DEFININGLY SCRIPTED! All good pundits are channeling Klein, whose book is a crime on the culture: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2006
ENTER BOZO WOMAN: Long ago, we ran out of ways to describe it. But as Maureen Dowd begins todays column, we see the millionaire pundit corps King Kong-style inanity back at work. Yes, she did—she actually typed it, quite quickly, in paragraph 2:
DOWD (5/24/06): Al Gore must want to punch Hillary Clinton right through the hole in the ozone layer.If the world were ending today, I would work in my garden, the sage once said. And Dowd? If the world were ending today, she would type one more joke about earth tones! Dowd—a human dial tone herself—just cant stop jokes about tones.
Dowds column is inane in various ways—most of them scripted and wholly familiar. (Example, from above: If you get another pol to take up your concerns, you are supposed to get angry.) But lets note two major problems Dowd shares with her cohort—the perverse denigration of mental attainment, and the love of Joe Kleins dumb new book.
Your press corps wants to watch King Kong, not major hearings (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/22/06). And theyve just decided that we cant pick a president based on whos fun drinking beer (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/23/06). Most important, they simply hate it when a pol subjects them to long, boring speeches. Your press corps just wants to talk about earth tones—and they ridicule any pol who wont honor these stupid desires:
DOWD: Apologizing for, while really wallowing in, her wonkish speech,'' Hillary waxed rhapsodic about ''unlocking the full potential of cellulosic ethanol'' and getting ''the low-sulfur diesel rule fully implemented.'' She droned on numbingly about carbon dioxide sequestration, biomass liquid fuel bases, ''feebate'' tax incentives, hybrid plug-ins, flex-fueled vehicles, continuous reheat furnaces, renewable portfolio standards, Danish wind power, Brazilian ethanol and Kyoto greenhouse targets. (And you thought she was incomprehensible on health care.)Incredible, isnt it? To someone like Dowd, youre down in the weeds if you discuss inflating your tires! But always, if you discuss real things, youre accused of droning on numbingly. They routinely did this during Campaign 2000 when Gore agreed to take all questions, from any citizen, at his New Hampshire town hall meetings (links below). Poor pundits! They longed to return to the Wayfarer Inn, where they could chug beers with their fatuous friends and discuss the latest low-IQ movie. How dare Gore drone on so numbingly, daring to answer real voters real questions? Incredibly, Bill Bradley was praised for limiting questions—and Gore was mocked for doing the opposite, as Dowd mocks Droning Old Clinton today. Yesterday, the pundit longed for the joy of release—blessed release to her dial-tone thoughts about tree-hugging wackos. Poor Dowd! When Clinton dared discuss a real problem, she stamped her feet, tiny fists balled.
Yes, Clinton was droning on numbingly yesterday, just as Gore droned on in New Hampshire (links below). Indeed, in his definingly vacant new book, Klein gets in one more scripted shot at Gore for those appalling town meetings. Seven years later, the script must be typed, the angry complaint again registered:
KLEIN (page 141): In the autumn [of 1999], the vice president began holding a series of town meetings in New Hampshire, where he would go on and on (and on) about his various policy passions, and these were among his best work as a candidate. Gore wasnt nearly as good as Clinton at explaining complicated problems—no one is—but the man was smart and creative; his answers didnt seem canned and he was clearly qualified to be president.Gee thanks; Gore was qualified! But just note—even as Klein gives back-handed praise to Gores work at these sessions, the tiny shiv must be sent to the chest. Gore went on and on (and on), Klein complains, as all in his cohort did before him, angered by the endless Q-and-As they were forced to stay and report on. How dare he take so many questions from so many actual voters? They longed to go home and watch King Kong; they longed to go back to the Wayfarer Inn and have seven beers with their pals—maybe eight. And yesterday, Dowd was angered, again, as a pol discussed a major problem. As weve long told you, these people are straight outta Marie Antoinette—and they just wont be treated this way. Their powdered wigs get all out of joint when pols make them think about problems. Thats why they sit on Air Force 1 and watch Kong, skipping Hayden. And thats why all pundits are calling Gore nerd as they opine about his new, weighty film. These are people who cant conceive of respect for actual mental attainment. Truly, theyre people who just cant imagine why wed discuss a real problem.
