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Daily Howler: A famous Gore flack, reciting old tales, helps us see why the truth must be told
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SPIN AND MARTY! A famous Gore flack, reciting old tales, helps us see why the truth must be told: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, JULY 7, 2006

COULTER POSTPONED: We’ll postpone our thoughts on the recent flap about Coulter. Today, we offer a final pleading concerning our book on Campaign 2000. How did George Bush ever get to the White House? We think today’s pleading will help you see why this full story needs to be told.

Special pleading: How he got there!

FINAL PLEADING: Before perusing our final plea, why not visit our incomparable archives? We link to all parts of this series:

PART 1: How did George Bush get there? At long last, the tale should be told. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/28/06.

PART 2: A remarkable story—and the rise of search engines—make this a book like none other. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/29/06.

PART 3: Excerpt from Chapter 11 (“The spring was for spinning”). See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/30/06.

EXTRA EXCERPT: Excerpt from Chapter 14 (“Bush and Gore debate”). See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/27/06.

And now, at long last, our final pleading. How did George Bush ever get to the White House? A tale of two writers helps us see that the full story needs to be told.

PART 4—SPIN AND MARTY: Gene Lyons makes it look easy. This week, in his nationally syndicated column, he discussed the Bush Admin’s recent attacks on the perfidious New York Times. Is the Times a “left-wing” paper? As Lyons debunked this familiar claim, he cited a history-changing episode which most career writers avoid:

LYONS (7/5/06): The New York Times arrogant? Goodness, yes. Condescending, too. During the decade the newspaper devoted to its farcical coverage of the Whitewater hoax, feeding out of Kenneth Starr's soft little hand like a Shetland pony, I experienced that condescension firsthand. Even confronted with dispositive documentary evidence that its Whitewater stories were bunk, its basic response never varied: We're The New York Times and you're not.

But left wing? Well, the Times, along with The Washington Post, led the 2000 "war on Gore" that basically gave Bush the presidency. Then-columnist and now executive editor Bill Keller actually quoted his 3-year-old daughter's opinion that the Democratic nominee was a stiff.

After 9/11, the Times, along with the rest of the newspaper consortium, buried its finding that had all the legal votes in Florida been counted in 2000, Al Gore would have been president.

Lest we forget, it was reporter Judith Miller's series of leaked, single-source "exclusives" touting Saddam Hussein's imaginary nuclear weapons accompanied by TV appearances by Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney carefully coordinated with Times publication dates that helped stampede the nation to war. Columnist Keller thought invading Iraq was a terrific idea.

“Now the Times has its reward,” Lyons mordantly writes. But please note: As he lists the recent work of the Times, from the Whitewater hoax right on down, Lyons includes an episode most liberals avoid; he includes the fact that the New York Times, along with the Post, led a lengthy “war on Gore” which eventually sent Bush to the White House. But alas! Most Americans have never heard about this important part of our recent history. In his column, Lyons shows how easy it is to mention this life-changing matter.

And then, there’s Marty Peretz. Good God! Last week, Marty published a post at The Plank called, “OK, I’m a Gore Flack.” But omigod! Seven years after that War on Gore started, this is the sort of thing our major “Gore flacks” still just insist on reciting:

PERETZ (6/28/06): Now, Gore is not all serious. Tonight he'll be on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on Comedy Central at 11 p.m. (Eastern). Tomorrow morning he'll be on ABC's "The View." Anyone who does these rounds is comfortable in his own skin, even if he once took some bad advice to wear "earth tones" from Naomi Wolf. And he is not thrown off by the difficult issues. And he knows what he really cares about, and knows about what he cares about.
Good God! As we have endlessly noted, we know of no evidence that Gore took advice about earth tones from Wolf (links below). The original report—from world-class Gore-trasher Ceci Connolly, in the Washington Post, of course—cited a “speculation” by Dick Morris. In response, Wolf flatly denied the claim—and no one came forward to challenge her statement. The “press corps,” of course, did what it does best; not wanting to credit its pleasing new tale to a “speculation” by the feckless Morris, it began pretending—completely falsely—that the claim about Wolf and the tones had been reported by Time. In fact, Time had written a long report about Wolf’s role in the Gore campaign—and hadn’t said a word about earth tones. But so what? Fatuous scribes had a new tale, one they loved—and they were willing to spin you blue to promote it. And omigod! Seven years later, there is Peretz, still reciting this musty old groaner! Seven years later, our major “Gore flacks” are still reciting the fatuous scripts from that two-year-long War Against Gore.

