SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2002
A CHALLENGE ON WOODRUFF: An e-mailer offers this reaction to our recent incomparable Woodruff-bashing. His points are worth addressing:
E-MAIL: Im a bit puzzled by your ripping of Judy Woodruff over the Kerry hair affair. I watched much of that program, and a check of the transcript confirms that Kerry was a topic of a good part of the hour, with discussions of his views, his political standing and how Republicans will try to paint him as a tax-and-spender. In a rational world, wed agree with the mailer. But the press corps made an utter joke of the 2000 White House election, almost surely deciding the outcome. And, as we tried to explain in yesterdays HOWLER, their misconduct began in just this waywith the types of low-grade ridicule of Candidate Gore described in Alison Mitchells NYT piece. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/6/02.
Plenty of comments, plenty of opinions, plenty to get upset about if you want to. The hair bit was the shows kicker, a spot often reserved for a light-hearted, less serious comment on politics. While you may think it was out of line, it certainly (in my opinion) did not deserve the amount of space and vitriol you are giving it. And to disregard all the serious discussions about Kerry and concentrate only on that point as proof of Woodruffs spinning comes across as severe spinning on your part.
Why are we being asked to think about John Kerrys hair? Trust us: the topic didnt turn up on Drudge because Drudge wanted to offer a light-hearted kicker. Ditto with Bill Whalens circus clown piece in National Review Online. Why did those items appear? Duh. Because Republican butt-boys want to make a joke out of Candidate Kerry, as they did with Candidate Gore. Is there any chance that Woodruff and crew dont understand this obvious agenda? If there is, they should resign their jobs, go straight home, and never venture near cameras again.
In Campaign 2000, the public interest was badly insulted by the press corps astonishing spinning of Gore. And the public interest is baldly insulted when Woodruffunder whatever guisetells us shes reading an item, straight from Drudge, without even checking out facts! Amazing! Woodruffs statementhowever light-hearted in toneis an outright insult to the public interest. If Campaign 2000 had never happened, one might view this as a puzzling outlier. But Campaign 2000 did occur. American citizensDemocrats in particularmust insist it not happen again.
To our mailer, we offer this overview, which now informs all our work: Your Washington press corps is deeply dysfunctional. They proved that over and over, again and again, in their spinning of Campaign 2000. On Inside Politics, the spinning of Gore began on Day One, with Bruce Mortons appalling report about invented the Internet and the farm chores (see below). Were sure that Woodruff and Morton are very nice people. But we were here to see their work the last time, and they have to be told, quite loudly and rudely, that it simply cant happen again. Polite discussion has no effect on the people who now run your press corps.
HOWLER HISTORY/BRUCE MORTONWATCH: Here was Morton, on the 3/16/99 Inside Politics, reciting straight RNC spin. This light-hearted report by the hapless pundit was deeply misleading on all its pointsand it set the script for the spinning of Gore which decided Election 2000:
WOODRUFF (3/16/99): Among other things, President Clinton had to answer questions [at a press conference] today about his vice presidents recent stories about growing up on the farm and his claim of creating the Internet. Mr. Gores musings have raised quite a few eyebrows, including our own Bruce Mortons. [Note: Morton said nothing about Gores remark until the RNC sent out its spin.]
Simply put, Morton was reciting hard RNC spin-points. Invented the Internet came straight from the RNC (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/3/02). So did the stunning farm chores hoax. And by March 16, the RNC was flogging Love Story too. On that subject, Mortons statement was baldly inaccurate (but a perfectly recitation of RNC faxes); in his only interview on the subject, author Erich Segal had plainly agreed with every word Gore had said. The record is perfectly clear on that point. But the RNC was faxing attacks on Gore, and their five-star butt-boy, the hapless Bruce Morton, light-heartedly ran to recite them. Every word Morton said this day came straight from those RNC memos.
MORTON: There he was on this networks Late Edition making an extraordinary claim.
GORE (on tape): During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.
MORTON: Helping it, encouraging it, yes, but it was created as a defense project back in the 1950s.
CLINTON (on tape): I dont know exactly what he said or exactly how its been characterized, but he has been for 20 years one of the major architects of America's progress in technology, and he deserves a lot of appreciation for that.
MORTON: Then there were Gores comments to the Des Moines Register: My father thought me how to clean out hog waste with a shovel and a hoe. He taught me how to clear land with a double-blade ax; how to plow a steep hillside with a team of mules.
Well, Gore is a city kidfather a senator, he grew up in Washington, went to St. Albans, a well-known private school here, and then to Harvard. Summers at the family farm, yes, but mules and double-bladed axes? What he meant, a spokesman said, was the fact that he spent his summers working on the family farm.
CLINTON (on tape): As far as his boyhood home I thinkI know what youre saying; you're saying he went to St. Albans and his daddy was a senator. But its also true that he is from east Tennessee, and he did learn to do all of those things he did on the farm. Ive been on theI've been there.
MORTON: Then there was Love Story. Gore once claimed the two characters in the movie Love Story were based on his wife, Tipper, and himself. The author said, News to me, and Gore backed off
TUCKER CARLSON (on tape): I think Gore is just liable to say anything if he thinks its politically advantageous.
CLINTON (on tape): Ill be happy to toot his horn, in terms of the years that weve worked together, because theres no question that he has been integral to all the good things that have happened in this administration.
MORTON: Does Gore misstate? Does he just exaggerate? But those things can hurt you, if youre running for president. Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.
By the way, how extraordinary was Gores claim about the Internet? The claim was made on CNNand no one at CNN said one word about it until the RNC sent out its scripts! Mortons eyebrows didnt move an inchuntil he was handed the RNC faxes. And by the way, was the Internet created in the 1950s? That claim is utterly foolishbut the RNC was faxing it too. Result? The RNCs silly history of the Net was repeated all over the press corps. Gore hadnt said he invented or created the Net to begin withbut this embellished point made the tale more rich, and Bruce Morton ran to repeat it.
This was Woodruff and Inside Politics at a comparable point in the last election. Her programs work was simply appallingan insult to American democracy. Were sure that Woodruff is a very nice person. But she must be toldloudly and rudelythat this simply cant happen again.