FACT-CHECKING THE GODS OF THE CARPET! Now that the Clintons have given their speeches, lets review Maureen Dowds prophecies: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, 2008
YES, WE WILL: Return to Kinsley, that is. But today, we take ourselves elsewhere.
COME LET US EMBELLISH TOGETHER: This is such classic New York Timesism that we thought we should give it a whirl.
In this mornings Times, Sewell Chan offers a seven-paragraph piece concerning Hillary Clintons convention address. Specifically, Chan discusses Clintons citation of Harriet Tubman. Because the Times is defiantly inept, the actual text of Chans report cant be found on-line. But today, when we opened our hard-copy Times, we found Chan discussing the possibility that Clinton had offered an embellishment of what Tubman said. Here are the first three paragraphs of the report which appeared in our hard-copy paper:
Poor Chan! Deeply troubled by the matter, he quoted one of the scholars. Once again, this is the version of Chans report which appears in our hard-copy Times:
Sernett was puzzledbut then, before long, the Times had us puzzled too! As we continued with Chans report, we wondered why he had quoted Sernett. Chan now quoted a second scholar, who seemed to know the quotation:
From that, you might think the quotation in Clintons speech came from a 1950s childrens book. But that may not be what Larsen meant in her e-mail, to judge from this longer report by Chan which the Times posted on-line. As best we can tell, the account which appears in the hard-copy Times may misstate what Larsen meantbut the matter is unclear even in Chans longer, on-line post. But then, whens the last time the New York Times explained anything, no matter how painfully simple?
Long story short: For at least fifty years, a statement, which is perhaps apocryphal, has been attributed to Tubman. In it, Tubman exhorts brave people escaping bondage to keep going in various circumstances. Sernett has never seen a version of this (perhaps apocryphal) statement in which Tubman mentions torches or dogs. As best we can tell, Larsen hasnt seen any such version eitheralthough this matter remains unclear in Chans two presentations.
We dont mention this because of the bungling and lack of clarity, which are assumed at the Times. We mention this because the Times, like other news orgs, has driven this embellishment theme for a very long timeas long as Big Dems are involved. (You might say they just keep going.) During the twenty months of Campaign 2000, for example, Candidate Gore was endlessly accused of embellishing, in a long string of matters the corps had invented. (Al Gore said he invented the Internet!) But in fact, has anyone ever embellished more statementscreated a longer string of bogus quotationsthan the Times itself?
Campaign 04: In 2004, Maureen Dowd somehow invented a statement by Kerrythat non-statement statement about loving NASCAR. No, Kerry hadnt actually said itbut Dowd somehow decided he had. In the Times, Kerry was mocked five times for the statement he hadnt made. So who was embellishing then?
Campaign 2000: In November 1999, Katherine Kit Seelye accidentally misquoted Gore, vastly affecting Campaign 2000. Completely accidentally, Seelye thought she heard Gore say the following, about the investigation of Love Canal: I was the one that started it all. We know, we knowthe statement she heard wasnt even grammatical! And in fact, as became clear, it wasnt what Gore had said. But so what? Although Seelyes error was immediately obvious, the Times refused to correct for nine daysand the hapless scribe kept insisting that her error hadnt changed Gores meaning. Meanwhile, the papers completely accidental misquotation made its way around the world. It started the month-long Love Canal flapa devastating blow to Gores candidacy. So who was embellishing then?
Campaign 2000: In December 1997, Melinda Henneberger accidentally buried what shed been told by Love Storys Eric Segaland her editor accidentally wrote a headline which misrepresented what Segal had said. Presto! Toss in two inane columns by Dowd and one by Frank Rich and you had the ludicrous Love Story flapa punishing episode used throughout Campaign 2000 to savage Gores character. Yup! The Times created that episode too! Who was embellishing then?
Campaign 92: In early 1992, William Safire and Maureen Dowd somehow dreamed a colorful version of something President Bush had supposedly said, thus creating the splash of coffee flap. (This was back in the days when such things were still done to Republicans.) For the record, the famous supermarket scanner flap also may have been bogus. And wouldnt you know it? That got started at the New York Times too!
