Council vote. And now what? “I don’t know where this goes from here,” said Mr. Gore.
Rich is appalled by Gore’s equivocation. “[I]f Mr. Gore…is going to be taken seriously by voters, ‘I don’t know where this goes from here’ will hardly do,” he thunders.

But did Gore “equivocate” or “split hairs” with Couric? Why don’t we report, letting you decide? Below, we present the official NBC transcript of the exchange Rich describes. For clarity, we have numbered Couric and Gore’s Q-and-A’s. Was Rich right? Did it take seven questions to get Gore to speak? Normal people have a word for such a claim. That word is a simple one: Lying.

COURIC: Let me ask you about a speech you gave in San Francisco in September. You were highly critical of President Bush’s handling of foreign affairs, specifically in Afganistan and Iraq.

GORE: Yeah.

COURIC: You said that the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein could, quote, “Seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism.”

GORE: Mm-hmm.

1COURIC: How would you do things differently? How would you handle Saddam Hussein if you were president?

1GORE: I think that the, that the drumbeat leading up to the war against Iraq has distracted from the war against terrorism. I don’t think there’s any question about it. And if there is a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, then I’d like to see it. But they have not made any such links public. I don’t think they have the, the evidence that there is one. And so—

2COURIC: But do you think that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, and do you think he’s a highly dangerous individual?

2GORE: Oh, yes. He’s very dangerous. He should be—

3COURIC: He should be dealt with?

3GORE: Absolutely.

4COURIC: Then how?

4GORE: Well, I think first things first. I think we, we have somebody shooting at us right now who has pledged to take action to try to do as much damage to America as possible. And the person who’s done that is not Saddam Hussein. I think that we should focus our attention on the war against terrorism. I don’t think we should have lost focus. What would I have done differently? Well, first of all, I praised President Bush for his immediate responses to 9-11, and I think he did a magnificent job rallying the country. Soon thereafter, I think we did lose focus. First, by refusing to allow the international community to put enough forces into Afghanistan to establish peace and order there. Now the warlords are back in control, the Taliban is back in the country, and al-Qaeda is back at the—posing as much of a threat, according to our intelligence agencies, as they did in the weeks leading up to September 11th. I think it was a mistake to allow that to happen. I think we should have been single-minded.

5COURIC: So when it comes to Saddam Hussein, is it a case of let sleeping dogs lie?

5GORE: No, no, no, no. I think that if you’re—

6COURIC: In other words, what—would you have done anything?

6GORE: Oh, yes. I think if you’re going after Jesse James, you ought to organize the posse first. And I think in recent weeks that President Bush has shifted direction and decided to invest impressively in the United Nations, got a unanimous Security Council vote, and I think that was the right course of action. I don’t know where this goes from here. Some people think—some people on the right wing, in his party, feel that he’s put himself in a box. I think that it’s the right thing to organize international support for the removal of Saddam Hussein and the destruction of his weapons of mass destruction. But, but what’s been done throughout the fall, starting after Labor Day, I think has really distracted from the war against terrorism.

For the record, Couric and Gore go through six Q-and-A’s, not seven. And why did it take so many questions? Because Couric kept interrupting Gore’s answers! (Rich knows that—and he knows you don’t.) There’s nothing automatically wrong with Couric’s interruptions—throughout the interview, she seemed to want to prove that she can be tough on a Dem—but clearly, Gore is answering from the start. He is cut off in answers 1, 2 and 5; the third Q-and-A is a one-word pro forma. It’s absurd to suggest, as Rich blithely does, that Couric was forced to torture answers from Gore. There’s a word for what Rich undertakes in this passage. And most people know that word. Rich was lying.

Meanwhile, what about Rich’s other suggestion—that Gore just threw his hands in the air and said he didn’t know what to do? That’s just a Big Whopper too. What did Gore mean when he said, “I don’t know where this goes from here?” He seems to be saying that he doesn’t know what the Bush Admin will do. But Gore quickly says what he himself thinks: “I think that it’s the right thing to organize international support for the removal of Saddam Hussein and the destruction of his weapons of mass destruction.” What would Gore have said if he’d been questioned in more detail? We don’t know. Couric—apparently satisfied with Gore’s response—moved on to discuss the economy.

Gore and Couric shared a normal exchange. Gore was forthcoming in all his remarks. But lying about Gore has become second nature inside your deeply corrupted press corps. And Frank Rich—the simpering flunkie who ginned up Love Story—wants you to think certain things. He wants you to think that Al wouldn’t answer. He wants you to think that poor Katie pulled teeth. It’s perfectly clear that that isn’t the case. There’s word for Frank Rich. That word? Liar.

RICHLY EDITED: So you’ll know the things Rich wants to keep secret, here is Elizabeth Mehren in the Los Angles Times on June 23, 1999:

MEHREN: It’s not every day that Matthew Cavedon finds himself in the company of the vice president of the United States. And so on Tuesday, the 10-year-old seized the moment to tell Al Gore about Boundless Playgrounds, a national effort to make playground equipment user-friendly for kids with disabilities.

Matthew, who has suffered since birth from a devastating joint disease, described a boat-shaped swing for his wheelchair that he himself designed. “For once I can actually, really get the feeling of swinging,” he said. The exchange between Matthew and Gore captured the spirit of Family Reunion, a conference that began eight years ago when then-Sen. Gore and his wife, Tipper, invited government officials, educators, parents and experts on children and the family to help reinvent family policy so it would realistically reflect challenges facing families and government.

