MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2003
THEYVE SEEN RIVERS: In a rational world, Bernie Goldberg would be burnt, buttered toast. How much contempt has he shown for your discourse? His first book was full of empirical claims which he hadnt bothered to researchclaims which were easily shown to be false. In his new book, Arrogance, he continues cadging bogus quotes from the pathologically dishonest MRCquotes which he uses to slander major journalists. He rails against liberals alleged incivilitywhile endlessly trashing the liberal gulag. (In Bias, he compared Dan Rather to a Mafia don, and wrote colorful slanders of CBS execs, describing them as Dans bitches.) And his basic logic is laughable on its face. The press was hard on Clinton, he notes in passing. (The trashing of Gore is never mentioned.) So how is the press gripped by liberal bias? Never mind, the clowning scribe seems to say.
In a rational world, such a man would be toast, buttered and burned by jealous watchdogs. But Goldbergs a tribune of pseudo-con powerand some scribes seem to be eager to pander. Consider, please, the pandering conduct of NBCs fawning Tim Russert.
Russert surely understands the problems with Goldbergs books. But youd never know it from his recent fawning. On November 15, for example, Goldberg appeared on CNBCs Russert program. During the hour, Tim never raised a single objection to any part of Goldbergs work. Instead, he pandered to Bernies agenda. For example, consider this surprising presentation, which comes straight from the CNBC transcript (no link available):
RUSSERT: Words are so important. If you say, campaign finance reformYes, thats what he actually said. According to Russert, if a journalist refers to campaign finance reform, he has thereby displayed a (liberal) biasjust as he would display a bias by referring to gun nuts or baby killers. And since youre wondering, were going to tell you: Yes, Russert has routinely used the term campaign finance reform in the past. But the Stepford Host is realigning himself, pandering to emerging conservative power. When Bernie Goldberg comes on his show, he now receives the Full Russert Grovel. The helpful host even seeks to atone for having used common terms in the past.
And Russert is fully rewarded in Arrogance. Indeed, one whole chapter of the book is a full-tilt, reciprocal pander from Bernie. Watching Tim Russert, you get an idea of what a fair-minded mainstream press might be like, Goldberg writes. Then he prints the transcript of an interview he conducted with Russerta cloying session that helps display the downward spiral of Americas mainstream press.
How absurd is this chapter in Arrogance? (Its called A Conversation with Tim Russert.) For most of their interview, the blubbering newsmen applaud themselves for their moral superioritysuperiority which is said to derive from their shared working-class background. For example, heres the first exchange from the chapter. No, we arent making this up:
GOLDBERG (page 79): I think a lot of people have seen a fairness in you that theyre not used to seeing on the networks, and Im wondering how much you think your blue-collar background has to do with it.Theres no substitute for it! Readers, did you know that only someone from a blue-collar background can show full fairness as a journalist? The notion, of course, is absurd on its face, but Bernieinspired by Russerts self-praisebegins to indulge himself too:
GOLDBERG (continuing directly): What I learned from my father, who worked in a factory, while I was growing up in the Bronx, was the same thing: You show up for work on time, and if you tell someone youre going to do something you do it. Those are old-fashioned values.What makes Russert and Goldberg so special? As kids, they were told they should show up on time! Surely, nothing could be more fatuousbut the foolishness goes on and on. How essential is that blue-collar background? Three pages later, the millionaire proles start to blubber about it once again:
GOLDBERG (page 82): This willingness to be open goes back to those early days in Buffalo, doesnt it?Good lord! If your dad made a dollar more than Tims, youd better get out of the business! But this ludicrous bath of blue-collar self-praise defines this chapter from start to finish. Why is Russert so tough about deficits, for example? [Y]ou know where that comes from? he asks. It comes from Mom and Dads kitchen table. We never floated loans. Lets face it: Its silly to let anyone else on the air, these working-class blokes are so decent.
