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22 November 2000

Our current howler: Latest turkey

Synopsis: The angry-men may sweep us away. So why does the Post publish Kelly?

Send in the Thugs
Michael Kelly, The Washington Post, 11/22/00

Conan the VP
Michael Kelly, The Washington Post, 10/5/00

Today, we read of the death of Lars-Erik Nelson, and we hear of Dick Cheney's hospitalization. Al Gore as president? George Bush as president? The truth, it can get much worse.

Indeed, if there's one thing we need at this perilous time, we need a good lid, to put on it. Our current problem wasn't hatched by Bush or by Gore; it was created by a statistical fluke. But stresses are now being hatched which are dangerous to our democracy.

Here at THE HOWLER, we make a suggestion—wherever you stand on the election dispute, take a look at the other guy's viewpoint. In the current disputes, both campaigns make some reasonable points. Don't let yourself fall for Original Sin—for the unswerving belief that your guy is good, and that the other guy just plainly isn't.

With that in mind, we can't help noting one angry, name-calling column this morning. Why does the Washington Post print this guy? It's that angry-man again—Michael Kelly:

KELLY (11/22) (paragraph 1): By God, I love lawyers—and campaign hacks and political thugs. I feel great about the fact that the Gore campaign has turned the choice of the next president into just another chapter of the eight-year saga of the Clinton-Gore endless war room, another to-the-death fight between the usual armies of litigators and propagandists. On Fox News the other day, after the Gorees won a round, a particularly oily little talking jurisdoctorate-head informed me that this was "a great day for democracy." Thanks, oily one! Like all of my fellow citizens who did not attend law school, I am incapable of deciding for myself what is a great and what is a not-so-great day for democracy.

This latest screed is called "Send in the Thugs." The name-calling is instant—and it's driven, again, by Kelly's inferiority issues. (True to type, Kelly—a commentator—is resentful when someone else comments.) Kelly goes on to rail against the "the particularly outrageous stunt" which Gore pulled off. Then he lets us know what that stunt is:

KELLY: So too with the vote-rigging in Florida. There have been close presidential elections before, and there have been elections in which the loser was certain he had been robbed. But never before has any presidential candidate done what Gore has done; never before has the loser taken to the courts rather than accept the verdict rendered—at this point, twice over.

Gore's "outrageous stunt" is going to court! Kelly—remembering to mention "vote-rigging"—forgets to mention that, when Gore went to court, the court said that Gore's case was right.

There are valid points being made on each side. But the angry-men may sweep us away. So here's a question we've been asking for years: Why does the Post publish Kelly?


The Daily update (11/22/00)

We agree: We congratulate the Post's new ombudsman, Michael Getler, for his debut piece this morning. He criticizes Robin Givhan's treatment of Katherine Harris in the Post's Style section last week:

GETLER: In case you missed it, here are excerpts from what Ms. Givhan told us about Ms. Harris: "Her skin had been plastered and powdered to the texture of pre-war walls...[S]he looked as if she were wearing a mask...The American public doesn't like falsehoods, and Harris is clearly presenting herself in a fake manner...Why should anyone trust her?"

Pathetic. So we compliment Getler's assessment:

GETLER: Ms. Givhan's treatment of Ms. Harris, in the view many Post readers—including the ombudsman—was a classic example of the arrogance of journalists that undermines people's confidence in the media...

Mocking someone's appearance is not something that newspapers should do. "Ms. Harris is not a professional model or actress, whose appearance is an accepted job requirement," writes one reader. "What earthly relationship is there between the way a woman—a public official—makes herself up and how well she can do her job?" another message reads. "The implication that there is a serious connection between makeup and seriousnessis one that women have been struggling against for decades."

Sadly, though, with the trivialization of press corps culture, men have to fret about this sorry stuff too. With the analysts heading off for Thanksgiving, we can't conduct a thorough search. But as you may recall, make-up was widely discussed at the first presidential debate. We went to one predictable site, and voila—there it was. Here is how one familiar Post scribe "analyzed" Gore's Debate I performance:

MICHAEL KELLY (10/5): Gore was so programmed, so artificial, that it seemed as if he had been put together with an Identikit, hurriedly and in the dark. His face, with its leaps from oaken repose to plastic animation, looked like the mirror of a soul that has been through one cosmetic surgery too many. And what has happened to the poor man's body? How did Arnold Schwarzenegger get into Al Gore's suit? Someone needs to check the videotape on this, but I am pretty sure that Gore did not used to have a 23-inch neck. It is, I think, fair at this point to ask whether the vice president is a step-in or perhaps a pod person.

Sadly, much of the press corps now plays Maureen Dowd. We compliment Getler for his first effort. But the ombudsman has his work cut out if he plans to fight trivialization.