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PUZZLING PUNDIT PROFILES (PART 3)! Mike Barnicle remains a consummate con. And David Broder has roused from his slumbers:


CONSUMMATE CON MAN: For comic relief at time of war, we advise you to visit Mike Barnicle. He began last Saturday’s column in the New York Daily News with fulsome praise for an inspiring wartime leader:

BARNICLE: No doubt about it: We have some amazing weapons and an even more amazing collection of tough, brave and committed people in uniform…And we have a President who has been willing to roll the dice on his political future by choosing to whack Iraq right now without picking up support from a bunch of other countries. I guess President Bush just didn’t have the patience to wait around for the all-important endorsement from Guinea. Think what you will about this war, but you have to admit one thing: Unlike the guy who sat in the White House before him, Bush isn’t relying on some focus group or a pollster to chart his course. He’s got genuine beliefs. He decided his mission was to take it to the terrorists—no matter where they were—and start killing them before they come back to kill us.

That’s an admirable goal. Especially when you realize what triggered his decisiveness: Sept. 11. Yet despite its noble nature, it might be impossible to achieve. But we’ll never know.

Think what you will about Mike Barnicle, but you have to admit one thing—unlike real journalists who came before him, he’s always ready to peddle approved spin. Have you heard this spin-point a million times now? President Clinton was a focus-group phony, but President Bush has real beliefs—and of course, President Bush is acting on principle. Bush’s actions are “admirable”—“noble.” And he didn’t wait for “turd world” nations to approve of those admirable goals.

But will Bush’s “admirable goal” prove impossible to achieve? We’ll never know, the pundit laments. Try not to laugh out loud as the con man spins you further:

BARNICLE (continuing directly): How come? Because most of the people we send to Washington to represent us, especially Democrats, are too scared or too limited to ask some fairly important questions. Like why did we have to jump ugly with this Baghdad thug now? Would April have been too late? How much is this war costing us? How much will it cost a year from now? Are we going to be asked to make sacrifices here at home? Can we still depend on that tax cut? And why are we apparently going to pay billions in bribe money to a country like Turkey to fly over its territory when genuine front-line soldiers in the war on terror—cops, firefighters, first responders in cities like New York—can’t find the money they need for equipment and overtime?
Bush is noble and admirable, and he doesn’t use focus groups. But those Democrats we send to Washington are afraid to ask the basic questions about Bush’s noble plan.

But have you noticed a problem with Barnicle’s logic? Because you’re more than three years old, we feel fairly sure that you have. To state the obvious, President Bush is one of better-known “people we send to Washington to represent us.” And whatever one thinks of Dems in the Congress, it would surely be possible for President Bush to provide the information which Barnicle seeks. Indeed, President Bush could provide the info even without being asked. Of course, Barnicle is especially disingenuous in his comments about money for first responders. As everyone currently breathing knows, it is his own Dem representatives—can you say “Hillary Rodham Clinton?”—who have been asking and asking about this money. And as everyone currently sentient knows, it is Barnicle’s brave and noble president who has refused to let those funds be dispersed.

But you won’t have to hear these unapproved points if you’re reading Mike Barnicle’s laughable column! Barnicle—a consummate con man—is peddling cheap spin to his hapless readers. That’s right! Even at a time of war, con men like Barnicle just keep up their clowning. Read all through this hall-of-fame piece—and treat yourself to a low, mordant chuckle as you see what our discourse has come to.

The Daily update

WHILE THE DEAN SLEPT: As we noted two weeks ago, David Broder has slammed the corps for being “out of touch” and indifferent (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/11/03). In particular, The Dean of All Pundits hammered the corps for its performance during the president’s March 6 press conference. We tend to agree with what The Dean said. So let’s let him say it again:

BRODER: I was astonished and dismayed that in the first opportunity to quiz the president in four months, not one question was asked about the shaky economy or the out-of-control federal budget. The very next day came news of the largest monthly jump in unemployment since the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and an official estimate that Bush’s budget proposals would add $2.7 trillion to the national debt in the next 10 years. An economically cushioned set of reporters seemingly couldn’t care less about this looming disaster. Talk about being out of touch!
The corps is fat and happy, The Dean seemed to say. That’s why they “seemingly couldn’t care less.”

Indeed, The Dean has been on a jag of late, battering Bush’s budget policies. This past Sunday, he devoted his column to another attack—the third straight Sunday on which he hammered Bush’s budget plans. But we can’t help recalling how the pundit behaved when Candidate Bush’s budget plans were being debated by ol’ debbil Al Gore. On August 17, 2000, Candidate Gore gave his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. Three days later, Broder reviewed the hopeful’s address. In his column, The Dean expressed eye-rolling condescension towards Candidate Gore’s attention to substance. Indeed, Gore focussed on policy matters so much, Broder almost fell asleep, The Dean said.

How did Broder assess Gore’s address? The Dean of All Pundits was very upset with Gore’s attention to policy. “In tone and substance, Vice President Al Gore’s acceptance speech…was like nothing I have heard in 40 years of covering both parties’ quadrennial gatherings,” he began. “Usually these acceptance speeches are attempts to take you to the mountaintop and show you the future. Gore’s was more a request to step inside a seminar room, listen closely and take notes.” As he continued, Broder mocked Gore’s attention to substance. “One more paragraph and he would have been onto the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” the scribe groused. “He mentioned only three aspects of what was, in fact, a significant record in the House and Senate,” The Dean wrote. “But, my, how he went on about what he wants to do as president.” (Imagine that!) And then, in the pages of the Washington Post, readers learned that Gore’s address had almost put The Dean to sleep! Gore had done well on some issues, Broder said. “But I have to confess, my attention wandered as he went on through page after page of other swell ideas, and somewhere between hate crimes legislation and a crime victim’s constitutional amendment, I almost nodded off.” Broder made no effort to hide his condescension for Gore—or for the “swell ideas” the hopeful discussed. But so it went as the Washington press corps expressed its contempt for the troubling Dem hopeful. And so it went as pundits expressed their contempt for all talk about issues.

Now Broder is troubled by Bush budget plans. He scolds his colleagues for not pressing harder. We offer our wickedly great and all-purpose riposte. To The Dean we say this: Look who’s talking!

IT GETS WORSE: In his column about Gore’s address, Broder rattled off the fatuous spin-points which had long been used to disparage Gore’s character. Incredibly, the fancy hotel was in his piece; so was invented the Internet—and so was Love Story. Nor did Broder fail to note that Gore “often has been accused of attack-dog tactics” and “often drags out his sentences in pedantic fashion.” For the record, The Dean had offered no such remarks when he devoted a column to Bush’s convention speech, which had been delivered in Philadelphia two weeks earlier. How did Broder describe Bush’s address? “Lifted by an acceptance speech of exceptional eloquence and powered by a party enjoying unusual unity, Texas Gov. George W. Bush embarks on the final stage of his quest for the White House with prospects that almost measure up to his brimming self-confidence,” The Great Dean began. There were no complaints about Bush or his speech. Now the somnolent pundit has roused from his nap—and he’s surprised to find others snoring loudly.