FRIDAY, JULY 12, 2002
ANN COULTER, WITH HELP FROM HER FRIENDS: No doubt about it. According to Coulter, life is tough if youre a conservative, constantly targeted by the left. How tough is it? Heres the question Katie Couric asked when she berated poor Arlen Specter (see yesterdays HOWLER for background):
COURIC: You know, you angered a lot of feminists when you accused Anita Hill. In fact, you detail how she changed her testimony during questioning, during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. And you accused her of publicly, quote, flat out perjury. Any regrets?
Any regrets! What a zinger! Somehow, Specter soldiered on. I think it was an impolitic thing to say, he replied. But I think that it was warranted on the facts. And in this book, I go into great detail as to how I came to that conclusion and why, and how another key member of the Judiciary Committee agreed with me. According to the NBC transcript, Couric berated him further:
Couric asked no follow-up question, asking next about Marc Richa topic the left will always raise whenever it wants to score points.
SPECTER: And it was necessary in my view to find out what happened as best we could. There was a very late challenge to Clarence Thomas, and I thought that as a matter of fairness, we had to try to find out the facts.
Amazing, isnt it? Couric asked a single, mild question about a subject which Specter had brought up himself. She posed no follow-up question. But this is one of Coulters first exampleson page two of her bookof the way the public square is wall-to-wall liberal propaganda. Of course, her misused readers have no way of knowing how mild Courics questioning actually was. Coulterdissembling, as she does through her bookprovides a phantasmagoric account of this exchange. How did Coulter describe the session? Lets review. Were not making this up:
COULTER (page two): In this universe, the public square is wall-to-wall liberal propaganda. Americans wake up in the morning to Americas Sweetheart, Katie Couric, berating Arlen Specter about Anita Hill ten years after the hearings
As a description of Courics exchange with Specter, that is pure pathology. But then, Coulter baldly misleads her readers on virtually every page of this laughable, corrupt book.
But Coulter is appearing on TV shows now to peddle her book, and her hosts are too lazy, too incompetent, too bought-off and scared to challenge her crackpot dissembling. Last night, Bill OReillys worthless performance qualified him for a spot down the row from Ted Williams. At Slate, meanwhile, Mickey Kaustoo lazy and indifferent to the public interest to dirty his hands with actual researchsays that a certain part of Coulters book appears to be completely accurate. In fact, the part of the book to which Kaus refers is also absurdly misleading and bogus. Well look at the topic in question next week (sneak preview offered below).
Were reminded of the hoary old joke about Moses playing golf. (Easily offended people, stop reading.) In Heaven, the Holy Trinity invites Moses to fill out a foursome. Needless to say, God the Father has the honors; Jesus and the Holy Spirit tee off next. Moses watches as they hit a succession of Biblically-themed, perfect hole-in-one trick-shots. After the Dove of Peace takes the Holy Spirits ball in his mouth and drops it neatly into the hole, Moses cant hold it in any longer. Are we here to play golf, Moses asks, or are we really just here to f*ck around?
Coulter is a crackpot, a clownand a balls-out dissembler. Her procedures are an insult to the American public interest. And so we have a simple question for lazy OReilly and worthless Kaus. Nobody made you host a TV show. Nobody forced you to go on the web. But boys, are you here to perform your actual duties? Or are you really just here to f*ck around?
SNEAK PREVIEW: Did Couric call Reagan an airhead? (No.) Did she attribute that claim to biographer Edmund Morris? (Yes.) As you probably know, Coulter is currently riding this topic as she angrily tours the country. Its the topic OReilly snored through last night. Kaus pretended to review this same topic.
