How did the New York Times cover Bush and Gore? Sullivan wants his readers to think that they must have ripped that poor Dub up. In fact, by the summer of 2000, a different situation obtained. Apologists were explaining the papers disparate treatment of Bush and Gorebut it was Bush whom that treatment was favoring. The Times Gore reporter, Katharine "Kit" Seelye, was endlessly beating the bushes and shaking the sheets, looking for major and minor points to flog in her headlong pursuit of Gore. Meanwhile, Bruni created Memorable Moments in the History of Fawning, like his claim that Bush "pretended to be confused" when he floundered in the crucial first debate. At the time, Bruni thought Bush had just blown the whole deal. But he struggled to keep you from knowing (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/18/02).
For a comic example of the disparate treatment, consider the two hopefuls fund-raising. It was a minor issue in the race, and a minor part of the press corps coverage. But it neatly shows the disparate treatment as the Times puffed up Bush and flogged Gore.
In the weeks after Super Tuesday (March 7, 2000), Seelye unveiled a new approach to Gore. On March 9, Gore said he would make campaign finance reform a priority; on March 26, he released a proposal for federal funding of congressional elections. Pundits feared that Ol-Do-And-Say-Anything might inherit the mantle of their treasured Saint McCain. So how did they handle this down at the Times? Simple. Seelye began to batter Gore for daring to make such proposals.
What was Seelyes specific complaint? Gore had offered to do without "soft money" if Bush would agree to do likewise. But Bush had rejected the VPs offer, and Gore was now out raising funds. To date, Bush had raised twice as much money as Gorebut to Seelye, Gores fund-raising was deeply disturbing. She seemed to think that, since Gore had proposed campaign finance reform, he shouldnt be raising any money at all. On March 22, she began to insert that ludicrous view into a string of alleged "news reports." On that day, she wrote that Gore was "in a frantic swirl to reach the $33.8 million [hard money] limit that he can raise before the August convention"and she clearly was disturbed by his "frantic" conduct. "His activities are somewhat incongruous," she wrote, "coming as he has begun to portray himself as an apostle of reform, chastened by his zealous fund-raising in 1996." And yes, that sentence did appear in a New York Times "news report."
Seelyes comments made no sense on earth, as was so often the case with her work. Was Gores fund-raising somehow "incongruous?" McCain had also raised tens of millions while pushing for campaign finance reform. And, like Gore, sainted Bill Bradley had offered to eschew "soft money" only if Bush followed suit. But Seelye was so upset by Gores conduct, she slammed it again on March 23. This time she found a new sign of bad faith; Gore had failed to mention finance reform when he spoke at a fund-raising luncheon. "Incongruity" was now Sentence One:
SEELYE (3/23): (pgh 1) Perhaps it was best not to call attention to the incongruity. Vice President Al Gore has been trumpeting his "passion" for overhauling the campaign finance system, even while scooping up money and emerging from the primary season as the richest candidate in the race.
(2) But today, while holding perhaps his most successful fund-raising session, he refrained entirely from mentioning his newfound "priority" of eliminating the large, unregulated contributions known as soft money.
Seelye was spinning in every sentence. The words "passion" and "priority" were put in quotes so youd know that Gore didnt mean them. And why was Gore "emerging from the primary season as the richest candidate?" Not because hed been "scooping up money," but because Bush had been spending his own money so lavishly; Bush was low in cash at this point because hed more than doubled Gores primary spending. Seelye, of course, didnt tell you that; spinning, she implied that Gore was the Big Money Man. At any rate, even the photo caption on March 23 suggested the VPs insincerity. "Vice President Al Gore focused on the economy," it said, "not on what he had said was his priority of overhauling campaign finance." The words "what he said" were there to tell you that Gore didnt mean those things he had said. Seelye played these daft games for over a year as she "reported" the Gore campaign effort.