“We found that these challenges were oversimplified and misunderstood by most leaders,” Gore said Tuesday.

The Gores have been at this since the early 1990s. It’s the thigh-rubbing Rich who can’t get a certain former intern out of his mind. Sadly, he wants her in your mind too. There’s a word for this conduct. It’s lying.

MEANWHILE, LOOK WHAT THEY’RE DOING TO BEINART! Sometimes, the pathology of the press corps is almost beyond comprehension. On Saturday, for example, New Republic editor Peter Beinart guested on the Beltway Boys. Soon this statement occurred:

BEINART: One of the reasons the [New Republic] supported Gore over the years was the sense that he was more of a sincere New Democrat than a lot of other people in the field. The noise that he’s been making most recently wouldn’t support that. It’s still very early—although it’s worth noting that he actually is, as far as I can tell, is one of the few Democrats who hasn’t now, still hasn’t called for the repeal of the Bush tax cut. So there’s a certain amount of ambiguity in the position he’s taking.
Beinart drew appreciative chuckles from Fred and Mort as he mentioned “the noise that [Gore] has been making.” Too bad his ensuing comment was such an insult to the need for intelligent discourse. “As far as I can tell,” Beinart said, Gore hasn’t come out for repeal of the cuts. And that meant that there was some “ambiguity” in “the noise that Gore has been making.”

What words can be used to describe this performance? Beinart hasn’t been able to tell about this? Apparently, he hadn’t read Dan Balz in Thursday’s Post. “Gore said he favors scrapping future installments of the Bush tax cuts aimed at top income earners,” Balz wrote, reporting his Wednesday interview with Gore. Nor had Beinart read Ron Brownstein in the same day’s Los Angeles Times. “Gore said he would cancel the further reductions in tax rates for affluent families scheduled for 2004 and 2006,” Brownstein reported. Nor had Beinart scanned the Washington Times. On Friday, Jeffrey Kuhner reported Gore’s Wednesday interview with Reuters: “Gore attacked President Bush’s economic stewardship, calling for the repeal of the administration’s tax cuts for the country’s top earners.” And Gore had told the AP the same thing. On Wednesday, the AP’s Will Lester reported his interview: “Gore has said the whole Bush economic plan and economic team should be thrown out, and the administration should start over with tax cuts aimed specifically at the middle class.” But even the AP got the news late. In last week’s Time, released last Sunday, Tumulty reported Gore’s view on the tax cut: “Gore now tells TIME that he would ‘scrap the whole thing and start over,’ with less dramatic cuts aimed at the middle class.” In Newsweek—released the same day—Eleanor Clift said that Gore “opposes President George W. Bush on Iraq; favors a single-payer, Canadian-style health system, and thinks the Bush tax cut should be repealed.” And others noticed what Gore had said; all the way back on Monday, November 18, Mara Liasson noted Gore’s stance on Special Report. “He said he actually would roll back some of the tax cuts and tilt them more to the middle class,” she said. Indeed, the news even had reached Canada. In Thursday’s National Post, Jan Cienski said “Mr. Gore now says he would be in favour of scrapping the cut and starting over.”

In short, Beinart’s factual ignorance was simply stunning. But much more striking—and much less excusable—was his adoption of a standard press corps approach. Not only was Beinart blindingly ignorant of the simplest facts—he put his ignorance to excellent use, rolling his eyes at Gore for not being more clear! It got a nice laugh from Fred and Mort, and it satisfied Beltway Boy viewers. But at a time of national danger and war, such sniveling conduct insults the public interest. Clearly, Beinart hadn’t spent ten seconds trying to learn what Gore had said. He didn’t have a clue on the facts—but he was well aware of how to act. Al Gore’s “noises” made him sound like a phony, the brilliant third Beltway boy said.

But then, Beinart was appearing on Fox, where facts exist to be thrown way and scripts exist to be treasured. The network’s spinning of Gore has been stunning—and the factual ignorance of the network’s pundits has been relentless and completely appalling. The American people are being kept in the dark as Fox’s courtiers bow to new power. Such powdered slaves to established power always harm the public interest. At Fox, they’re working hard to keep you ignorant. We’re stunned to see Beinart mixed into the stew, but tomorrow, we’ll take a more detailed look at their recent, appalling work.

SPEAKING OF NOISES, HERE WERE KONDRACKE’S: In the current, renewed press corps War Against Gore, no one has embarrassed himself more than Morton Kondracke. Just so you’ll see a spinner in action, here was the fair-and-balanced question which produced Beinart’s amazing response:

KONDRACKE: Now, the New Republic and you were deeply critical of Al Gore’s attack on Bush Iraq policy. But I wonder whether that extends to the rest of Gore’s act, that is, you know, saying that he was going to run a people-versus-the-powerful populist campaign, criticizing Bush for demolishing civil liberties, you know, advocating a single-payer health plan, and the rest of that. What do, what do you think about the rest of Gore’s act?
Imus would call this being a “butt boy.” More polite, we’ll say “courtier” instead. But in case viewers didn’t hear his reference to “Gore’s act” the first time, Mort made a point of saying it twice. In fact, it is Kondracke’s act that is stale and appalling—and that simply insults the American public interest. More, much more, on the Fox net’s spinning in tomorrow’s incomparable piece.

By the way: Mort is on the Beltway Boys to “balance” off Fred, the conservative.