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STILL ASKING! Josh Marshall wrote on the press after all. But we still ask incomparable questions:


STILL ASKING: Here at THE HOWLER, we said we’d be happy to link to Josh Marshall’s work about that ol’ debbil press corps. We thought we’d scanned through all the work, but Joshua managed to fool us blue with these mots from the 2000 Dem Convention. (They’re on Nexis, but we somehow didn’t see them.) We agree with much of what Josh said in this piece, although we think he understated the situation. But we report, and you decide. You know what to do. Just click here.

But we’ll tell you what we’ve already told Josh (who is obviously a very intelligent writer). We think a jealous citizen will naturally ask why he wasn’t told much more, much sooner. Josh was quite right on this weekend’s Reliable Sources; the press corps’ “contempt” for Candidate Gore was plain eighteen months before the election (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/12/02). In fact, Josh does slightly miscalculate there; the corps’ blatant hoaxing began in March 1999, and continued for twenty months after that. This was, simply put, a journalistic fraud—and given the way the election was decided, we think it’s clear that the press corps, through its startling conduct, decided Election 2000. Josh’s piece made many good points. But it was published in September 2000. By Josh’s own reckoning, “contemptuous” conduct by the press was underway sixteen months before that.

As such, our questions remain. Why was so little said about the press corps’ trashing of Gore in Campaign 2000? Obviously, Josh Marshall’s work is not “the problem;” the problem extended all through the major establishment press. Next week, we’ll walk back through an early episode; we’ll look again at the “farm chores” flap, a ludicrous episode which started in March 1999 and continued for three months after that. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, but the entire establishment Washington press corps knew that Gore was being slandered in this. But we know of no one who stood up and said so. Our question is simple: Why is that?

We hope you’ll look at Josh’s piece; Josh Marshall is a very intelligent writer. But let us slightly amend one statement from yesterday; it seems to us that, like the rest of the “good guy” press, Josh had very little to say about the twenty-month war against Gore. Democrats need to understand how their party lost the White House. And in the interest of defending our American system, Dems need to ask the “good guy” press why so little effort was made to challenge the borking of Gore.

RULE OF THREE: The sheer dysfunction of our press elite is almost impossible to fathom. Luckily, the New York Times’ Bill Keller gave a nice object lesson with his Gore-bashing column last Saturday. Just how daft is the press elite with which our democracy now is tormented? Unless somebody monkeyed with our New York Times, Bill Keller—we’re not kidding—typed this:

KELLER: The reason more people didn’t vote for Al Gore is that they didn’t like him. Mr. Gore can be an engaging man in a conversation, but he seems incapable of making an audience want to listen to him. One big reason 50 million voters went instead for an apparent lightweight they didn’t entirely trust was that they didn’t want to have Al Gore in their living rooms for four years. During the 2000 campaign, even my 3-year-old daughter, channeler of the zeitgeist, went around chanting the refrain: “Al Gore is a snore.”
Where does the New York Times find them? Keller gets access to our most valuable real estate to discuss an important political topic. And, unless someone goofed with our New York Times, he quoted his three-year-old daughter! By the way, how impressed is our press elite with the genius of their own brilliant class? To all appearances, Keller believes that his three-year-old kid was “channeling the zeitgeist” when she chanted her rhyme. Did any reader fail to know that she was merely repeating the things Daddy said? Repeatedly, things which every human knows don’t occur to our establishment press corps.