Predictably, the background to the silly story cant be gleaned from Coulters book. Details to follow next week. But as a sneak preview, lets recall what was going on in the final week of September 1999, as Morris book was about to appear. During that period, many people were saying that Morris had called Ronald Reagan an airhead. (They werent exactly wrong, by the way.) Coulter savages Courics work on September 27 and 29, 1999. But during this period, many others were saying that Edmund Morris called Reagan an airhead. Heres someone Coulter forgot to cite. No, hes not on the left:
SEAN HANNITY, 9/27/99: Welcome back to Hannity & Colmes. Im Sean Hannity. Coming up, the authorized biography of Ronald Reagan calls him, quote, an airhead. And it is upsetting a lot of the former presidents supporters. That debate, that controversy, is straight ahead.
Last night on OReilly, Coulter condemned Couric for making the same sorts of statements. She said the statements showed that Katie Couric is a pleasant morning television host who hides behind her charm and beauty to engage in systematic propaganda of all sorts of left-wing ideas. But Hannityand many other talkerswere saying the very same things at the time. Coulter, dissembling, left that part out. Needless to say, Bill was clueless.
SEAN HANNITY, 9/30/99: Still to come, former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese. He sounds off on that controversial book that calls President Reagan an airhead. That debate straight ahead as Hannity & Colmes continues.
WALL-TO-WALL PROPAGANDA: Two quotes from September 27, 1999. Included is one of the very remarks for which Ann has been trashing poor Katie:
KATIE COURIC, 9/27/99: Good morning. The Gipper was an airhead. Thats one of the conclusions of a new biography of Ronald Reagan thats drawing a tremendous amount of interest and fire today, Monday, September the 27th, 1999.
According to Coulter, Couric was pushing the lefts propaganda. Hannity? Hes been disappeared.
SEAN HANNITY, 9/27/99: Welcome back to Hannity & Colmes. Im Sean Hannity. Coming up, the authorized biography of Ronald Reagan calls him, quote, an airhead. And it is upsetting a lot of the former presidents supporters.
NEXT: Why were journalists saying these things? More notes on Ann Coulters bad problem.
THURSDAY, JULY 11, 2002
WRONG FROM THE START: Unsurprisingly, Ann Coulters bald-faced dissembling starts on page one, with the very first claim in her book. She complains about the way the left calls Tom DeLay naughty names like the Hammer. (The Washington Times archive is full of examples of conservatives calling DeLay The Hammer. The Washington Post article which Coulter cites quotes Christian conservative Marshall Wittman calling DeLay Dirty Harry.) But Coulters quintessential, trademark dissembling is found in her follow-up claim. How badly does the left treat DeLay? Just because he believes in God, they even compare him to Hitler:
COULTER (page 1): For his evident belief in a higher being, DeLay is compared to savage murderers and genocidal lunatics on the pages of the New York Times. (History teaches that when religion is injected into politicsthe Crusades, Henry VIII, Salem, Father Coughlin, Hitler, Kosovodisaster follows.)
As usual, Coulter is baldly deceiving her readers. Because were familiar with the ladys bad problem, we looked up that quote from the New York Times. It comes from a column by Maureen Dowd, The God Squad, written on June 20, 1999.
In fairness, Dowd does spend five paragraphs on DeLay. She slams him for killing gun control legislation after the Columbine shootings. She criticizes him for statements he made at a rally of ministers. This is the season of cheap virtue, Dowd writes. Politicians are rushing to take Gods name in vain.
But thats the end of the day for DeLay. Guess which politicians shes directly discussing by the time she gets to that turrible quote? She isnt discussing DeLay any more. Shes discussing George Bushand Al Gore:
DOWD: The season of sanctimony isnt confined to the legislative branch. According to Time, George W. Bush decided to run for President at a private prayer service with his family last January: Pastor Mark Craig started preaching about duty, about how Moses tried to resist Gods call, and the sacrifice that leadership requires. And as they sat there, Barbara Bush leaned over to the son who has always been most like her and said, Hes talking to you, George.
Was the Times comparing DeLay to Hitler? More directly, it was comparing Al Gore.
Youd think W. would be aware of the perils of religiosity after he had to spend all that time clarifying his 1993 comment that people who do not accept Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour cannot go to Heaven.
