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19 June 2001

Our current howler (part II): At any cost

Synopsis: The opening chapter of Sammon’s book is a textbook in how to mislead.

At Any Cost
Bill Sammon, Regnery Publishing, 2001

Divided We Stand
Roger Simon, Crown Publishers, 2001

Thank God for occasional carelessness! Normally, our dissemblers are too slick to do what Sammon did in his passage about the Four Circles (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/18/01). They’re far too clever to lie in our faces—to make a statement which is plainly false, and can be shown so by reviewing their one cited source. Our professional spinners are slicker than that, as Sammon shows in the opening chapter of his book, At Any Cost. In this remarkable chapter, he tells the hoary tale of the July 1999 Gore canoe trip, relating the story in such a way as to show what a Big Liar Gore is. What did Sammon learn from that incident? "[T]he canoe flap taught me something important about Al Gore," he writes, on page five of his book. "When caught in a jam, he reflexively resorted to deception." Indeed, as Sammon’s plane lands in Florida post-election, his noble mind drifts back to that incident. "[A]s the plane taxied to a stop," he says, "I couldn’t shake the sense that perhaps we were heading in a profoundly bigger and more important version of that canoe story, in which Gore would do anything to win, no matter how bad he looked or how ugly it got." Poor guy! Sammon was trying hard to be fair. But he simply "couldn’t shake the sense" that Gore would soon be behaving quite badly.

In that passage, on his book’s seventh page, Sammon stated the past campaign’s iconic negative soundbite on Gore. And to justify it, he was willing to dissemble from beginning to end in describing that pointless canoe ride. But when Sammon recounts the canoe tale, he almost never lies. Dissembling constantly to give false impressions, he shows that the real pros are far slicker than that.

Consider the nugget paragraph, early on in his tale, in which he describes the canoe story as "nothing short of amazing." We are back on July 22, 1999; Sammon has just spoken with employees of PG&E, a New Hampshire power company. An hour earlier, Gore has staged an environmental photo-op with New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, canoeing down the drought-stricken Connecticut River. And Sammon, speaking to those employees, has learned that PG&E released water from an upstream dam so that Gore’s canoe wouldn’t run aground in the process:

SAMMON (page 4): Their story was nothing short of amazing. The drought was so severe that New Hampshire residents were forbidden from watering their lawns or washing their cars. And yet more than half a billion gallons of water had been released from a dam in order to accommodate Al Gore’s environmental photo-op.

Now there’s some real textbook dissembling! There isn’t one false statement in that passage, but Sammon’s account is grossly misleading, in ways that Sammon understands. As Sammon knows—and as he knows that you don’t—the water released by PG&E had nothing to do with that summer’s drought; the water from the PG&E dam was used to generate electricity each day, and was never going to be used by anyone to wash their cars or water their lawns. Indeed, if Gore had just bombed the dam in question, it would have effected no one’s ability to perform the chores Sammon listed. In real time, this obvious point was made perfectly clear by major papers in New Hampshire and Vermont, but it was constantly obscured by Sammon in the Washington Times; two years later, the Big Guy’s back at it again, giving readers the clear impression that precious water was wasted that day. Of course, he doesn’t quite say that Gore was at fault, because he knows that that is provably false. Here’s the maestro’s first account of how the water was released that morning:

SAMMON (page 3): The drought that had been plaguing New England all summer had slowed the Connecticut River to a standstill. Gore’s advance team and the local environmentalists who organized the photo-op had fretted that there wouldn’t be enough water to float the vice presidential canoe. So PG&E was instructed to open the floodgates of its dam upriver at dawn that morning. By the time Gore got into his canoe, the river was plenty deep enough for the trip downstream.