But Keller’s column serves a valuable purpose. Keller offers the three hundredth recitation of a Standard Press Tale—hapless Gore blew a sure-thing election. Speaking of “snores,” struggle to keep your chin off your chest as you read the Sacred Text one more time:

KELLER: Mr. Gore took a gilt-edged legacy and frittered it away in a clumsy, focus-grouped campaign. He abandoned the New Democrat center for an insincere-sounding populism. He couldn’t figure out how to separate Mr. Clinton the romancer of voters from Mr. Clinton the romancer of interns, so he ducked him altogether. He soft-pedaled his views on free trade and gun control and the environment for fear of offending one voter bloc or another. It’s true you have to win to realize your ideas, but for Mr. Gore it became more about the winning than the ideas. The net effect of all his calculated repositioning was that voters liked him less; they decided he was an opportunist, a phony. In short, he ran a bone-headed campaign.
Where—except among three-year-old kids—do we find such rote recitations? Gore “took a gilt-edged legacy and frittered it away?” Keller fails to note that the “gilt-edged legacy” included “Mr. Clinton’s” impeachment. Gore “abandoned the New Democrat center?” Keller fails to mention Ralph Nader. Gore employed “an insincere-sounding populism?” He fails to note that Gore soared in the polls after doing this at the convention. And more than anything else, of course, Keller fails to mention his own troubled cohort. The press trashed Gore from March 1999 on. This fact is missing from their Standard Account, which is designed for one key reason—to airbrush their conduct from memory.

“The reason more people didn’t vote for Al Gore is that they didn’t like him,” Keller says. But why, oh why didn’t people “like Gore?” In large part, because Keller and his puzzling cohort wrote columns like this one for two solid years—often inventing bogus “facts” to drive their Gore-hatred forward. For example, it was Katharine Seelye of Keller’s own paper who invented the damaging Love Canal “quote”—and the Times refused to correct its “quotation” until nine full days had passed! The Financial Times limned Seelye well; she was “hostile to the [Gore] campaign, doing little to hide [her] contempt for the candidate.” But Keller’s daughter has no rhymes on that. Her dad doesn’t mention that story.

As we’ve said for the past few weeks, the press corps is peddling a Standard Account. In it, their own misconduct has been whisked away. We think that Democrats need to know what actually happened in Campaign 2000. And one key point is perfectly clear—their press corps has no plan to tell them.

THE MOST BRILLIANT OF ALL EARTHLY COHORTS: For the record, Keller’s cohort is smarter than everyone else! He isn’t content with dumb putdowns of Gore. He puts down the other dopes too:

KELLER: [W]hat’s the alternative? John Kerry, the ersatz J.F.K., who fancies himself a global strategist because 30 years ago he faced down a Vietcong ambush? (And, by the way, with all due respect for his exploit, how utterly weird is it that he then took out his handy 8-millimeter camera and re-enacted his heroism on film?) Surely not Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s sad-eyed second banana, who got out-debated by Dick Cheney? Dick Gephardt is too partisan, too Old Democrat, to win moderates and independents. And John Edwards, the newbie heartthrob, is untested in a year when untested will be a very, very hard sell.
“Contempt” won’t be reserved for Gore when Bill Keller gets it all going. Kerry? He’s “utterly weird” and “an ersatz JFK.” He “fancies himself a global strategist” because he served in Vietnam. (Note the way the scribe expresses “all due respect” for his service.) Lieberman? A “sad-eyed second banana.” Has any crew in human history ever been so empty and so self-impressed? This conduct would just be amusing, of course, if we didn’t have to deal with its consequences.

THAT FANCY HOTEL JUST GOT FANCIER: It began as the Fairfax Apartment Hotel. Then the apartment turned into a “suite.” That “suite” has now become even nicer. In Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle, Carolyn Lochhead spun up the facts

LOCHHEAD: Gore defiantly defended his populist strategy in a New York Times op-ed prominently, and rather oddly, datelined “Nashville.” The nation is engaged in a monumental debate, Gore declared, “between those who believed they were entitled to govern because of their station in life, and those who believed the people were sovereign.”

This from a man who was raised in a Washington hotel penthouse by Sen. Al Gore Sr.

Lochhead begins with Gore’s troubling beard. She closes with Gore-is-much-like-Richard-Nixon. How the gods on Olympus must roar! But where does the press go to find them?