Just how stupid was Seelyes new jihad? For years, candidates had raised funds under existing rules even as they proposed major rule changes, sensibly saying that doing otherwise would be a form of "unilateral disarmament." Surely, an alert second-grader could make out the point. Indeed, George Will had been just that dismissive six weeks earlier; on February 13, the columnist mocked a similar complaint which Bush had been hurling at McCain:
WILL: Bushs current objection to McCains campaign finance positionthat McCain is a hypocrite for playing under existing rules while advocating new rulesis too puerile to merit confuting.
Quite true. But now, this "puerile" objection drove Seelyes "reporting" day after day in the Times. On March 24, she pushed her mindless complaint again. In a "Campaign Briefing" which was headlined "BAD TIMING," her jihad now entered Day Three:
SEELYE (3/24): In a bit of unfortunate timing for the Gore campaign, Vice President Al Gore was raising hundreds of thousands of dollars yesterday at three events just as his Republican rival, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, called him "an obstacle to reform."
Of course, Bush was now saying such things every day; by Seelyes standard, any occasion on which Gore raised money would constitute "a bit of BAD TIMING." Indeed, the Times Richard Oppel proved the point; on March 25, he authored a fourth straight report on the alleged incongruity of Gores very troubling fund-raising. "Mr. Gore, who has called for an overhaul of campaign finance laws
has shown no signs of letting up his own prodigious fund-raising," Oppel wrote; like Seelye, Oppel was deeply puzzled by this strange state of affairs. And, as Seelye had done three days before, Oppel listed the fancy menu from a Gore fund-raising dinner. "33 people donating $15,000 each dined on crabmeat parfait, quail stuffed with squash, and pecan pie," he wrote. Why do reporters publish such menus? Theyre letting you know that the candidate in question isnt a regular person, like you are. Its one of a thousand ways scribes spin youextremely selectively, of course.
Day after day, the New York Times, in its news reporting, handed readers this "puerile" argumenttold them how incongruous it was for Gore to be out raising dough. (For the record, the paper pushed the theme in stories written on March 9, 12, 16, 22, 23, 24 and 25.) By the way, this theme was not only absurd on its face; in pushing it, Seelye was reciting Bush spin. Bush was now making his "puerile" argument about Gore, not McCain; indeed, Seelye reported this fact on March 12. "In recent days," she wrote with Richard Berke, "Mr. Bush has ridiculed Mr. Gore for calling on him to reject unregulated soft money in the campaigns while at the same time the vice president has been raising such funds." The argument wasnt just "puerile"it was textbook Bush spin. For the rest of the month, Seelye spun it.
Indeed, Seelye never seemed to tire of implying that something was wrong with Gores fund-raising. She hammered the topic right through September, finding ways to roll her eyes whenever Gore dared to raise dough. Snide remarks were the scribes greatest trademark. For example, when Gore had a fund-raising dinner on June 6, Seelye opened her article by saying, "Vice President Al Gore, ever on the prowl for money, has found a new source." On June 24, she was at it again: "Vice President Al Gore was back to business as usual todaytrolling for money." On September 10, she outlined Gores schedule; "This coming week, the vice president will
comb the Northeast corridor for cash." On April 17, she had let herself run free; Seelye penned this evocative lead as she described yet another Gore fund-raiser:
SEEELYE (pgh 1): The sweet scent of jasmine wafted up the leafy hillsides, the lights of Los Angeles twinkled below, and the cash register ca-CHINGed until it was stuffed with $2.8 million.
And yes, that appeared in the Times. The ridiculous license granted to Seelye helped make it Americas sloppiest newspapera seeping cesspool of attitude and spin. Seelye found every imaginable way to spin Gores ongoing fund-raisers. When she didnt tell you what the guests ate, she described the "Miros and Chagalls" on the walls (6/24). When Gore and Clinton appeared together, she never failed to mention the fact that Clinton had been more dynamic. And quite literally, the Times never published any such comments about Bushs equally lavish fund-raisersevents which were raising much larger sums. One reason? On July 2, Bruni finally gave Times readers an extremely rare bit of information:
BRUNI: Unlike Mr. Gores fund-raisers, Mr. Bushs were closed to reporters, a strategic decision by Republicans, who said they worried that any discussion of the Texas governor and money served to reinforce their reputation as the party of the rich and to remind voters that Mr. Bushs candidacy has been fueled by an unprecedented sum of contributions.