PG&E "was instructed?" When professionals go to the passive voice, you need to start checking your wallets. Surely, many people would think from this passage that "Gore’s advance team" (whoever they were) may have given the utility its instruction. That is, of course, not the case. In two full weeks of gimmicked-up stories back in 1999, Sammon and the Washington Times never said that Gore or anyone in his campaign had directed the release of the water. In fact, Gore’s spokesmen insisted they had done no such thing, and no one ever said different. The "Gore advance team" to which Sammon refers in his book was, alas, the local river commission and the Secret Service, as Sammon made perfectly clear in real time; according to Sammon’s own WashTimes reporting, it was they who had inspected the river, and then it was specifically the river commission which asked the utility to release the water. Despite the luxury of his book-length format, Sammon never explains that in At Any Cost. Here is the closest he gets:

SAMMON (page 4): The story hit the front page of the Washington Times the next morning. As I prepared a follow-up report, I interviewed Sharon Francis, the local environmentalist who had helped plan the entire event. Francis reiterated a point I had made in my first story—that Gore himself had not ordered the raising of the river. But she also explained something I hadn’t known…

"Gore himself had not ordered the raising of the river." Sammon never says who did give the orders, leaving open the possibility that Gore’s "advance team" or someone on Gore’s staff may have been the culprit. This is strange, because in Sammon’s Day Two report in the Washington Times, he explained exactly who gave the order; it was Sharon Francis, the "local environmentalist" who was in fact, as Sammon reported in the Times, "executive director of the Connecticut River Joint Commission" and "one of several government officials" who joined Gore on the river that day. In Sammon’s 7/24/99 WashTimes story, Francis explained, with perfect clarity, that she had directed the release of the water, after the Gore campaign had explicitly asked her not to change any local procedures. This was clearly explained in real time, and no one ever contradicted it. But now, the "government official" was recast for the book, described instead as a "local environmentalist," and Sammon didn’t say who gave the orders, leaving open the possibility that Gore’s staff or "advance team" had done it. Meanwhile, Sammon was being rather disingenuous when he said that he had made the point, in his "first story," that Gore himself hadn’t ordered the release. In that story, Sammon did report the statement, early on, that he somehow managed to avoid in his book; "Cleve Kapala, director of government affairs for PG&E, said the utility was asked by the Connecticut River Joint Commission to open the dam after the commission and Secret Service agents visited the site Saturday." But Sammon remained a master of spin, finding various ways to imply that Gore was the culprit. In his Day Two WashTimes story, for example, he showed the way a reporter can use uninformed citizens to pass on misimpressions; after quoting Francis explaining that she ordered the release, Sammon immediately quoted several New Hampshire residents (real or imagined), who criticized Gore for doing so. (Example: Trolling for disinformation at a restaurant across the state from the incident, Sammon quoted "a self-described local environmentalist," who said that she was "disappointed by Thursday’s stunt." Her quote on Gore? "I hope he would think a little bit better before allowing something like this to happen again.") Spinning journalists use such tricks to get counterfactual images into print; knowing that Francis had made the decision, he spent three paragraphs quoting uninformed locals who were kvetching at Gore for having done it. So it goes as dissembling journalists convey the false stories they like.

But none of that involves lying! In Sammon’s book, it isn’t a lie to call Francis a "local environmentalist," because, in some sense, she is. And it isn’t a lie to omit basic info, like who actually made the decision. It isn’t a lie to quote a person who is implying things which you know to be false. And no, it isn’t exactly a lie to say that a "Gore advance team" inspected the river; it just gives some readers a false impression that could have been dispelled by the simplest facts. This is how scribes like Sammon spin you—with tricks designed to give false impressions. But somehow, the Four Circles passage got under Bill’s skin, and he did what our spinning scribes seldom do—he went ahead and lied in your face, showing off the wierd corruption at the heart of this genial "All-Star."


