MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2004
STARTING TOMORROWTHEY HAD LITTLE LEAGUE! Pimple-faced pundits are eager to show how poorly they understand Vietnam.
COLLINS CONFESSES: In this mornings lead editorial, Gail Collins delivers a minor cow over Naders decision to run again. But in the process, the Times ed finally explains her own clowning during Campaign 2000. Her statement is oh so revealing:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: So much has happened in the last four years that its hard to remember how low the stakes seemed when Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush were running. The country was at peace and prosperous. The big issue in Washington was what to do with the budget surplus. Mr. Gore kept changing his message and Mr. Bush was promising to be a uniter, not a divider. Both men knew from their polling that victory would belong to the one who captured the affections of a small number of wavering voters in a few states, and both tried desperately to come up with the fuzzy, centrist message to win them over.Lets start with the obvious. Only a fool could ever think that the stakes are low in a run for the White House. But your press corps may have persuaded itself of this absurd notion during Campaign 2000. And by the way, the stakes did seem to be lowfor them. With their Millionaire Pundit Values, what did they care about the things Candidate Bush was proposing? Most major pundits gained large sums from Bushs tax cuts, by the way.
But, having decided that stakes were low, the pundit corps did what Collins suggests. They thought they could express their irritationat President Clintons troubling blow-jobswith twenty months of aggressive clowning aimed at Candidate Gore. And Collins was a prime offender. For a taste of the idiocy she directed at Gore, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/3/99. Meanwhile, was Gore like the underside of a swan swimming on the pond? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/7/03. (For a real-time take on Collins potty-mouthed clowning, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/28/99. But dont forgetthere was little at stake.)
Did Mr. Gore keep changing his message? No, but the press corpsexpressing its irritation (and the RNCs message)was eager to tell you that he had. This morning, Collins stays on message herself, continuing to pretend that Gore engaged in endless flips during Campaign 2K. But she does reveal why Bush is in the White House. Her vacuous gang convinced itself that Campaign 2000 made no difference, and they went ahead and expressed their irritation with a two-year campaign of slander and clowning. But that was then and this is now. This year it matters, Collins says.
LET THEM EAT BOTOX: They live to show how empty they are. In a Sunday profile of Teresa Heinz Kerry, the New York Times David Halbfinger even stooped to such clowning as this:
HALBFINGER: Thats nobodys business, she said when asked how often she had had Botox injections.Try to believe that he asked it! Meanwhile, is there anything so stupid that the Times wont print it? This latest insulting, absurd Q-and-A appears in a front-page profile of John Kerrys wife! Increasingly, they seem to want you to know it: There is nothing so dumb they wont print it.
How stupid are Halbfinger and his editors? Read this profile if youre curious. Poor David! Hes back in a tizzy about Heinz Kerry, who has a reputation as being offbeat if not a little odd, and who sometimes curs[es] in one of her five languages or mus[es] aloud in accented English. Indeed, Heinz was born in Mozambique to European parents, the Times scribe reports, and is therefore half Portuguese. As he listens to her accented speech, it has him upset to this day.
But then, the addled fellow is only repeating what others just like him have already said. After all, what did America learn about [Heinz Kerry] when she first stepped into the political limelight a year ago? Simple! At the time, there were juicy details about her Botox treatments and her prenuptial agreement, her Chanel shoes and her cashmere scarves, Halbfinger lovingly recalls. Because other half-wits typed it up then, the empty scribe types it up now.
Of course, like the rest of his alien breed, David is expert on body language, and hes eager to share what he has discerned. John Kerry watch[es] admiringly when his wife speaks, the scribe says. But poor Halbfinger! Tortured by his own clear brilliance, hes disturbed by the way she responds:
HALBFINGER: Oddly, Ms. Heinz Kerry seems not to return the favor: when [Kerry] is speaking his wife often wears a pained, or even bored, expression. She says it is merely the look she gets when she is thinking deeply. Or she pleads shyness, saying Mr. Kerrys growing crowds at times have overwhelmed her.Oddly, Halbfinger is willing to waste your time with this transcendent nonsense. But this is the kind of screaming inanity on which writers like Halbfinger dote.
