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A GIRL NAMED BRUCE (PART 2)! Weird! Fox’s favorite “progressive Democrat” just seems to beat up on Dems:


TAMMY, TELL ME UNTRUE: Weird, isn’t it? Tammy Bruce said, two times each, that she was “progressive”—and a Big Democrat! She stressed that she was openly gay, and a Big Feminist to boot (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/16/03). But just as soon as she opened her mouth, she began praising Bush—and trashing Dems. Bill O’Reilly even had to fix her fake facts. No wonder our analysts were so kerflubbled as they watched this “progressive Democrat” in action.

But Bruce’s performance on the Factor was just about par for the course. Ever since Fox unveiled her as its newest “contributor,” this “progressive Democrat” has taken the chance to recite those Republican spin-points. Why, one can almost imagine that Fox has begun to play a new trick on its poor, misled viewers. One can almost imagine that—far from being a progressive Democrat— Tammy Bruce is a fake and a fraud.

Consider Bruce’s first appearance as a Fox “political analyst.” On September 19, the “progressive Democrat” appeared with guest host Laurie Dhue on Greta von Susteren’s show, On the Record. Dhue asked Bruce, a Californian, what she thought of the recall election. In particular, what did Bruce think when Gray Davis said that Republicans were trying to overturn an election? Bruce let everyone know she’s a Dem. But look what she said after that:

BRUCE (9/19/03): Well, I’m a registered Democrat, and I’m insulted…This attempt to drum up support with this fake Republican conspiracy theory is an insult to every Californian who wants the state to get better, and that’s what we did with the petitions, is we said whether it be Republican or Democrat. [sic]

What this is doing is it’s reminding Californians about how political this situation has become, that the quality of our lives is what’s at stake here. I think that the Democratic candidates are losing credibility.

Huh! To quote Ronald Reagan, there she went again! Bruce said she was a “registered Democrat”—then quickly began trashing Dems!

But then, the same thing occurred when the “Girl Named Bruce” took her second turn as a Fox analyst. On October 23, Bruce did her first O’Reilly Factor. Mr. O posed a Culture War Question: Were liberal actors ruining their careers with all that public anti-war clowning? The Man Named Bill popped the question to Bruce, knowing that she’s a “progressive Democrat.” And dang! It seemed that Bruce and all her hip friends were ticked off at those dumb liberal thespians:

BRUCE (10/23/03): Well, a lot of my friends are actors, they’re in the film industry, I’m a native Los Angelino, and what’s discussed out in this city is the fact that the attitude and personalities that George Clooney, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon are developing and the message they’re sending to Americans cannot be eclipsed by a character they’re playing.

So now you’ve got people who are feeling as though they just don’t like these people and they don’t want to go to a film because they just don’t like them…

George Clooney in particular—his own personal attitudes, which Americans do not like, make it impossible for Americans to project on to the actor and to be able to enjoy a film.

If you know how progressive Tammy Bruce really is—she has “an investment in progressive politics,” she admits—you were probably surprised to see her trashing those Usual Liberal Suspects. How sickening are those antiwar actors? “We’re insulted by their attitude,” she said. Strange, isn’t it? Bruce, a progressive, seems to feel “insulted” every time liberals open their mouths! And so do her hip liberal friends!

Meanwhile, her ferocious feminism seemed to fade when the “Girl Named Bruce” did Special Report. Governor-elect Schwarzenegger had just made an announcement; he was going to hire a private eye to probe his own past groping and grabbing. Bruce, of course, is a fearsome feminist. So viewers may have been surprised at her insouciance:

BRUCE (11/7/03): My sense of it is that this is a guy who made a promise and he is going to keep it. There really from my assessment, to be honest with you, is nothing to be gained. It didn’t matter to me whether he would do it or not.
It didn’t matter to Bruce if he did it or not? What ever became of the fearsome feminist T-Bruce likes to play on TV? Later, Bruce kept soft-soaping Arnold’s groping. “Well, you know, here’s the reality is that all statutes of limitations have passed. No one has sued. No one has pressed charges…And in the meantime, of course, he’s already apologized.” Is Arnold “a changed man?” the pundit was asked. Bruce took a dive in the hot tub again:
BRUCE: You know what? I think that, as we all grow older, we all change. We all have regrets. There is no doubt about each one of us has done something, or a few things that maybe we wish we hadn’t done and that we would never do again in the future. This is a man, and I’ve used the analogy from the As Good As It Gets movie—I believe that the California people make Arnold Schwarzenegger want to be a better man. And it is going to be an exciting prospect to see him grow and make this state come alive again.
Holy sh*t! Bruce’s hip actor friends cued the strings! Meanwhile, Bruce was refreshingly honest, as always. She admitted that she was a Dem herself. Then she batted those Dems all around:
BRUCE: What is most interesting, Tony, about all of this is that the Democrats—the guy isn’t even sworn in yet. And they’re already moving into politics as usual.
“As a Democrat, I’m concerned that the Democrat—about the Democratic posture,” Bruce said. “If the Democrats continue to do what they’re doing, if [Attorney General Bill] Lockyer is any indication that they are going to be obstructionists, we’re going to see a big change continuing in Sacramento.”