Bushs menus were never publishedin part because Bushs events were closed. That, of course, was Bushs right. But the Timesshowing the woeful bad judgment that suffused the paperkept trashing Gore for his shi-shi dinners while barely mentioning Bushs events, at which much larger sums were raised. The absurd imbalance of this procedure would also occur to alert second graders, but at the Times, it made perfect sense. Gores fund-raising dinners were repeatedly mentioned; Bushs events were rarely cited. Indeed, how did Bruni present Bushs dinners? What follows is the only occasion when Bruni discussed them in any detail. To state the obvious, Brunis tone differed vastly from Seelyes
BRUNI (6/20): At a dinner tonight at the home of John T. Chambers, the chief executive of Cisco Systems, Mr. Bush collected what campaign officials estimated to be more than $3.5 million from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs
"I dont relish these big fund-raising events," Mr. Bush said beforehand, as his campaign plane flew west from Austin, Tex. But he was set to grin and bear several of them in a campaign week expected to be among his most lucrative.
Bruni rolled over and fawned, like a puppy. In this passage, he first reported Bushs spinthen politely repeated it for him. Bush just hates these fancy events; first Bush stated the pleasing point, then Bruni recited the pleasing point too. He didnt tell us what the guests ate; nor did he say what was found on the walls. Nor were we told that this dinner was closed. All spring and summer, a vastly different tone held sway as Gore "trolled for" and "scooped up" his dough.
Lets say it again; this was a very minor part of Election 2000 press coverage. But this nonsenserepeated a hundred times overdefined the New York Times grisly work. Last week, Sullivan and Coulter feigned amazement that a Timesman could have written a Bush-friendly book. But the Timesman in question had pandered and fawned all throughout Election 2000. Sullivan knows it; Coulter knows itbut they just dont want the cattle to know. Last week, they tossed the cattle some tasty fare. We think you deserve more nutrition.
Next: Bruni was shocked by Bushs behavior. It never turned up in the Times.
Someone has finally done Bernies work for him: A Stanford professor has finally done Bernie Goldbergs work for him. Well comment later on this topic. For now, though, you can dig all the digits. You know what to do. Just click here.
Notes on your press corps corruption: During the course of Election 2000, Bush raised $193 million. Gore raised $133 million, some $60 million less. But youd never have guessed that from reading the Times. In Seelyes work, Gore was constantly "scooping up money," "trolling for money," "on the prowl for money" and "combing for cash." (On June 14, he gave "a double meaning to his current prosperity tour, collecting a cool million in New York," Seelye said.) Of course, Bruni rarely mentioned such vulgar events. Why would he? After all, he knew that the Bush campaign was "worried that any discussion of the Texas governor and money served to reinforce their reputation as the party of the rich."
To all appearances, Seelye was eager to spread that reputation to Gore. What else could explain this puzzling May 13 entry?
GORE LEADS CASH PARADEVice President Al Gore continues to pull in the cash for his party. This week he raised $2.4 million for the Democratic National Committee at six dinners. That brings the total that he has raised for the party since the end of March to $15.8 million, not including the $5 million he helped raise with President Clinton in Hollywood ($2.8 million) and New York ($2.2 million). The events this week included two dinners each, back to back, in Manhattan, Dallas and Los Angeles. Next up is a fund-raiser for the party on May 24 in Washington, where the host, Terry McAuliffe, has promised a record-breaking single-night haul of more than $21 million.
