MONDAY, JANUARY 19, 2004
CASE CLOSED: Yes, a few hatchet-hearted HOWLER readers complained about Jim Sheridans In America. But now, the case has finally been settledand in our favor, we might add. On November 4, Sean Penn guested on NPRs Fresh Air. What are some of the movies that youve been really impressed with lately? Terry Gross unsuspectingly asked. Well, just the other night, I saw Jim Sheridans new movie called In America, which is justits one of the most beautiful movies Ive ever seen, Penn said.
Case closed! Even Tinseltowns toughest truth-teller praised the beauty in this transplendent film! And so we offer our third, final wisha 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. Its 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 FrankenAl 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 knowliberals; I mean, almost all reporters are liberalshated 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 Hampshirelike eight reporters there, it was one in the morningGore says something about his sister received, smoked dope for cancer treatment, and this reporter went after him in the most disrespectful wayit was shocking. I was embarrassed, and I wasnt 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 dont like him. Hes a phony. And that right there said it all to me. A lot of reporters didnt like him on a personal level. I believe most of them voted for him anyway, but they just didnt like him and they were mean to him as a result. [Carlsons emphasis]Say what? Carlson, a conservative, says he was embarrassed by this reporters conduct. It was shocking, Carlson says. And dig the response when he challenged the scribe! I just dont like him. Hes 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 forumtelevised by New Hampshires WNDSa 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 Nancys 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 didntyou know, she decided against it, because it, you know, she didnt like it; it didnt 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.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 CNNs Inside Politics, where he discussed the corps reaction to Gores remarks at the previous nights 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 Posts 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 hadnt 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 youre distancing and trying to back up from that. You cant have it both ways.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 lets return to todays starting-point. To all appearances, this is the incident to which Carlson referred during last weeks discussion. And lets 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 wasnt a Gore man. And what did this reporter say when challenged? I just dont like [Gore]. Hes a phony, she said. Will Carlson identify the scribe in question? Incomparably, well offer the chance. But the circumstantial evidence seems clearand yes, this incident is well worth recording. Remember: Carlson speaks as a conservative punditas someone who did not vote for Gore.
Why did the press wage its war against Gore? That remains a matter of judgment. (They just didnt like him strikes us as facile.) But two weeks before this shocking incident, Connolly invented a quote about Love Canal which badly damaged Gores 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 Connollys conduct has yet to be offered in print.
Was Carlson speaking of Connolly last week? Here at THE HOWLER, we simply dont know. But whoever this reporter was, Carlsons comments help flesh out the actual story of Campaign 2000a story which the nations 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 ANSWEREDTHEN 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, Gores first question on the topic came from Phil Grazzle of Manchester. Heres 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?Another question was asked a bit later, this time by a citizen with specialized knowledge. Again, heres 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 its illegal under all circumstances, to Schedule Two, which would mean that it could be legally prescribed?Speaking to a voter who wanted medical marijuana made legal, Gore said he wouldnt allow it if there were other options. But on the following evenings 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, youre 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 thats a possibility, she said. A long, inane discussion ensued, in which Matthews inevitably wondered why Clinton said he didnt 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, Gores statement got little play in the nations newspapers. But on December 15, the Post ran Connollys page-one story, in whichas usualshe said Gore was backtracking, flipping and spinning again. Heres an early sample of her reasoning:
CONNOLLY (pgh 5): Meeting with reporters after tonights 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.As always, Connolly complained about Gores 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 marijuanasomething he said in the town hall meeting itselfand 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 isnt 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, Connollys 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, were going to ask. But Connollys conduct in Campaign 2000 was inexcusable. The fact that Connolly still works at the Post is a tribute to the papers nonexistent professional standards.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Connolly spun readers blue throughout the campaign, endlessly trashing Gores 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. Heres the problem: Gore volunteered in August 1969; the first draft lottery was held four months later. And its 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 Postand shes 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 daysand 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 its hard to maintain that old myththe hoary myth of the corps liberal bias?