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JUST LIKE AL SAID! Russert pushed them RNC points. Somebody go wake Fred Barnes!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2002

OUR GIFT TO FRED: Fred Barnes was thoroughly baffled. In an interview with the New York Observer, Al Gore had dared to say that Fox, Rush, and the Washington Times “are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/29/02). And Gore had even said this: “Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks—that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what’s objective as stated by the news media as a whole.”

Gore had made some naughty remarks. And at Fox, Fred Barnes was kerflubbled. “Where’s an example of this? What is he talking about?” the puzzled pundit plaintively pleaded. Barnes was eager for the chance to learn more about Gore’s oddball comments.

This week, we’ll help Freddy out. We’ll offer a few prime examples from Campaign 2000 which fit the pattern Gore described. During Campaign 2000, the mainstream press corps routinely recited spin-points from the RNC. We’re a bit surprised that Fred doesn’t know. But this week, his learning gets started.

There is no real way, within this format, to explore this complex topic in full. And make no mistake—major parts of the corps’ War On Gore seem to have been come from the press corps itself. (When it came to sliming Gore, Ceci Connolly’s fertile imagination equaled that of RNC head Jim Nicholson.) But we’ll offer a few examples of the press corps’ odd conduct in Campaign 2000. During that race, the press corps routinely recited them RNC points. To state the obvious, such conduct is especially troubling when those talking-points are utterly bogus.

Tomorrow, we’ll revisit the Mother of All Spin Campaigns—the claim that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. That spin campaign—most potent, by far, of Election 2000—came to you straight from the RNC. Handed the spin from that noble org, journalists ran to recite it. In fact, they recited the spin-point from March’99 right on through to the end of the race.

But then, invented the Internet isn’t the only gonzo spin-point which came to the press from the RNC. We’ve limned some of these points in the past. As we prepare for tomorrow’s effort, why not do yourself a favor? Why not do what Fred Barnes should do? Why don’t you set some time aside and visit our incomparable archives? Links are provided below.

RUSSERT RECITES: “Where’s an example of this?” the scribe asked. “What is he talking about?” Fred Barnes was thoroughly shocked when Gore said that pundits push RNC points. Will somebody run and wake Fred Barnes? And when you finally get the man on his feet, will you play tape of yesterday’s Meet the Press?

As he interviewed John Kerry on yesterday’s program, Tim Russert pushed them RNC points rather hard. First, Kerry said he wouldn’t implement future Bush tax cuts. In other words, current tax rates would stay where they are. Let’s say it again: Current tax rates would stay the same. To Tim, of course, that’s a tax increase:

RUSSERT: So the tax cut that’s scheduled to be implemented in the coming years, for the—

KERRY: No new tax cut under the Bush plan.

RUSSERT: Immediately.

KERRY: Most of which goes to the wealthiest Americans, because we simply can’t afford it.

RUSSERT: Effective immediately.

KERRY: It doesn’t make economic sense….I’m saying no new tax cuts, Tim.

RUSSERT: But would you implement the ones that are now scheduled to take place?

KERRY: Those are new tax cuts.

RUSSERT: The Bush administration says that is raising taxes because people—

KERRY: Well, I don’t care what they say, Tim. The average American understands that a tax cut that you don’t have today is a new tax cut…

RUSSERT: But the Republicans—

KERRY: And in no way—look, we can’t cower in front of their silly argument that by not being given a new tax cut it’s an increase. No average American believes that’s an increase.

Actually, no speaker of English believes that’s an increase. But Russert pushes the ludicrous point every time the need arises. Somebody run and wake up Fred. He’s probably dozing over Rupert’s best cognac.

And Russert’s point-peddling was hardly finished. Soon, he read an anonymous quote to Kerry. Was there anyone watching the show who couldn’t figure who Tim was quoting?

RUSSERT: There is a big philosophical debate, however, how you grow the economy. Let me show you one explanation. “An economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance our budget, just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits. Surely the lesson is that budget deficits are not caused by wild-eyed spenders, but by slow economic growth and periodic recessions.” And it goes on: “In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut its rates now.” Do you agree with that?
Kerry said he didn’t agree, and Russert dropped the bombshell. That was John Kennedy he was quoting, all the way back in 1962! And why was Russert reading this quote? Duh! Because it’s a Rush Limbaugh spin-point. Never mind the fact that the marginal tax rate was 91 percent when Kennedy said that “tax rates are too high today.” Over and over, Rush bullshits his listeners with this absurdly irrelevant precedent, and Tim was eager to recite it too. Somebody go wake up Fred!

