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Daily Howler: Brilliantly, Waldman corrected a lie. Walsh let a new lie spread
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NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS! Brilliantly, Waldman corrected a lie. Walsh let a new lie spread: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2007

IN SEARCH OF INHOFE: Yesterday, we misstated the place where James Inhofe’s Q-and-A with Gore starts on the tape of Wednesday’s hearing (click here). Inhofe’s Q-and-A starts about 51 minutes in. Sadly, we still recommend it.

STRAIGHT OUTTA HOMER: If you have some time this weekend, we strongly recommend this week’s congressional hearings with Gore, both of which are now available on C-SPAN. On the senate side, we especially recommend the exchange between Gore and Senator John Warner (R-VA). Warner’s questioning followed James Inhofe’s rude and disordered performance. That in mind, we were struck by Warner’s dignified conduct—and by his promise to learn:
SEN. WARNER (3/21/07): Thank you, Madam Chairman.

Vice President, I welcome you and Mrs. Gore. I was privileged to serve with you in this institution. We served together on the Armed Services Committee, and you, in a dignified way, earned the respect of this institution. And I'm privileged to try today to return that respect and dignity that both of you served—

GORE: Thank you. Thank you.

SEN. WARNER: —here in the Senate. I also thank you for reference to my modest little contribution in World War II. I would acknowledge that my good friend down here, Senator Lautenberg, also served in that conflict with great distinction in Europe.

GORE: Ah, that's right. Pardon me for the omission.

SEN. WARNER: And you talked about the battle of Thermopylae. I remember reading about it quite well. I have not seen the film [300], but intend to do so. And you may recall that that overwhelming force sent a message to the brave 300—

GORE: (Laughs.)

SEN. WARNER: "Surrender, or we'll darken the skies with arrows." And the reply came back, "We will not surrender. We'll fight in the shade."

GORE: (Laughs.)

SEN. WARNER: Now, I mention that because you have thrown down a very tough challenge today to the Congress, and I'm prepared to take some risks and fight with you and our chairman [Barbara Boxer]. But we're not going to fight in the shade because we need a lot of daylight brought on this issue. I'd be the first to say that I've got a lot to learn, and I'm proceeding to do that with a great deal of pleasure to forge ahead in a new area.
“Well, that's an excellent and thoughtful question,” Gore said, in response to Warner’s first query. And this: “Thank you for your kind words in preface to the question.”

In his courtly opening remarks, Warner was implicitly rebuking the crudeness of Inhofe, his Republican colleague. But this courtliness between Gore and the members was on full display in both sessions. That morning, in the House, Rep. Ralph Hall, an 83-year-old Texas Dem-turned-Rep, also reminisced before questioning Gore:
HALL (3/21/07): Mr. Chairman, thank you. And Al, I do respect you and your great family. And I'm older than Mr. Dingell. And I remember the services of your father that worked alongside our Sam Rayburn. I have read of, and some people think I remember Sam Houston, another great Tennessean—

GORE: Also from Tennessee!

HALL: —that came from Tennessee. And Bart Gordon [D-TN] is, is really helping me. I don't know that he really realizes it or not, but he's a dear guy and a Tennessean. And I've never met a Tennessean I didn't like, honestly. Barton says that, that when—every time somebody left Tennessee and came to Texas it raised the character in both states. I don't know if that is fair enough but it's a good statement to make. But I will—I'll have to differ with you on some things. And let me tell you, I've admired you. We sat right side by side on these committees and worked together. We were—held a conference one time, a hearing on my boat, out in front of Thomas Jefferson's home there.

GORE: Yeah.

HALL: And when your little one was injured, you had the prayers of everybody up here.

GORE: Thank you, Ralph.

HALL: And you're dear to us.
When Gore began to answer Hall’s first question, he too recalled that day at sea. “Congressman Hall—Ralph, if I may—thank you so much,” he said. “I was thinking, remembering fondly that evening on your boat out there. And I'd love to do that again some time.”

The courtesy of Warner and Hall recalled an earlier time in our politics, before the Inhofe wing of their party defined so much of modern Republicanism—and before the criminals of our “mainstream press corps” began their long, ugly war on Gore’s character. But the schmoozing that occurred throughout these sessions seemed to us to be straight outta Homer—and represents a type of personal politicking such as we rarely see in public. Over and over, Gore reached out to former colleagues, seeking the types of personal bond that can help push a political body toward consensus. The Iliad is full of similar scenes, where elders alternate between sentimental reminiscence and the search for consensus and wisdom.