In his announcement speech in Carthage, Al Gore joined the God Squad, intoning that most Americans are hungry for a deeper connection between politics and moral values; many would say spiritual values. Without values of conscience, our political life degenerates.
Faith is an intensely personal matter. It should not be treated as a credential or reduced to a sound bite. History teaches that when religion is injected into politicsthe Crusades, Henry VIII, Salem, Father Coughlin, Hitler, Kosovodisaster follows.
But so it goes on every page, all through Coulters pathological book. Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus thinks this is just fine. We have a strange question: Why is that?
A REAL PAGE-TURNER: Coulter keeps it up on page two. To cite just one example of several, she starts in on favorite mark Katie Couric:
COULTER (page two): Americans wake up to Americas Sweetheart, Katie Couric, berating Arlen Specter about Anita Hill ten years after the hearings.
The implication is clear; Couric wont stop flogging Anita Hill. And she wont stop berating Republicans. And so we looked up Coulters reference, a Specter appearance on the March 6, 2001 Today. The solon was there to promote a new book. Nice to have you, Couric said. What motivated you to write this book? And you guessed it; Specter cited his desire to discuss the Anita Hill matter:
SPECTER: Because I wanted to tell what is happening behind the scenes. I have been criticized for more than three decades for my work as one of the young staff lawyers on the Warren Commission where I came up with the single bullet theory, and I thought it was important to write it all down just exactly why I came to that conclusion and why the commission accepted it. I go into some of the background on the Professor Anita Hill/Justice Clarence Thomas controversy, take up some questions which never got to the public, such as why we never called Angela Wright, who was a young woman who had a story very similar to Anita Hills. I go into the background of what happened on Judge Borks confirmation hearing and one of the big concerns that I had about Judge Bork on his technical approach and lack of humanitarianism, when he upheld the decision which said that women who worked for a lead company either had to consent to be sterilized or to lose their jobs, which I thought was exactly wrong.
After one question on the Warren Commission and two more questions about the Bork hearings, Couric asked exactly one question about the Anita Hill case.
As well see, this gong-show dissembling litters this book. Why does Mickey Kaus seem to like it?
IN SIMPLE ENGLISH, THEY DID CLEAR BUSH: Some pundits are insisting that the SEC never cleared Bush of insider trading. Sorry, thats just Kafkaesque. It is true that, in 1993, the SEC told the Bush campaign that it shouldnt say that Bush was exonerated by its probe. But seven years later, the SECs internal documents emerged. Reviewing those documents, it is perfectly clear that, if were still speaking English, the agencys gumshoes did clear Bush. (You can review the docs yourself. Go to www.publicintegrity.org.)
Why was Bush investigated? According to the charge, Bush sold his Harken stock in June 1990 because he had insider knowledge that Harken was going to report unexpectedly large second-quarter losses. Unambiguously, the SEC found that Bush had no such knowledge at the time of his sale. In fact, the agencys gumshoes found that no one at Harken knew, at that time, about the size of the impending losses. [B]y June 22 (the date when Bush sold), no actual revenue or loss information was available for the second two months of the quarter ended June 30, one of the SEC summaries noted. The staffs investigation indicates that, at most, Bush was aware that Harken was forecasted to lose approximately $4.2 million in the second quarter. The actual loss turned out to be $23.2 million. The SEC docs assert, again and again, that neither Bush nor anyone else at Harken knew about these impending losses at the time of his sale.
So lets see. Bush is accused of selling due to insider info. The SEC finds that he didnt have that info. Go ahead and say they were wrong if you like. But were living in a Kafkaesque world if that means that they didnt clear Bush. (For the record, none of this has a thing to do with that 1989 Aloha transaction.)
In todays Wall Street Journal, Al Hunt lowers the bar for accusers. Whether [Bush] violated the spirit of the securities law in his 1990 Harken Energy transaction obscures a larger point, Hunt writes (emphasis added). So lets see. If youre accused of trading due to insider info, and it turns out that you didnt have that info, you havent violated the letter of the law, but somehow youve trampled its spirit. The last time we saw scribes playing this game, it involved a small spot known as Whitewater.
