9 February 2000
Our current howler (part IV): Motor mouth
Synopsis: When Jack Kemp encountered some engine trouble, we blamed the whole thing on the press.
Commentary by Jack Kemp
The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News Channel, 2/2/00
The Guff Stops Here
David Broder, The Washington Post, 1/28/00
Commentary by Tim Russert, John McCain
Meet the Press, NBC, 1/30/00
Rebel flags in the McCain camp
Jim Drinkard, USA Today, 2/8/00
How many distortions about Vile Gore has the press corps
somehow put up with? One old chestnut went on display when Jack
Kemp did The Factor last week. We've long admired Kemp
because he's refused to engage in modern personality politics;
he's always said it's about the ideas, and he's argued his ideas
all the way. This night, Kemp took a different approach. Here
was his take on Gore's character:
KEMP: It's starting to come out via Bill Bradley, who began
to identify the exaggerations, the fabrications, the disingenuousness
of Al Gore. And it's coming out, and it's going to be big-time.
Need proof? Kemp said Michael Kelly had written about
this, which brought the analysts right out of their chairs (see
THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/8/00). According to Kemp, Gore is "less
than candid," "strays from the truth," and "prevaricates,"
among other known qualities. No examples were given, but the conversation
moved on to this account of Gore-as-economist:
KEMP: He's ideologically, organically left of Clinton, and
he's a Malthusianin other words, he does not believe in growth...Al
Gore said the other day he wants to eliminate the internal combustion
engine. Now let me ask youwe've got 162 million internal combustion
engines on the earth. Do we want 162 million horse-drawn carriages?
O'REILLY: Gore just says stuff. Do you really believe that
he's a died-in-the-wool liberal?
KEMP: I believe he's a died-in-the-wool greenie...
Kemp's story about internal combustion was straight from a
long-standing RNC playbookanother enjoyable tale about Gore that
the press corps has winked at for years. In fact, it was eight
years ago, in Earth in the Balance, when Gore said we should
be able to phase out the IC enginebut it was clear that he envisioned
replacing the IC with advanced technology, not with hay and horse-power.
But it's not enough that Kemp didn't know what Gore had said in
his best-selling bookthere was something else that Kemp didn't
know (he thoroughly misinformed Factor viewers). On January
5, 1998more than two years agoRebecca Blumenstein filed a page-one,
lead story in the Journal. Direct from the floor of the Detroit
auto show, the article started like this:
BLUMENSTEIN (paragraph 1): Time is starting to run out for
the internal combustion engine...[A]uto-makers from Tokyo to Stuttgart
to Detroit have reached a surprising consensus on an idea deemed
heretical not long ago. A fundamental shift in engine technology
Huh! Meanwhile, in a page-one lead story in the same day's
New York Times, Keith Bradsher quoted a well-known Malthusian.
It was Jack Smith, General Motors CEO:
BRADSHER: "No car company will be able to thrive in the
21st century if it relies solely on the internal combustion engine,"
said John F. Smith, Jr., GM's chairman and chief executive, adding
that the company was stepping up its research spending...
Blumenstein had spoken with the GM head too:
BLUMENSTEIN: [Smith] predicted a "slow phase-off"
of the internal combustion engine in 20 to 30 years...Any auto-maker
that doesn't do so risks being left in the dust.
In short, Kemp wasn't just ignorant of what Gore had said.
He also was clueless about the state of the industrydidn't know
that every world car company now agrees that internal combustion
is on the way out. And why do TV viewers keep hearing spin that
says something different and ridicules Gore? Because this has
been treasured RNC lore since Earth in the Balance first
appeared! Crackpot Jim Nicholson and his gang of dissemblers are
constantly faxing out tales of Crazy Gore, and the notion that
Gore has weird thoughts about cars has long been an RNC staple.
And what do they rely on, when they send out these talestales
which totally misinform voters? They rely on the hapless celebrity
press corpson its inability to establish simple facts! They know
that no one in the press corps will ever stand up and correct
their treasured howlers. Viewers hear that Gore is a nut on internal
combustion. That the issue is settledand that Gore was rightis
something scribes know not to say.
The fact that this silly story is still going strongtwo years
after these page-one lead storiesis our reply to Al Hunt's belief
that the press is upset by distortions. There is absolutely no
sign on earth that the press corps holds any such values. The
same sorry bunch that spins Gore-is-a-liar-because-of-Love-Story
has also played along with Gore-is-a-nut-because-of-internal-combustion,
and they also got three good solid months out of Gore-never-spent-a-day-on-the-farm.
