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HOWLER HISTORY! Tucker Carlson says the corps trashed Gore. And he outs a Gore scribe’s “shocking” conduct:


CASE CLOSED: Yes, a few hatchet-hearted HOWLER readers complained about Jim Sheridan’s In America. But now, the case has finally been settled—and in our favor, we might add. On November 4, Sean Penn guested on NPR’s Fresh Air. “What are some of the movies that you’ve been really impressed with lately?” Terry Gross unsuspectingly asked. “Well, just the other night, I saw Jim Sheridan’s new movie called In America, which is just—it’s one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen,” Penn said.

Case closed! Even Tinseltown’s toughest truth-teller praised the beauty in this transplendent film! And so we offer our third, final wish—a wish that you might go see it. “Just play with the children, Johnny,” as one hopeful character wisely says.

TUCKERED OUT: Last week, the New York Times sponsored a forum on media bias featuring Eric Alterman, Tucker Carlson, Al Franken and Laura Ingraham. It’s increasingly hard for sensible conservatives to maintain the myth of controlling “liberal bias,” as Carlson showed by his frequent agreement with points made by Franken and Alterman. (Ingraham also helped prove the point, lodging absurdly narrow complaints.) At one point, for example, Carlson agreed with a key contention by Alterman and Franken—Al Gore got trashed during Campaign 2000. In the process, Carlson recalled a particular incident which deserves to be recorded.

Did the press wage war against Candidate Gore? At THE HOWLER, we told the tale in real time; by now, the facts of the case have become so clear that conservatives rarely attempt to dispute them. “I covered that race, and I agree with you,” Carlson said, responding to complaints by his liberal colleagues. “As I said a minute ago, I agree with you that Gore got very rough coverage. A lot of reporters I know—liberals; I mean, almost all reporters are liberals—hated Gore and in some cases, I think, gave him unfair coverage.” Carlson agreed: The corps battered Gore. He then described a campaign event which ought to be saved for posterity:

CARLSON: I remember being with someone I know who works at a major metropolitan daily. We were at this little forum in New Hampshire—like eight reporters there, it was one in the morning—Gore says something about his sister received, smoked dope for cancer treatment, and this reporter went after him in the most disrespectful way—it was shocking. I was embarrassed, and I wasn’t a Gore man. And I remember talking to her afterwards, you know, “Boy, you know that was pretty rough, what you did to the vice president,” and she said, “I just don’t like him. He’s a phony.” And that right there said it all to me. A lot of reporters didn’t like him on a personal level. I believe most of them voted for him anyway, but they just didn’t like him and they were mean to him as a result. [Carlson’s emphasis]
Say what? Carlson, a conservative, says he was “embarrassed” by this reporter’s conduct. It was “shocking,” Carlson says. And dig the response when he challenged the scribe! “I just don’t like him. He’s a phony,” she said. To Carlson, this embarrassing event “said it all” about the corps’ attitude toward Gore.

To what event does Carlson refer? He seems to refer to a Gore town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire on December 14, 1999. And to what reporter does Carlson refer? That seems fairly clear too.

First, the meeting: At the forum—televised by New Hampshire’s WNDS—a citizen asked Gore about medical marijuana (full text of Q-and-A below). Two months earlier, Candidate Bush had said that the matter should be left to the states. Did Candidate Gore agree with the Texan? As part of his answer, Gore recalled his sister Nancy’s treatment in her battle with cancer:

GORE (12/14/99): My sister died of lung cancer, and when she was taking chemotherapy toward the end, it [medical marijuana] was prescribed for her. And she didn’t—you know, she decided against it, because it, you know, she didn’t like it; it didn’t produce the desired result for her. But the doctor said: Look, this is an option that she ought to have available, very carefully monitored and controlled. And if it had worked for her, I think that she should have had the ability to get her pain relieved that way.

I’m not a medical expert, I do not favor legalizing marijuana, and I don’t favor doing it through the back door, which some of these state initiatives tend to aim toward. But I think that where you have sufficient controls, I think that doctors ought to have that option.

