JOE KLEINS RUBIFICATION PROGRAM! Bush wont mention his veto threat. Joe Klein doesnt mention it either:
FRIDAY, JULY 16, 2004
JOE KLEINS RUBIFICATION PROGRAM: What a superlative answer by Kerry! Both Dem hopefuls—Kerry and Edwards—phoned in for Thursdays Imus show. Employing his familiar but-I-scanned-the-headlines-last-Tuesday approach, Imus asked Kerry a tired old question about that tired $87 billion:
IMUS: I do find myself in the position of talking to people like Zell Miller and an unfortunate conversation I had with Orrin Hatch yesterday in which...they bring up these uncomfortable issues like, for example, both of you supporting the war in Iraq and then the president yesterday making fun of you, Senator Kerry, for your having said that you first voted for the $87 billion and then against it, and I feel foolish—At this point, Kerry broke in—but yes, his host had every right to feel foolish. There he was, mouthing tired old cant, in this case about the tired old vote on that tired old $87 billion. But what a superlative answer by Kerry! Imus was right—Bush had been out on the trail, churning Big Laughs at Kerrys expense while fooling the rubes on a wide range of issues (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/15/04). To Imus, of course, this all made perfect sense. But Kerry cut him off—and took umbrage:
KERRY: You know, Don, its so simple for the president to joke about very serious issues when young kids are dying because he didnt make a plan to win the peace in Iraq. And I take that very personally as somebody who fought in a war which he chose not to...Ouch! As Kerry continued, he explained some of the tired old facts about that tired old issue. Heres where he ended up:
KERRY: When say I voted for it, I was willing to vote for the $87 billion providing we paid for it! Providing we asked Americans to sacrifice, all of us together. So Joe Biden and I...brought an amendment to say, Hey America—rather than have a $690 billion tax cut for everybody over the next ten years who are earning over $200,000, why dont we take just $600 billion, and that way we pay for the war right up front and not add it to the deficit. Guess what? George Bush said no. The Republicans said no. And what theyre doing is trying once again to mislead America as they do so effectively, make a joke out of something thats serious.Kerry was right about Bush, of course. Bush had been out there enjoying good laughs as he misled the rubes about the $87 billion. After all, he, George Bush, had said he would veto the $87 billion if it passed in the form he opposed! But now—having threatened the veto the money himself—Bush was telling the rubes they should be disturbed because Kerry opposed one form of the bill, just exactly the way Bush had! Did Kerry vote against the troops? If so, Bush had said he would do the same thing! Readers, how big an H do you have in your file, to put at the start of Big Hypocrite?
Meanwhile, say hello to Paula Zahn and Joe Klein, helping rubify the American people on last nights Paula Zahn Now. Zahn devoted a lengthy segment to Kerrys troubling vote on the $87 billion. And Klein, of course, her only guest, was disturbed by the solons vile vote. Senator Kerry is now viewed as someone who voted for the war but against funding the troops, Zahn said. And Klein had seen, out on the trail, that this tired old topic was the emotional heart of Bushs sweet pitch to the rubes:
KLEIN: What I saw was that this was the emotional heart of his pitch at each stop. And he would say very firmly, jab his finger and he'd say, The president of the United States must speak clearly and mean what he says. And this is something that I think that the Bush administration believes or the Bush campaign believes is a real trump card in their race against John Kerry. It is front and center of their flip-flop argument, and its difficult for Kerry to counter because in order to do it, you have to do what you just very, very clearly did, which is walk your way through that $87 billion vote. Kerry had a rationale for it, but its a difficult rationale to sell.But is it really that hard to sell? Bottom line: You cant discuss Bushs clowning attacks without including one seminal fact: George Bush said that he would veto the form of this bill he opposed! George Bush said that he would veto this very same $87 billion! Readers, how troubling could Kerrys vote really be, if Bush had been willing to veto the very same spending? But neither Klein nor the hapless Zahn ever mentioned this primal fact. Somehow, Democratic congressman Adam Smith had managed to mention Bushs veto promise when he showed up in Scarborough Country two nights earlier (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/14/04). But Zahn and Klein never managed to work this basic point in their rap. Instead, Klein kept wringing his hands about how hard it would be for Kerry to explain his vile conduct.
Lets make sure you know these key players. Zahn is the will-do-and-say-anything cable host who spent the summer of 2001 inviting psychics onto the air at Fox to guess where Chandra Levys body might be. Its impossible to be a bigger fraud, but shes very good-looking—and will do and say anything—and, since cable producers approve of both traits, she was rewarded with the big dough over at CNN. Klein, of course, is the wealthy, no longer gives-a-sh*t fellow who wrote a mocking novel about Clinton, then happily lied in the nations face when people figured out he had done so. What can make such people so empty? Well spare you tired old theories, although we have some. But Kleins tired old take on that tired old vote is just tired old, fake-phony Bush campaign cant. George Bush said he would veto the money! Now, he pretends to be outraged that Kerry voted no. You simply cant discuss this topic without including this key, basic fact. But Zahn and Klein, in a lengthy segment, omitted Bushs veto threat. Hey! Maybe Zahn could get her psychics to let us know where Kleins vanished soul really went!
