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3 November 2000

Our current howler: Driving While "W"

Synopsis: The crackpot culture of the celebrity press corps gets played out in the DUI uproar.

Long-time readers will know our view. We think that elections should not be about decades-old deeds by the hopefuls. We don't think that Bush's DUI is a defining event. And we don't think it's odd that he kept it quiet—although it seems clear that he has not been forthcoming.

But then, we didn't think it was odd that an Arkansas gubernatorial candidate didn't brag about drugs back in 1978. We didn't think it was odd that a White House hopeful finessed the same topic fourteen years later. But what is exceptionally odd, boys and girls? The press corps' wildly varying standards. In this race, Gore has been trashed, all up and down, for various gimmicked examples of "lying." Now we seem to have an event where Governor Bush has been less than truthful. And what does the mainstream press corps do? It starts looking around to find out who squealed. It doesn't matter when "W" lies; that isn't the way this is scripted.

The celebrity press corps has broken its back to keep Bush's past in the closet. Even now, the pundits simply refuse to talk about those missing years in Alabama. Plainly, Bush seems not to be telling the truth about his last two years in the National Guard. But that doesn't count, 'cause it's W, kids! Invented lies about doggy pill prices? Now them's the kind of fibs that really matter!

This race was scripted to fit the corps' crackpot outlook—Bush is stupid, but Gore is dishonest. They have written that story again and again—and they will punish those who offend against it. The news that came out of Portland last night doesn't fit the press corps' invention. So a young reporter who did her job well will be challenged and hectored by millionaire anchors. This morning's exchange between Lauer and Fehlau shows you too a massive conflict in cultures (see HOWLINGS, 11/3/00). One of the cultures is the old press corps culture, in which reporters try to present basic facts. The other culture is the new press corps culture, in which insiders simply script preferred stories.

The press corps has engaged in crackpot conduct over the past twenty months. They have gimmicked a string of oddball stories to make it seem that Gore is dishonest and troubled. Meanwhile, they have broken their backs to look away from Bush—to look away from his recently-revealed "missing summer" (in Alaska); to ignore his missing 18 months in Alabama; to ignore his howling misstatements at the debates; and to pretend his new ads, which call Gore a liar (doggy pills), aren't fudging the plain facts themselves. (Of course, the press corps also gimmicked those facts. Reason? They wanted a closer race, Feinman told us.) (Joe Klein, of course, can't recall.)

There are two ways to play this DUI story. The press corps can say it reflects ill on Bush; or the press corps can say it reflects ill on Gore. (They could have ignored it and stuck to real issues. But the press doesn't write about them.) To get to that second tale—which fits the script—the pundits will ask who released the info, and will focus in on his vile motives. That approach was all over the airwaves last night. Look to see whether Cokie Roberts is exploring "dirty tricks" Sunday morning.

As we wrote on SpeakOut earlier this week: We will never know what it would have been like to have this election reported by grown-ups. The celebrity press culture is deeply dysfunctional. In our view, George Bush and Al Gore are total prizes compared to the crackpots who write all about them. They are dishonest; self-impressed; incompetent; corrupt; and they put their interests ahead of yours every time. As the celebrity press corps spins and feints to avoid the fact that The Dub has been fibbing, say hello to your crackpot press corps, everybody. Our guess? Governor Bush will most likely get off. He'll get by on a DWW—"Driving While W."


SCORECARD: We heard all about the doggy pills. We heard all about that union lullaby. We heard all about the kid with the desk. We heard how long Westmoreland spoke.

See now if you hear about:

1) Driving into the hedges (not "driving slow")
2) What Bush said in '98 to Wayne Slater.

And see if you even hear a word about two missing years in Alabama.

We repeat—it's a shame that the crackpot Washington press corps has created its oddball standards for hopefuls. But create those standards they clearly have. Watch now as they try to escape them.