DIGBY (12/13/06): Is it a sin, in and of itself, that Greenfield trivialized Barack Obama for his wardrobe and compared him to a holocaust denying psychopath? Not really. Is it a major goof for Jeanne Moos to simultaneously go out on the street and ask people if they think his "weird" middle name means that he can't be elected? Probably not.Well disagree slightly about the Moos goof; adult journalists should have enough sense to stay away from weird middle names, especially when theres an ethnic component. At some point, people like Moos simply have to be told: Youre no longer seven years old. But American citizens need to hear the story Digby is discussing. When the press corps conducted its bizarre campaigns against Clinton and Gore, we had very few real liberal institutions—and those few we had were deeply connected to the mainstream press organs which were staging those wars. (No, the Whitewater folderol was not a product of the right-wing noise machine.) Our journals took a pass on Fools for Scandal; then they sat around and stared while the press corps went after Candidate Gore. And yes—the world has been dramatically changed because of the clownish misconduct our liberal institutions chose to ignore. For that reason, it has been amazing to see how reluctant we liberals remain when it comes to telling that story. In part, thats because of what Digby said next:
But you'll have to excuse us hotheads for reacting strongly when we see these things because the last time the media decided to have "fun" and tell jokes, this way, enough people believed them that it ended up changing the world in the most dramatic and violent way possible. We are in this mess today at least partly because these people failed to do their duty and approached their jobs as if it were a seventh grade slumber party instead of the serious business of the most powerful nation on earth.
DIGBY (continuing directly): I don't know what is wrong with them and their social construct that makes them so susceptible to this, or why they fail to see how this bias toward phony Republican machismo distorts political reporting, but it's a big problem for this country. Whatever their psychological or political motivations, we cannot take the chance that these narratives will go unchallenged again. Bad things happen. Wars. Torture. Dead people.I don't know what is wrong with them, Digby says—and we have increasingly come to suspect that this helps explain ongoing liberal silence about aspects of the mainstream press. Their conduct in the past decade has been so strange that its hard to wrap ones brain around it. We sometimes refer to the corporate media, but that has been a fairly dry talking-point (although it surely explains a good chunk of what has happened). But especially in the presidential arena, we liberals have utterly failed to take the Clinton-Gore challenge. We have failed to explain what was done to Clinton, then to Gore—have failed to explain this to average voters. The story begins with Fools for Scandal, then runs up into Campaign 2000. But many liberals still recite the press corps talking points about Clinton and Gore. (Al Gore ran a lousy campaign! Good grief. Were so easily scripted!)
VIQUEIRA (12/14/06): Let`s look at the macro picture here though. We`re talking about a 2008— from the Democratic Party—a woman and a man named Barack Obama—whose middle name, incidentally, is Hussein—running for president. So there`s a great deal of diversity we`re talking about. And we`re not even mentioning that that might be the indication of how far American politics have come in that regard. Anyway.Theres always a tendency to assume they were joking. Sorry—no hint of that here.
Of course, Barack Obama is a smoker. That`s something that he said is an obvious detriment. But hes going to try to quit.
CARLSON (12/14/06): Intelligence matters. If Bush had known more, would he have barged into Iraq and risked the creation of a Shiite theocracy aligned with a nuclear-obsessed Iran? In the 2000 campaign, Bush derided a reporter's request that he name four world leaders in a pop quiz as an example of gotcha journalism.'' That's after Bush only managed to come up with ``Lee'' for Taiwan's president at the time, Lee Teng-hui, and identified Pakistan's leader as General.''Her story is accurate—as far as it goes. On November 3, 1999, Bush did struggle with Andy Hillers pop quiz—and the awkward session was captured on tape. Did Bush reject the quiz as gotcha journalism? On November 5, the AP quoted him saying that. Meanwhile, Bush spokesman Karen Hughes had issued a fuller statement. The APs Glen Johnson reported what Hughes had said:
That episode got lumped in with other Bush lapses, like calling the East Timorese, Timorians and Greeks, Grecians, as in the hair color for men, all of a piece with the non-elite image he fostered. Details are for chumps.
Then came 9/11. It desperately mattered that General-what's-his-name was heading Pakistan, and Pervez Musharraf became essential in the war against al-Qaeda...