YOU HAVE TO INCLUDE IT: Lets review the key, basic point: You cant discuss Bushs attacks on Kerrys vote without mentioning his own veto threat. On Wednesday, for example, how stupid would Bushs pitch have seemed if he had included that one basic fact? For the record, heres the pitch he actually threw—to voters he treated like rubes:
BUSH (7/14/04): Now, when Senator Kerry tried to explain his vote, heres what he said. He said, I actually did vote for the $87 billion—before I voted against it. (Laughter.) End quote. It sure doesnt clear it up, does it? (Laughter.) Now hes offering a different explanation. Earlier this week, he said he is proud he and his running mate voted against the funding for our troops.Stirring stuff! How the audience laughed and cheered! But how stupid would Bushs pitch have seemed if hed only included that one basic fact?
BUSH (amended version): Now, when Senator Kerry tried to explain his vote, heres what he said. He said, I actually did vote for the $87 billion—before I voted against it. (Laughter.) End quote. It sure doesnt clear it up, does it? (Laughter.) Now hes offering a different explanation. Earlier this week, he said he is proud he and his running mate voted against the funding for our troops.Bush wont tell the rubes that last fact. But then, you can hardly get mad at our Jokester-in-Chief. Joe Klein and Paula Zahn are quite well-trained. They wont mention that basic fact either.
NOVICE ESCAPES: On Imus, Edwards made a rookie mistake—he answered a dumb, stupid question. Helpless Imus sadly dragged out the dumbest old play in the book:
IMUS: Senator Edwards, yesterday on the Today show...you said you think that Vice President Cheney might, among other things, have lost touch with the American people. And my wife said, Do you think Vice President Cheney knows what a gallon of milk costs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, or a six-pack of Budweiser? And you were just in Albuquerque. Do you know?Yep, thats right! The first thing you do when you visit a city is find out what a gallon of milk costs! But the history of this stupid old question winds back through five election cycles (see below). By now, wed think that every White House hopeful would know that you simply dont answer such questions, unless you have perfect knowledge to offer. But omigod! Edwards began to answer Dons query. And he didnt quite seem to be right:
EDWARDS (continuing directly): [Laughing] I know about what it costs.Edwards declined to guess about that. But we knew that a half-gallon of milk costs $1.87 in our own supermarket. Based on that—and based on Imus quote of $2.99—we saw potential trouble looming. Given the inanity of our Pundit Chorale, candidates have been eaten alive for errors of that size (more below). What would they do now to John?
Luckily, the Pundit Gods seem to have given Edwards a pass. According to the AP, [a] half gallon of non-name brand whole milk sells for $2.29 at the Safeway grocery store in Edwards upscale Georgetown neighborhood in Washington. And to Beltway Pundit Gods, of course, if you know whats going on in Georgetown, you know whats going on period. Pundits have gone after hopefuls for lesser mistakes. But Edwards—despite unwisely responding—is getting a Big Pundit Pass.
For the record, $4.19 was the cost of soy milk in some New Mexico store, as Imus later explained. Is Imus the dumbest of the dumb? Were willing to let you decide.
For the record, one big pundit did complain. Tim Russert said a half-gallon costs three bucks on Nantucket. How can Edwards be so out of touch? [joke]
HOWLER HISTORY—THE MILK-AND-EGGS ISSUE: Lamar Alexander was the last major hopeful damaged by this stupid question. In February 1996, USA Todays Joe Urschel described his downfall in the New Hampshire primary:
URSCHEL (2/16/96): In politics, there are hundreds of ways to end up with egg on your face. And today, Lamar Alexander knows the price of a dozen of them.The papers headline: Milking the egg issue. The day before, the papers Judy Keen also pun-and-funned at Alexanders expense in a front-page story:
KEEN (2/15/96): Alexander campaigns as coming from the real world, but when asked the price of a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs the former Tennessee governor scrambled. .Headline: Alexander lays an egg. At the time, Alexander had been closing hard in a tight, four-way race in New Hampshire. But the final week of the campaign was eaten up by this stupid distraction, and he slid to a close-but-damaging third. Conceivably, this episode may have decided the GOP nomination. For the record, we can tell you from conversations with a high campaign worker that Alexander was the guy the Clinton/Gore camp had most feared.
Where did this type of clowning begin? According to Urschels page-one report, Political columnist David Broder first directed a version of the question to George Bush in the fall of 1987. Even as Alexander engaged in damage control Thursday, Broder defended the tactic. It figures.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: What decided the 96 New Hampshire GOP primary? With only a few weeks to go, Forbes seemed to be headed to a big surprise win. But then, Candidate Dole ran a set of TV ads aimed at Forbes flat tax proposal. These may have been the most dishonest TV ads in American political history (link below). But so what? Everybody played along—after all, Bob Dole had character—and Forbes plummeted in Granite State polls, eventually finishing fourth.
Yes, these ads by Dole were baldly dishonest. And even after everyone knew, the Kansan kept them on the air. But so what? Every pundit knew the years theme— Dole had character, but Bill Clinton didnt. To read a clowning piece by (who else?) Joe Klein—written at the very time Doles ads were airing—see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/10/00. Klein has been peddling this cheap cant for years. But then, as we learned from her parade of psychics, Paula Zahn really knows how to pick em. Try to believe—just try to believe—that this is Americas press corps.
PUN-AND-FUN OFFENCE: In 1996, there was no DAILY HOWLER. But we were sending out a weekly sheet, The Election Town Crier, whimsically described in the Washington Times as the newest, hottest Power Town tip-sheet since the Weekly Standard and George. When the press corps clowned about milk-and-eggs, we devoted a story to their pun-and-fun dumbness. Here it is, with complete heads. Come on along was Alexanders theme song. Forbes collects Faberge eggs:
Come on along to the market, Urschel and Keen say—