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BURLEIGH ON GORE! When liberal savants praise Al Gore, could they possibly get their facts right? // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, MAY 8, 2006

TIM RUSSERT JUST WANTS TO HAVE FUN: What an embarrassing—and defining—performance by Tim Russert on yesterday’s Meet the Press! His session with Nancy Pelosi was bad, although Pelosi’s evasions and errors almost matched Russert’s stale “here’s-what-you-said-two-years-ago” tango. (Note to Pelosi: “Pay-as-you-go” is not the same thing as “no deficit spending.” At HuffPo, meanwhile, Stephen Kaus correctly criticizes Pelosi for her refusal to answer the simplest questions.) But in the “journalist roundtable” segment which followed, Russert simply embarrassed himself. After spending eight minutes with Dan Balz and Todd Purdum, he brought on Bush impersonator Steve Bridges for an excruciating—and thoroughly pointless—eleven and a half minutes more. Inexcusably, he turned Balz and Purdum into second bananas, making them pose mock questions to “Bush.” Both scribes seemed uncomfortable; we’ll choose to believe that they didn’t know that their time would be put to such use.

But how about Russert’s use of his time? Russert is one of the nation’s most privileged citizens; he gets a full hour each week to explore the world’s news in this ultimate high-profile venue. But apparently, exploring real news is just too boring; yesterday, he burned up his last quarter hour in simpering discussion with Bridges—during which he kept prompting the affable comic to say what good sport Bush is. As we watched Russert burn up his time, we recalled Peter Beinart’s precis of Joe Klein’s new book from last Sunday’s Washington Post:

BEINART (4/30/06): It is no exaggeration to say that Politics Lost represents the culmination of Joe Klein's life work. It spans every presidential campaign he has covered. It draws on sources nurtured over his three decades as one of the country's leading political reporters. And its topic has clearly obsessed him for a very long time: Why is American politics no longer fun?
According to Beinart, Klein just wants our politics to be more fun. So too now with simpering Russert.

What does it mean that the CIA is without direction again? Yesterday, that barely mattered to Russert; he just wanted to trade pointless jibes with a good-natured comedian. But then, as we’ve suggested before: This is what a society gets when its press corps is run by multimillionaires. (File under: Human nature.) Pampered poobahs like Russert just wanna have fun, as Margaret Carlson once explained to Don Imus.

Journalists who actually care don’t waste the public’s time in this manner. Maybe it’s time for Tim to retreat to that fancy home among the swells out on that breath-taking island.

BURLEIGH ON GORE: As it happens, we agree with Nina Burleigh on two basic points. We’re not hot to see Hillary Clinton run for the White House, and we’d love to see a world in which Al Gore could win such a race. In this piece from the Huffington Post, Burleign lists ten reasons why she hopes Gore will run. A few thoughts on those reasons will follow.

But first, another reality check. Why would Gore have trouble running? In part, because of people like Burleigh! When Gore ran for the White House in 1999 and 2000, he was subjected to a two-year slander campaign by the mainstream press corps (not by the “right-wing noise machine”). And how did Burleigh respond to that? Of course! She stared into space and said nothing! Just for fun, we Nexised “Nina AND Burleigh AND Gore” to see what she’d written during that period. Not a word in defense of Gore. But plenty of blather semi-trashing Hillary, then a Senate hopeful.

Meanwhile, what about Burleigh’s ten reasons for Gore? Let’s pick three, then ponder.

Burleigh’s “Reason 3" is fairly harmless—but its simple-mindedness is annoying. It suggests a familiar but silly notion—that the Gore of today is a whole different person from the guy who ran in 2000. Many liberals now voice this notion; it doesn’t seem to occur to them that Gore ran as he did during Campaign 2000 because he was trying to win an election—that he’s the very “same person” today, in a different circumstance.

To us, Reason 3 is basically silly. By contrast, Reason 5 shows the way our liberal leaders can bungle the simplest, most helpful facts:

REASON 5: The Iraq War will be universally understood to be a disaster by 2008. Gore opposed the Iraq War first among his peers, and forcefully, in 2004.
Pathetic. Gore came out against war with Iraq in a major speech on September 23, 2002, when the debate on Iraq was nearing its peak (news report, below). Predictably, Gore was savaged as “unhinged”—and Burleigh failed to defend him. Gore was called every name in the book. Burleigh stared off into air.