Which brings us straight to hapless Klein, the other big problem with Dowds dial-tone column. Horribly, Klein is becoming Official Author of Script about the conduct of Campaign 2000. In the following type-along passage, Dowds theory is Straight Outta Klein:
DOWD: Hillary is keeping Bill at a distance so he doesn't overshadow her, contradict her, embarrass her or hurt her attempt to pander to the right. But Al, who says he and Bill have made up and are now brotherly, may want to embrace the Big Dog this time, realizing the cost of muzzling him in 2000 (and the cost of taking hired guns' advice to soft-peddle the environment).Dumb, Stupid Gore blew Election 2000! He should have featured Clinton more! And he should have discussed global warming! Never mind what his hired guns said! These pleasing news scripts are straight outta Klein—straight outta his definingly vacant new book (much more below). And every pundit will now type them up—even some at The Huffington Post, including, perhaps, even Arianna.
Did Gore pay a price for muzzling Clinton? Should Gore have discussed the environment more? These are pleasing but empty speculations, offered by those who are scripting Fine Ways to explain the outcome of Campaign 2000. For the record, there is no reason to think that either one of these speculations is actually right—and wed guess that each one is wrong. (Although, of course, theres no way of knowing—the situation our pundits like best.) But so what? Every Good Pundit will type up these thoughts—including, of course, nicely-scripted John Heilemann, whose New York profile we discussed yesterday. Ah yes! Dowd is quoting Heilemann today too, seeing in him a Trained Boy from the circle. Heilemann will type every tale the corps likes—and his poker-pals from the liberal elite will agree to pretend not to notice.
What are the dangers of global warming? Gores new film is quite alarming, and Clinton was discussing solutions in her speech. But to Dowd, the earth tones must always make paragraph 2. She meowed—and lied—about the tones in real time, pretending that Time had reported the story. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/7/03. It was really an unfounded speculation by Dick Morris. That was too weak—so Dowd quickly lied, along with Head Dumbkopf Howell.) And having lied about the tones then, she dumbly dial-tones about them today. But what else is new? Over the years, weve come to see that this is simply the shape of a millionaire press corps. Theyre empty, fatuous, vacuous, dumb; they long for King Kong, and for burgers, and for beer. And uh-oh! When serious people discuss major topics, the dial tones begin to go off in their heads! They long for freedom, for sweet release—for shopping, café life, silly films, for easy scripts they can easily type. Their films must be about apes, not issues—about primates to whom they may feel a strong tie—and any pol who dares to offend will be called the next droning nerd. Could Gotham drown if Greenland breaks? Such questions offend a celebrity press corps. Hillary Clinton was down in the weeds—and a Human Dial-Tone didnt like it.
PART 3—DEFININGLY SCRIPTED: Sadly, hapless Joe Klein is now becoming King of Press Scripts about Campaign 2000. It would be hard to find a more laughable book than his definingly awful Politics Lost—a book whose author cant argue his own basic themes for much more than a page at a time. But Klein offers simple-minded, dumb assessments of our recent White House races—and the usual suspects have appeared at the trough, eager to channel this wisdom. For example, at yesterdays Huffington Post, Richard Greene quoted Klein on Gore in 2000, with a know-nothings assurance:
GREENE (5/23/06): [S]ince Al Gore's college days this man has had a burning passion for this subject [presumably, global warming]. So much of a passion that in 1992 he said, in his rather visionary book, "Earth in the Balance", that the environment should be "the central organizing principle for civilization".Of course, whats really remarkable is the silly idea that Shrum and his team could somehow stop Gore from talking about some subject. But so what? Greene swallows Kleins scripts whole, without seeing how poorly founded they are. Clearly, Greene has it all worked out, having read a column in Time: As we gape at Devines reply to Klein, were supposed to think its clear that Gore would have prospered if hed discussed the environment more. But of course, that notion is pure speculation; in fact, its quite possible that Gore would have been worse off if hed spoken more on the subject. (Which may be why he chose not to.) Truth? When Devine said to Klein, Thats an interesting thought, Devine was probably thinking this: Why in the world did I ever agree to be interviewed by this self-impressed dope? But Greene doesnt seem to know the first thing about politics, and so he swallows this KleinThought down whole. Gore didnt show us who he was, and that is why George Bush reached the White House! This theory works well for mainstream pundits; it blames Gore and his team for Campaign 2K, and wipes the press corps gross misconduct entirely off the face of the earth. But alas! Many people are now quoting Klein, thereby obscuring what actually happened in the course of Campaign 2000.