And that wasn’t all. Eager to complete the Rule of Three, Russert journeyed back seven years to peddle a tired old spin-point. He revisited the tired old 1995-96 battle over Medicare funding:

RUSSERT: But the Republicans—

KERRY: And in no way—look, we can’t cower in front of their silly argument that by not being given a new tax cut it’s an increase. No average American believes that’s an increase, and every American—

RUSSERT: So when the Republicans wanted to limit the growth in Medicare that should not have been called a “cut” by Democrats?

KERRY: No. If you’re holding something at equal spending, but inflation is going up at a rate above that, you’re not keeping up with inflation, that is a cut. That is in fact a cut, Tim.

In 1995, both parties proposed spending less on Medicare in future years than it would have cost to maintain the existing program. And that was the kind of budget proposal that had always been described as a “cut.” But the Gingrich Congress changed the language, as we’ve incomparably explained in the past (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/20/99). Newt’s effort produced a load of confusion (see below). And it was Newt who was changing the language—no one else. But no matter. On this Sunday’s Meet the Press, Russert was still pushing Newt’s point.

By the way, what ever happened to the Gingrich proposal? No agreement was reached on the point during the 104th Congress. But as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Medicare funding was finally adjusted about half as much as Newt had proposed. Result? Medicare services were so drastically reduced that Congress raced to restore the funding. Many citizens had been misled by the argument Newt had made. But no matter. Russert still is pushing the spin, even now, six long years later.

It doesn’t matter how stupid they are. It doesn’t matter how inane or irrelevant. In the current climate, spin-points from Rush and the RNC are sweetly sung by compliant pundits. Somebody go wake Fred Barnes up. His education is about to get started.

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO NEWT’S PROPOSAL? By the way, what ever happened to Newt’s proposal? You know—the Medicare program that wasn’t a cut? No agreement was reached on the matter during the 104th Congress. But as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Medicare funding was finally adjusted by about half as much as Newt had proposed. Result? Medicare services were so drastically cut that Congress raced to restore the funding. Many citizens had been misled by Newt’s fiery spin. But no matter; seven years later, Tim Russert still sells it. Does anyone—except Fred Barnes, of course—actually doubt why that is?

HOW STUPID DOES IT GET?
On Rush’s show, it gets very stupid. John Kennedy lowered the marginal tax rate from 91 percent down to 70. Bill Clinton raised the marginal tax rate from 31 percent up to 39.6. But Rush’s listeners are constantly told that Kennedy was a low tax guy, and Clinton was the king of Big Taxers. It’s amazing that such transcendent stupidity exists anywhere at all in our public arena. But on Sunday, it came to Meet the Press. Do you doubt for a minute why that occurred? Al was right. Someone, quick! Wake up Fred!

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES:
Many familiar Campaign 2K spin-points came from the RNC. The points were then bruited all over the press. This conduct is especially strange, of course, when the spin-points are totally bogus.

The fancy hotel? It came to you came straight from the RNC. To revisit the press corps’ gong-show performance, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/8/02 and 8/9/02.

Gore really brought us Willie Horton? Utterly, grindingly, howlingly false—and brought to you straight from the RNC. The point was recited all over the press corps. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/1/02 and 11/4/02.

First Love Story, now Love Canal?
Bonus points!! Connolly seems to have cut-and-pasted this bit of spin from an RNC press release. Ceci knew who was scripting your discourse. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/2/02.

And how about that “farm chores” hoax?
It also began at the RNC. Gore was trashed as a liar for months—although the Washington press corps was full of reporters who knew that his statement was perfectly accurate. For some strange reason, nobody spoke. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/29/99, 6/30/99, and 8/30/99. By the way, the RNC even sent out a doctored quote in order to sell its “farm chores” twaddle. No one in the press corps tattled. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/26/00.

Tomorrow we’ll visit invented the Internet. On Wednesday, we’ll revisit that nasty pop quiz. Fred Barnes is always the last to know, but what Gore said is blindingly obvious. On Sunday, Tim Russert recited them points. The press corps did so throughout Campaign 2000. By week’s end, even Fred may begin to have a clue about the strange thing that Al Gore has said.