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LET THEM EAT BOTOX! How many times has Teresa used Botox? The Times dumbly asks—on page one:


STARTING TOMORROW—THEY HAD LITTLE LEAGUE! Pimple-faced pundits are eager to show how poorly they understand Vietnam.

COLLINS CONFESSES: In this morning’s lead editorial, Gail Collins delivers a minor cow over Nader’s 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 it’s 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.

It’s not surprising that in 2000 many people thought they could afford to express their irritation with a vote for Mr. Nader.

Let’s 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 low—for them. With their Millionaire Pundit Values, what did they care about the things Candidate Bush was proposing? Most major pundits gained large sums from Bush’s 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 irritation”—at President Clinton’s troubling blow-jobs—with 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 don’t forget—there was little at stake.)

And let’s face it—the clowning persists to this day. Did Gore “keep changing his message” during Campaign 2000? No, but this was a treasured press spin-point, typed and retyped again and again. Indeed, how far was the press corps willing to go to sell this RNC-scripted message? In May 2000, to cite one example, they pretended that Gore had conducted “his next makeover” when he dared to run an accurate biographical ad—an ad he had previously run in New Hampshire! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/02, to remember how far the press would go to wage its endless War Against Gore. (Scroll down to HOWLER HISTORY.)

Did “Mr. Gore keep changing his message?” No, but the press corps—expressing its irritation (and the RNC’s 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: “That’s nobody’s 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 won’t print it? This latest insulting, absurd Q-and-A appears in a front-page profile of John Kerry’s wife! Increasingly, they seem to want you to know it: There is nothing so dumb they won’t print it.

How stupid are Halbfinger and his editors? Read this profile if you’re curious. Poor David! He’s 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 he’s 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, he’s 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. Kerry’s 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 we’ve long told you, they aren’t from this planet! But they’ve 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. They’ll continue to make a joke of your discourse as long as you’re 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? Halbfinger’s stupid—and Heinz Kerry knows it! According to Immutable Pundit Law, it’s 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 Globe’s John Robinson wrote a detailed profile (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/10/03). Here’s 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 she’s been extraordinarily active. She’s revamped the foundation, making it more vital to this community.”

“She’s 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 you’ll join them. Resist.

EMPTY MINDS THINK ALIKE: Of course, Halbfinger isn’t 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, isn’t it? In fact, the inanity of that RNC e-mail is the only newsworthy item in this profile. But Halbfinger—just as dumb as the RNC hoped—was soon discussing Heinz Kerry’s 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 Kerry’s “odd” ways a big issue. Last time: earth tones. This time: scary accents. Your press corps’ clowning will never end—until 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.

“More special interest money than any other senator. How much?” she says.

The answer flashes on the screen: $640,000. “Ooh, for what?” she says, typing out “Paybacks?” and then reading aloud from the screen, she says, “Millions from executives at HMO’s, telecoms, drug companies.” She add, “Ka-Ching!”

She can only come to one damning conclusion: Mr. Kerry, she says, is “Unprincipled.”

The one-minute spot, introduced a week ago, did not appear on television, but on President Bush's campaign Web site. And so a new bare-knuckled political use of the World Wide Web showed its head: the Internet attack ad.

Rutenberg repeats the content of this ad, and brightly notes that it’s an “attack.” But he is too inept to let readers know that this ad’s 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 ad’s 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 ad’s 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 week’s rumor from Drudge, he applauded the press for “not tak[ing] the bait.” But he’d 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.