TOMORROW: More on Ann Coulters bad problem.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 2002
ANN COULTER'S PROBLEM WITH THE TRUTH: At Fox, on-air personalities enjoy a good laugh when fiery Ann Coulter comes calling. Monday morning, she regaled the gang at Fox and Friends with her tale of a grand NEXIS search. Coulter was complaining about the way the press pretends that those Dems are so brainy:
COULTER: Cerebral Bill Bradley, for example, I mean thats the most striking example. You run a Lexis-Nexis searchas I didon Bill Bradley and you would think his first name was Cerebral. His name never got mentioned [inaudible] Cerebral Bill Bradley.
The whole thing sounded like so much fun, we decided to run the same search. So we sent the phrase cerebral Bill Bradley through the NEXIS file for the period from 1/1/99 through 4/1/00the fifteen months when Bradley was running for president. Bradley was, without any question, a press favorite during the bulk of his run. The cerebral solon got oodles of coverage during the period in question.
Our finding? According to current NEXIS files, the phrase cerebral Bill Bradley appeared in American newspapers exactly six times in that fifteen-month period. The phrase didnt appear in any magazine. Here are the six lonely cites in the file. Note the big papers involved here:
Thats right, folks. If it werent for Sandy Grady, there would hardly have been a Cerebral Bill Bradley at all. According to NEXIS, the only major rag in which the phrase appeared was the Bradley-loving Boston Globe, where the phrase appeared exactly once. The phrase never appeared in the Washington Post or the New York Times. And, of course, the phrase never appeared in Time, U.S. News, or Newsweek. Not even the National Review.
- Sandy Grady, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/18/99
- Sandy Grady, Bergen County Record, 3/23/99
- Robert Jordan, Boston Globe, 4/23/99
- Sandy Grady, Raleigh News and Observer, 11/10/99
- Sandy Grady, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 11/6/99
- Editorial, Albany Times-Union, 3/10/00
Again, this isnt meant to suggest that Dollar Bill got bad coverage from the press. This is meant as a commentary on dissembling Ann Coulter and the problem she has with the truth. Lets face itCoulter never ran any such search as the one she described to her simpering pals. But making it up is the norm for Ann Coulterand her friends in the media choose not to notice, willing to put up with her hackwork and her clowning.
By the way, wasnt it only a few years back when pundits were troubled by this sort of thing? In October 2000, for example, a certain columnist was very disturbed by the way Al Gore just kept making things up. Its as if every time Clinton drops his pants, Gore tells a lie, she slanderously said. This same scribe complained about Gores endless boasts, and she said, [m]aking stuff up is surely one of Gores leading negatives in this campaign.
That outraged columnist was, of course, Ann Coulter. And guess what? Coulter exaggerates, embellishes, embroiders and misstates on virtually every page of her new oddball book. (She also embellished almost all of Gores boasts.) She misrepresents the things people say; she invents NEXIS searches that back up her tales. At Fox and Friends, they think its smart. But when will serious folks in the press corps take notice of Ann Coulters problem?
MAYBE SHE REALLY MEANT
: In our usual excess of fairness, we decided to go the extra mile; we ran cerebral Bradley through NEXIS, too, looking for extra citations. Result? Five cites in American papers and magazines, two of them openly mocking. Heres an example of the way the press kept trying to build up those Dems:
SUSAN ISAACS, Newsday, 1/20/00: Hes not just accessible. Hes a boon companion. Vital. Real, albeit larger than life. John McCain is so dynamic the other candidatesstilted Gore, cerebral Bradley, careful-of-everything-you-say-so-you-dont-screw-up Bush, pompous Hatch, goofy Forbesare zombies in comparison.
Thats right. Isaacs was saying how great McCain was compared to cerebral [Bill] Bradley.