JOHNSON (11/5/99): A Bush campaign official defended his performance.Bush was reported calling it gotcha. Beyond that, Hughes compared the quiz to a Jeopardy contest—and she said that few other people could have answered Hillers questions. Result? With blinding speed, a long string of Carlsons colleagues got into line to recite the same points. They even recited the Jeopardy line—in their own voices, with no attribution. Carlson omits this minor detail, mocking Bush for what her colleagues all said. But its a startling part of this story.
"The person who is running for president is seeking to be the leader of the free world, not a Jeopardy contestant," said Karen Hughes, Bush's communications director.
"I would venture to guess that 99.9 percent of most Americans and probably most candidates could not answer who is the president of Chechnya," Hughes added.
TONY SNOW (11/7/99): Lets begin with a pop quiz. First, can anybody here at this moment name the prime minister of Chechnya?The questions still couldnt be answered! For the record, the pop quiz was called gotcha journalism by Fred Barnes, Juan Williams, Deborah Orin, Al Hunt, and Martin Schram; they joined Lehrer, Sabato, Birnbaum and Novak in this group assessment. Amazingly, Jeopardy comparisons were also widespread, voiced by Morton Kondracke, Clarence Page, Michael Barone and Howard Kurtz, along with Lehrer, Sabato and Novak. Your pundits routinely speak with one voice; in this case, though, that voice spoke for Bush. A string of scribes said the same three things the Bush campaign had said. (No, there were no attributions.)
BRIT HUME: No.
MARA LIASSON: No.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Absolutely not.
SNOW: Im clueless, too.
HUME: I heard it the other day, I read the name—I still cant say it!
MARK SHIELDS (11/6/99): Margaret Carlson?Principally, Carlson was troubled because Bush had said that Musharrafs coup might be a good thing. But Hillers pop quiz was a gotcha name game; the reporter shouldnt have played it. (By the way: Note what Carlson says this week about Musharrafs ascendance.)
CARLSON: Speak for yourself, Bob. You're half right. The reporter shouldn't have played the gotcha name game with Bush. But isn't anybody alarmed that Bush thinks a military coup in Pakistan is a good thing? Perhaps Bush also thinks Saddam Hussein is just a misunderstood despot and Milosevic just an innocent victim of the United States. Bush better start improving on the C average he was proud to have gotten in college or he may risk looking like a less intellectual Dan Quayle.
SHIELDS (11/6/99): Bob Novak?For the record, this week also marked the start of the press corps four-week obsession with Naomi Wolf. Regarding that matter, one thing is clear—their scripts, which were varied and deeply inane, hadnt been swiped from Al Gore.
NOVAK: A wise guy Boston TV reporter embarrassed George W. Bush with a pop quiz in which he couldn't name the rulers of Pakistan, India and, if you believe it, Chechnya. Al Gore immediately advised that he could name them all, but Bill Bradley told me he couldnt do much better than Bush.  Neither could I, or I dare say my colleagues on Capital Gang. Bush was the victim of  gotcha journalism but the real problem is that  winning Jeopardy games and leading the nation require different skills. [Editors note: A perfect recitation!]
SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?
CARLSON: Speak for yourself, Bob. You're half right. The reporter shouldn't have played the gotcha name game with Bush. But isn't anybody alarmed that Bush thinks a military coup in Pakistan is a good thing?
SOBIERAJ (11/9/99): The other day I was talking to Utkir Sultanov—you know, the prime minister of Uzbekistan? And he asked me, 'Did you send a birthday card to Hamed?' That's of course Hamed Karoui, the prime minister of Tunisia," Gore told a chuckling Don Imus.Sobieraj, knowing her requisite scripture, also called this a bit of smarty-pants bravura by Gore. According to the established script, Gore always acted like the smartest kid in the class (acceptable variant: like a kid asking the teacher for extra homework). Result? Even before explaining that Gores outing was comic, Sobieraj used the word smarty-pants to get herself right with the gods.
"I thought, 'God I forgot,"' continued the Democratic presidential candidate. "I had just been talking about him with Ion Sturza, the prime minister of Moldova. We're old friends. We actually met through a mutual friend, Lennart Meri, the president of Estonia of course."
But seriously, Gore added that he didn't necessarily fault Bush, whom Gore hopes to meet in next year's general election, for coming up blank on the names of foreign leaders. "I sympathize with those who say that that's not really a fair test," said Gore.