But wait, there’s so much more

Please don’t think that we have exhausted Sammon’s canoe trip spinning. The story only takes five pages in his big-print, quickie book, but efforts to mislead his readers are found in almost every paragraph. Examples:

Earth tones: As he starts, Sammon rewards his faithful buyers with an iconic, absurd blast from the past:

SAMMON (page 2): There were only a handful of us on Air Force Two in those early days in the campaign. On that particular day, there were even fewer of us than usual because the only public event on Gore’s schedule was an environmental photo-op. Those were Gore’s "earth tone" days and he wanted to showcase his new, casual wardrobe in a carefully staged canoe ride down the Connecticut River.

Really? Those were Gore’s "earth tone" days? According to a Lexis-Nexis search, the WashTimes’ first reference to "Gore AND earth tones" didn’t come until November 3; although it’s true that Gore wore "earth tones" at various times throughout his eight years as vice president (as did the vast majority of Americans), the press corps didn’t allege an intentional "earth tone" wardrobe until the fall of ’99. Did Gore stage this canoe trip to "showcase" his earth tones? Only an idiot could think that. No reporter in the country mentioned Gore’s "earth tones" that day. Why then does Sammon say it? Easy—he wants to get "earth tones" into his story. During the press corps’ hapless campaign coverage, "earth tones" became an iconic emblem of Al-Gore-as-a-total-phony, and Sammon wants to cram it in early, pleasing his credulous buyers. Is this a "lie," then? Not really—too trivial. It is a disingenuous use of code to convey the image Sammon wants to convey.

Who picked up the canoe trip story? Proud papa Sammon gives the clear impression that his Washington Times canoe trip reports turned into a big press corps story:

SAMMON (page 4): That afternoon (7/23/99), Gore’s press secretary berated me in the driveway of a swank New Hampshire home as the vice president hob-nobbed with Democratic donors inside. Chris Lehane was furious that I had written the story about the canoe flap. It was picked up by CNN, MSNBC, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, among other hot media barometers. The intended message of the day—that Gore was a better environmentalist than Bill Bradley—had been utterly obliterated by the controversy, which was already being dubbed "Floodgate." Suffice it to say that I was the least popular person aboard Air Force Two as we flew back to Washington that night.

And had probably been on the way up. This passage misleads in various ways. Did Sammon’s reporting become a major, media-wide story? Had the "intended message of the day" been "utterly obliterated" on 7/23? Sorry, no, on both counts. The New York Times gave the story five paragraphs total, in a 7/24 story; three of the paragraphs were devoted to statements denying that Gore’s campaign had directed the release. The Washington Post never reported the story at all; it got one paragraph from Ceci Connolly, deep in a 7/26 story on Gore. (The story did get five paragraphs from Dan Balz in a 7/25 "POLITICS" column.) Was the story "picked up by CNN?" Yes—barely mentioned on the 7/23 Inside Politics, in a short report which stressed the fact that the Gore campaign didn’t order the release. (According to Lexis-Nexis, the incident wasn’t mentioned on CNN again until the 7/30 Crossfire.) And how about the Associated Press? Here’s part of their 7/23 report:

THE AP: Vice President Al Gore’s canoe trip on the Connecticut River included a special dam discharge to make sure the photo opportunity for his presidential campaign did not run aground.

The Washington Times reported almost 4 billion gallons of water were released from the Wilder Dam upstream to make sure Gore’s canoe stayed afloat Thursday.

"They won’t release water for the fish when we ask them to, but somehow they find themselves able to release it for a politician," the newspaper quoted John Kassel, director of the Vermont Department of Natural Resources, as saying. "The only reason they did this was to make sure the vice president’s canoe didn't get stuck."

Kassel said Friday [7/23] the quotes were inaccurate.

"We think it was absolutely appropriate to release those flows," he said. Any publicity that focuses on solving problems on the Connecticut River is a good thing, he said.

