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Daily Howler: Howard Kurtz--and the New York Times--got busy enabling Rudy
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WORST. AD WATCH. EVER. Howard Kurtz—and the New York Times—got busy enabling Rudy: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2007

WORST. WEEK. NEVER: We liberals refuse to come to terms with the way this system works. Saturday, at TPM, Steve Benen offered the following headline. All the facts in Steve’s piece were right. But we think his headline was wrong:

WORST. WEEK. EVER.

“[C]an we all agree that Rudy Giuliani has seen the worst week of any candidate in recent memory?” Steve asked. Then, he (correctly) listed the parade of horribles experienced by Giuliani last week.

But despite all that, no—we can’t agree that Giuliani had the Worst. Week. Ever. Without question, Giuliani had a bad week. But worst week ever? “Worst in recent memory?” Sorry. If you want to know why that judgment is wrong, you simply have to read the transcript of yesterday’s Meet the Press.

After a segment with Senator Webb, Tim Russert assembled a standard panel for the weekly predictions and churning of scripts. But uh-oh! Even though Steve is right in one way—last week was filled with disastrous revelations about Giuliani—Russert began as he always does, churning the tired old travails of the Dem front-runner.

In short, before we heard a word about Rudy, we got to hear, for the ten millionth time, about the failures of Clinton. For the ten millionth time, we heard about “her performance in that debate, I guess it was in Philadelphia, a few weeks ago” (Gene Robinson, instantly bringing it up, though it has actually been five weeks)—about “what her answer appeared to be on the driver's license questions in the debate in Philadelphia” (David Gregory, serving as echo). And we heard about the way “even members of her own, Hillary Clinton's own campaign staff got upset” at Bill Clinton last week. (That was Russert. He then picked-and-chose a quote from 2003 to exaggerate Bill Clinton’s blunder.) It was only after this long and familiar thrashing that Russert turned to the GOP. And by the time Russert got to Giuliani, he skipped past last week’s problems quite quickly. (Huckabee and McCain came first, with each man praised for his brilliance.) Did Rudy have the Worst Week Ever? Believe it or not, here’s the full discussion of that week from yesterday’s Meet the Press. By the way, note how Russert frames this matter. On Meet the Press, when Rudy has a very bad week, we hear about Clinton’s “integrity:”

RUSSERT (12/2/07): Gene, a big week in the press for Rudy Giuliani, one that he really wouldn't enjoy.

ROBINSON: Oh, yeah. Yes. Yeah.

RUSSERT: Here's how the New York tabloids played it up, and look at this: "Doesn't Add Up!" "Tryst Fund." An analysis piece by Glen Johnson, the Associated Press, wrote it this way: "Security billing case raises questions Giuliani has tried to avoid in campaign. The revelation that security costs for Rudy Giuliani trysts with Judith Nathan were spread to obscure New York accounts exposes the former mayor to harsh questions his campaign wanted badly to avoid—about character, truthfulness and a penchant for secrecy. Conservatives who are already troubled by Giuliani's support for abortion rights and gay rights have further reason to wonder about the thrice-married candidate's morality. Republicans seeking a candidate who can challenge Democratic Hillary Rodham Clinton on issues of integrity may feel betrayed."

ROBINSON: I think you'd have to say the worst moment of the week was when Bernie Kerik came out and said, "Oh, it was just fine," and, you know, in support of Giuliani. That's not what you want to have happen, you know. You don't want Bernie Kerik as your character witness, I think.

[laughter]

DAVID BRODY: And, and I think it's all—it goes to the authenticity issue. Because Giuliani has said all the time on the campaign trail that this is what he's about. "I'm not going to lie to you. I'm a straight-shooter."

RUSSERT: "I'm not perfect."

BRODY: "I'm not perfect." But if this is a trickle, trickle, trickle story, and all of a sudden we're talking about this in a month, then all of a sudden, you know, all bets are off on that argument. And that could be the most problematic thing here.

GREGORY: Again, it becomes a practical argument as well. In the general election, are evangelical voters who punished George Bush for his drunk driving record and sat home—are they going to do the same to Rudy Giuliani? Are women going to migrate toward a candidate who has an estranged relationship with his adult children? These are questions that I think Republicans have to ask in the primary process as they look forward.

RUSSERT: And yet, Michele [Norris], Rudy Giuliani's campaign believes that if Mike Huckabee beats Mitt Romney in Iowa, and Giuliani can come in a strong third, that will give him some momentum going into New Hampshire...