Later, Gore was asked a second question on the topic (text below). Is this the incident to which Carlson referred? So it would seem. On December 15, 1999, Carlson appeared on CNN’s Inside Politics, where he discussed the corps’ reaction to Gore’s remarks at the previous night’s event. After noting that he had been at the forum, Carlson said this: “[Gore] said at this forum last night, you know, gee, my sister was prescribed pot. Well, of course, you know, all the reporters went bananas. And about twenty minutes after the forum there was this press availability, and Gore was asked the question again. And Chris Lehane, who is his press secretary, very capable guy, already had at his fingertips the information that in fact it was Lamar Alexander who signed the bill in Tennessee in ’81 making this legal.”

“All the reporters went bananas,” Carlson said. But who had led the march of the fruitcakes? As usual, the Washington Post’s Ceci Connolly seemed to have taken the lead. On the December 15 Hardball, Chris Matthews conducted the standard inane discussion about the troubling things Gore had said. At one point, WNDS’ Jennifer Donahue described the corps’ conduct after the town hall meeting. Donahue thought Gore had been sincere in his comments. But at least one major scribe had thought different:

DONAHUE (12/15/99): After [the town hall meeting], he held an impromptu press avail at the studios, which hadn’t been scheduled ahead of time. And Ceci Connolly from the Washington Post and others were really pressing him, saying, you said one thing in the forum and to this voter, and now you’re distancing and trying to back up from that. You can’t have it both ways.

MATTHEWS: What did he say when he was backing up?

DONAHUE: She basically called him on it, read him his quotes from the forum, and made him answer to it again. And he—I think he really kind of—I don’t think that he agreed with her he was distancing himself. I got the sense that he was honestly saying, “I have mixed feelings about this, you should take me at face value.” But I think there is sort of an undercurrent of reporters who say, is Gore willing to say different things to different people to try to get elected? And that’s something I think the press corps, especially on the national level, is looking at with Gore.

She thought that was something the press corps was looking at? By December 1999, Connolly had been hammering that theme for nine solid months in the Post. Indeed, it was the subtext of everything Connolly wrote for the twenty months of Campaign 2000. At any rate, very few newspapers bothered to mention what Gore said on this tangential topic. But at the Washington Post, things were different; Connolly wrote a page-one story on December 15, in which she played her usual cards, attempting to show that Gore was backtracking, flip-flopping, and disagreeing with Clinton! Few papers mentioned what Gore had said. At the Post, it was the latest Gore scandal.

But let’s return to today’s starting-point. To all appearances, this is the incident to which Carlson referred during last week’s discussion. And let’s recall his reaction to this incident. According to Carlson, “this reporter went after [Gore] in the most disrespectful way” (his emphasis). “It was shocking,” Carlson said. “I was embarrassed, and I wasn’t a Gore man.” And what did this reporter say when challenged? “I just don’t like [Gore]. He’s a phony,” she said. Will Carlson identify the scribe in question? Incomparably, we’ll offer the chance. But the circumstantial evidence seems clear—and yes, this incident is well worth recording. Remember: Carlson speaks as a conservative pundit—as someone who did not vote for Gore.

Why did the press wage its war against Gore? That remains a matter of judgment. (“They just didn’t like him” strikes us as facile.) But two weeks before this “shocking” incident, Connolly invented a quote about Love Canal which badly damaged Gore’s campaign. It was only the latest in a string of incidents in which she waged open war against Gore. In August 2000, the Financial Times finally stated the obvious; according to the FT, Connolly was one of a group of reporters who were openly “hostile to the [Gore] campaign, doing little to hide their contempt for the candidate.” The full account of Connolly’s conduct has yet to be offered in print.

Was Carlson speaking of Connolly last week? Here at THE HOWLER, we simply don’t know. But whoever “this reporter” was, Carlson’s comments help flesh out the actual story of Campaign 2000—a story which the nation’s reporters have now begun to tell, very slowly. Citizens should be grateful to Carlson for his willingness to knock down press corps walls.

ASKED AND ANSWERED—THEN SPUN: Medical marijuana was a tangential topic in Campaign 2000. It played no real role in the White House race. In October 1999, Bush had said the question should be left to the states, though he himself opposed medical marijuana. The silver-tongued Texan gave eloquent testimony. “I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose,” he had said.

