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Daily Howler: In today's Post, Dan Balz helps spread a canard about Hillary Clinton
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WHY DEMS TALK DOWN THEIR OWN HOPEFULS! In today’s Post, Dan Balz helps spread a canard about Hillary Clinton: // link // print // previous // next //

WHY DEMS TALK DOWN THEIR OWN HOPEFULS: Reporting from darkest Cedar Rapids, Dan Balz was playing the perfect dumb-ass. He had spoken with 14 Democratic “party activists.” One of them—a high school student!—had made a familiar remark:
BALZ (1/29/07): But even those who want to see a woman elected to the White House worry that Clinton may not be able to win a general election, given her political baggage. "I think that it would be amazing to have her be our president," said Hollyanne Howe, a high school student. "I fear that if she is nominated, she won't be electable. I would love to see her get elected, but my biggest fear is that it won't happen and we'll get stuck with another President Bush or whomever else."
First off, it’s odd that the Post includes a high school kid when it assembles a small group of Dem “party activists.” (They also included a married couple. That was lazy too.) But don’t worry! It’s also easy to find adult Dems expressing inchoate fears about the “electability” of their parties’ candidates. Balz closes today’s dumb-ass report today with a second such comment, this time by an adult:
BALZ: "I really like Edwards," said Ann Bromley, a retired city worker. "I think he's intelligent and compassionate. I don't think he's electable, and I don't know why. Something is missing." Others nodded in agreement.
“Others nodded in agreement”—good God! Is anyone dumber than our Dem Party activists? In fact, even as these party stalwarts spoke, Newsweek released another national poll. This poll, conducted last Wednesday and Thursday, showed Clinton leading McCain by six points (50-44) and Edwards leading McCain by four (48-44). In fact, it was the third straight Newsweek poll, in a span of two months, which showed Clinton ahead of McCain; she also leads Giuliani by three in this latest survey (49-46). But so what! Nothing stops us liberals and Dems from reciting the types of defeatist points which reporters then rush into national papers. Hillary Clinton is unelectable! Because of “her political baggage!” (Sometimes, we’re such perfect tools that we say it’s because she’s “too polarizing.”) In short, the RNC doesn’t need to exist. We liberals and Dems are now quite pleased to recite their talking-points for them.

But then, the press corps is currently deeply involved in failing to mention those national polls. Consider one exchange that occurred this weekend on the Chris Matthews Show. At one point, Andrew Sullivan shared his childish thoughts about Clinton’s “cooties”—and the entire, dumb-as-dust panel enjoyed a good, solid group laugh:
SULLIVAN (1/28/07): I think she’s been a very sensible senator. I think—find it hard to disagree with her on the war. But when I see her again, all me—all the cootie-vibes resurrect themselves. I’m sorry—

PANEL: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

HOWARD FINEMAN: That’s a technical term!

SULLIVAN: I must represent a lot of people. I actually find her positions appealing in many ways. I just can’t stand her.
Bless their hearts! The panel shared a good solid laugh at Sullivan’s talk about Clinton’s cooties. Let’s face it. If these pundits got any dumber, we’d have to feed and dress them each morning. The Matthews Show would have one producer just to help tie their shoes.

But then, omigod! It semi-happened! Howard Fineman almost mentioned the relevant facts! And he did cite that latest Newsweek survey:
FINEMAN (continuing directly): In fairness to her, after, after the roll-out she had this week, the numbers in our poll—the Newsweek poll and others—were very positive, very powerful actually. Cooties notwithstanding.
In fact, Clinton led McCain by seven in the Newsweek poll back in early December, long before last week’s events. And Fineman didn’t say the thing it kills pundits to say; Fineman didn’t specifically say that Clinton was ahead of McCain and Giuliani in several major polls. Viewers were left to puzzle about what sort of polls had been so powerful. But at least he made a first small step toward interjecting some relevant information. Not that it made a bit of difference to one ardent dumb-ass:
SULLIVAN (continuing directly): If you look at her polling all these years, it is absolutely dead straight-line. People who don’t like her are not going to change their minds. And they’re about, over 40 percent.
But Clinton’s polling isn’t straight line—although, to be perfectly fair to Sullivan, he’s probably too clueless to know that.