On Fox and Friends, Coulter was making it up. But then, she makes it up on all through her daft book. Oh, by the waywe just ran Dollar Bill Bradley through the same NEXIS base. Fifteen months gave us 32 citesand a few hundred more if you take Dollar Bill on its own. Coulter knew not to say it on Fox. But Bill Bradley already has a first name, and that pet name is Dollar, not Cerebral.
TOMORROW: More notes on Ann Coulters bad problem.
TUESDAY, JULY 9, 2002
SOMETIMES YOU FEEL LIKE YOURE READING A NUT: To his credit, Christopher Caldwell didnt play nice in his review of Ann Coulters new Slander. [S]he has produced a piece of political hackwork, he says, writing in Sundays Washington Post. The deeper into her subject she gets, the more she resorts to the tools of calumny and propaganda she professes to critique. Caldwell hails from the Weekly Standard, but hes willing to play it straight about Coulters pathologically inaccurate book. How hard-hitting is Caldwells critique? He finally turns to the type of language a person must use to describe Coulters work. At one point in Slander, according to Caldwell, Coulter enter[s] the territory of those leftist nuts who say were living in a dictatorship because Noam Chomsky isnt on the front page of the New York Times every single day
No, he doesnt quite say that Coulters a nutbut he comes admirably close. Indeed, there is no polite way to describe the nonsense found throughout Coulters book. Simply put, Coulters accounts of all matters, large and small, are almost pathologically bogus. Unfortunately, cable producersalways pleased to make a joke of our discoursehave no present plans to take notice.
Consider just one of the ludicrous moments in Slander. In Chapter 9, Coulter complains about the press corps use of the terms Christian conservative and religious right. According to Coulter, [t]he point of the phrase religious right or Christian conservative is not to define but to belittle. And lefties, of course, get a pass:
COULTER (page 166): Despite the constant threat of the religious right in America, there is evidently no such thing as the atheist left. In a typical year, the New York Times refers to either Christian conservatives or the religious right almost two hundred times. But in a Lexis/Nexis search of the entire New York Times archives, the phrases atheist liberals or the atheist left do not appear once. Only deviations from the left-wing norm merit labels.
In a footnote, Coulter extends her complaint. In a one year period (roughly corresponding to calendar year 2000), the New York Times found occasion to mention either Christian conservatives or the religious right 187 times. Not once did the paper refer to atheist liberals or the atheist left. To Coulter, of course, this is all a sign of gruesome bias. She goes on to claim that the terms religious right and Christian conservative are now used [j]ust as some people once spat out the term Jew as an insult.
It certainly makes for high excitement, but does it make any sense? Do newspapers use Christian conservative as an emblem of hatred, and avoid atheist left due to liberal bias? If so, we have big news to share. If Coulters NEXIS search has proven these things, then the once-conservative Washington Times is spilling with lib bias, too.
In the calendar year 2000, how often did the New York Times refer to Christian conservatives or the religious right? A NEXIS search of that year presents 182 references. But the Washington Timesa much slimmer paperhad 151 such cites that same year. And how about those other termsatheist liberals or the atheist left? Incredibly, Coulter was right in one of her claims; the New York Times never used either term. But guess what? The Washington Times never used the terms, either. If Coulter has sniffed out a vast left-wing plot, Wes Pruden is in on it too.
Why do newspapers write about Christian conservatives? Because they exist, and because theyre important. And why dont we read about the atheist left? Because the group doesnt exist. Thats why the New York Times doesnt mention the group; thats why the Washington Times doesnt mention it, either. Everyone in America knows this is trueuntil they read Coulters cracked book.
But then, such nonsense fills every page of this book. There is no other punditof the left, right or centerwho engages in such pathological foolishness. Caldwell, a conservative, was prepared to say Nut. Why wont Mickey Kaus say it also?
TOMORROW: Mickey Kaus spent ten seconds, tops, researching Katie Courics recent catfight.