At the December 14 forum, Gore’s first question on the topic came from Phil Grazzle of Manchester. Here’s the complete Q-and-A:

QUESTION (12/14/99): Mr. Vice President, this question is regarding medical marijuana. Do you agree with Governor Bush that the matter should be left for the states to decide? Or would you continue to support the Clinton policy of vehemently opposing states that choose not to arrest sick and dying people for obtaining relief from it?

GORE: I—you know, I think it depends upon the extent to which doctors are involved in the process. I think when you have a process that is so loosely defined, so that the prescription part of it is, kind of, not taken seriously, and there are absolutely no controls over it, then I think that’s a problem and I’m against that. And I think the federal laws against marijuana have to be enforced.

I think that where you have doctors who have—who document that there is a specific case with symptoms where this is definitely going to alleviate pain, I think that’s something else again.

My sister died of lung cancer, and when she was taking chemotherapy toward the end, it was prescribed for her. And she didn’t—you know, she decided against it, because it—you know, she didn’t like it; it didn’t produce the desired result for her. But the doctor said: Look, this is an option that she ought to have available—very carefully monitored and controlled. And if it had worked for her, I think that she should have had the ability to get her pain relieved that way.

I’m not a medical expert, I do not favor legalizing marijuana, and I don't favor doing it through the back door, which some of these state initiatives tend to aim toward. But I think that where you have sufficient controls, I think that doctors ought to have that option.

Another question was asked a bit later, this time by a citizen with specialized knowledge. Again, here’s the lengthy Q-and-A:
QUESTION (12/14/99): A little while ago you said to a previous person that you supported allowing the use of marijuana in very tightly restricted situations. Does that mean you would favor changing it from Schedule One, which right now means it’s illegal under all circumstances, to Schedule Two, which would mean that it could be legally prescribed?

GORE: I don’t—I thought that it, that it was, in some cases, prescribed now.

QUESTION: No, on a federal basis marijuana is Schedule One.

GORE: I thought that there are some cases where it is prescribed.

QUESTION: There’s synthetic derivative, Marinol, which has just the active ingredient, THC.

GORE: Oh, I see.

QUESTION: And that was recently rescheduled down. But—

GORE: Oh, OK. Well why isn’t—why isn’t that OK?

QUESTION: There are some disadvantages of Marinol, one of which is that some patients are—I don’t know how to politely say this—they can’t hold down their food very well.

GORE: Yes.

QUESTION: And so holding down a pill is problematic. There are also other—chemicals in the natural, naturally-occurring marijuana. One thing that you might be interested in is a decision by DEA judge—and I mean that, it’s the United States Drug Enforcement Administration—Judge Frances Young, in 1988, which was pretty emphatic, that marijuana should be allowed in its natural form for medical use. And his name was Francis Young. You can plug that into any search engine and I think you’ll find that pretty interesting.


MODERATOR: Is that a major issue for you in deciding whom to vote for?

QUESTION: Well, yes. I was really impressed at George W. Bush for coming out with that. And I’m actually, sort of, impressed at your openness in this issue here.

GORE: Well, you know, I think there are two conflicting values here. Let me just put all my cards on the table and tell you how I puzzle through this issue.

Number one, I think that it would be a terrible mistake to legalize marijuana. The marijuana that’s commonly available today, I’m told, is many times stronger, typically, than the kind of marijuana that was commonly available several decades ago, which my generation thinks about when debating this issue.

I believe that it is harmful. I believe that it is not good to have—to open up more access to marijuana. I think that it’s a mistake. And I’m opposed to that. Consequently, anything that takes us down that road, that threatens to open that door and erode the stigma that I think ought to be associated with it, I’m opposed to it. Now that’s—that’s number one.

Number two, I think that where the alleviation in pain in medical situations is concerned, we have not given doctors enough flexibility to help patients who are going through acute—acute pain. Many of us have seen that for ourselves. And, you know, it’s all too easy to come up with this reason or that reason why a doctor can’t use what is going to be most effective for the alleviation of pain.