It was Gores fault! No, it was Gores dumb consultants! The mainstream press corps has labored hard to insist that Gore somehow blew a sure thing. Arianna is doing it too, and so is the wondrously scripted John Heilemann (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/23/06). In the process, liberals are being trained not to see what actually happened in Campaign 2000—and what is happening in Campaign 08. The press is pre-scripting that next campaign too—inventing the saint who will go on to win it. And we libs are so easy to misdirect, we dont see whats occurring. Once again.
For what its worth, Klein may be the least coherent human being currently found on the planet. As everyone knows, he claims to be seeking an authentic politics, in which candidates defy their wretched consultants, speaking their real minds to the voters in inspiring Turnip Day moments. (Pages 23-24. A Turnip Day moment is a spontaneous moment that gives us real insight into those who would lead us. In Turnip Day moments, a politician shows us something of himself, something that hasnt been pureed by pollsters.) And yet, when Klein discusses the Bush-Gore campaign, he constantly seems to praise Bush for hiding his soul—and he seems to criticize Gore for doing the opposite. For example, consider the start of his chapter on Bush versus Gore. In his opening paragraph, Klein explains why Gore entered politics:
KLEIN (page 136): I once asked Al Gore if he would have chosen politics as a career if his father hadnt been in the business. Gore thought for a moment and replied, Probably not. He went on to muse a bit about how he might have been more comfortable in academia. It seemed an aha! moment: Gore wasnt thrilled by his chosen profession, which seemed clear enough when you watched him stumble along the campaign trail. (I later learned that Bill Clinton had been non-plussed by Gores comment.)If youre rational, you might imagine that this was a Turnip Day moment; Gore is asked a personal question, and he seem to answer it perfectly honestly, even though the answer he gives might not be the savviest one for a pol. (Clinton, the veeps more political half, didnt like the answer, were told, perhaps accurately.) But youd only think that if you believed that Klein was actually planning to apply his own themes to his most basic anecdotes. Soon, Klein imagines asking Bush the same question—and he seems to be impressed by the thought that Bush would have been more evasive:
KLEIN (page 136-7): One of my smaller regrets in life is that I never thought to ask George W. Bush the same question. My guess is, he probably would have found some way to laugh it off: Well, I wasnt good enough to pitch for the New York Giants. . . (Which, Bush knew, was something he and I had in common: our favorite baseball team). Or, Well, I wasnt having much luck in the oil business. But Bush—a natural politician—would never have answered the question directly because he would have understood in his central nervous system that it was a trick: there was no good answer.So much for Kleins desire for an authentic politics filled with straight-talking, Turnip Day moments. In this anecdote, Klein himself is going around asking trick questions, and his sympathy seems to lie with Bush, the natural politician who would have found a way to avoid telling Klein—and the voters—the truth about who he really is. (Klein also seems to imagine himself being flattered by Bush, who would have known to make a reference to Kleins favorite baseball franchise.) Fairly clearly, Klein seems to be saying that Bush would have found a smarter way to deal with this question. This basic judgment would make perfect sense, except Kleins book is built on the notion that politicians should just tell us the truth and let the chips fall where they land. But all through his chapter on Bush and Gore, Klein seems to praise Bush for avoiding the truth—and he seems to criticize Gore for answering journalists questions. Fairly quickly, Klein is rolling his eyes at Gore because he once