We strongly recommend these tapes for their at politics up-close and personal. And we’ll say this, having sat in the room: When Warner expressed the fullness of his pleasure at the chance to learn more about climate change, we didn’t doubt his sincerity for a minute. In fact, we marveled at his demonstration of character. Warner pledged to fight with Gore—and said he’d learn more. The man is now eighty years old.

NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS: If it weren’t for the history—if it weren’t for Iraq—what happened Wednesday night would be funny. Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters, was spending some time in Scarborough Country in the wake of the Gore congressional hearings. Soon, he was doing a very good job of explaining a very old problem:
WALDMAN (3/21/07): Well, you know, I’m glad that Terry [Holt] brought up this idea that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. That is actually a lie that started at the Republican National Committee and then was picked up gleefully by the mainstream media.

HOLT: No, but it’s a direct quote!
Incredibly, Holt had said the following when Scarborough asked why conservatives hate Gore: “It’s not that he’s just a hypocrite—and he is—but he’s a braggart. I mean, he’s claimed to have invented the Internet, among many other things.” Challenged on that point by Waldman, Holt—incredibly— said that his claim was based on “a direct quote.”

Waldman did a superb job on this program (more text below). But if it weren’t for the history—if it weren’t for Iraq—what happened Wednesday night would just be funny. A well-informed liberal shot down this canard—eight years after the RNC began pimping it. That’s right! Here at THE HOWLER, we first dealt with “invented the Internet” in mid-March too—mid-March of 1999! And omigod: Eight years later, we finally saw a well-informed, intelligent liberal sit on TV and refute it. It only took our tribe eight years to get this vital job done.

If it weren’t for the history—if it weren’t for Iraq—Wednesday night would have been funny. Our analysts would have thrown their heads back and roared, entertained by the cosmic incompetence and cowardice that have defined this political era.

So here’s our question: Why did Waldman have to go on TV and make this presentation eight years later? Because of the cosmic liberal failures that have only continued this week. Indeed, as in mid-March 1999, so too in mid-March 2007; pseudo-conservatives have been peddling lies about Gore, and their lies have been pimped by the mainstream media. Consider the report on Wednesday’s Morning Edition, just before Gore’s congressional hearings.

Gore was about to testify to Congress—and NPR’s Renee Montage couldn’t wait to serve as a stooge. She opened her segment thusly:

MONTAGE (3/21/07): Former Vice President Al Gore goes to Capitol Hill today to testify on climate change. He'll appear before a joint meeting of two house committees. Gore has championed the issue of global warming for decades and he has books and an Oscar-winning documentary to his credit. Now that he is firmly in the spotlight on this issue, so are his detractors.

They include some scientists who are concerned about global warming, but have raised questions about Al Gore's data and some of his conclusions. We've asked NPR science correspondent Richard Harris to help us sort through some of the questions. Good morning, Richard.
“Good morning, Renee,” Harris warmly replied—but Harris was waiting to play the stooge too. Soon, Montagne bought into the latest fine script—and Harris was mouthing a howler:
MONTAGNE: There are also questions about Al Gore's estimates as to how much the sea levels will rise.

HARRIS: Yes. In fact, in his documentary he talks about the fact that what the world will look like—Florida and New York—when the sea level rises by 20 feet. But he deftly avoids mentioning the time frame for which that might happen. And when you look at the forecast of sea-level rise, no one's expecting 20 feet of sea level rise in the next couple of centuries, at least. So that's another thing that makes scientists a little bit uneasy. True, we have to be worried about global sea-level rise, but it's not going to happen probably as fast as he implies in his movie.
“No one's expecting 20 feet of sea level rise in the next couple of centuries,” Harris said. He said this was another thing that had scientists uneasy about Gore. But as we pointed out on Monday, James Hansen is one of the world’s most renowned warming scientists—and Hansen said, just last year, that this sea-level rise could occur in this century (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/19/07). “How long would that take, that kind of apocalypse of water, if you will?” Hansen was asked, just last year. His answer: “That could be 50 years from now, could be 100 years from now, but it's not 1,000 years from now.” And this wasn’t said in some obscure forum; this was Hansen’s response to a well-known fellow, Tom Brokaw, on Brokaw’s much-ballyhooed climate change special on the Discovery Channel last summer. Simply put, “science reporter” Richard Harris was just flat wrong in what he said about this issue. But NPR’s audience heard a well-scripted message again: Rank-and-file scientists are very concerned about the way Gore plays with the facts.