In short, no one embellishes more than the Times. But so what? In the past decade, the Time has just luvved the embellishment narrativeas long as it applies to Big Dems. Here are some headlines from Campaign 2000, concerning Big Fat Liar Gore:
The October pounding sent Bush to the White House. But you have to admire the shamelessness of that February report. Two months earlier, Seelye herself had created a monster flap through her misquotation of Gorea misquotation she wouldnt acknowledge. But so what? Two months later, she wrote her latest fact-challenged piece, asking if Gore tells the truth! The concern about Mr. Gore's truthfulness dates back to the earliest days of his political career, she thoughtfully mused. (Prepare to groan: Some are familiar and fairly trivial examples, like Mr. Gore's taking credit for inventing the Internet or being the model for Erich Segal's Love Story.) But then, brand-new errors abounded this dayerrors committed by Seelye, not Gore. And uh-oh! In the course of all this embellishment by the Times, the key to this treasured narrative appeared: Questions about Mr. Gore's veracity are compounded by his service to a president whose own honesty has been assailed. Thats what this narrative has always been about, through all its inane permutations.
Today, the Times nit-picks its way through an historical matter, reviving a familiar old theme in the process. But then, this mighty paper tends to pick-and-choose when it comes to embellishments. Gigantic errors of fact get ignoredif they deal with serious policy matters. (Have you seen the Times call scholars to fact-check claims about off-shore drilling?) By way of contrast, writers like Chan are asked to expound when it comes to trivial matters like thismatters involving vile Clinton. Darlings! It was Seelye who started the Cubs-Yankees bull-roar, back in June 1999! Apparently, Seelye was deeply disturbed by the apparent embellishment!
Its hard to tell from Chans report(s) what Tubman did and didnt say. But you can pretty much count on one thing: The Times will worry about embellishmentsas long as the subject is relatively trivial, and as long as the alleged embellishment involves someone named Clinton or Gore.
FACT-CHECKING THE GODS OF THE CARPET: Now that Bill Clinton has given his speech, we thought you might want to recall Maureen Dowds prophesies about it. The prophesies were offered two weeks ago. Dowd, a face-down-on-the-living-room-carpet nut, was spreading her standard brand of hysteria about what this wild man would say.
The column in question was called, Yes, She Can. Two weeks after it appeared, it still bears this synopsis:
Now that Hillary Clinton has spoken, you can see how clairvoyant Dowd was.
What would happen when the Clintons gave their convention addresses? Below, we recall what the voices-in-the-carpet told Dowd about that. Needless to say, she mentioned Hamlet, giving her column a touch of real class. And Obama, of course, was Barry again. When Dowd is face-down on the floor, she just cant stop doing that:
In fact, Wednesday night was not all Bill. Indeed, as we suggested when this column appeared, Bill Clinton didnt even speak in the prime-time hour last night. But go ahead: Consider what you saw and heard from Clinton and Clinton the past two nights. Ask yourself how reliable Dowds sources werethe voices she heard in the carpet. In particular: Did Hillary Clinton try to show the Democrats they chose the wrong savior? Second question: Did Dowd call her shot about Bill Clintons speech in yesterdays lunatic column? Of course, she mentioned Beowulfit adds a touch of class:
So what do you think? Did Bill Clintons speech last night leave Obama a weaker candidate? And heres a question about that last paragraph: Do you think that top Democrat really exists? Or was that another voice from the carpet?
Lets summarize: Dowd has been a screaming nut-case for very long time. Her Clinton-hatred has been all-surpassingbut she also spent lots of time bashing the Breck Girl and bashing Gore, who was so feminized hes practically lactating. She started the trashing of Michelle Obama last year, and she has endlessly denigrated her debutante husband, the starlet who is legally blonde. But so what? The Times doesnt care! Dowd is face-down on the carpet today, listening again to the voices.
Dowd has been a visible nut a long timeand her screaming has endlessly shaped our broken-souled national discourse. Now that youve seen the two Clintons speak, we thought it might be worth your time to revisit the ladys predictionsto appreciate the clairvoyance she gained from her time with the gods of the carpet.
More of this columnists visions: Heres how Dowd finished yesterdays column. (Were quoting from our hard-copy Times.) Good lord! This scribes never wrong!
Theres that top Democrat again! The one who might not quite exist!
In fact, the claim that Springsteen would appear never got past the rumor stage (though it could be true, of course). The idea was dismissed as an urban legend in yesterdays Los Angeles Times. (Delegates had excitedly gossiped about it, Tina Daunt wrote. No wonder Dowd took it for fact!) But as usual, Dowd had been talking to some Democrats who went unnamedperhaps because, if they exist, theyre the dumbest Democrats ever. In Dowds world, people are constantly fretting about the color of somebodys dress. Do you think those were real Democrats? Or was Dowd just hearing those voices againthe ones that rise up from the carpet?
Final note: Ignore that pandering to Michelle Obama. Last year, when it seemed Obama couldnt win, Dowd just pounded away at her.