Of course, people as fine as Tim and Bernie will always be targets of others. And sure enough, the self-impressed scribes are soon boo-hooing about all the prejudice theyve endured. Make no mistakethese two have seen rivers. More specifically, Russert says hes been abused because of his alma mater:
GOLDBERG (page 79): Ive worked with network people who literally referred to the audience as white trash. They were talking about people who didnt go to school in the Northeast and sometimes literally did live in trailers.Who has made such astounding remarks? Who has said that Russert is dumb white trash because he failed to attend the right schools? Because hes Catholic? Dont worryTim and Bernie have no plans to tell you. But they do keep wallowing in the alleged commentscomments which make all their colleagues sound like bigots. And needless to say, Russert believes that his humble school background also helps make him so special:
RUSSERT (page 79): I also believe that going to the schools I didSt. Bonaventure school, Canisius High School, John Carroll Universitythese are not fashionable, elitist schools. These are schools where you learn to read and write and learn right from wrong.And they seem to be schools where you learn self-pity. But time out! Do the liberal nets pander to Harvard and Yale? Lets run through some well-known names and recall the fancy schools they attended:
Tom Brokaw: University of South DakotaWhy couldnt Bernie make his way to the top? He was too poor to attend Brookdale College! In fact, almost no one who hosts an evening or Sunday news show attended an elite northeast college. (George Stephanopoulos went to Columbia; among hoity northeastern schools, thats it.) Despite this, Tim and Bernie blubber and wail about the abuse theyve absorbed. By the way, the pundit corps is filled with practicing Catholics. Despite this, Russert cries, weeps and blubbers.
Its bad enough when pols act this way, but few politicians could match this pair for cloying reports about how tough theyve had it. And Russerts so swollen with self-admiration that he fails to understand his own conduct. At one point, we emitted low, mordant chuckles when he described (yet again) his great fairness:
RUSSERT (page 80): Bernie, theres not a moment when Im sitting there on Meet the Press when Im not thinking about my dad. Hes in my head; hes in my heart. Thats why I ask straight questions: What are you going to do about that issue? How about this one? Well, thats not what you said that this!Always hear the other guy out! Its what he learned at that kitchen table. Of course, here at THE HOWLER, we recalled his real conduct in actual interviews (see below), and we chuckled to think that our mainstream press is in the hands of such self-impressed men.
Yepin a rational world, Bernie G would be toast. His books have shown his contempt for your discourse. But Goldbergs a tribune of pseudo-con power, and at least one host seems eager to please him. On CNBC, Russert pandered to Goldberg. Hes rewarded in Bernies new book.
HEARING THEM OUT: Always hear the other guy out, Russert saidand here at THE HOWLER, we emitted low chuckles. We recalled how he heard the other guy out when Howard Dean Met the Press back in June:
DEAN: The problem for Social Security is that it is actually in fine shape until, I dont know, 2040 or something like thatLater, Tim heard him out on Iraq:
DEAN: For me to have to know right now, participating in the Democratic Party primary, how many troops are actively on duty in the United States military its silly. Thats like asking me who the ambassador to Rwanda is.Meanwhile, when he hosted Gore in July 2000, other scribes failed to see that Russert was trying to hear Gore out. Instead, Russert was praised, all over the press, for having behaved like a prosecutor (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/25/00). Russert is eager to praise his own fairness. But admiring colleagues saw his work differently. Their descriptions were right on the mark.
HEARING KEYES OUT: In January 2000, Russert moderated a Republican White House debate in New Hampshire. During the forum, Russert was so determined to state his own views that Allan Keyes finally told him to shut the heck up. Meanwhile, he gave so much time to Bush and McCainand so little to other hopefuls, especially Forbesthat the sponsor of the forum apologized the next day. We cheered when Keyes finally brought down the hammer. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/17/00.
PANDERAMA: Readers, you have to read Arrogance to see how thoroughly Russert panders to Goldberg. Surely, the NBC honcho breaks all known records for reciting a hosts preferred spin-points. We studied under the nuns too (Sundays only), so we know all about catechismal recitation. But Russert recites Bernies scripts to a T. Our advice: Go to a Borders, find a soft chair, and read through the whole silly chapter.
TOMORROW: Goldbergs praise for Tammy Bruce is too silly to ignore. Meanwhile, be sure to see Shattered Glass. Our Glass Houses reports start this week.