Tammy Bruce is a Dem herself, as she once again admitted. But she even used the O-word, “obstructionist”—the word Reps now use to trash Dems.

Weird, isn’t it? Every time Bruce shows up on Fox, she tells the world what a Big Dem she is. And then she starts to trash her own party! Our youthful analysts were just plain confused. So we decided to tell them who Bruce really is—and we decided to deepen their understanding of the endless faking that goes on at Fox.

TOMORROW: Warning—Bruce’s books can get nasty.

FRIDAY: Is T-Bruce our only faux Dem?

PARTY PLANNER: When pundits partied hardy with Rummy, Tim Russert managed to top the rest, prophesying that Saddam had been captured (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/16/03). Should journalists party with people they cover? That, of course, is a matter of judgment. But as we pondered this wintry mixer, we thought of Peter Johnson’s profile of Russert in USA Today (11/1/00). How does Tim handle the party circuit? There’s nothing wrong with what is described. But it does give a window on Washington:

JOHNSON: [Colleagues and competitors] say that Russert…has always had an intuitive sense of how to get ahead and has worked hard to get there. He is, they say, a player.

“I’ve never seen anyone work this town the way they did,” Washingtonian writer Chuck Conconi says of Russert and his wife, Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth, who live in Washington’s tony Cleveland Park in a house that has a media pedigree: Previous owners include PBS’ Charlie Rose, NBC’s Tom Brokaw and New York Times columnist James Reston.

Conconi recalls a tale about Russert and Orth being spotted at a cheap hamburger joint in Georgetown after an exclusive party at Pamela Harriman’s house after President Clinton’s first election. “They are masters of the Washington social scene. They know you don’t go to parties to eat or drink. You go there to work.” The anecdote may be apocryphal, Conconi says, “but I can’t think of a story that rings more true.”

Did Russert refuel at the local White Castle? Conconi, a genial guide, isn’t sure. But Chuck was making a larger point: Russert’s extremely ambitious. We read this profile just after reading Russert’s interview in Bernie Goldberg’s new Arrogance. And we thought the profile might shed some light on the absurd things that Russert had said.

Russert’s ambitious, Conconi says. And in the world of network TV, ambitious people try to boost ratings. That may be why Russert pandered to Goldberg’s readers in the ludicrous way he did, even implying that he has been picked on because he’s Catholic and didn’t attend “elite” schools. We’ll be frank: We were disgusted by Russert’s interview—by the cheap, slimy shots it aimed at his colleagues, and by its ludicrous victimhood tales, tales designed to sell Goldberg’s readers on the idea that a sneering elite looks down on them too. Russert—a multimillionaire in a millionaire’s “tony” neighborhood—pretends he’s picked on by the elite. After reading Tim’s boast about that mixer, we recalled how he works the exclusive parties at which he’s so vastly misused.

We know--we're being too hard on Russert this week. And there's nothing wrong with being ambitious. But there was something wrong with that chapter in Arrogance. We hope this provides some slick context.

LAST BOOK OF LISTS: We’re sorry to stay with the Gore-Lieberman matter, an utterly pointless non-story. But the pundit corps has rarely made its utterly vacuous values more clear, and the record should be kept for posterity. Before we present a few more examples of the laughable clowning in which pundits engaged, let’s review a bit of news that your pundit corps deftly disappeared.

Did Al call Joe to tell him the news? Fatuous pundits boo-hoo-hooed about the matter all week. But on Friday, the New York Post’s widely-read Lloyd Grove printed some news you might could have used. According to Gore’s daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, Al had tried hard to reach Joe:

GROVE (12/12/03): Al Gore’s eldest daughter vehemently defended the 2000 Democratic nominee yesterday from presidential candidate Joe Lieberman’s allegations that Gore blindsided him with his surprise endorsement of rival candidate Howard Dean…

Yesterday Karenna Gore Schiff told me her dad “really wanted to make calls not only to Dean’s opponents, but also to his own longtime friends and supporters. But the news leaked before he had a chance to do that.”