He said his agency has worked with the power company to coordinate water releases because low water levels can harm trout and other fish that prefer cool, running water.

oops! A good hunk of the AP’s short report went to Kassel’s claim that Bill Sammon misquoted him! In fact, the canoe trip story got remarkably little play in the wider media. The Washington Times pushed the story hard, running five front-page stories, four by Sammon, between July 23 and August 6. But the story was largely ignored by other outlets. "Gore AND canoe" produces no Lexis hits at the Los Angeles Times, for example, and two brief mentions, totaling five paragraphs, at the Chicago Tribune. (The Trib’s first mention came on 7/31. Even there, the four-paragraph item devoted one paragraph to Kassel’s claim that he’d been misquoted.) And what about that other claim—was "the controversy already being dubbed ‘Floodgate?’" According to Lexis, there was only one scribe calling it that. And you guessed it—it was good old Bill Sammon, in the Washington Times, quoting a "local reporter:"

SAMMON, Washington Times, 7/24: The unusual discharge angered drought-plagued residents of New Hampshire, where a local newspaper reporter dubbed the flap "Floodgate."

It is, of course, logically possible that Sammon’s unnamed reporter actually exists. But if he does, he doesn’t seem to work at the conservative Manchester Union-Leader; Lexis reports no hits for "Floodgate" at the paper, and the Concord Monitor spent most of its time correcting problems with Sammon’s reporting. In fact, Lexis reports no one but Sammon calling this event "Floodgate" over the next week or so (Lexis doesn’t cover smaller NH papers), although the affable scribe tried and tried to make the exciting name stick. Sammon used the "Floodgate" tag in the Times on 7/24 and in the White House Weekly of 7/26; but Lexis reports no one else using the term until Sammon wrote this laughable passage on page one of the August 2 Times:

SAMMON, Washington Times, 8/2/99: The documents contradict earlier assertions by PG&E officials that they had opened the floodgates only two hours earlier than usual and kept them open only four to six hours. Those assertions have been repeated by Gore defenders seeking to limit political fallout from what has become known as "Floodgate."

From what has become known as Floodgate? Nine days after the original story, only Sammon had used the term! Is this "lying?" We’re getting damn close. But so it goes as Sammon tells readers what a Great Big Liar that awful Gore is. Let’s just say this—if Gore had ever "embellished" an achievement the way that Sammon embellishes his, the press corps would finally have had a real example of this much-alleged trait of Vile Gore. In fact, there was no other Gore-is-a-phony story in the entire campaign on which the press corps took such a pass. And why did thre press corps pass up this story? Duh—because the Gore campaign had nothing to do with the water release, a fact which Sammon fails to state all through his slick, corrupt chapter.

And don’t worry, dear readers, there’s more. According to Sammon’s book—enjoy the irony here—"For two weeks after that canoe ride, Gore supporters furiously tried to spin the story." Hay-yo! Here’s one of Bill’s pseudo-examples:

SAMMON (page 5): Team Gore switched to another argument: the dam routinely released water anyway. But Cleve Kapala, PG&E’s director of governmental affairs, said this particular release was orchestrated specifically for Gore.

Which no one had ever disputed, of course. And "Team Gore" didn’t say that the dam released water routinely; they said the dam released water every day, another fact which Sammon never mentions. "Routinely" was used to hide that fact. And Sammon now makes the tale better:

SAMMON (page 6): Dam operator Dennis Goodwin said raising the river for a VIP was anything but routine.

"It’s a first for me, and I’ve been in this job for sixteen years," Goodwin said.

But you have to parse Sammon very carefully. Assuming just for the sake of argument that he may have quoted Goodwin correctly, Sammon fails to note what was reported elsewhere—in the conservative Union Leader, for example. On July 29, 1999, John DiStaso reported this:

DISTASO, Manchester Union Leader: Defending the water release earlier this week, PG&E’s Cleve Kapala said the company adjusts its water release for large groups who want to paddle the river.

Well, Dartmouth students paddle the river often. Ellen Cullen, a director of the college’s Ledyard Canoe Club, says that while her group receives no such treatment, larger rafting groups associated with the Dartmouth Outing Club have made requests for water releases and have been accommodated.