As weve long told you, they arent from this planet! But theyve gained a toehold in the place you call home, and they want you worrying about all known nonsense. Let them eat Botox, these empty scribes say. Theyll continue to make a joke of your discourse as long as youre willing to let them.
THE REAL PROBLEM: Halbfinger reveals the real problem with Teresa Heinz Kerry, but does so only in passing:
HALBFINGER: Where he appears stiff, she is spontaneous, dispensing unsolicited romantic advice to campaign workers and reporters. Where he can appear calculating, she comes across as guileless, trashing a profile of her in a major newspaper as a dumb piece by a dumb person who wrote it.The real problem? Halbfingers stupidand Heinz Kerry knows it! According to Immutable Pundit Law, its the one thing you must never reveal.
NO SAINTS NEED APPLY: As before, let us say it again: There seems to be more to Heinz Kerry than the piffle piled up in this profile. For example, when Heinz and Kerry became engaged in 1995, the Boston Globes John Robinson wrote a detailed profile (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/10/03). Heres part of what he wrote at the time:
ROBINSON: [Her work at the Heinz foundation] has earned Heinz the title of Saint Teresa, as she was called in a W magazine profile, and which has now stuck. It was the first reference Pittsburgh Mayor Thomas J. Murphy made of her when he was interviewed for this story and, from the point of view of many in Pittsburgh, saint may not be an elevated enough title.Teresa did not have a connection to Pittsburgh except through marriage, Murphy said. Her life was mostly in DC. But she committed herself, and shes been extraordinarily active. Shes revamped the foundation, making it more vital to this community.
Shes like our national treasure here, added Tom Foerster, Allegheny county commissioner.
In truth, none of this is especially relevant either. But saints and treasures bore David H; he cares about Botox, accents and scarves. Your press corps is empty, all the way to the ground. They hope that youll join them. Resist.
EMPTY MINDS THINK ALIKE: Of course, Halbfinger isnt our only empty vessel. Early in his clownish piece, we read this intriguing report:
HALBFINGER: In a move that was reminiscent of how Hillary Rodham Clinton became a lightning rod for her husband, the Republican National Committee on Friday sent journalists an e-mail message quoting Ms. Heinz Kerry comparing her husband to a good wine, adding, You know, it takes time to mature, and then it gets really good and you can sip it.Pathetic, isnt it? In fact, the inanity of that RNC e-mail is the only newsworthy item in this profile. But Halbfingerjust as dumb as the RNC hopedwas soon discussing Heinz Kerrys troubling accent. Readers, can you see the way the spin flows here? On Friday, the RNC sent its vacuous e-mail. Two days later, on its front page, the Times made Heinz Kerrys odd ways a big issue. Last time: earth tones. This time: scary accents. Your press corps clowning will never enduntil we find a way to insist.
Annals of the factesque
EASILY SPUN: How easily are New York Times writers spun? Here is Jim Rutenberg, hopelessly bull-roared in a Sunday Week in Review report:
RUTENBERG: It was a sharp video attack, jarring in a political season that has been unusually short on negative advertising. A woman, sitting at a keyboard, seeks information about Senator John Kerry on the Internet. She unearths all sorts of scandalizing tidbits.Rutenberg repeats the content of this ad, and brightly notes that its an attack. But he is too inept to let readers know that this ads attack is utterly false. Does Kerry take more special interest money than any other senator? No, and the (hapless) Washington Post piece which led to this ad never made such an assertion. According to Peter Beinart, Kerry ranks ninety-second among U.S. senators when it comes to special interest money. Meanwhile, at his Annenberg FactCheck site, Brooks Jackson shot down this ads bogus claim too. (He shot it down ten days ago!) Is Kerry first among senators in special interest dough, raising $640,000 in the last fifteen years? Please. So far, for example, Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist reported $1,022,063 in PAC donations for his 2004 campaign alone, Jackson notes. The Bush ads claim is utterly bogus. Rutenberg, typing hard, failed to say so.
But then, the New York Times deals in the factesque. The RNC send out a fake claim, so Rutenberg sat right down and typed it! Meanwhile, one last note, from the Annals of Clowning: When Rutenberg went on to discuss last weeks rumor from Drudge, he applauded the press for not tak[ing] the bait. But hed been yanked from the water himself, ten grafs earlier! This year it matters, Gail Collins has said. But at the Times, hopeless habits die hard.