But Burleigh’s Reason 4 takes the cake. Are we really this unaware? Or do we just like to pretend?

REASON 4: Gore is squeaky clean, untouched by corruption. No lost billing records in his linen closet, no Enron or Abramoff staining his campaign finance reports.
On which planet has Burleigh been living? During 1999 and 2000—while Burleigh said nothing—Gore was widely assailed for a range of alleged “campaign finance” scandals. (Tim Russert savaged Gore on this score, in the most dishonest Meet the Press hosting job ever.) Because people like Burleigh sat around and said nothing, these ballyhooed pseudo-scandals are now part of Gore’s “record” in the minds of many voters—and in the minds of many journalists, the ones who would cover his next campaign. Al Gore made fund-raising calls from the White House! And: Al Gore went to the Buddhist Temple! In part, these stories live because Burleigh died, back when it actually mattered. Six years later, she acts like she’s never heard of this problem—or about the 300 other tall tales which helped define Gore in the public’s mind while she sat by and kept quiet.

Because of the multi-year trashing of Gore, his approval ratings are very low. It’s amazing when liberal leaders hype a Gore race without deigning to speak to this problem—a problem they helped create. But: If we want to produce good outcomes, we have to deal with basic reality. Like all pols, Gore needs help from those who admire him. It won’t come from know-nothing panders.

“I respect and admire Hillary Clinton,” Burleigh says at the start of her post. In 1998, she showed her respect by saying this, in an interview with the Washington Post, about Hillary Clinton’s embattled husband, then fighting for his life IN RE Monica: "I'd be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.” Clueless and inappropriate then—clueless and off in a dream-world now! So it goes as our “leaders” hype Gore—in ways which won’t really help.

GORE GOT IT RIGHT: We’d love to see Gore run and win. That said, is there any chance we could get our facts straight about his record on Iraq? Given current conventional wisdom, Gore has a near-perfect profile on this topic; would it kill his fans to state it correctly? Here’s the start of Susan Page’s USA Today report about Gore’s original speech on Iraq. (It was delivered September 23, 2002, at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.) In the light of current conventional wisdom, Gore got it massively right on Iraq in September 02:

PAGE (9/24/02): Former vice president Al Gore on Monday outlined a sweeping indictment of President Bush's threatened attack on Iraq. He called it a distraction from the war on terrorism that has "squandered" international support for the United States.

Gore took a strikingly stronger stance toward the White House on Iraq than other leading Democrats—including his 2000 running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman—who have generally or even strongly supported the president. Congress is expected to vote soon to authorize action.

In San Francisco, in a speech before the Commonwealth Club of California, Gore suggested that Bush had turned his attention to Baghdad because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would be easier to find than fugitive al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, whose fate remains unknown. He called the president's strategic doctrine of taking pre-emptive action "troubling" and said a hasty war against Iraq could increase the risk that terrorists gain access to its weapons of mass destruction.

First, he said, Bush should focus on the Sept. 11 plotters.

"The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold-blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized," Gore said. "I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this urgent task simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy than was predicted."

As Burleigh notes, Gore was right all along about warming. But then too, he was also right when it came to Iraq. When liberal leaders endorse Gore for the White House, would it be too much to state this correctly? Would it be too much for them to behave as if they still live on this planet?

INDECENT REACTIONS: As always, Gore was instantly savaged. Incredibly, here was the late Michael Kelly, in the Washington Post:

KELLY (9/25/02): Gore’s speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts—bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible.
Incredibly, that was actually published—thirty-six hours after Gore gave his speech. But that was what happened in those days if you made the mistake of being right.

At the time, Gore seemed to have his toe in the water for Campaign 04. As things unfolded, his profile on Iraq would have been perfect then, too. (Unlike Kerry, who had to wrestle with his 10/02 authorization vote.) But as always, the nasty attacks rolled down like rain—and liberal leaders sat and kept quiet. (They had mastered the skill during Campaign 2000.) Today, they say how much they love this New Gore. You should throw in right in their fat faces.

By the way: Those “embarrassingly obvious lies” were accurate. Check our archives in the days and weeks which followed Gore’s speech to recall the “lies” which were alleged.

Some of these “lies” went back to 1991. But uh-oh! Gore had been “right” back then too!