STRAWMEN OF THE WORLD, COLLAPSE: As weve often said, the power to paraphrase is the power to spin. Andrew Sullivan employs the tool in his eponymous website this morning. He improves what Nicholas Kristof says in todays New York Times:
SULLIVAN: Nick Kristof, after yet another murder of Jews by a Muslim hater, worries about American religious bigotry. If we want Saudi princes to confront their societys hate-mongers, our own leaders should confront ours, he preaches. Our bigotry is as bad as theirs, he opines. Excuse me? When conservative Christians start murdering thousands of Muslim and Jewish civilians in the Middle East, it will be. Until then, there is simply no equivalence between anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S. and anti-Western and anti-Semitic terrorism in the Arab world.
Can you spot the inventive paraphrase? Just to help, we put it in bold. But where exactly in Kristofs column does he say that our bigotry is as bad as that in the Arab world? The answer is simplehe doesnt say it at all. Lets face it: If Kristof actually said such a thing, Sully would rush you the quote.
By the way, inventive paraphrase dominates Slander. Coulters the reigning queen of the two-word quote, which she then surrounds with absurd accounts of what the person in question supposedly said. Its a favored technique of dissemblers worldwide. Absurd examples from Coulters book will appear here as soon as tomorrow.
MONDAY, JULY 8, 2002
AND NOW FOR THE REST OF THE STORY: In 1990, George W. Bush sold 212,000 shares of stock in the Harken Energy Corporation. Soon thereafter, Harken announced a large second-quarter loss, and its stock price tumbled a bit. (It had already dropped, by a larger amount, when Iraq invaded Kuwait.) Because Bush sat on Harkens audit committee, the timing of Bushs stock sale was questioned. In 1991, the SEC investigated, concerned about insider trading.
Over the years, there has been good news and bad news for President Bush regarding his sale of that stock. First a bit of slightly bad news: In his 1994 gubernatorial debate with Ann Richards, Candidate Bush misstated the contents of an SEC letter about its probe of his sale. Bushs campaign had asked the SEC to issue a statement about the matter. In a letter to Bushs lawyer, the SEC said, the investigation has been terminated as to the conduct of Mr. Bush, and
at this time, no enforcement action is contemplated with respect to him. But the letter also said that this must in no way be construed as indicating that the party has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result. Despite this, Bush explicitly said, during the Richards debate, that he had been exonerated by the SECs probe. Why, you could almost say he embellished the facts! Richards corrected his error.
On the other hand, there was good news for Bush in September 2000, which some scribes now seem to be glossing. Responding to a Freedom of Information request by the Associated Press and the Dallas Morning News, the SEC released a boatload of documents about its probe of Bush. On September 6, 2000, the APs Pete Yost quoted a summary by investigators. It appears that Bush did not engage in illegal insider trading, the gumshoes had written in 1992, because it does not appear that he possessed material nonpublic information or that he acted with [intent to defraud] when he sold the Harken stock. According to Yost, [t]he investigators noted that Bush did not initiate the sale of his stock, that he was approached by a broker and checked with the companys general counsel about the propriety of the sale before carrying it out. Additionally, the AP asked NYU law prof Stephen Gillers to review the SEC docs. According to Yost, Gillers said the agency made a sound judgment legally and ethically to close the insider trading probe without interviewing Bush. On September 7, the Dallas Morning News drew similar conclusions from its own review of the SEC documents. (Headline: Records show what Bush knew before stock sale; Regulators concluded in 1992 that he did nothing improper.) Had the SEC taken a dive for Bush, whose pappy was prez at the time of the probe? Were dealing with investigators here who are not political appointees, Gillers told the APs Yost. More from Yost: Gillers said the evidence contained in the SEC documents was fairly persuasive against proceeding against Bush.
