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Daily Howler: You tell yourself they can't get dumber. On Sunday, the hapless Post did
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AL GORE, CLASS TRAITOR! You tell yourself they can’t get dumber. On Sunday, the hapless Post did: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2007

AL GORE, CLASS TRAITOR: You always think they can’t get dumber. And then, through sheer diligence, they do.

As previously noted, the Washington Post simply hates both Clintons and Gore. Next week, we plan to write a series of posts on the paper’s reaction to Gore’s new book. In fact, we postponed that series this week to accommodate Carl Bernstein’s sad book tour.

But on Sunday, the Post unleashed its big guns once again; the mighty paper was deeply troubled by an error in Gore’s kooky book. Andrew Ferguson did the honors, right there in the Outlook section—the same high-profile Sunday section which sang the praises of brilliant Fred Thompson just a few weeks ago. You always think they can’t get dumber. But they can’t wait to prove you wrong! Indeed, here’s how Ferguson started:
FERGUSON (6/10/07): You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.
You always think they can’t get dumber. Then, they do something like that.

How pitiful has the Post become? Ferguson said he’d love to know where Gore found his Lincoln quote—but, since Gore’s untidy puddle of a book lacks footnotes, he just couldn’t figure it out. But good lord! Gore’s book has twenty pages of end-notes—including an endnote that plainly explains the source of that page 88 Lincoln quote. The quotation comes from The Lincoln Encyclopedia, a 1950 Mcmillan compilation, edited by Archer Shaw. Yes, readers, that’s where Gore “found the quote.” It says so right in his book.

Is the quotation a real Lincoln quote? On that, we still wouldn’t bet the house, one way or the other. A lot of inauthentic Lincoln quotes are in circulation; it seems this may be one of them. But let’s go over the sheer absurdity of this latest Post report.

First, note how pathetic the paper is as it struggles and strains after ways to trash Gore. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that this actually is one of the bogus quotes that float about, attributed to Lincoln. No one—no one but the Post, that is—would ever think that this would merit full treatment in an Outlook piece. But the Post is in love with denigration of Gore, who is too fat—and too big a smarty. And so, like the blithering fools that they are, they turned this trifle into a full “Outlook” piece, complete with mocking commentary on what pure crap Gore’s book is. (For the record, Gore’s book is the current New York Times number-one best-seller. His last book, An Inconvenient Truth, pretty much transformed the world.)

But denigrating Gore wasn’t enough; the Post also felt the deep compulsion to show the world how stupid it is. Has Ferguson read any books in the past dozen years? Not seeing footnotes, he dumbly assumed that Gore hadn’t sourced his work. And apparently, Outlook’s editors were too f*cking stupid to double-check this improbable claim for themselves.

No. You really can’t get dumber. And by the way, this takes us back to yesterday’s discussion about “class traitors” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/11/07). You see, your present “press corps” is, at its heart, a blinkered, multimillionaire elite; in part, they hate Al Gore because he’s been a traitor to his class. As a result, there’s nothing they aren’t willing to say about Gore. (Gore is too fat! His clothing is funny! Why does he live in such a big house?) And, being among the world’s dumbest people, they will constantly offer damn-fool critiques like the one Ferguson penned. Plutocrats tend to be like that.

Oh by the way, one last demonstration. Just how stupid are the people who have control of your public discourse? Deftly displaying his masterful wit, Ferguson penned the following passage—and Outlook editor John Pomfret waved it into print:
FERGUSON: If you're familiar with Lincoln's distinctive way of expressing himself, you'll hear the false notes the passage strikes...Indeed, these words don't show up anywhere else in "The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln" (which, thanks to Gore's Internet, are now searchable at
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Truly, you can’t get dumber than these dumb mother-f*ckers are. But this sad, inept plutocratic elite is fully in charge of your national discourse. You will live in a deeply stupid world until their hold is dislodged.

Al Gore’s puddle of a book doesn’t have any footnotes! Truly, you can’t get dumber than that. But don’t worry—history is clear. Eventually, these plutocrats will.

THE WORLD’S DUMBEST PEOPLE CORRECT: Ferguson’s dumbest-of-all-time mistake had been debunked on the Net last Saturday, before the hard-copy Sunday Post had even hit the newsstands. (Click here, for example.) And sure enough! This morning, three days later, the world’s dumbest people correct themselves. Ferguson’s dumbest-of-all-time mistake appeared in paragraph one of an Outlook piece; he used it to mock Gore’s “untidy” book. But when the world’s dumbest people correct themselves, they do so in this tiny message. But then, you will live in a deeply stupid world as long as this dumb-as-rocks elite controls your public discourse.

REPORT THE CHILDREN POORLY: It’s the kind of urban education reporting we have pretty much loved to hate since the 1970s. On the front page of this morning’s Post, Dion Haynes reports about the alleged successes of the Philadelphia public school system. “Successes at a Big-City System,” the cheerful headline says.