answered a journalists question about a favorite book, The Drama of the Gifted Child. (The scribe who asked Gore was the Posts Katherine Boo, in 1992, although Klein makes it sound like Gore goes around forcing scribes to hear his thoughts on the book. In 1992, Gore answered Boos question—and Klein, exponent of Turnip Day moments, calls this conduct really embarrassing.) And then, he rolls his eyes at Gore because, when asked by Louis Menand of The New Yorker, Gore acknowledged that he does, in fact, admire The Phenomenology of Perception (Maurice Merleau-Ponty). Why arent these all perfect Turnip Day moments—moments in which in an unguarded pol is simply letting us know who he is? Klein is too stupid (and distracted) to wonder. Within moments, hes typing this, about Bushs take on the gooblydegook which Gore expressed to Menand:
KLEIN (page 138): Bushs reaction to the [New Yorker] piece was ecstatic: Venus and Mars, man! I cant imagine anybody whos less like me, he told McKinnon [one of Bushs consultants]. This makes it easy for me to run against him.Gore is the one whos answering questions. Bush is the one whos deciding how to play it. But its perfectly obvious who is the chump as Klein makes his way through these puzzling pages. What ever happened to Turnip Day moments, where honest pols reveal who they are? Gore is answering questions here—and Bush is taking pains about how to play it. But, in this book about being authentic, its Gore who is, again and again, plainly the big dumb-ass chump.
In fact, Kleins chapter on Bush and Gore is definingly incoherent—if you remember that Klein is supposed to be pining for a simpler, more authentic politics. He shows Bush and his campaign team planning out how they want Bush to appear and laughing at Gore and his team for wasting their time working out careful policies (see postscript). None of this would seem to explain why Bush is supposed to be more authentic. But so what? By the end of the chapter, Klein explains how Gore lost the election—and it fits with his Sweeping Theme, perfectly:
KLEIN (page 158): Well, [Gore] won Michigan and Pennsylvania. But he lost the election, even though the public agreed with him on most issues. He lost the election—actually, it was a dead heat—because he did not seem like a credible human being. And he did not seem like a credible human being because he had shoehorned himself inside the Message Box that had been created for him—because he had been polled and focus-grouped and dial-grouped and market-tested literally to the point of distraction.Somehow, our authentic author cant make himself say that Gore won the popular vote. The best Klein can bring from himself is the claim that it was a dead heat (although, in fact, it wasnt). That said, this summation at least has the virtue of conforming to Kleins much-ballyhooed themes; Gore lost the election (or whatever) because hed been focus-grouped to the point of distraction—because the Real Gore wasnt present. Of course, how does Klein support this claim? As the reader may recall, he supports this claim with a baldly dishonest account of an episode from Bush and Gores Debate 2—with the butchered account of Bush and Gores discussion of guns, a discussion we went through a few weeks ago (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/3/06). How does Klein show that Gore was a fake—unable to express his own views on the issues? He shows this with a blatantly faked account of a major debate—with the kind of bald-faced lying which would land his keister in jail if he headed a major corporation, like Enron. In this remarkable passage from Politics Lost, Joe Klein proves his case against Gore with something we really do have to term lies—theres no other word for this passage. (Again, to review Kleins work, click here.) Klein pretends that Gore just couldnt or wouldnt speak up, he was so overwhelmed by all the polling. In fact, Kleins account of this incident is just baldly false. But so what? Major dim bulbs around the corps are now typing Joe Kleins great themes.
