TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2004
THEYRE WITH STUPID: Brit Hume had assembled a panel of all-stars for last evenings Special Report. And he asked them for their views on former Treasury Sec Paul ONeill. Eager to hear a lively debate, we leaned forward in our chairs. But when the stars began to chat, all of them said the same thing!
Increasingly, thats the norm on Fox. Morton Kondracke went first:
KONDRACKE: I think he was the Treasury secretary at the wrong administration. I mean this was a tax-cutting administration, and he should have resigned by himself when he, when he couldnt support policy any longer, and when he saw the drift of things. What comes across from this 60 Minutes interview is what a naif he is. I mean he doesnt understand that the Suskind book isYikes! Morton was deeply down on ONeill! But now Hume turned to his second star. And darned if Fred didnt say the same thing!
BARNES: Well, he seemed to be shocked and miffed that theres politics going on in Washington. Even at the White House theres politics! I mean, its shocking to think that would be tolerated by anybody at the White House, that they actually committed politics there! And he didnt like that because he said it wasnt that way in the Ford and Nixon administrations. You know, what in the world he is talking about? You know, Richard Nixon had a decision-making process that didnt involve politics? Gerald Ford didnt? Of course they did.Fred was rightit was just as Mort said. And when Brit turned to Star 3a famous shrinkhe also rattled off what Mort said:
KRAUTHAMMER: The ONeill story falls in the category of disgruntled employee returns to the workplace. This is the Wall Street version of going postal. Look, you know, the usual critique of presidency is either theyre a blind man, disengaged, out of it, George W., Reagan, and if you go back long enough, Eisenhower. Or theyre hyper-involved, obsessive, Lyndon Johnson picking the targets in the war.Does ONeill know what hes talking about on Iraq? Here at THE HOWLER, we arent really sure. But we were quite struck by Humes panel last night, because its all-stars captured the way the Fox Channel is going. The all-stars displayed perfect sameness of thought (and they all fudged the things which ONeill really said). It was all just as Mort said. So why bother having three all-stars?
We often chuckle at Foxs morning Show, Fox & Friends, the place where this unfortunate pattern emerged. The show provides a trio of hosts, creating the illusion of diverse thought. And every morning, all three hosts recite the same talking points perfectly! Often, Brian Kilmeade goes first. And the other two say, Were with Stupid.
Last night, Humes three stars all said The Same Thing. Couldnt the channel save a few bucks and appoint one Official Fox Oracle?
SHRUNKEN RAP: Meanwhile, congratulations to all-star Charles Krauthammer. Yes, Chuck said that ONeill had gone postal. But progress is measured in small steps with Charles. Showing off a new iron will, he didnt declare himself a licensed shrink before he made his pronouncement.
SLOWLY HE TURNS: Ever so slowlyever so slowlyyour press corps amends its Official Stories. Richard Cohen does so this morning. Almost exactly four years too late, he mentions the trashing of Gore:
COHEN: After a while, it seemed anything [Gore] said in the 2000 campaign got vetted by a standard not applied to other politiciansfrom his role in exposing the pollution of Love Canal to his role in developing the Internet to his role as being a fictitious character in the book and movie Love Story. Gore adhered to virtual truth in all these matters, but somehow his every claim became a tall story. Much of the time, he was right.In this passage, Cohen is explicitly slamming the press, as youll see if you read his whole column.
But Cohen is telling the truth very slowlyand he still isnt telling it right. Gore was trashed for these statements after a while? In fact, Gores unremarkable Internet comment was made on March 9, 1999, in his very first interview as a candidate. Two days later, the RNC began trashing the statementand it became an instant press pseudo-scandal. Simultaneously, the RNC re-dredged Gores accurate statement about Love Story (from 1997), and it became an instant press scandal too. After a while? In fact, Gore was instantly trashed for these unremarkable commentsas soon as the RNC began to spread its ridiculous take on the matter.
Cohens history here is intriguing. To his credit, he wrote a vigorous column in August 2000 saying that Gore had been endlessly trashed for accurate comments. Gore did not say he had discovered the Love Canal toxic waste debacle, Cohen wrote, citing one example (he also cited the Internet and Love Story). Despite this, a brace of commentators has called Gore a liar, Cohen groused. Unfortunately, Cohen himself had been one of those commentators, a fact he forgot to mention this day. He himself had trashed Gore for the Internet comment, and as late as February 2000, he was writing, If candor were grafted onto [Gore], his body would reject it. Cohens evidence on that occasion? The bogus claim that Gore had been pro-life in his early career, and was now lying about it.
And no one loved wardrobe like Cohen. He endlessly clowned about Gores troubling clothes, reciting Ceci Connollys most recent misstatements. Here he was in November 1999, to cite one embarrassing example:
COHEN (11/23/99): This is not your fathers Al Gore.Cohen flogged these themes again and again. In fact, Gore had been campaigning in casual clothing all year, and had worn boots throughout his career. But this is what Cohen discussedagain and againas the trashing of Gore rumbled onward.
When you read Cohens column today, youre supposed to think that hes being candid about Gores mistreatment by the press. But Cohens column still tells the truth slowly. After a while? In fact, the corps trashing of Candidate Gore started instantly, plainly driven by the RNCs spin-points. The history here is really quite clear. Why wont this pundit just tell it?
THEY NEVER STOP TELLING THESE STORIES: Many readers complained about Cokie Roberts appearance on yesterdays Morning Edition. She had said it again, we were toldshe had said that Al Gore was the first person to bring up Willie Horton, during the 1988 primaries. Its been RNC cant since 1992, as weve incomparably explained in the past (links below). And, of course, its blatantly bogus: Though Gore criticized the Massachusetts furlough program at one Dem debate in 1988, he never mentioned Horton (or anyone else) by name; he never mentioned Hortons crime; he never ran any ads on the subject; and he never said anything at all about race. The racializing of the issueand the introduction of Hortonoccurred in the general election.
But readers, you know how those pundits can be! We checked to see what Cokie had saidand Cokie had been very slick. She spoke with Renee Montaigne:
MONTAIGNE (1/12/04): How bad is it for the Democrats to participate in all these debates where quite often they attack each other as we just heard?We thought wed explained this in the past, but now it seems that we havent. Readers, spinners like Roberts never say that Gore brought up Willie Horton himself. Instead, they refer to the Horton issue, just as Cokie did with Montaigne. This way, they get to slime Gore with Hortons nameand they get to say that their comment is technically accurate. Gore did bring up the Horton issue (the furlough program). He just didnt mention Horton when he did so, as Candidate Bush endlessly did.
Some of you will shake your heads and insist that we just cant be right about this. But pundits routinely slime Gore with the Horton issue (check those links); the pattern really is quite striking. Maybe its all just a crazy coincidence. And maybe the Easter Bunny is living on Mars, where hes directing our latest space mission.
One last point: Roberts overall comment to Montaigne was completely bogus. In fact, Gores reference to the furlough program had nothing to do with what occurred in the general election. Yes, Dukakis was badly damaged by the Bush campaigns use of Horton and his violent crimes. But the Bush camp hardly needed Gore to clue them in on this well-known matter. Gores fleeting remark quite plainly did not provide sound-bites for ads in the general election. But then, NPR listeners are almost always misled when phony fakers like Roberts hit the air.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For most of the skinny on the Horton Canard, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/1/02. (Note how many pundits refer to the issue.) For a bit of incomparable follow-up, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/4/02.