FRIDAY, MAY 30, 2003
MUST-C TV: Tonight, Friday evening, at 8 PM Eastern, C-SPAN airs that Larry Sabato panel on political humor which we mentioned some time back. As we recall, the session gets off to a fairly slow start, but soon great armies lock in battle. At issue: Saturday Night Lives iconic strategery skit about Bush and Gores crucial first debate. See TDH and SNL duke it out on the Charlottesville stage. Meanwhile, watch Matt Cooperfunny dude, and man of peaceinsist that both men are partially right. For us, Coop recalled the words of Pallas Athene, clear-eyed daughter of Zeus of the aegis, as the Odyssey draws to its close: Hold back, men of Ithaka, from the weariness of fighting/So that most soon, and without blood, you can settle everything. In this case, we repaired to a Charlottesville night spot, where the young people now drink martinis.
A CULTURE OF LYING SURROUNDS GEORGE BUSH: On Tuesday, Paul Krugman quoted a major newspaper as it made an obvious statement (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/29/03). The lunatics are running the asylum, the Financial Times had said, commenting on the latest Bush tax cuts. But we noted that Krugman had to cross the pond to find a Big Paper willing to say it. At the Washington Post, by contrast, timorous bootblacks hid behind desks, pretending they had no idea.
But now, in an important break, the New Republic stakes similar ground. HES STILL LYING, its new cover says. Bushs Most Dishonest Tax Cut. A Culture of Lying surrounds George Bush. In its current issue, TNR makes the case, loud and clear.
TNRs language is frank, and its ugly:
In his weekly TRB: From Washington column, Peter Beinart hammers Bush for his functional lies, and he belts the Admin for dishonesty and abuse.
In his detailed, invaluable cover piece (Race to the Bottom), Jonathan Chait scalds the Bush Admin for its fiscal madness. TNR sub-headline: The Bush tax cut is madness. And it has been sold with lies.
Even in its lead NOTEBOOK item (FOOL ME TWICE), TNR batters hapless Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson for his latest cave-in on the Bush cuts.
Readers sometimes write TDH, asking what they can do about current situations. Today, we offer this advicepurchase and study the current New Republic. Well review segments of Chaits piece next week. People of the center and leftand the non-talk show rightneed to be armed with this knowledge.
In 1998, Sidney Blumenthal made three appearances before Ken Starrs grand jury. Heres the chronology of those visits. These facts have been clear for four years:
February 26, 1998: Blumenthal makes his first grand jury appearance. After the visit, he makes a statement on the courthouse steps. He complains that he has been repeatedly asked about his contacts with the press.But starting in November 1998, the Starr team felt like deceiving the public, and Washingtons press corpscontemptuous of factseagerly ran to help out. The Starr team spread a pleasing story; Blumenthal lied on February 26, they said, and the jury forewoman scolded him for it. Both parts of this story were patently false, but journalists knocked over chairs as they ran to recite them. Even after the Blumenthal grand jury transcripts became publiclong after the facts became clearassorted journalists kept spreading the story while good guy pundits crouched behind desks. Mara Liasson called Blumenthal a liar; E. J. Dionne knew enough not to notice. This was how the Clinton wars worked. The story was told again and againand its being recited today.
Your modern press corps holds facts in contempt. On Wednesday, Robert Bartley did a lengthy review of The Clinton Wars in the Wall Street Journal. For reasons only he can explain, he decided to lie to his readers:
BARTLEY: Mr. Blumenthal relates that after his first grand-jury testimony, he stood on the courthouse steps to proclaim that I was forced to answer questions, about conversations, as part of my job, with The New York Times, CNN, CBS, Time magazine, U.S. News, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, The New York Observer, and there may have been a few others. He was later upbraided by the jury forewoman for an inaccurate description of the events that happened here.But then, Robert Bartley bends it like Jayson. We invite you to search the work of Mickey Kaus or Andrew Sullivan for some sign of their great, vast concern. Funny, isnt it? How upset they get about Jayson Blair, and how little they care about Bartley?
Of course, Bartley isnt the only hack dragging this tired old dog around town. Here was Tucker Carlsons opening question when Blumenthal showed up on Crossfire:
CARLSON: Mr. Blumenthal, your book purports to be account of certain historical events, mostly surrounding the ideological battles over the Clinton presidency. Lets get specific about one of them.Note: Carlson knows that Blumenthal was asked about press contacts; therefore, he pretends that the forewoman challenged his Clintons religion comment. But againas the record makes perfectly clear, the jury forewoman said nothing to Blumenthal about his courthouse step statement. Tucker Carlson just bends it like Blair.
But Carlsons question shows the game his cohort has played throughout the last decade. Blumenthal lied about what he was asked, Carlson says. Given that, why should we believe what he says about anything else? The tactic? Invent a lie; pretend someone said it; then use it to discredit larger statements. This was done to Candidate Gore in Campaign 2000, with the entire press corps taking part. This ugly game explains why Candidate Bush is now telling lies in the White House.
Meanwhile, is it possible to be stupider than Tucker Carlson? Heres the complaint with which he opened the programs second segment:
CARLSON: OK. There are, I counted them, 19 photographs of you with Hillary and Bill Clinton in this book. Do you think the Clintons love you as much as you love them?Its known as having nothing to say. CNN should really explain why it puts this fake man on the air.
Over the past decade, the talk show-right has sold so many lies that its simply impossible to fight them all off. But the chronology of Blumenthals grand jury visits has been perfectly clear since 1999. No, that jury forewoman didnt scold Sidney for what he said on the courthouse steps. But Bartley and Carlson just keep on lying, and good guy pundits keep looking away. Contempt for the facts simply rules our press culture. If not, then ask yourself how this ugly story continues to be peddled so widely. And ask yourself why you have to come here to be told that the lying must stop.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: The facts have been clear for over four years. But given the press corps contempt for mere facts, there is no penalty whatever for lyingunless, of course, youre Jayson Blair, and your story helps push right-wing spin-points along. Then, the Kauses and Sullivans will stroke their thighs briskly. Theyll jump up and down, braying loud:
Sorry. Sidney was asked about his press contacts. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/5/99.