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Daily Howler: Fourteen years later, Bold Leader caught on--with Bumiller there to record it
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SLOW CAR! Fourteen years later, Bold Leader caught on—with Bumiller there to record it: // link // print // previous // next //

NOW, WE’RE SUPPOSED TO APPLAUD: Oops! It turns out that the CIA isn’t claiming that Mary McCarthy was Dana Priest’s source on the “secret prison” story. We had to chuckle as Jeffrey Smith and Dafna Linzer explained that in today’s Post:
SMITH AND LINZER (4/25/06): [Priest’s] articles sparked a wide-ranging CIA investigation that included polygraphing scores of officials who worked in offices privy to information about the secret prisons, including McCarthy and her boss, CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson. Nowhere in the CIA statement last week was McCarthy accused of leaking information on the prisons, although some news accounts suggested that the CIA had made that claim.
Really? “Some news accounts” suggested that? Could that include this news account—this account by Smith and Linzer?
SMITH AND LINZER (4/23/06): The rare firing last week of a CIA officer accused of leaking information to the news media stems both from the sensitivity of the subjects she allegedly discussed and the Bush administration's forceful efforts to block national security disclosures that have proved embarrassing or caused operational problems, according to current and former intelligence officials.

The use of polygraphs to force out the CIA officer, a historian and Africa specialist named Mary McCarthy who lately has been working for the agency's internal inspector, comes amid long-standing administration suspicions that employees of the spy agency have not sufficiently toed the policy line set by the White House on matters such as the fight against terrorism and the war in Iraq...

The CIA said in a statement last week that omitted McCarthy's name that the officer was fired for discussing operational intelligence matters with journalists. Officials have said the journalists included Washington Post correspondent Dana Priest, who last week was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for national security reporting that included the revelation of secret, CIA-run prisons for suspected terrorists in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

In their haste to inform the public, Smith and Linzer forgot to say that they had written one of the accounts which suggested that McCarthy leaked on the prisons. Remember, though: We liberals are now supposed to cheer such writers when they err in ways we favor.

SLOW CAR: Al Gore was right all along! For now, we’ll sketch one final, laughable part of this Exciting New Pundit Discovery. The laughs begin when we check George Bush emoting on Earth Day this weekend. Elisabeth Bumiller was there at his side. Yes, these events happened Saturday:

BUMILLER (4/23/06): President Bush spent an Earth Day marked by record-high gas prices promoting his support for hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars, but Democrats said that the vehicles were years away from reality and that the president needed to do more to relieve sticker shock at the pump...

''This nation does not have to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment,'' Mr. Bush said in remarks at the Fuel Cell Partnership, where he was flanked by two boxy-looking prototype hydrogen cars. ''We can have both at the same time.”

Honest to God, you just have to laugh—this Saturday, Bush finally got it! “'I strongly believe hydrogen is the fuel of the future,” Bumiller quoted her Bold Leader saying—and she may have quivered a bit at his insight. According to Bumiller, Bush “add[ed] that he thought that today's children would take their driving tests in hydrogen-powered cars.”

Readers, Bush is now all about hydrogen cars! And Lady Bumiller was there to record it! Unfortunately, much-maligned Gore had nailed these topics in his best-seller, Earth in the Balance—a book he published in 1992, fourteen long years in the past. As usual, Gore had been right all along—and the gang we still describe as a “press corps” had spent a good deal of time, from then until now, beating on Gore for his insights.

No, he didn’t get trashed at the start. When Earth in the Balance appeared, the War Against Gore hadn’t begun—and the reviews reflect this. At the Times, the task was assigned to environmental writer Gina Maranto. She began her review saying this:

MARANTO (2/9/92): During his 15-year tenure in Congress, Senator Al Gore, Democrat of Tennessee, has made an intensive study of environmental issues. The results, as displayed in "Earth in the Balance,” a comprehensive assessment of the forces of planetary destruction—including overpopulation, deforestation, soil erosion and air and water pollution—are impressive.
Duh. Meanwhile, the Post’s reviewer quickly said this: “I can't judge how well the junior senator from Tennessee serves his constituents, but if there lives a member of Congress who knows more about the environment, he or she isn't talking, much less writing.” (Dennis Drabelle, January 1992.) In short, the Washington “press corps” was still producing rational work about Gore at this juncture. It was considered “impressive” when Gore told the world about the problems of global warming, including the problem Bush has now noticed—the problem of internal combustion. "It ought to be possible," Gore said in the book, "to accomplish the strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say, a twenty-five year period.” And by the time of the 1998 Detroit auto show, every automobile CEO in the world had embraced this view. “Time is starting to run out for the internal combustion engine,” Rebecca Blumenstein wrote from that show—on page 1 of the Wall Street Journal, no less. As she continued, it only got better:
BLUMENSTEIN (1/5/98): [A]uto makers from Tokyo to Stuttgart to Detroit have reached a surprising consensus on an idea deemed heretical not long ago. A fundamental shift in engine technology is needed. "We need to press very hard to increase fuel economy and lower emissions" of carbon dioxide, says John F. Smith Jr., chairman of General Motors Corp. He predicts a "slow phase-off" of the internal-combustion engine in 20 to 30 years and adds, "It is prudent for us to be working very hard on alternative technology.”
Yes, that was environmental wacko John Smith—head of GM—saying that internal combustion was on the way out. According to Blumenstein, “a surprising consensus” had now emerged about this once-heretical idea. The New York Times wrote a similar front-page story from this same show. As of January 1998, it was quite clear; when it came to internal combustion, Al Gore had been right all along.

But so what? A few weeks after those stories ran, a young woman named Monica Lewinsky became famous—and the boys and girls of the mainstream “press corps” pretty much lost their weak minds. Result? When Gore began his White House campaign fourteen months later, they began their two-year war against him. Would Gore get credit for having been right—for writing the book which had once been “impressive?” Guess again! By November 1999, the New York Times was assigning Michiko Kakutani to ponder Gore’s once-impressive work—and Kakutani set out to show the world how big a fool she was willing to be. Her cohort had pleasing new scripts about Gore—and Kakutani was eager to type them. Her piece appeared on page one of the Times. Here is what Gore’s book had become—the book in which Gore had been right:

KAKUTANI (11/22/99): Vice President Al Gore emerges from "Earth in the Balance" (Plume), his 1992 book about the environment, as the quintessential A-student who has belatedly discovered New Age psychobabble. Like his speeches, his book veers between detailed policy assessments (predictably illustrated with lots of charts and graphs) and high-decibel outbursts of passion, between energetically researched historical disquisitions and loony asides about "inner ecology" and "spiritual triangulation"—asides that may help explain his curious affinity with his feminist consultant, Naomi Wolf.
Of course! To Kakutani, Gore’s “loony asides” helped explain his “curious affinity” with Naomi Wolf! (As a matter of fact, no. You can’t get dumber.) And the open derision in this first graf about Gore was matched by the rest of Kakutani’s review. In a report about several candidates’ books, she devoted 800 words to Earth in the Balance—and incredibly, she cited Wolf three separate times! Of course, Wolf had nothing whatever to do with the book. But Kakutani’s cohort had an agenda, and the hapless “reviewer” was eager to type her gang’s new gong-show scripts. (For the first part of our real-time report on Kakutani’s review, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/29/99.)

Yes, mockery was constant as the Washington “press corps” conducted its twenty-month War Against Gore. And Earth in the Balance was part of the deal. Once, the book had been impressive. But now, its loony asides helped explain Wolf—and the Times’ Robin Toner knew something else about its secret meaning, Incredibly, here’s how Toner described the book when it was reissued for Earth Day 2000:

TONER (4/14/00): "Earth in the Balance" has a strikingly reflective tone and is widely considered to be Mr. Gore's midlife crisis book, written when Mr. Gore was trying to recover from his disastrous 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, while coping with the serious injuries of his son, who had been hit by a car.
Once, the book had been impressive. Now, it was Gore's “midlife crisis book.” And, of course, its loony asides helped explain why Gore hired Wolf.

There’s more to say about the way these matters were covered during Campaign 2000. But readers, go ahead and emit a dark laugh as Bush discusses those hydrogen cars! All during Campaign 2000, Bush ridiculed Gore’s statement in Earth in the Balance about the phase-out of internal combustion. And your vacuous “press corps” stood by and watched—and talked about Gore’s “midlife crisis.” At the Times, Kakutani, Toner and Melinda Hennberger all used this term about Earth in the Balance, which no longer seemed so impressive.

Al Gore had been right all along. By 1998, even GM agreed. But as of 1999, your “press corps” had other Big Thoughts in their heads—and they proceeded accordingly. Last week, though, it finally happened. They finally began to wring their hands—If only Al Gore had been elected!—and Bush talked up the hydrogen cars he had ridiculed back when it mattered.