So what was the "first" which Goodwin had never seen? Presumably, raising the river for a VIP was "a first," not raising the river in general. This was explained in real time in the regional press, but escapes mention in Sammon’s book. And if you want to be even further misled, accept this at face value:

SAMMON (continuing directly, page 6): Finally, in desperation, Gore loyalists fell back on the argument first raised by Kassel—that a release would be good for the fish. But even Governor Shaheen’s husband, Bill, who was manager of Gore’s New Hampshire campaign, threw cold water on that theory.

Gore loyalists "finally" fell back on that theory? This is quite close to a lie. What does Sammon fail to mention in his account of the Gore team’s endless excuses? He fails to mention the most important point, one which "Gore loyalists" made again and again; he fails to mention that no water was wasted in this activity, because the released water was used to generate electricity, as PG&E does at this dam every day. Weird, isn’t it? In his book, Sammon quotes "Gore loyalists" (not "Gore staffers") making every dumbass statement on earth, but he forgets to mention the seminal point—that the released water was put to its normal use, the daily generation of power. Sammon never says the water was "wasted;" that would be getting too close to a lie. But he gave the impression, early on, that citizens wouldn’t get to water their lawns because of this outrage; the story was "nothing short of amazing," he said. And wouldn’t you know it—he just never got around to clearing up the false impression that paragraph gave! He never mentions the one key point—that the released water had been put to its normal use, and that none of it, therefore, had been wasted. Instead, Sammon keeps saying the water came through the "floodgates," giving the wholly unnecessary impression it was just crazily spilled from the dam.

By now you may have seen a key point—spinning is a skill of omission. Think about the various things you aren’t told in Sammon’s first chapter:

  1. You aren’t told who ordered the release of the water (Sharon Francis).
  2. You aren’t told that the Gore campaign (or "Gore’s advance team") did not do so.
  3. You aren’t told that the released water had nothing to do with washing cars, watering lawns, or relieving any effects of the drought.
  4. You aren’t told that the released water was used to generate power.
  5. You aren’t told that water was released from the dam every day.
  6. You aren’t told that other groups had been accommodated in the way Gore was.
  7. You aren’t told that no one but Sammon ever used the term "Floodgate."
  8. You aren’t told that the national press largely took a hike on this story.

But you are told two ugly things about Gore. As Sammon sums up his ugly tale, he says what he learned from the incident:

SAMMON (page 5): Looking back, the whole episode turned out to be inconsequential in the grand scheme of campaign coverage. And yet the canoe trip had taught me something important about Al Gore. When caught in a jam, he reflexively resorted to deception instead of just taking his licks and moving on. He also made it a practice to dispatch staffers to attack the messenger and anyone else who dared question the message of the day.

According to Sammon, Gore "reflexively resorted to deception" in this mater, and he "dispatched staffers to attack" those who questioned him. We’ll take those two claims in reverse order.

Second ugly charge: Is it true? Did Gore "dispatch staffers to attack the messenger and anyone else who dared question" his message? That is, of course, an ugly charge—one for which Sammon gives precisely no examples. There are no examples provided of any such conduct, at any point in this chapter or book. Here is Sammon’s complete paragraph on the topic, much of which we have excerpted elsewhere:

SAMMON (page 5): Looking back, the whole episode turned out to be inconsequential in the grand scheme of campaign coverage. And yet the canoe trip had taught me something important about Al Gore. When caught in a jam, he reflexively resorted to deception instead of just taking his licks and moving on. He also made it a practice to dispatch staffers to attack the messenger and anyone else who dared question the message of the day. For two weeks after that canoe ride, Gore supporters furiously tried to spin the story. First they disputed the number of gallons released, arguing for days over whether it had been in the tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions, as PG&E originally asserted. When it became apparent that, no matter which number was accurate, it was still an enormous amount of water, Team Gore switched to another argument: The dam routinely released water anyway. But Cleve Kapala, PG&E’s director of government affairs, said this particular release was orchestrated specifically for Gore.