Why was Harris raising this point? Let’s consider what he didn’t say in this report as well as what he did.

To state the obvious, Montagne was flogging one of the topics which William Broad most brutally bungled in his New York Times report last week. In his hopelessly bungled report, Broad offered a troubling comparison; Gore’s film “envisions [sea level] rises of up to 20 feet,” he said, while the recent IPCC report “estimated that the world's seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches” (links below). But this was a classic apples-to-oranges comparison. In the relevant part of his film, Gore was talking about what will happen if the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt or break away. By contrast, the IPCC was predicting what will happen if that calamity doesn’t occur. But as we noted yesterday, Broad’s groaner has spread like wildfire through the fact- and logic-challenged world of pseudo-conservative media. And in this report, it reached NPR too. In a maneuver that’s typical of the way the “mainstream” plays it cute with phony claims of the right, Harris avoided repeating Broad’s blunder—but he went ahead and found a new way to misstate Gore’s work in this area.

Result? Conservatives heard their treasured new theme flogged again—and Harris avoided Broad’s cosmic blunder. In its place, he substituted a new misstatement—another misstatement of simple facts which let him continue to discredit Gore. The prevailing kooky-con narrative got pushed—and Harris made another plain blunder.

What might Harris and Montagne have said if they wanted to serve their listeners? Try to imagine a world in which NPR offered reports like this:
MONTAGNE, REVISED: There have also been questions about Al Gore's estimates as to how much the sea levels will rise. But how accurate have those presentations been?

HARRIS: Some major media have bungled this question of late, and it’s important to note that. In his documentary, Gore talks about what the world will look like—Florida and New York—if the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets melt or break away, raising sea level rises by 20 feet...
Harris could have gone on to explain the error involved in the claim his listeners may have seen in the Times. In the process, he could have cited shortcomings in Gore’s presentation—if he could actually find one.

Of course, imagining NPR doing that is like imagining ice shelves in Hell. Simply put, mainstream careerists like Montagne and Harris never correct the New York Times when it conducts its War Against Gore, as it has done for a decade. They didn’t do so in 1999, and they have no plans to do so today. Instead, they avoid repeating the paper’s most glaring errors, while sticking to the larger narrative the Times has helped define. In this case, the Times said that rank-and-file scientists are concerned about Gore—so Montagne and Harris had to pimp this claim too. And most “liberal” journalists just let this sh*t go. Consider Joan Walsh, for example.

Ah, Walsh! We’re told that she’s a very nice person, and we have no reason to doubt it. But this week, at her new Salon blog, Walsh was rhapsodizing about Gore, while offering all the standards frameworks about Campaign 2000. Eight years later, this is gruesome work:
WALSH (3/12/07): I met Gore once, almost a year ago, at Google (where else) where he was giving his global warming slide show. I'll admit it; I swooned. The slide show was astonishing, and so was Gore: funny, warm, self-deprecating, occasionally angry, just a real person—all the things he wasn't when he was running for president in 2000. I came back to the Salon office and told everyone my vision: Gore makes "An Inconvenient Truth," wins an Oscar, sits out the early Democratic mudslinging and jumps in when the other candidates have slimed one another and we're ready for, yes, a prophet. I shared my vision with a Democratic netroots activist, who told me he had it too. Many of us are longing for a rescue from the Bush years, and what would be more mythical, even magical, than Gore, slain by Bush, James Baker and Antonin Scalia, rising from the political dead to rescue the world. To stop the war in Iraq, and global warming too. You don't have to be a lapsed Catholic to thrill to the symbolism.
Right to this day, Walsh refuses to discuss what happened in Campaign 2000. To her, Gore was “slain by Bush, James Baker and Antonin Scalia”—and by his own humorless, un-real approach. To this day, she hasn’t heard of the things Waldman cited this week—or she’s willing to play things dumb. What actually happened in Campaign 2000? Here is the first Q-and-A between Scarborough and Waldman this Wednesday. Three words—Oh. Our. God:
SCARBOROUGH (3/21/07): Paul, do you think the vast right-wing conspiracy has their target fixed in on Al Gore`s political future?