WHEN THE ADMIN FIRST FLIPPED: The Bush Admin flip on internal combustion occurred in January 2002, authored by Energy Sec Spencer Abraham (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/22/02)—ironically, at the Detroit auto show. But your national “press corps” knew not to notice—except for the National Journal. Read this item and try to decide. Should we weep—or laugh with the gods?

But Why Wasn’t Al at the Announcement?

Well, you know what they say about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham went to his old stomping grounds in Detroit this week to tout a new government partnership with the auto industry. Their goal—to replace the internal combustion engine with motors powered by cleaner, more efficient hydrogen-based fuel cells. Sound familiar? You may recall that Abraham, in his unsuccessful bid to be re-elected to the Senate from Michigan in 2000, loved to mock then-Vice President Al Gore for supporting the elimination of the internal combustion engine. He and his current boss, President Bush, heaped derision on Gore for that and other recommendations to clean up the environment in Gore’s book Earth in the Balance. At the GOP convention in 2000, during the delegate roll call, Abraham even made sure to note that his state is a “friend of the combustion engine.”
“You may recall” that Abraham and Bush heaped derision on Gore, the Journal said. But how would anyone be able to recall that? The rest of the press corps knew what to do when Abraham completed his flip. They too had “heaped derision” on Gore during Campaign 2000—so they kept their traps tightly shut as Abraham completed his flip. A big reinvention had now occurred. But they kept quiet for their Bold Leader.

Here again, we see the way this clownish cabal has made a joke of your discourse—and your lives. And guess what? Last week, they began to weep and say something different: Al Gore was right all along, they now said. Oh, Dear Lordy! Boo hoo hoo! If only this great man had won!

THE VOTERS WERE QUICK TO SPOT IT: When they start discussing a White House campaign, something just seems to transform them. Merely worthless on normal topics, they become the world’s perfect clowns. Example: On Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show, a pundit panel spent its first segment mulling a scripted old question:

MATTHEWS (4/23/06): Perfect failures? Why do Democratic presidential candidates campaign like robots? Will Hillary Clinton make the same mistake?
Perfect comedy! Matthews—acting the perfect robot—asked about robotic Dems.

For the next few days, we’re going to pull a laugh or three out of the segment which followed. For our first offering, go ahead and enjoy a good laugh as the BBC’s Katty Kay emits a Prime Press Corps Script. Though she’s a Brit, Kay always knows What Pundits Must Say when discussing the failures of Dems:

KAY: It's not—it's not straddling issues so much as inauthenticity.


KAY: And that's what voters are very quick to spot. They were quick to spot it with Al Gore, they were quick to spot it with John Kerry, and they'll spot it with Hillary Clinton. Particularly on Hillary.

“Inauthenticity!” It’s a treasured press corps put-down—delivered by the world’s fakest life-forms! And the voters “were quick to spot it with Gore,” Kay was quick to assert. But there’s one small problem with Kay’s analysis; in 2000, Gore won the popular vote! Some of you may already know that. It almost seemed that Katty Kay hadn’t heard.

It’s just as we have told you—there’s nothing so stupid that they won’t recite it. But uh-oh! The clownish comments this panel emitted show Dems and liberals what may be coming as we approach the 2008 race. For the record, Matthews issued another scripted old howler. It neatly played off Kay’s:
MATTHEWS: Last question, everybody! It's an—it's an opportunity for a toss-up here—what are those things in basketball?

JOE KLEIN: A jump ball.

MATTHEWS: A jump ball! What is it about the Democratic Party that has encouraged this long line of wooden soldiers who've really become boring and dull and inauthentic by the time we actually vote? Even—no matter how they start. What is it about the party that makes people be such easy knock-offs for the Republicans?

An inquiring mind wanted to know: What makes these “inauthentic” Dems such easy knock-offs for the Republicans? It was the perfect Matthews script, the kind that can get a robot’s oil rushing. But there was one small problem with the host’s emission; Dems have won the popular vote in three of the last four White House elections! But so what? When these life-forms get onto this topic, there is nothing they won’t recite.

Our suggestion is fairly obvious. Dems must start planning—start planning today—for the spinning of Campaign 08.

TOMORROW—MORE PERFECT CLOWNING: An authentic middle-of-the-roader.