Poor Billy! If you can find an example in there of anyone being "attacked"—let alone by "Gore staffers"—we’ll send him a nice crying towel. Here’s the background to what follows Sammon’s charge: On Day One of the silly flap, a PG&E employee incorrectly said that four billion gallons of water were released; the next day, the utility corrected the number. Who was being "attacked" in that, let alone by "attacked by Gore staffers? Sammon, making an ugly charge, makes no effort to support what he’s said.

First ugly charge: Why did Sammon say, in the passage above, that Gore "reflexively resorted to deception" in this matter? Because that is the major point of his tale—the reason Sammon begins his book with this trivial episode. As we’ve seen, it all came flooding back into Sammon’s mind as his plane was touching down in Florida—the sensitive scribe just somehow knew that Gore would soon be lying. What part of the sixteeen-month-old canoe trauma had Sammon so concerned this day? It was something Gore said to the poor, abused scribe on the day after the non-event happened.

On July 23, 1999, the Washington Times ran Sammon’s first canoe story. Later in the day, he interviewed Sharon Francis, that "local environmentalist." Here’s Sammon again in his book:

SAMMON (page 4): Francis reiterated a point I had made in my first story—that Gore himself had not ordered the raising of the river. But she also explained something I hadn’t known. Francis said she informed Gore of the river-raising immediately after the canoe trip, as she and he vice president were walking to a riverbank podium to make brief remarks. How had Gore reacted to the news? According to Francis, he replied that since he was from Tennessee, home of the Tennessee Valley Authority, he was quite familiar with fluctuations in river levels. This bit of detail, while interesting, seemed of no consequence to my follow-up story.

According to Sammon’s 7/24/99 Washington Times story, here’s what Gore specifically said to Francis: "I’m very familiar with fluctuating water levels. We’ve got that in Tennessee, too." The words appeared inside double quotes, attributed to Gore by Francis. Remember: all of this is said to have happened after the canoe trip was over.

It may be worth noting that Gore’s quoted remark doesn’t quite seem to make sense. Maybe he understood what Francis told him, and then again, maybe he didn’t. But poor Sammon! Deeply troubled by what Francis said, he hurried off to quiz Gore:

SAMMON (page 4, continuing directly): But then at lunch, I had an opportunity to question Gore about the controversy. Careful not to accuse him of ordering the floodgates opened, I instead asked him how he felt about the river being raised "on your behalf."

Notice how scrupulous Sammon is about not seeming to make accusations! But enough—Sammon’s story powers on:

SAMMON (page 4, fuller text): But then at lunch, I had an opportunity to question Gore about the controversy. Careful not to accuse him of ordering the floodgates opened, I instead asked him how he felt about the river being raised "on your behalf."

"I didn’t know it was, until I read your story," Gore replied.

As he walked away, I realized he had just contradicted Francis. Now, instead of a routine follow-up story destined for the back pages, I suddenly had another front-page exclusive: What did Gore know and when did he know it?

Just by his hopeless use of language, Sammon says it: we have Watergate again. At any rate, this is the Great, Gigantic Lie that was troubling Sammon as he touched down in Florida—the Great Deception that let him know that Gore "would do anything to win, no matter how bad he looked or how ugly it got." For the record, when Sammon reported this incident in that 7/24/99 "front-page exclusive," Gore spokesman Chris Lehane was quoted saying that Gore had not understood Francis to be saying that water was released from the dam that day. This statement, like so many aspects of this story, is not mentioned in Sammon’s book.