That was the entire discussion. With that cheerful speculation about Rudy’s “momentum,” Russert changed the topic.

In short, there was virtually no discussion of the matters Steve listed at TPM. The vast bulk of Steve’s issues were never mentioned. Meanwhile, Gregory seemed to think the problem here was Rudy’s estrangement from his children; Robinson’s sole contribution was a joke about Kerik. And let’s face it: If you didn’t understand the facts of this matter before the show, you didn’t learn them from Russert’s synopsis. A bunch of trees fell in the forest last week—and as far as Meet the Press was concerned, they didn’t make much of a sound.

I don’t know when we liberals plan to discover the way the world works. Did Rudy have “the worst week in recent memory?” Good grief! Here on this planet, Clinton had the worst week in memory when Russert finally bagged her, five weeks ago, with that question about driver’s licenses. (After spending nearly two hours trying. That week has transformed the Dem campaign. It may well cost Clinton the expected nomination.) But we liberals said nothing about Russert’s conduct back then, and we’ll almost surely say nothing about his priorities now.

WORST. AD WATCH. EVER: Incredible. In a new campaign ad, Giuliani makes the Dumbest Statement Ever. Here’s the partial text of his ad:

GIULIANI AD: When I became mayor of New York City, things were out of control. I lowered taxes. I reduced the growth of government. Made government more accountable. And New York City boomed. I would do these things for America because I know they work. I know that reducing taxes produces more revenues. Democrats don't know that. They don't believe it...

Yes, that’s the dumbest statement ever. Unless, that is, you’re Howard Kurtz, conducting a Washington Post “Ad Watch.” Here’s what Kurtz wrote about Giuliani’s claim on Sunday. For the record, Kurtz’s name appears in the hard-copy Post, but not on the paper’s web site:

KURTZ (12/2/07): Giuliani's insistence that tax-cutting "produces more revenues" is the supply-side gospel first preached by Ronald Reagan, and a matter of fierce dispute among economists. Indeed, Giuliani invokes National Review and conservative commentator Lawrence Kudlow to validate the claim.

And not only that! An infinite number of monkeys were given type-writers, and one of them made this claim too!

This may very well be the Dumbest Ad Watch Ever. Indeed, Kurtz’s assessment is especially striking, given the semi-decent editorial the Post had published just one day before. The headline on the editorial said this: “Mr Giuliani and the Tax Fairy.” The editors discussed that same inane claim. They started by saying this:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (12/1/07): “I know that reducing taxes produces more revenues," Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani declares in a new television ad launched Thursday. "Democrats don't know that. They don't believe it."

There's a good reason for that: It's not true. Produces more revenue than what? Than if taxes had not been cut? No—and no matter how many times Republican politicians caught up in the thrill of supply-side thinking pronounce that tax cuts pay for themselves, they cannot will it to be correct.

You don't have to turn to Democrats to refute this point; just read the studies and comments by Republican economists, including many from the Bush administration...

The editorial then quotes a string of Bush Admin honchos as they debunk that famous claim. But so what? The very next day, Kurtz dragged the crackpot Kudlow out of the bushes and insisted there’s a “fierce dispute among economists” about what Rudy said.

For our money, by the way, that Post editorial was fairly weak brew. In it, the editors were polite enough to pretend that Giuliani actually “believes” this claim (obviously, he doesn’t believe it)—and they failed to name the other Big Republicans who have been making this same inane statement. (Last Tuesday, John McCain lied about this to Charlie Rose—and Charlie just sat there and took it. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/30/07.) Obviously, the editors know this is a crackpot claim—and that no Big Republican really believes it. But as we told you last Friday, the Post has long refused to confront the world from which such claims emerge. Even as they corrected Giuliani’s ad, they refused to confront this world once again.

But good God! One day later, Kurtz pretended to be the Biggest Fool Ever, dragging Kudlow out of the crypt where these crackpots go for air. And guess what? The New York Times ad-watched this same ad on Friday—and Julie Bosman “fact checked” this ad without even mentioning Giuliani’s statement! Confronted with Rudy’s classic groaner, Bosman pretended it just wasn’t there.

Did Giuliani have the Worst Week Ever? Please! As the week ended, the Post was defending one of his ludicrous statements, and the Times was pretending it just wasn’t there. But this is the way the world has worked over the past fifteen or twenty years. Question: When will our friends at TPM come to terms with this Worst. Press Corps. Ever.? Steve was right about every point—except about how the press works.

TOMORROW—PART 1: Howard Kurtz writes endless PR in a gruesome—and troubling—new book.