“I was with him that night as he was trying to get Lieberman on the phone the whole night. He was calling literally every few minutes. He definitely called many times, and he was told that there was a Lieberman event and the senator wasn’t with a staff person, and he couldn’t get him on the phone.”

Grove has been widely quoted since he went to the Post. But not this time! Friday evening, Wolf Blitzer reported Schiff’s statement on CNN, and Jim Lehrer mentioned her statement on the NewsHour (text below). But we can find no sign in the Nexis archives that anyone else ever mentioned Schiff’s statement. You know the way that “press corps” is! When they get a story they very much like, they tend to deep-six dissonant data. Indeed, we only heard about Schiff’s statement when a reader e-mailed us yesterday!

Meanwhile, readers keep sending examples of pundit boo-hooing about that meaningless phone call. For example, Gloria Borger does it again in the current U.S. News:

BORGER: For Al Gore, man of caution, it was a Clark Kent moment. Out of nowhere, the once mild-mannered man of the establishment whooshes into the Democratic presidential contest to endorse the man who makes the establishment cringe…Then he flies off into the clouds. (Or more precisely, to Sweden, to be a guest at the nifty Nobel Prize banquet.) Who was that man in the red cape? Reinvention, thy name is Gore!

Maybe you thought this was all about what Gore believes. Or at least about what Howard Dean believes. Think again. Sure, Gore and Dean both oppose the Iraq war. “Our nation in its 200-year history has never made a worse foreign policy mistake,” Gore said. “Therefore, it’s no minor matter to me that the only candidate…to articulate the right choice was Howard Dean.” And sure, Gore sees Dean as his natural heir: the man who invented the Internet embraces the candidate who has mined the Internet.

Good God! Borger’s cut-and-paste clowning has long been extreme, but this was gold-star work, even for her. Like Russert, Klein, Page, Doocy and Greenfield, she recites the “invented the Internet” joke, and she works the key spin-point—reinvention—into her first and last paragraphs! Here’s how the simpering ended:
BORGER: In casting his lot with Howard Dean, Gore has made a calculation: that the party’s future is not with Clinton centrism but with Dean’s left-leaning supporters. Forget free trade, welfare reform, and other silly Clinton ideas. This is about the future—or at least Al Gore’s future. And reinvention has always been his specialty.
The motive-based mind-reading of that last paragraph is indulged in all through this piece. (This isn’t “about what Gore believes,” the nattering know-it-all says.) Meanwhile, Borger assembles an etiquette list; Gore should have called Kerry and Gephardt too, she decrees. (Rudely, she omits Charlie Rangel.) Meanwhile, the pundit gets bonus points for saying that Gore “brutally attacked Bradley in his primary fight in 1999.” Good God! Once these people establish a spin-point, it never—simply never—disappears.

Another reader asked us to post Mark Shields from Friday night’s NewsHour. One night later, Cap Gang pundits would make a long list of all the people Gore should have called. But their leader, Shields, had beaten them to it. Weekdays, he writes for the Washington Post. Friday, a different Post—Emily—was his guide:

SHIELDS: Al Gore being Al Gore and always sort of lacking that deft touch at personal relations did it in a way that took away all the luster of his endorsement by just absolutely dissing Joe Lieberman, who had been the exemplar of loyalty, who had foregone his own presidential ambitions until Gore made up his own mind; didn’t even give him the decency of the human phone call.

JIM LEHRER: Now just for the record, one of the Gore daughters said today that is not true, that her father tried all night to get—the night before, to get Lieberman on the phone and he couldn’t do it and she was right there. She knows for a fact she tried to get him on the phone and it didn’t work.

SHIELDS: How about John Kerry and John Edwards, the last two finalists? There are three finalists to be his vice president. In a personal level, you explain this. There are only three people he considered to be vice president, one heartbeat away. All three happen to be running for president. So I think in that sense, it transformed—

LEHRER: So what does that say about Al Gore and—does that say something truly negative about Al Gore, in your opinion?

SHIELDS: I think it raises—I mean, he goes into Harlem to do the announcement, doesn’t mention it to Charlie Rangel, the home congressman!

LEHRER: Who is supporting—

SHIELDS: A longtime Gore supporter and all the rest of it.

Rangel, of course, is supporting Clark—endorsed him just last week. At any rate, Shields included Edwards; omitted Gephardt; and brought Rangel back in the fold. Kerry makes everyone’s list.

We assume we won’t visit this story again. Saturday night, pundits recovered from all their crying by enjoying a wintry mixer chez Rummy. Phew! Cutting-and-pasting old spin is hard work! They spent a tough week making extra-long lists. It was time for the joy of the season.