Here at THE HOWLER, we have no way of knowing what Gore did or didn’t understand at the time. It may be that Gore knew what Francis said, and of course, it may be that he didn’t. But do candidates have some obligation to answer to every Tom, Dick and Billy? Candidates are less than forthcoming with scribes all the time, as Sammon, of course, knows full well. Consider an anecdote from Roger Simon’s campaign book, Divided We Stand. Simon describes Candidate Bush’s behavior on September 12, 2000—the morning on which the silly "subliminal advertising/DemocRATS" story broke on page one of the New York Times:

SIMON (page 223): The story causes another tsunami of negative publicity for Bush, who digs himself in deeper on "Good Morning America" by admitting he doesn’t know anything about the ad or the story, even though it was on the front page of that day’s New York Times. "The first I’ve heard of it was sitting here this morning," Bush says, as if he were living in some kind of hermetically sealed vault.

Here were the follow-up Q-and-As when Bush said he hadn’t heard of the story:

DIANE SAWYER: You’re saying the first you’ve heard about it is right now on this TV show? Because your campaign has issued statements about it already.

BUSH: Well, the first I heard about it was this morning when I woke up on my way from my hotel room to sitting right here in this chair, absolutely, Diane. I had no idea—go ahead.

SAWYER: No, your campaign said, "It sounds like happy hour at the Gore campaign lasted a little too long."

BUSH: Well, they must have made the comment last night, Diane. I got here late from campaigning. I’m just telling you the first I heard about it was this morning. I find it bizarre, kind of weird accusations being made. The most important issue is the de—issue about the debate on prescription drugs

Does Bush seem fully forthcoming here? He rapidly changed his account when challenged, and it’s hard to believe that he hadn’t been fully briefed. In fact, it even seems possible that "when caught in a jam, Bush reflexively resorted to deception instead of just taking his licks and moving on." But why describe Bush’s minor evasions that way? Quite probably, Bush was doing just what Gore had done, if Gore did understand what Francis had said; quite probably, Bush was trying to avoid discussing a stupid story that was going to do him some harm. But here’s where the difference comes in. Simon thinks that Bush was faking—and he treats it as a minor aside, an amusing paragraph in a full-length book. Sammon thinks that Gore was faking—and he treats it as a Major Moral Offense, which shows that Gore "would do anything to win…no matter how ugly it got." And that, of course, is how things go when our discourse is given to dissemblers like Sammon. Dissembling and spinning with total abandon—refusing to state even the most basic facts—Sammon conjures a pleasing tale, pandering hard to his slice of book buyers. And, of course, the endless irony: Dissembling and spinning every step of the way, he tells us that Gore can’t be trusted! Having shown that he himself will do and say anything, he turns the ugly charge against Gore.

What exactly should free people do when their press corps is in the hands of people like Sammon—this pious man who slanders a public official so freely, then tells us how his mother, Theresa, was praying for him every step of the way? Who names the devoted children who did without Daddy while Daddy went to conjure deceptions? Over the past decade, dissemblers like Sammon have hijacked our discourse, spreading their misleading tales all around (a further note on how this happens tomorrow). And most amazing? In all this mess, Sammon never lies—arguably, not once, in his whole sorry chapter. Nope—when he lied about those concentric circles, he strangely did the one naughty thing the skilled pros almost never need to do.

In this chapter, it’s hard to find a single sentence that isn’t in some way designed to mislead. But as we will see (and as Bill Sammon knows), the lazy duffers at the head of our press corps are more than willing to let all this by.

Next: That "capital gang" does the election


The occasional update (6/19/01)

Will do and say anything: Here again is the most remarkable paragraph in Sammon’s dissembling first chapter:

SAMMON (page 4): Their story was nothing short of amazing. The drought was so severe that New Hampshire residents were forbidden from watering their lawns or washing their cars. And yet more than half a billion gallons of water had been released from a dam in order to accommodate Al Gore’s environmental photo-op.

Remember—as Sammon fully understood when he wrote that passage, the water had nothing to do with the drought. It would never be used for watering lawns; it would never be used for washing cars. It would never be used for anything at all except producing electricity—and it was put to that use that day, although Sammon, plotting to mislead his readers, is quite careful never to say so.