For the record, none of this speaks to a separate question, recently raised in two Paul Krugman columns. When Bush sat on Harkens audit committee, did he know about a shaky 1989 deal involving Aloha Petroleum, a Harken subsidiary? On Saturday, Paul Kedrosky of the National Post wrote that [w]hile it seems clear from SEC documents that Mr. Bush didnt know about the problems with Aloha, it also seems clear he should have known. Yesterday, Krugman seemed to suggest that Bush may have known. If Mr. Bush didnt know about the Aloha maneuver, he was a very negligent director, Krugman wrote. Is there any evidence that Bush knew about the Aloha maneuver? The SEC documents suggest that he didnt. Is it fair to say that he should have known? On that, we dont have a clue. But Aloha is, at least on face, a separate matter from the charge concerning insider trading. When the SEC investigated Bushs sale of stock, Aloha was not directly at issue.
Here at THE HOWLER, were not legal eagles. We cant competently judge the docs for ourselves. But several matters have been conflated in recent reporting about Harken happenings. If the AP, the DMN, and Gillers were right, the SEC found strongly for Bush concerning the question of insider trading. Did Bush do something wrong at Harken? Here at the HOWLER, we dont have a clue. But those who want to suggest wrongdoing need to account for the SECs findings. Clinton was slimed by bad-faith business reporting. The press shouldnt make it a habit.
WILLING TO DO AND SAY ANYTHING? On the other hand, Candidate Bush was stretchin and strainin in that debate with Ann Richards. First there was his overstatement about the SECs letter. At another point, he memorably said, I proudly proclaim Ive never held office. I have been in the business world all my adult life. I have met a payroll. I know what it means to risk capital. What made this presentation so comical? Bush had never held office for one major reason; when he ran for office in 1978, the voters had (narrowly) turned his bid down. That was Bushs race for Congress; he had also explored the possibility of running for the Texas state senate in 1972, and for governor in 1990. Meanwhile, Bush embellished his description of Richards, slamming her as a career politician. If Texans want someone who has spent her entire adult life in politics, they should not vote for me, he said. Hmmm. Richards first ran for office at age 43. Bush, by contrast, was 32 when he spent a year running for Congress.
Why do these otherwise unremarkable stretchers leap up off the page today? Because of the way the press corps covered the Bush-Gore race six years later. The script was known to one and allCandidate Gore will do and say anything. Gore is inclined to embellish and lie. In order to prove that nasty charge, embellishing journalists made themselves useful, inventing misstatements by Gore. To cite one world-class example of press corps dissembling, the Boston Globes Walter Robinson sifted through decades of statements by Gore, searching for ways to call him a liar. Unable to find enough actual howlers, he stretched and strained and made a bunch up. How absurd was Robinsons work? Baldly deceiving the Globes misused readers, he even pretended he didnt know why Gore claimed seven years of journalistic experience. (Duh! Gore spent two years as an army reporter, then five more years at the Nashville Tennessean.) Bizarrely, Robinson even claimed that Gore was creating myths in praising his fathers civil rights recordand, of course, he strained to find troubling misstatements in Gores three dozen public debates. He played silly games in that area too; at one point, Robinson quoted Michael Dukakis in a 1988 debate, telling Gore, Please get your facts straight. If you want to be president of the United States, you better start by being accurate. But heres what Robinson didnt mention; examination of the exchange with Dukakis shows that what Gore had said was perfectly reasonable. In the debate in question, Gore criticized something The Duke had said; the same criticism was later made by Jack Kemp and Bob Dole, and was widely made by mainstream pundits. But Globe readers had no way to know this. Craftily, Robinson let his readers assume that Gore must have made something up.
But while Robinson was straining for all he was worth, trying to gimmick up groaners by Gore, did he mention those stretchers by Bush in debate? Youre dreaming if you have to ask. Robinson was typing a rigid press script; therefore, he didnt examine past statements by Bush. Thats right, kids. Robinson examined twenty-three years worth of statements by Gore, and no years worth of statements by Bush. Then he marveled at the fact that Gore seemed to have more misstatements.
Remember, no one dissembles as much as the press corps. Thrilling details to come in the book.