Has Philly made progress in the past few years? We don’t the slightest idea—and no, you can’t tell from Haynes’ report. The problem starts early, right here:
HAYNES (6/12/07): After five years of intense focus, the strategy in the nation's eighth-largest school district is bearing fruit: Citywide, the number of students reaching "proficient" and "advanced" levels on the Pennsylvania state tests has risen steadily—in some grades outpacing the average improvements statewide.
On the one hand, that sounds real good; in Philadelphia, the number of kids scoring “proficient” on the state tests has been steadily rising. On the other hand, that sounds a bit shaky; the rise in the statewide passing rate has, in some grades, outpaced the city. Unless some sort of educational miracle has been happening across the state of Pennsylvania, that suggests at least one possibility; it suggests the possibility that Pennsylvania’s state tests have been getting easier. But this possibility never seems to enter Haynes’ head. He just keeps pumping Philly’s score gains:
HAYNES: Philadelphia students have made steady gains on the state test since 2001, the year before the [city’s educational] reforms were introduced. The number of eighth-graders reaching "proficiency" or above in reading, for example, rose 21 percentage points. At the same time, the number of eighth-graders who fell below "basic" levels declined 24 percentage points.
Since 2001, the number of Philly eighth-graders scoring “proficient” in reading has risen by 21 points. But that change in passing rate only matters if this year’s reading test is as hard as the test in 2001. Is it possible that the state of Pennsylvania has “dumbed down” its reading test (accidentally or by design)? This problem has been discussed all over the country in the era of high-stakes testing accountability. But Haynes never asks the question today—and never tries to answer it.

But then, Haynes is a trusting man when it comes to claims of big-city success. He offers straight-from-the-can, unquestioning accounts of the reasons why scores have risen in Miami and Richmond. And, as reporters love to do, he takes us to some schools in Philly with the most dramatic score gains—to Strawberry Mansion High School, for example:
HAYNES: Reggie Mays, an 18-year-old senior, said getting individual attention from [principal Lois Powell] Mondesire and teachers has helped transform him from a D student into a B student. In fact, 53 percent of Strawberry Mansion's 11th-graders met or exceeded state targets in math, up from 13 percent in 2003, surpassing the state average.
That score gain is dramatic—and from Haynes’ account, it sounds like basic conditions have vastly improved at this school in the past several years. But uh-oh! As Haynes notes, this high school’s enrollment “has been downsized from about 2500 to 560 during this period”—and when a student population is changed so dramatically, its student demographics may have changed a lot too. Judged by basic markers of race and class, is Strawberry Mansion’s current student population comparable to its population back when the school was four times as large? Haynes doesn’t say. But those score gains can’t be attributed to Philly’s “educational reforms” unless a question like that has been answered. Unless, of course, we just want to feel good, and don’t really give a good goldarn about Philadelphia’s actual school kids.

Has Philly made progress in the past few years? We don’t the slightest idea. Neither will you, after you’ve read this morning’s front-page report.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: How savvy is the Post in these matters? Sadly, the Post just luvvs those feel-good stories about high-scoring urban schools. Last year, in fact, the Post published a glowing, front-page report about the amazing progress at an Alexandria elementary school—a school which turned out to have the second-lowest reading score in the whole state of Virginia! Writing like this has doomed low-income children roughly since the dawn of time. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/10/06, with links to previous work.

Special report: Bern, baby, Bern!

PART 2—SAVAGING HILLARY: How bizarre has your mainstream “press corps” become? Last Thursday, Carl Bernstein staged this group’s latest strange display in the course of his strange current book tour. Speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Bernstein lodged an instant complaint: In her autobiography, Hillary Clinton didn’t reveal that she had been beaten as a child (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/11/07). But uh-oh! Bernstein doesn’t say a word about this alleged matter in his own book, either! Bernstein quotes Clinton’s childhood friend, Betsy Ebeling, at some length in his new Clinton bio—the one he’s trying so hard to peddle. But there’s no sign that Ebeling said a word about the notion that Clinton was beaten. In his latest bizarre display, Bernstein called Clinton dishonest—for omitting an episode from her book that doesn’t appear in his.

Was Clinton “beaten” as a child? We don’t have the slightest idea. And you won’t have the slightest idea after you read Carl Bernstein’s new book, since it doesn’t include a word about this pulse-pounding topic. But then, Bernstein has peddled several themes on his current book tour that simply don’t appear in his book. How bizarre has your public discourse become? Just watch this strange con man in action.