Vast numbers of them knew that was false (see THE DAILY HOWLER,
2/8/00). They have recently favored Gore-is-a-demagogue-on-the-Bradley-health-planthough
they tend not to waste our time with examples. Here, once again,
was David Broder, with a story he does seem to enjoy:
BRODER: If [John McCain's] putdown [of Alan Keyes] was overdue,
so was Bill Bradley's finally reacting with anger to the campaign
Vice President Gore has been running against him. Gore has hammered
relentlessly at the New Jersey senator's health care plan, suggesting
many times that Bradley would end Medicaid and endanger Medicare,
placing millions of elderly and needyespecially minoritiesat
risk...After weeks of protesting feebly against these distortions,
Bradley, in the Wednesday debate, finally put the question into
the right context: "If you're running a campaign that says
untrue things, I wonder if you can be a president who gets people's
Pathetic. Gore hasn't suggested that Bradley's plan
would end Medicaid; he has said that it would, because
that's what it says. And he has said over and over-starting more
than three months agothat Bradley's replacement for Medicaid
is inadequate. Broder makes no effort to refute this assertionmakes
no effort whatever to establish what's true. He merely does what
the press corps does besthe picks a team, and starts yelling
"distortion." (Note on Medicare: Bradley's plan doesn't
provide extra funding for Medicare. Gore's and McCain's plans
both do. Broder doesn't make the slightest effort to examine the
merits of that either.)
Let us make one point about thiswe don't believe, not for
a minute, that Kemp was deliberately misstating on combustion.
And yes, we also have total confidence in Kemp's free-thinking
host, Bill O'Reilly. But how can it be? How can it be that a man
as accomplished as Sec. Kemp doesn't know the facts about this
topic? It's largely because of Al Hunt's hapless press corps,
the one that's so upset by distortions. Surely, many individual
pundits don't know the facts on the future status of internal
combustion. But many pundits know perfectly well, and they
don't so much as utter a peep when they hear silly RNC spin.
Why is someone like Kemp misinformed? Because Nicholson has
run a disinformation campaignand Washington pundits, ears to
the ground, have never contradicted his dissembling.
Sorry, readerswe don't believe for a minute that the pundits
are crying about the Gore campaign's horrid distortions. As a
group, they're quick to grab a distortion and runwhen it serves
a prevailing press notion.
Tomorrow: Finallywe take a look at those nursing home
standards! A final look at the way the press corps determines
what's actually true.
Visit our incomparable archives: Washington journalists
read THE DAILY HOWLER, and we have long itemized Nicholson's transmission
problems. For past reporting on IC dissembling, see THE DAILY
HOWLER 3/24/99, 4/29/99, 5/24/99, 7/2/99.
Smile-a-while! Who's on first: We couldn't help shaking
our head in wonder as we watched John McCain on 1/30 Meet the
Press. It was just two days before Granite State voting, but
the straight talk from McCain wouldn't stop. Tim Russert asked
about a TV ad the maverick outsider straight-shooter was running.
It was refreshing to see just how simple it is when hopefuls don't
dodge, weave or spin:
TAPE OF MCCAIN COMMERCIAL: There's only one man who knows the
military and understands the world. John McCain.
RUSSERT: "Only one man"..."Only one man" who
knows the military or understands the world.
RUSSERT: That suggests nobody else running for president knows
the military or understands the world.
That was what we almost thought, too. Until Mr. Straight began
MCCAIN: As I say, I believe that George Bush is a fine man
and a good man. I believe that I am fully prepared. And that's
the message that I'm trying to give in New Hampshire and around
the country, and I'm convinced that that is the case, otherwise
I wouldn't be running.
RUSSERT: But you're saying that George W. Bush does not know
the military or understand the world.
MCCAIN: No, I'm not saying that.
RUSSERT: Well, you say "only one man."
MCCAIN: Well, there is only one man that is fully prepared.
I am fully prepared. If I wasn't more prepared, then I wouldn't
be running for president.
For some reason, Russert was still confused. He asked for a
RUSSERT: Well then, why run the ad saying you're the only man?
MCCAIN: Because I think that it's a great ad. I think it's
a great message. I think it's the whole themeprimarily the theme
of the campaign, that these are all good people who are running,
but I believe that I'm the person that can lead the country in
this new millennium.
RUSSERT: And knows the military and understands the world.
MCCAIN: Yes, sir.
RUSSERT: And he doesn't?
MCCAIN: No. No, I believe that he does know that. But the fact
is that I believe that I'm the most prepared.
We certainly think that John McCain is fully prepared to be
president. But we also think the celebrity press can be excessive
about McCain's candor. McCain has done a next-day 180 on the confederate
flag; has done instant 180s at least twice on abortion; and when
he said he had known that an army colleague was gay because of
the colleague's manner, he then showed up the very next day and
said he actually knew the man was gay because the man had later
said so. His descriptions of his tax plan make absolutely no sense,
and he ran a baldly false ad about the Bush budget plan. But he
rides the boys around on the bus, and he tells them jokes about
his stripper ex-girl friends. According to widely published reports,
he frequently says he likes talking to scribes because the scribes
are just so goddamn smart.
By the way, we couldn't help noting this intriguing point about
McCain's controversial South Carolina adviser, Richard Quinn:
DRINKARD: [Quinn] publishes a quarterly magazine, Southern
Partisan, that celebrates Southern history and Civil War heritage.
McCain pays Quinn $20,000 a month for advice...
He does? Remember when the press corps learned that Gore was
paying Naomi Wolf $15,000 a month? ($15,000 a month is one-quarter
less than $20,000.) The celebrity pundits simply screamed
about Gore's crazed, spendthrift ways. You know what we normally
say about the old "double standard:" it's the easiest
claim on earth to make, and the hardest claim on earth to prove.
But the parallel here is rather direct. Let's see if the gang