So there you have it—Lyons and Peretz. Lyons does what few writers do. He actually mentions a seminal fact; he actually notes that the mainstream press corps conducted a war which sent George Bush to the White House. But right up to this very day, few voters have ever heard this story, because most mainstream writers avoid it. And even “Gore flacks” are still reciting the gonzo tales which made up this life-changing war. Even Gore flacks are still reciting the tales which the Post and Times crafted.

Can you see why our book really needs be published? Yes, we’re back at work on our groaning text about the coverage of Campaign 2000. By now, many citizens think that Bush is the worst U.S. president ever. But if that’s true, it raises a question: How in the world did such a man ever get to the White House? And Peretz’s post helps us see a key point. To this day, most voters have never heard the basic answer to that question. To this day, most American citizens have never heard the key stories of Campaign 2K.

So agents and publishers, get off your keisters! People deserve to hear this full story. And because this story is so remarkable, the book which relates it will be a true landmark. How on earth did Bush ever get there? (How did the U.S. end up in Iraq?) This will be our final pleading. But Marty’s post does help us all see why this story simply has to be told.

TONAL VISION: Did Naomi Wolf tell Gore to wear earth tones? As noted, we’ve never found evidence that she did—nor did the press corps ever explain when she was supposed to have done so. Gore began campaigning in March 1999—and he was wearing casual, earth-toned clothing from his first appearances. Indeed, as early as April of that year, a review of the various candidates’ wardrobes noted that Gore was wearing such tones. Susan Watters did the wardrobe review for the Daily News Record (a fashion publication). In this excerpt, she is quoting Fred Davis, who she describes as “the head of Dan Quayle's image team.” At that time, Quayle was still in the race for the White House:

WATTERS (4/22/99): “...That's one of the great advantages George W. Bush has. He's a sharp dresser. He looks presidential. Al Gore should take a hint from Bill Clinton, who used custom tailoring and great fit to help build a presidential image. Gore needs to move from earth tones to black and dark grays.”
Way back in April 1999, Gore was already wearing earth tones. So when exactly was Wolf supposed to have ordered him to do so? Uh-oh! The flap about Gore’s “recent switch to earth tones” started more than seven months later.

One last question: Why exactly would it have mattered if Wolf had told Gore to wear earth tones? In fact, candidates routinely get advice about wardrobe. (That was part of Davis’ role with Candidate Quayle, for example.) And yes, even the noble, straight-shooting Bush was making a statement through his wardrobe. As a candidate, Bush tended to avoid casual attire, even in casual settings; this helped convey his post-Monica theme of “restoring honor and dignity to the Oval Office.” Indeed, how hard did the Bush campaign sometimes work to protect this wardrobe image? In September 2000, Tucker Carlson helped explain in The Weekly Standard:

CARLSON (9/25/00): Reporters generally are liberal, but few have great affection for Al Gore. Gore is difficult to cover. He rarely makes himself available to the press, and when he does, his quotes are stilted and predictable.

On the other hand, he has a capable staff. Gore aides are quick with background information they think will help their candidate....And they try not to senselessly antagonize reporters.

The Bush campaign could learn something from this. Bush's press handlers, for instance, have alienated some photographers by instructing them not to take pictures of Bush in a variety of scenarios: smoking cigars, carrying his own bags (too reminiscent of Jimmy Carter), wearing a necktie that has been loosened in an unpresidential manner, or holding a beverage of any kind, lest it be mistaken for an alcoholic beverage. Restrictions like these can cause resentment. (Bush's manners haven't helped, either; he has addressed at least two adult photographers as "boy," and been pointlessly rude to others.)

Gore often dressed casually on the trail, as he’d done in his earlier campaigns. For Bush, though, even a loosened necktie wouldn’t look presidential enough. Duh! Candidates—even great straight-shooters—try to convey certain things through their wardrobe. But so what? Seven year later, a famous Gore flack just won’t stop reciting that fatuous tale about Wolf and the tones. As Lyons noted, this is how Bush ended up in the White House. That full story plainly needs to be told.

Final point: Why did Gore “rarely make himself available to the press?” Surely, Carlson must have known. For our own account, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/14/03 (scroll down to PUZZLED THEN, PUZZLED NOW). Here’s a hint, though the answer is obvious: “If the press is on a major pol’s case, then that pol can’t hang out with the press corps.”

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For links to a five-part report on Wolf and the tones, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/10/03.