What "cash parade" did Seelye (or her editor) think Gore was "leading?" As noted above, Bush raised $60 million more than Gore during the 2000 race. But it was Gore whose events were constantly mentioned, with Seelyes snide comments lighting the way. Bruni, by contrast, was helping us see how much Bush hated "those big fund-raising events." The governor "was set to grin and bear them," Bruni politely informed his readers. Seelyea spinner from head to toefound ways to convey different notions.
The Daily update (3/20/02)
Getting berked: Last Saturday, the smarmiest name in American journalism got busy with the Goresand their marriage. Youll probably think that were making this up. But noa nasty, thigh-rubbing little guy got hisself all swoll up and said this:
BERKE: A campaign by Mrs. Gore would instantly transform the contest in Tennessee into one with colossal national interest. It would also spur questions about the Gores marital dynamic.
Incredible, isnt it? Berke was talking about the new report that Tipper Gore might run for the Senate. According to Berke, such a race would make people question the couples "marital dynamic." Incredibly, he even got a caption writer to pen the slimy phrase too:
NEW YORK TIMES PHOTO CAPTION: Al and Tipper Gore in Washington for National Prayer Day last September. A campaign by Mrs. Gore for a Senate seat could affect Mr. Gores political future and would prompt questions about their marital dynamic.
It only added to the Times nasty funthat a photo bearing so smarmy a tag had been shot at a Prayer Day function.
We thought wed seen it all from Berke, but the small little man keep on comin. Indeed, Berke showed his mastery of current Gore norms throughout this risible piece. Norm Number One: When writing about the hapless Gore, begin with a note of derision:
BERKE (pgh 1): For Democrats who grumbled in the 2000 presidential campaign that Tipper would have been a more potent candidate than Al, their dream may now come true.
Absurdly bogus predictions are pleasing:
BERKE (3): If Mrs. Gore runs, it could significantly affect her husbands political future. A Senate race by Tipper Gore could help her husband repair relations with voters in Tennessee should he seek a rematch with President Bush in 2004. Mr. Gore lost his home state in 2000 and would need to win there to capture the White House.
How about some utter triviapreferably attributed to "many" people, all of them unnamed, of course:
BERKE (4): After word had leaked out about Mrs. Gores interest, more and more prominent Democrats said they were warming to the idea. Many noted that it was Mrs. Gores public, and lengthy, kiss of her husband at the Democratic convention that helped enliven his candidacy for president in 2000.
Do you really think anyone said it? But Berkes astoundingly stupid conceit got started in paragraph 7:
BERKE (7): A race by Mrs. Gore would, inevitably, be compared to Hillary Rodham Clintons successful run for the Senate from New York in 2000. The twist is that Mrs. Gore, despite her high profile, never expressed a personal political ambition like Mrs. Clinton.
The race would "inevitably" be compared to Clintonsnot that Berke would do that, of course. And Berkecontentedly playing the foolextended his risible format:
BERKE (10): A campaign by Mrs. Gore would instantly transform the contest in Tennessee into one with colossal national interest. It would also spur questions about the Gores marital dynamic. Just as people questioned whether Mrs. Clinton ran for Senate to show up her husband, Democrats might wonder whether Mrs. Gore was trying to upstage her husband by winning the state that humiliated him in 2000.
Not that Berke would wonder that. Its just that some Democrats might!
Incredible, isnt it? Where in the worldwhere on earthdoes the New York Times manage to find them? And where in the world did the smarmy paper find an editor who would put this in print? Can anyone on earth truly believe that, if Tipper Gore had run for the Senate, "Democrats might have wondered whether Mrs. Gore was trying to upstage her husband?" Can anyone believe such a ludicrous statement? And can anyone explain why the Times would rush to put such utter pap in printwould rush to broadcast such stupid questions even before they were asked?
Luckily, we can explain the whole thing. Berkes piece is easily parsed. Translation: If you dare to run for the Senate, Mrs. Gore, heres a hint of the way youll be trashed.
Tipper Gore Is Said to Consider Senate Race
Richard Berke, The New York Times, 3/16/02