WALDMAN: Well, I don’t know what the people who do the secret handshakes are saying now, but you know, it’s certainly true, whether you want to call it a conspiracy or not, that the Republicans have a very sophisticated apparatus by which they can get their messages out, and they have certainly been attacking Al Gore, as they have other Democratic politicians. But what really makes it effective is that the media are such willing partners in the attacks on Gore. I mean, if we think back to 2000 when he ran for president, there’s been no candidate probably in the last 40 years who got savaged by the mainstream media the way Gore did. They made up all kinds of stories to tell us that he was dishonest and he was a phony. And you know, it continued even after that. In 2002, he gave a speech in which he said that the Bush administration was being dishonest about Iraq and that going to war there was a terrible idea, and everyone wrote about how he was just crazy. But he turned out to be right about that, as he has about a lot of other things.
Every word of that is true. Read it again—Waldman’s statement is brilliant. But eight years later, there is no sign that Salon’s Joan Walsh has heard about any of this. She’s still saying that Bush reached the White House because Gore wasn’t funny enough.

Make sure you understand what Waldman said. The GOP gets its (bogus) messages out through “a very sophisticated apparatus.” And what really makes this machine so effective is the fact that the mainstream media “are such willing partners in the attacks on Gore.” How did that work in March 1999, with the profoundly damaging claim that Al Gore said he invented the Internet? We’ve told that story in detail, many times. But here’s how it worked in the past six weeks, as a new lie about Gore was invented and spread:

First, a Danish hoaxer named Bjorn Lomborg put an utterly bogus claim in the New York Sun. (A few years ago, the chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science called Lomborg "the prime example in our time of someone who distorts statistics and statements to meet his own political end.")

Then, William Broad took the gruesome howler and put it in the New York Times science section.

In conservative media, the bogus claim took off like wildfire. This week, it was widely recited on Fox. And then:

On Wednesday, NPR cleaned up Broad and Lomborg’s most gruesome error—but kept pimping the same bogus narrative.

And what did Walsh do during this process? She seems to have slept through the whole doggone thing! Readers, it’s news when the “right-wing machine” invents new lies and spreads them widely. But go ahead—search Salon this week! See if Joan Walsh knew or cared or bothered to inform Salon readers.

But then, Walsh also kept quiet eight years ago, when “invented the Internet” changed all our lives. That explains why Waldman still had to debunk the tale this week—eight years later! Eight years later! What happened Wednesday night would just be funny—if it weren’t for the way Bush reached the White House. If it weren’t for the war in Iraq.

KEEP SPIN ALIVE: As Waldman says, the GOP has a complex apparatus for spreading its spins, misstatements and lies. And the gutless complicity of NPR is a strong part of the GOP’s business model. In the past month, the kooky-con right had set the new narrative—scientists are concerned about Gore’s facts. And of course! Montagne and Harris beat the bushes trying to find some “examples.” How far was Harris willing to stretch to keep the GOP spin alive? Here’s the first complaint he reported when he tattled to Montagne:

MONTAGNE (3/21/07): Give us some examples, then, of some of the concerns that scientists have [about Gore’s presentations on warming].

HARRIS: Okay. Well, for example, I saw Al Gore give a talk at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco last December. And he was cheered by this enormous audience of scientists who were really excited to hear his message that, you know, it's time to take global warming seriously, et cetera, et cetera. But after the talk, a couple of them came up to me and said, you know, he didn't exactly get the science right in the sense that Gore said that Arctic ice could be gone entirely in 34 years, and he made it seem like a really precise prediction.

And there are scary predictions about what's going to happen to Arctic sea ice in the summertime, but no one can say 34 years. That just implies a degree of certainty that's not there. And that made a few scientists a bit uncomfortable to hear him say that, making it sound so precise.
In a word, that’s just god-awful.

“No one can say 34 years?” In fact, someone had said 34 years, in the week before Gore’s speech—and Gore was simply citing their work. You’ll note that Harris doesn’t bother quoting anything Gore actually said in that speech. The day after Gore’s speech, Jane Kay did, in the San Francisco Chronicle:
KAY (12/15/06): Even after 40 years of following the science of climate change, he said he was surprised to learn this week about new, earlier projections for when the Arctic sea ice will completely melt during the summertime. That research came from scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado.