WHY CHILDREN HAVE TURNED OFF TO BASEBALL: Have you noticed? Journalists wont give Ted Williams credit for his work in TV newsreels. The place: Scottsdale, Arizona, February 1958. I was ten years old, in town from Boston, to see how the Red Sox were looking. On Teds first day in camp, I was alertly sitting behind the dugout when a TV producer signed me up for a spot. The ensuing shoot went much as planned. When Teddy ran out onto the field, I yelled, How about an autograph, Mr. Williams? Ted doubled back and signed my card. That evening, viewers in the Boston area thrilled at our easy interaction.
Dont even ask about the time I saw Jim Bunning no-hit the Red Sox. Williams made the final out, flying deep to the track in Fenway. Adult fans applauded Bunning, but like other kids in the park, I was hurt. Since that day, Ive always wondered what kind of a man would pitch his no-hit gems on the road. (Bunnings second no-hitter, against the Mets, was pitched at Shea Stadiumon Fathers Day!) Years later, of course, Bunnings cruel tendencies took final form. He reappeared as a heartless pol, supporting the Contract with America.
FRIDAY, JULY 5, 2002
THE LATEST BAD MEN IN BLACK SEQUEL: Could they really be of this earth? Where on this earth could you find such unintelligent life forms? In this mornings Baltimore Sun, that tired old script-reading pundit, Jules Witcover, robotically mouths the same tired lines his colleagues have all mouthed before him:
WITCOVER: Al Gore, in a recent closed meeting in Memphis with key supporters, vowed that if he runs for president again in 2004, hell listen to his own counsel rather than that of consultants, of whom he had a small army in 2000.
Id just let it rip, he said, and let the chips fall where they may. ... To hell with the polls, tactics and all the rest.
Thats a familiar refrain from losing candidates. They imply that it was bum advice from others that cost them the election in question.
Predictably, Witcovers robotically scripted remarks ran beneath a scripted headline. Al Gore seeks to reinvent himself, the mandatory Gore headline said.
Note the dimness of Witcovers reasoning. In a closed meeting, Gore is said to have said that hell ignore the polls if he runs for the White House again. To Witcover, this means that Gore has impl[ied] that it was bum advice from others that cost [him] the election. But of course, nothing in Gores quoted statement actually leads to that naughty conclusion. If the second-hand quote from Gores meeting is accurateand Witcover, of course, doesnt know if it isthen all Gore really said is this: I paid too much attention to polls. Why would that lead a sane human being to say Gore is blaming consultants?
The answer is perfectly obvious. No sane person reasons this way, but pundits like Witcover are there to type scripts, not to behave like real humans. And, according to the press corps well-rehearsed scripts, Gore must always be reinventing himself; any unattractive way you can restate his words is perfectly OK after that. In the last week, every pundit in the land has raced to type this new approved script. Where on this earth could our editors find such complete lackeys, such consummate copyists?
Are the Witcovers actually of this earth? Could any human be so dim and so scripted? Last evening at Arundel Mills mall, we were turned away from Men in Black. But with life forms like Witcover running around, do we really have to go to the mall to suspect that ETs now have landed?
PUNDITS SAY THE MOST SIMILAR THINGS: But then, here was Charlie Cooks utterly hapless assessment. Cook types scripts for the National Journal:
COOK: Listening to former Vice President Al Gores graceless remarks over the weekend, when he effectively blamed his 2000 presidential campaign loss on polls, tactics and all the rest, one question kept coming back to me: Does he really believe what hes saying?
[F]rom my vantage point it seems that Gore was the weakest link in the Gore/Lieberman campaignnot his pollsters, his strategists, his tacticians or his other consultants.
To Cook, when Gore blames his loss on polls and tactics, he is actually blaming his pollsters and tacticians. Sometimes, work like this makes us flash to Men in Black. But sometimes, after a week of such efforts, we give up and we say, Dumb and Dumber.