How bad have things been on Bernstein’s tour? Consider something the proud author said to Hardball’s Chris Matthews last Friday. Matthews, as always, had his head up his crotch as the session began. Pathetically, this was his first question:
MATTHEWS (6/8/07): Let me ask you, because I am just starting it. It will be my beach reading. I promise you. This is the kind of stuff I sit on the sand with. Let me ask you this. Right off the bat, there are some graphic questions you ask. I’ve never seen this done before. One of the questions—here’s how you set it up: “Those abroad asked Americans they encountered, quote, Who is she? Do you like her? Will she become president? Is she gay?”

Isn`t that kind of graphic to ask questions like that right at the beginning of the book?
As anyone can see, only one of those four questions was “graphic.” But Matthews found himself drawn to the question as a moth is drawn to fake flames.

In fairness, Matthews was right about one thing; it is odd to see Bernstein push that question right to the front of his pitiful book. (Matthews was quoting from Bernstein’s page 5; the book begins on page 3.) But Matthews rose to the challenge this question presented; surprised to see it at the start of the book, he pushed it right to the start of his interview! “Is she gay?” the Lost Boy asked. It was Matthews’ first question for Bernstein.

For the record, in his book, Bernstein’s answer is no; there’s no sign that Clinton ever was gay. “What do I talk about is how she likes men and liked men very much in college,” he told Matthews last Friday, no doubt disappointing his host. But now, with this first distraction done, Bernstein moved to his next bogus bit of promotion. On Hardball, he didn’t claim that Clinton was beaten; that treat had been for Wolf alone. Instead, he would talk about a favorite theme—the idea that Hillary Clinton savaged those women. Here’s what Bernstein soon found himself saying about Clinton’s past troubling conduct:
BERNSTEIN, on Hardball (6/8/07): Hillary Clinton recognized she was married to the most talented politician of the age. A lot of people realized it. But she recognized that his sexual compulsions could render him unviable as a politician, and she set out to cover up what was known about those sexual activities, his compulsions, as she put it. And then savaged many of the women. She forgave Bill Clinton on numerous occasions, but not the women.
Wow! Hillary Clinton “savaged many of the women,” he told Matthews, sending a shiver down his host’s spine. But then, Bernstein has been making this charge ever since his book tour began. Here, we see this sick f*ck of a man making this same charge to Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly was asking about Bernstein’s claim that the Clintons once considered divorce:
BERNSTEIN, on O’Reilly (6/5/07): Why would I want to know that?

BERNSTEIN: Because it has to do with he wanted to leave the marriage. Betsey Wright, his chief of staff told me. Hillary said there are worse things, Betsey, than adultery. And then she would not give him a pass out of the marriage.

O'REILLY: Why do I want to know that?

BERNSTEIN: Because she then went on to savage the women Bill Clinton was involved with. Why do you want to know that? Because she had discovered that this most talented politician of our era, as she put it, had sexual compulsions, a pathology, if you would, that would make him politically not viable if they were known and their repercussions were known.

O'REILLY: It goes to ruthlessness.

BERNSTEIN: Wait a minute.

O'REILLY: It does!
Hillary Clinton “savaged the women Bill Clinton was involved with,” he said—making an exceptionally nasty charge. But then, he’d said the same thing the night before, this time to poor Charlie Rose, who was exasperated with his peculiar guest by the end of the hour:
BERNSTEIN (6/4/07): She forgave Bill Clinton time and time again, which seems to be a terrific thing to do.

ROSE: Lots of women do and lots of men do.

BERNSTEIN: She did not forgive the women. She savaged them. She had them investigated. She had them ruined in some cases.
She had them ruined! Bernstein has made this claim again and again as he parades about on TV, trying to peddle his book. But there’s one small problem with this claim. As with the claim that Clinton was beaten, the claim that she “savaged the women Bill Clinton was involved with” doesn’t appear in Bernstein’s book! It makes a very exciting charge—one he has peddled all over TV. But you really won’t find the claim in his book. In the book, this claim is AWOL.

We’re sorry to have to repeat this charge—the charge Bernstein doesn’t seem to make in his book. But the behavior of your “mainstream” “press corps” has become unspeakably weird in the past fifteen years, and their professional breakdown can’t be addressed if Democrats and liberals keep trying to run from their conduct. So no: Carl Bernstein doesn’t say in his book that Hillary Clinton was beaten by her father. And no: He doesn’t say that she “savaged the women Bill Clinton was involved with.” Tomorrow, we’ll look at what he does say in his book. And we’ll see the way his modest claims have been embellished—by himself and by others.

Bernstein has staged an astounding book tour. You come to think that you’ve seen it all. And then, along comes the next one.

ONE LAST POINT: Needless to say, as soon as Bernstein made this nasty claim on those shows, he quickly began contradicting himself. “Wait a minute,” he told O’Reilly, when his host drew an obvious judgment (see above). Tomorrow, we’ll look at that silly conduct too, along with what it says in Bernstein’s book.

TOMORROW—PART 3: Has Bernstein actually read his own book? Inquiring minds have to wonder.