"I was shocked that their horizon was 34 years under a business-as-usual scenario. If we allow it to go, it won't come back under any timetable relevant to the human species,'' Gore said.
By the way: When Gore said their “horizon” was 34 years, he wasn’t making “a really precise prediction.” In the cross-bay Contra Costa Times, Douglas Fisher managed to paraphrase Gore with a good deal of competence:
FISHER (12/15/06): Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," popularized the significant—and increasingly catastrophic—changes under way on Earth as a result of human activity.

Gore's evidence came largely from those sitting in the audience: Researchers studying Antarctic ice cores, ocean sediments, Arctic sea ice, clouds, mountain glaciers and a host of different planetary systems. Their most recent evidence, unveiled in the past week, suggests the pace and scope of change surpasses even what scientists suspected a year ago:

The Antarctic ice core record, for example, now extends back to 800,000 years. Yet scientists studying that record warn that current trends render moot any comparison with information locked in ice: The planet, they say, is warming to a degree unseen in 40 million years, as the first mammals were evolving. Sea sediments bolster that hypothesis.

Arctic ice could be gone in the summer within 34 years. That's decades earlier than previously thought, and it rids the Northern Hemisphere of its refrigerator. And "if we allow it to go," Gore said, "it won't come back on any time scale relevant to the human species."
The Arctic ice could be gone. That’s not a precise prediction.

The full text of Gore’s San Francisco speech doesn’t seem to be available on-line. But Gore was still citing this new, 34-year estimate in this week’s congressional testimony—and no, he wasn’t making “a really precise prediction.” He was saying what “could” happen, according to that new, troubling study. Gore to the senate, speaking of the polar ice cap: “The scientists say it may be gone in as little as 34 years” (our emphasis).

Did someone sidle up to Harris in San Francisco and make some complaint about Gore’s account of that estimate? It’s possible—there are idiots everywhere—but it was absurd to make such perfect nonsense the basis for a worried report. Why did Montagne and Harris put this crap on the air? On Wednesday, Waldman described the process. Joan Walsh—part of the process herself—still doesn’t seem to have heard.

Will liberal elites ever get mad about this hall of mirrors?

BRIT HUME’S HALL OF MIRRORS: Because liberal elites and the mainstream press keep refusing to challenge the RNC’s lies, we live today in a hall of mirrors. Consider what happened when Morton Kondracke made a bad blunder this week.

What was Morton Kondracke’s mistake? He had read William Broad’s badly bungled report—and it made him wonder about Gore’s work. And that’s when he made his cosmic error; he decided that he’d call the head of the National Academy of Sciences! What happened that night on Fox would be funny—if your children’s lives didn’t matter:

KONDRACKE (3/21/07): Now, I have read the New York Times piece and I reread the New York Times piece, and basically what is says was that there disputes about certain facts in the Gore case. And one or them—one significant one—is this question of how high the sea level rise and it's not, it isn't insignificant. However, as to the question of a consensus, I mean the—Gore appeared before the American Geophysical Union and got a standing ovation.

HUME (exasperated, as always): Mort—

KONDRACKE: Just a second! The head of the National Academy of Science—today, I talked to him—pointed me in the direction of testimony that he's delivered before Congress, which says that there is an overwhelming consensus among his colleagues, and he is an earth scientist, that global warming is a fact, that man is responsible for it and that the sun is not responsible. There's been a lot of study—

HUME: But Mort, is—doesn't—isn't what, isn't scientific consensus what you turn to when you don't have scientific fact?


HUME: In other words, you haven't established it?

KONDRACKE: No. No, the—

HUME: Well, is this scientific fact?

KONDRACKE: Look, how are we supposed to determine what scientific fact is—

HUME: Mort, that's what the scientific method is for. Let me move on to Nina, just to get her—

KONDRACKE: You get thousands of scientists and if they all agree—if 90 percent—

HUME: That's not science, Mort, that's a vote. That's an election.

In this way, the all-stars defended Fred’s prior claim—that global warming is really being caused “by changed activity on the sun.” There are no words for the sheer buffoonery which now rules large parts of our lives. Nor do our liberal elites seem to find it offensive.

It’s less important when this happens on Fox. It’s more important when the New York Times does it. But the New York Times and NPR are both part of that “apparatus” Waldman so expertly discussed. Waldman explained the shape of your world—and it has nothing to do with Gore being funny. Yep! New lies continued to spread this week—even after Gore told beaucoup jokes.