Dowd types Kleins dumb themes today. Greene lauds Klein at the Huffington Post. And yikes! Even Arianna was channeling Joe in that column we looked at yesterday. By the way: What would be the actual reason why Gore had trouble seeming authentic? Yesterday, we showed you the major reason. Here it is, once again—and other columns exactly like this were typed ten thousand times:
HUFFINGTON (2/6/00): [Bill] Bradley has warned voters to watch for Mr. Gore's "tricky" way with words, going as far as to compare him with Richard Nixon...In fact, not only this campaign but Mr. Gore's entire career has been laden with untruths—all demonstrating a pattern of serial abuse of language, truth and reality.Could that be why Gore struck some voters as phony? Or could it have been because of this—this amazing attack on Gores character:
HUFFINGTON (4/5/00): When the people who like Al Gore try to explain why, they typically wax lyrical about his competence. But it is this very competence, combined with an utter lack of core principles he'd be unwilling to jettison in his pursuit of the presidency, that makes the vice president such a frightening specimen of the modern politician Candidatus No-Shameus. Over the course of Campaign 2000 alone, Mr. Gore has shown himself to be a political shape-shifter of unsurpassed skill—a sure-fire first-ballot inductee into the Panderers' Hall of Fame.Yes, we like and admire Arianna—and we forgive these vast misjudgments. (Even the gross misstatements of fact, about those iconic misstatements by Gore—the misstatements Gore never made.) But why, exactly, did Candidate Gore have trouble seeming authentic and truthful? Duh! Because these lies were typed again and again—and again, and again, and then ten times more! Klein, of course, evades this nicely, presenting a far more pleasing story—although he cant seem to stick to his themes from one paragraph to the next. But so what? Dumb-ass pundits are typing Kleins scripts—Dowd, and Heilemann, and Greene, and others—and many young liberals are being fooled about their lives in the process. Yes, we liberals are getting fooled once again, by a vacuous millionaire press corps—even as this inexcusable gang is scripting our next White House campaign. That next campaign—the one theyre now scripting—is going to be won by a saint.
DEFININGLY AWFUL: Politics Lost is definingly awful. Almost every paragraph screams for review, but here is the way the great gin-soaked pundit (page 244, and yes, we believe him) describes the campaign of the Great Authentic who won the election in 2000 (well—actually, it was a dead heat). In this passage, Klein presents the thoughts of Bush consultant Mark McKinnon, who describes the way Bush and his consultants planned out the 2000 race. See if you can figure out how this could make Bush more authentic than Gore, the alleged A-1 prize phony:
KLEIN (page 146): McKinnon was amazed that the Democrats had never quite figured this out. In fact, they had it ass-backwards...In the television era, fleeting impressions counted far more than cogent policies. Fleeting impressions were all most people had time for. Presidential politics was all about character—or rather, the appearance of character. Did he (or she) seem strong? Trustworthy? Care about people like me? The utter simplicity of it was astonishing; it wasnt about the economy, stupid.Yes. Incredibly, thats the way Klein describes the Bush camps approach to the race. It was all about appearance and seeming—about the appearance of caring. And by the way—what did the Democrats have ass-backwards? In that passage, McKinnon is laughing at the Gore campaign for wasting their time working out careful policies! Voters dont care about that, McKinnon says (and Klein seems to agree). There wasnt a single breathing swing voter in the fifty United States who would make his or her presidential decision on the basis of which candidate had the better prescription-drug plan for the elderly, Klein types on page 146—just before McKinnon mocks Gore and the Dems for their dumb, wasted effort.
It was all about appearance—about fleeting impressions. Gore was stupid to work out real policies. Result? In Bush and Gores Debate 1, Bush kept misstating his own drug plan—and when Gore sighs at Bushs misstatements, Klein jumps right down Gores troubling throat (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/11/06). But this is the utterly crackpot book which your pundits will all be channeling as they assure us how phony Gore was—just as they said in those fact-challenged columns which they now carefully disappear.
Good old Klein! He proves that Gore wasnt a credible person by presenting that exchange on gun control from Bush and Gores second debate—but Kleins account is totally fake, a masterwork of misstated evidence (again, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/3/06). Repeat: If Klein headed a corporation and lied like that, hed be headed straight to jail. In this matter, though, liberals quote him—and other liberals get misdirected, helping us lose once again.
Joe Kleins new book? Its definingly awful—a gin-soaked crime on our political culture. Yes, well return to its pages again. But all you really need to do is read through its massively fake account of what Gore said to Bush about guns. The pattern hasnt changed in years. As in 1999, so today. Major pundits lie and lie—to prove that Gore lacked character.