So how do you reconcile these two values? See that’s what I’m, that’s what I’m trying to get at. And I’m sure that whoever made the adjustment on the active ingredient there was trying to reconcile the same values. I’ll tell you this, that I will analyze it to the best of my ability.

There are those, like General Barry McCaffrey, who argue that there are always other substitutes available and you do not have to go down that road. I know that you and others undoubtedly disagree strongly with that. But, you know, if that were the case, I would certainly keep the door shut even to this medical prescription. But I’ll evaluate it with an open mind.

Speaking to a voter who wanted medical marijuana made legal, Gore said he wouldn’t allow it if there were other options. But on the following evening’s Hardball, the Standard Scripted Conversation ensued. “Was he pandering to some lefty or what?” Matthews asked, after Donahue spoke (text above). “When you say ‘both ways,’ obviously, you’re suggesting he was retailing to that crowd, he was playing to some guy who wanted to have the opportunity to have dope.” In fact, Donahue had just said she thought Gore was being honest, but now she bowed to the will of her host. “Well, I think that that’s a possibility,” she said. A long, inane discussion ensued, in which Matthews inevitably wondered why Clinton said he didn’t inhale and how much dope Gore smoked in Nam. Torie Clarke was dragged out to embarrass herself; she insisted that Gore must have been “tr[ying] very hard to be all things to all people.” As usual, no one showed the slightest sign of knowing what Gore had actually said. At long last, Tom Squitieri mentioned the possibility that Gore had simply said what he thought.

As mentioned, Gore’s statement got little play in the nation’s newspapers. But on December 15, the Post ran Connolly’s page-one story, in which—as usual—she said Gore was “backtracking,” flipping and spinning again. Here’s an early sample of her reasoning:

CONNOLLY (pgh 5): Meeting with reporters after tonight’s televised forum, Gore sought to backtrack from his comments and appeared to come closer to the official administration position, which supports medicinal marijuana only in tightly controlled research settings. The vice president emphasized that he opposes legalizing marijuana and believes more research is needed to determine whether medicinal marijuana works.

(6) “If the research shows that there are circumstances in which there is no alternative for alleviating the pain that doctors believe can be alleviated through the use of medical marijuana, then under certain limited medical circumstances—if the research validates that choice—then it should be allowed,” Gore said. “We are not at the point.”

As always, Connolly complained about Gore’s shifty ways, saying he tried to “backtrack” after the forum. And as usual, she took large liberties with the facts. She noted that Gore “emphasized that he opposes legalizing marijuana”—something he said in the town hall meeting itself—and she quoted Gore saying that medical marijuana should be legalized only if there are no other options. But Gore had said that in the town hall, too. It isn’t hard to see why Donahue thought that Connolly was stretching things a tad. But Connolly engaged in this type of spinning all through the 2000 campaign.

Presumably, Connolly’s report made no difference in the outcome of Campaign 2000. But other reports by the scribe clearly did. Was Carlson referring to Connolly last week? Here at THE HOWLER, we’re going to ask. But Connolly’s conduct in Campaign 2000 was inexcusable. The fact that Connolly still works at the Post is a tribute to the paper’s nonexistent professional standards.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Connolly spun readers blue throughout the campaign, endlessly trashing Gore’s troubling character. (Financial Times: Connolly was openly “hostile to the [Gore] campaign, doing little to hide [her] contempt for the candidate.”) To see how far the scribe would go, check out a disgraceful report she filed on April 14, 2000. On this day, Connolly tried to make readers think that Gore volunteered for the army in 1969 because he got a low number in the draft lottery. Here’s the problem: Gore volunteered in August 1969; the first draft lottery was held four months later. And it’s clear that Connolly must have known this. To get a taste of the endless dissembling the Post permitted from its ace scribe, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/5/02. (For a real-time report, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/25/00). Connolly still covers campaigns for the Post—and she’s now a Fox News Channel “all-star.”

By the way: Was Connolly “hostile to the Bush campaign, doing little to hide [her] contempt for that candidate?” In May 2000, Connolly traveled with Candidate Bush for three days—and she blatantly pandered. To review her fawning profile of Bush, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/8/00 and 9/7/00. Do you see why it’s hard to maintain that old myth—the hoary myth of the corps’ “liberal bias?”