Where do Dem voters, including Iowa “party activists,” get the idea that Clinton can’t be elected? In part, from endless TV propaganda, and from reports like Balz’s. People who watched the Matthews Show heard a pundit aggressively say that Clinton’s polling has been “dead straight-line;” no one in the panel managed to say that she’s has been ahead of McCain for months. This is how a nation of voters gets the press corps’ preferred ideas in their heads. This is how our “party activists” end up reciting the RNC’s points.

Indeed, let’s return to that Balz report. At least twice, his tiny gang of “party activists” told him that our current nominees weren’t “electable.” There is no sign that Balz then asked them why they thought such a thing, in light of the current national polls—and he didn’t mention the national polls as he typed up their comments. Result: Balz’s readers heard again, from two “party activists” (one of them a high school student!), that Clinton and Edwards can’t be elected. Thanks to Balz, they didn’t hear that these unelectable losers are ahead in the national polls.

We offer the following thohughts, first about the Balz report, then about the liberal web:

RE Balz: When reporters speak to “the man on the street,” they hear a wide array of comments. Endlessly, the “main on the street” will say things which are false or grossly misleading. And we’re sorry, but reporters shouldn’t print remarks which are false or misleading without including the relevant contrary information. In this case, the doubts which Balz managed to hype three times are hard to reconcile with national polls. In his focus group, Balz should have mentioned these polls to these “activists.” But he certainly should have mentioned the polls in reporting the things these dumb-asses said.

RE the liberal web: Again, we see one of the major spins which liberals and Dems should be challenging. And we’re going to see it again and again until we force them to stop! Sorry, kids: In performing our press critique, it isn’t enough to call Chris Matthews “Tweety” a couple of times par semaine. And it isn’t enough to say “Read it and weep” when we present the Sunday line-up—without explaining what libs should be weeping about. We have to educate readers about specifics—about specific spins which are harming our candidates. Hillary Clinton is unelectable is one the RNC’s favorite spin-points. We ought to be teaching readers how to respond when this spin-point gets pushed through the land.

We’ll discuss other spins this week and next, including the utterly matchless spin-point: Hillary Clinton is soooo polarizing. But then, we’ve even seen major Dem Party strategists repeat that bromide on the air! Could we possibly get any dumber? Could our “leaders” be any more clueless?

Why do Dems talk down their own candidates? In part, because we are so inept on the web! Rest assured—the leadership won’t come from our “liberal journals,” or even from the Dem Party itself. It’s time to let our web readers know specifics about the way our hopefuls get harmed. And it’s time for us all to scream, loud and long, when reporters and pundits, like Balz and that panel, keep spreading this bull-roar around the country. Hillary Clinton/John Edwards is unelectable! We’re being harmed by that counterfactual spin-point. It’s time to fight back, long and loud.

THE FULL MONTY: Full disclosure: In that latest Newsweek poll, Clinton, Obama and Edwards are all ahead of Saint John McCain. Clinton and Obama are ahead of Saint Rudy; Edwards trails him by one point. In short, absent some sort of extended argument, Clinton and Edwards are plainly “electable.” Voters deserve to hear these facts when they’re exposed to spin and opinion—even if the trumpeted spin, in the Washington Post, comes from a high school kid.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Reporters can spread any bullshit they want once they start quoting the “man in the street.” Why not visit our incomparable archives?

In April 2000, Ceci Connolly went to a Gore rally—but weirdly, she could only find Gore critics to quote! Apparently, no one favorable to Gore had attended! Isn’t life grand when you can choose who to quote? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/4/00.
In July 1999, Bill Sammon wanted to print a false fact about Gore—so he simply quoted a “man in the street” who had made the bogus statement in question. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/30/99.

Yes—this is how these idiots work. We need to inform our liberal readers—and they need specifics.

AND GOOD RIDDANCE: One bit of news this week was just flat-out positive. It concerned the Washington Post’s Sunday “Outlook” section:
WASHINGTON POST (1/27/07): John Pomfret, a prize-winning reporter and foreign correspondent...was named yesterday to become editor of The Washington Post's Outlook Section....

In his new role, which starts the first week in April, Pomfret succeeds Susan Glasser, who is assistant managing editor for national news.
Regarding Glasser’s departure from “Outlook,” we’ll say two things: Good-bye—and good riddance.

