SELLING THE HAMSTER! Edwards? Hes like a used-car salesman! So says the great New York Times:
MONDAY, JULY 19, 2004
SELLING THE HAMSTER: It never stops at the great New York Times! Yesterday, Sheryl Gay Stolberg described John Edwards first week on the trail. Without wasting time, the petulant pundit came up with a typical simile:
STOLBERG (pgh 2): From the Statehouse in Des Moines to an ornate ballroom in Chicago to a modest front porch in New Orleans to a gathering of Hispanics here, Mr. Edwards has been talking up Senator Kerry this week like a used-car salesman urging his customers to look past the dents. While vice-presidential candidates have traditionally been assigned to tear down the opposition, Mr. Edwards, in a kind of role reversal, has been deployed to build Mr. Kerry up.What kind of reaction does Edwards get for campaigning in a positive manner? In the Times, he is quickly described as a used-car salesman. And just that fast, Stolberg explained why Edwards has been forced to go positive:
STOLBERG (5): That he is giving Mr. Kerry such a glowing sales pitch is, in a sense, a tacit admission by the campaign that Mr. Kerry has not done a particularly good job of selling himself. Even the most loyal Democrats, who would support Mr. Kerry no matter what, say Mr. Edwards has helped them see the presumptive nominee in a different light.Edwards is acting like a used-car salesman because Kerry cant peddle himself.
Of course, theres nothing new in this kind of typing at the hapless Times. Last month, Jodi Wilgoren began a front-page profile by comparing Kerry to a caged hamster (links below). That followed an earlier page-one profile about the hopefuls glorified valet—the one he drags around on the trail to make peanut-butter sandwiches for him. Later, Wilgoren penned a silly piece about how absurdly rich Kerry is. She even let her readers know how much his water-skis cost.
Now, Edwards is a used car salesman. Hes out there selling the hamster.
For the record, not all Timesmen feel obliged to trash their subjects in this manner. For example, Thomas Crampton reported in Sundays Times about Dick Cheneys campaigning. Heres a chunk of Cramptons report—a report which failed to call Cheney names or mind-read the VPs performance:
CRAMPTON: Mr. Cheney and organizers of the rally worked hard to project an almost youthful spirit.Crampton didnt call Cheney a used-car salesman; in fact, he didnt engage in any name-calling. Nor did Crampton try to explain why Cheney was saying the things that he did. For example, he didnt say that Cheneys attacks on Kerry and Edwards were a tacit admission that the Bush campaign cant do a good job of selling its own record. He simply reported the things Cheney said. He left all the foofaw to others.
But then, Stolberg has long been part of the gong-show gang which defines the Times hapless campaign reporting. (To recall an especially hapless attack on Candidate Gore, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/6/00.) At the Times, campaign reporting has taken this odd turn in almost all recent White House elections. Dem hopefuls are hamsters and used-car salesmen. Republicans? Four years ago, Frank Bruni fawned to Bush for over a year. Yesterday, Crampton simply reported the facts when he went out to limn Cheney.
As a general matter, the Bush-Kerry race is not being covered in the astounding way Bush-Gore was. But at the Times, old habits linger. To Stolberg, Edwards seemed just like a used-car dealer. And the petulant powder-puff was willing to share her deep thoughts. To that, we say one word: Alas!
A NEW POST: During Campaign 2000, the Washington Post joined the New York Times in a remarkable, two-year trashing of Gore. For a hint of the way times have changed at the Post, read Vanessa Williams report on Edwards campaigning.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: To Wilgoren, Kerry seemed just like a caged hamster. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/14/04. His aide seemed like a glorified valet. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/28/04. And let's face it—the hopeful is much too rich. To see Wilgoren put price-tags on all his possessions, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/21/04. By the way, every Republican hack on the planet is reciting these price-tags, as Wilgoren did. For example, watch Howie Carrs embarrassing hour with Brian Lamb on lFridays Washington Journal. (Carr calls Kerry a gigolo twice.) Because we admire Lamb so much, we cant imagine why hes willing to lower himself with people like Carr. In the last few decades, our so-called democratization of media has given idiots like Carr a place in the sun. It will take us generations before we have the good sense to deep-six them.
SAFIRE SPINS WILSON SPINS NIGER: When Bush gave that State of the Union Address, did he really speak Sixteen Truthful Words, the headline of William Safires column this morning? In point of fact, we still dont know. Yes, its true, as Safire notes—in his report last week on British intelligence, Lord Butler did draw this conclusion:
BUTLER: We conclude that the statement in President Bushs State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa was well-founded.Butler has examined the British intelligence; Safire and others in this country have not. But well-founded is not quite the same thing as true, and Butler is a Lord, not an oracle. (For example, see Josh Marshall's words of warning about Butler's lordly reasoning.) The fact that Butler reaches a judgment doesnt mean that the judgment is valid. Did Iraq seek uranium from Africa? Last year, we told you—there was no way to know. And there is no way to know even now.
So yes, on this and other matters, Safire embellishes in todays column. But unfortunately, Joe Wilson continues to spin—and embellish; and evade; and misdirect; and over-state—in his responses to the recent Senate Intelligence report, which included complaints about his conduct. Last week, many readers sent us Wilsons letter to Chairmen Roberts and Rockefeller, the letter which appeared in Salon. And they assured us that Wilson had brilliantly answered the charges the Intelligence report makes against him. But readers, in that letter—and in Saturdays letter to the Washington Post; and in yesterdays appearance on Late Edition—Wilson continued to establish himself as the Mother of All Misdirectors. Here at THE HOWLER, we have rarely seen a guy set up—and knock down—so many Straw Men. In response to your many invitations, well look at Wilsons statements tomorrow, and well hope we dont have to revisit this topic again.
But lets get one over-statement out of the way. On Late Edition, the Honest Ambassador did accept one of the Intelligence Committees findings. He accepted the finding that Cheney wasnt briefed about his trip to Niger:
BLITZER: Is there anything you want to take back right now? Any statements you made based on current information that if you had had, you would have phrased differently?It was always clear that Wilson had no way of knowing if Cheney was briefed. But no matter! Starting with his 7/6/03 Meet the Press, Wilson kept suggesting that Cheney must have been briefed, using this as an additional sign of the VPs perfidy. Now he agrees that Cheney wasnt briefed. But this was typical of Wilsons flawed performance. All through this overblown case, he drew conclusions that went far beyond the logic and facts of the case.
As we have always told you—the Washington press went down a side road when they invested so much in the Niger story. (Unfortunately, so did Bushs critics.) It was never clear that the 16-word statement was false; it may still be that the statement was true; and there were other examples of Admin embellishment that were far more significant and clear-cut. But like the press corps, some of our readers fell in love with the Honest Ambassador, despite the incomparable warnings we gave them. Now, they triumphantly send us Wilsons letters—letters which are rife with evasion. We dont know if Wilson is this disingenuous, or if hes just a hopelessly fuzzy thinker. But Dems and liberals made a bad deal when they invested so much in his presentation, and theyre going to take a hit for it now—a hit that will sometimes be lightly embellished, as in the case of Safires column. But then, the American people will take a hit too. From the start, the public was kept from more significant issues by the press corps love of that Honest Ambassador. Now, the public is going to spend time reading what isnt true: George Bush was right from the start.