As editor, Glasser maintained the tradition of terminal dullness inherited from her predecessor, Steven Luxenberg. But when she isn’t returning her readers to dreamland on Sundays, she fills her section with the sort of garbage she offered in yesterday’s “Outlook.” This piece by Linda Hirshman is about as dumb (and nasty) as “analysis” gets—and Glasser balanced it off with this sad apologia by the hapless Dinesh D’Souza. Meanwhile, last week’s lead story examined a burning question: Is it possible that Jeb Bush will still seek the White House, perhaps as early as 08? S. V. Date began with this clownish portrait of how great things might have been:
DATE (1/21/07): Tuesday would have marked his sixth State of the Union address—and it might have been his best yet.

The nation is in great shape, President Jeb Bush would have reported: record tax cuts propelling the economy to greater heights; a revolutionary school-vouchers program for the first time granting low-income parents real education choices; and, five years after the capture of Osama bin Laden, the final 20,000 U.S. troops returning home from Iraq.

The president would break into his fluent Spanish and wave at his Mexican-born wife, Columba, gazing at him from the balcony. The cameras would settle on their eldest, George P. Bush, 30, and commentators would speculate on whether the dashing lawyer would soon run for Congress and carry on the Bush dynasty.

Yet contrary to the best-laid plans of the Bush family, it won't be John Ellis "Jeb" Bush addressing the nation this week...
Good God—what absolute nonsense! It could have been so great, we’re now told. We just picked out the wrong Bush!

Only at the mossback Post would an editor consider such perfect nonsense to headline her pre-State of the Union Sunday section. And only Glasser would follow up with yesterday’s astonishing piece by Hirshman—a piece which strives to help us see how dumb women are when they vote. Hirshman’s idea of supporting evidence? Men listen to more talk radio! What sort of editor would even dream of printing such consummate nonsense?

But we’re really glad to see Glasser go because of her work during Campaign 2000. In July 1999, she co-authored back-to-back, front-page putdowns of Gore—reports which were, most simply put, blatant acts of journalistic malpractice. We’ll try to revisit those articles later this week, to help you get a better idea of the sorts of people who are behind the scenes, running your mainstream press corps. But suffice to say: In any other American profession, a person who offered work like that would come in for professional sanction. (See: Nifong, Michael—Durham, N.C.) Yep! In real professions, the Nifongs get charged. In “journalism,” the Glassers get promoted.

Glasser’s the kind of creepy crawler who lurks, unnamed, behind the scenes in our major mainstream news orgs. Her departure from “Outlook” is simple good news; her departure from journalism would be that much better. Final note: Glasser is the wife of Post reporter Peter Baker. (As we’ve long told you, this cohort is deeply intermarried.) It’s too perfect! They fell in love while covering Lewinsky, this sad capsule profile once said.

STICKS, STONES AND THE WASHINGTON POST: The Post deserves praise for the way it continues to challenge a pair of campaign slimings (their term). Yesterday, ombudsman Deborah Howell offered this rebuke to a recent, front-page Post report which falsely implied wrong-doing by John Edwards. Right next to it, the Post offered this lead editorial, rebuking some of those who have tried to slime Barack Obama in recent weeks. Here’s how the editors started:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (1/28/07): IT’S BECOME a fad among some conservatives to refer to the junior senator from Illinois by his full name: Barack Hussein Obama. This would be merely juvenile if it weren't so contemptible. Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers, on "Hardball," was one of the early adopters of this sleazy tactic. "Count me down as somebody who underestimates Barack Hussein Obama," he said. Radio host Rush Limbaugh, demonstrating his usual maturity, got a chuckle out of the senator's allegedly oversized ears, calling him "Barack Hussein Odumbo." And Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council issued this e-mail alert: "Joining an already glutted field of hopefuls, Sen. Barack Hussein Obama (D-Ill.) announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic nomination yesterday."

Insight magazine managed to further degrade the public discourse with a scurrilous "report" alleging that Mr. Obama, as a child in Indonesia, attended a radical Islamic madrassa. In fact, Mr. Obama attended a public school in Jakarta that was predominantly Muslim—no surprise given that Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country. Insight, whose piece was eagerly touted by Fox News Network, might have learned this if it had bothered to check its story...
The headline: “Sticks, Stones and Mr. Obama/Misleading aspersions about the senator's background only make the perpetrators look bad.”

We’re thrilled to see the editors doing their job. But we offer some basic reactions.

First: In its opening sentence, the Post attributes the “contemptible” treatment of Obama to “some conservatives.” It then names Ed Rogers, a GOP honcho, as “one of the early adopters” of this “sleazy tactic.” As usual, the corps is protecting its own. As Media Matters has importantly shown, it was really Chris Matthews (good God—who else?) who took the lead in putting Obama’s middle name on the air (just click here). But then, as we reminded you just last Friday, this mainstream press corps always does this; they always obscure their own members’ misconduct. They always say it was “late night comedians” or “Republican operatives” who have engaged in such slimy tactics, even when it was their own mainstream cohort which drove the bullshit in question. The mainstream press corps is deeply involved in hiding the sins of its own.

Second: One quick note on the Post’s headline. According to the Post, “[m]isleading aspersions about the senator's background only make the perpetrators look bad.” That’s a pleasing, feel-good statement—but of course, it’s utterly bogus. Over the past fifteen years, Democratic leaders have been endlessly made to “look bad” when “perpetrators” have cast such “misleading aspersions.” It feels very good when the Post says different. But the editors’ statement is cosmically wrong, as the editors of course understand.

Mainly, though, this editorial made us picture the Ghost of False Aspersions Past. As we noted last week, this is the type of editorial which was never written during the press corps’ astonishing war against Candidate Gore during Campaign 2000. The editors refused to write such a piece during Campaign 2000—which explains why George W. Bush is now president, and why the U.S. is stuck in Iraq. Here’s the editorial the editors failed to type at this stage eight years ago. We work closely from Sunday’s text, which arrived about eight years too late:


Misleading aspersions about the vice president's background only make the perpetrators look bad.

IT'S BECOME a fad among some journalists to pretend that Vice President Gore has been lying—or is even “delusional”—about his personal family background. This would be merely juvenile if it weren't so contemptible. Sadly, our own Michael Kelly has been one of the early adopters of this sleazy tactic. Kelly wrote an op-ed column, “Farmer Al,” which seemed to suggest that Gore was lying in statements he recently made in Iowa—statements in which Gore accurately described the part of his early years which was spent on his family’s farm.

In fact, Mr. Gore spent about a third of each year on the family farm as a youth—no surprise, given his parents’ modest Tennessee backgrounds. Kelly, whose misleading column has been eagerly touted, might have learned this if he’d bothered to check past the Post’s past reporting about the vice president’s personal history. Or Kelly might have checked his own past work; in 1987, he wrote a detailed profile of Gore for the Baltimore Sun. In it, he described all the youthful activities he now seems to suggest that Gore has been lying about.

When the attacks on Gore were debunked by Bob Zelnick’s new biography—it describes Gore’s youthful life on the farm in detail—Mr. Gore’s slimers didn't even have the decency to slink away. They continue to pretend that Gore has been lying about that part of his early life, and they add silly, embellished complaints about a fleeting remark Gore once made about the film Love Story. Those complaints against Gore have been debunked too, by Love Story author Eric Siegal and by Time’s Karen Tumulty. But the attacks continue. Mr. Gore's slimers seem to think such name-calling can score points with the American people.

Mr. Gore has never tried to distort his past or his family’s history. Those who take pains to pretend that he has are trying, none too subtly, to stir up scary images of Bill Clinton’s misstatements concerning Monica Lewinsky. But these matters are completely unrelated. The critics who make these claims about Gore embarrass only themselves.
Sunday’s editorial was so obvious that it virtually typed itself. That said, the editors still deserve our thanks for having written it. But the same editorial should have been written when it was Gore whom the press corps was sliming. The Post’s editors have done the right thing—but they’ve done it eight years too late. They should crawl on their hands and knees to beg forgiveness for their past silence. And who knows? Maybe E. J. Dionne could even get involved in fighting the conduct which has transformed our politics—and changed our nation’s history. Maybe Dionne will even challenge the slimers—and stand up for American values.