WHEN HERBERT ENABLED HORTON! The second time Willie Horton was used, Bob Herbert kept his trap shut: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2007
WE LIBERALS MUST TALK ABOUT STUPID: If we talk about stupid, that has to mean Dowd. Heres part of her column this morning:
DOWD (9/26/07): After the Bay of Pigs, J.F.K. and his advisers worried that American foreign policy would no longer seem intelligent. W. doesn't even try for an intelligent foreign policy. He wallows in a willfully ignorant foreign policy. And this week, his irrational ways were contagious.Sniffing about irrational ways, Dowd quotes Gutfeld—who happens to be a comedian on the nightly, 2 A.M. Fox program, Red Eye. Yes, the program is unwatchably bad. But once again: Gutfeld is a comedian. This morning, in our brightest newspaper, Dowd quotes an outrageous statement by a comic, then complains that the statement aint smart.
No, you cant get dumber than Dowd. But Bill OReillys body language expert tried to do so Monday night. You can read the full account at Media Matters (click here). But Tonya Reiman, whos normally non-political (well disagree with MMs implication about that), got suddenly crazy when she was asked to scope out Hillary Clintons lingo. Clintons laughter on Sundays talk shows was evil, Reiman remarkably said. Amazingly, she used the word several times.
Reimans weekly segment is always stupid, although shes normally non-political. Of course, this isnt the first time a cable show used a body language expert to help sort out the candidates tics. During Campaign 2000, Chris Matthews routinely clowned with compliant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who struggled and strove to say the things Chris wanted to hear about various hopefuls. It was during one of the gurus sessions that Matthews launched one of his stupidest tirades—the one in which he said that Gore was wearing those troubling three-button suits to attract the ladies, much the way a sailor does with all the buttons that run up the front of his pants. In short, Matthews was already visibly mad—and this happened eight years ago. For a small taste of this old, daft discussion, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/14/02.
Our public discourse is amazingly stupid, from the buttons on Gores suits up to the endless, broken discussion about what we should do to support the troops. But liberals and progressive sometimes shy away from stating this key, basic fact. Were all accustomed to using bias as a measure of press corps behavior. But the sheer stupidity of our press corps is a tougher nut for some to crack. The public needs to be helped to see that our current, ruling mainstream press corps is a deeply dysfunctional group. Theyre rich—and theyre stupid beyond all compare. We need to learn how to say that.
Lets face it: For years now, weve all been with Stupid. The public deserves to be told this fact, explicitly. Its a deeply troubling, ongoing threat to the things we all hold dear.
WHEN HERBERT ENABLED HORTON: Like Kevin Drum, we were struck by Bob Herberts Tuesday column about the Republican Party and race. The G.O.P. has spent the last 40 years insulting, disenfranchising and otherwise stomping on the interests of black Americans, Herbert wrote. After mentioning that famous old Southern strategy, Herbert recalled an often-forgotten interview by Bush the Elders top hit-man, Lee Atwater:
HERBERT (9/25/07): In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan's presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:In fairness, Atwater was largely speaking in this passage about the ways others had played racial politics; he wasnt around in 1954 or 1968 to make those particular plays. But in 1991, near the end of his life, Atwater apologized for the way he himself had played racial politics. In particular, he apologized for his use of Willie Horton—the racial demon he helped create in 1988, helping send Bush the Elder to the White House. And Herbert hasnt forgotten those uses of Horton. Heres an earlier part of his column:
HERBERT: This is the party of the Southern strategy—the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. (Willie Horton) Bush, George W. (Compassionate Conservative) Bush—they all ran with that lousy pack.No, Herbert hasnt forgotten Bush the Elders uses of Willie Horton. But sadly, Herbert kept silent during Campaign 2000 when Horton was used, once again, to attack a Democratic front-runner. Thats right! In 1999 and early 2000, the GOP played the Horton card again, this time in a sustained attack on Al Gore. This time, a long string of mainstream journalists pimped the attack, including a few at the New York Times. And Herbert didnt speak up.
Yep! Ever since 1992, the GOP had been peddling the claim that Al Gore introduced Willie Horton to America. They said it again and again and again—and by the end of 1999, a long string of big reporters and pundits were willing to peddle the bogus claim too. (By now, they were inventing new ways to slime Gore in every waking moment.) Some of the attackers were movement conservatives (Rush Limbaugh, George Will, William Kristol); some were thoroughly mainstream figures (Dan Balz, Sam Donaldson, even David Yepsen). And needless to say, Ceci and Kit each took a turn with the latest poison. And omigod! Bill Bradley even paraded the claim about Gore all around—after having specifically said, in his 1996 best-seller, that Gore had done no such thing IN RE Horton. In this part of Campaign 2000, Bradley didnt just lie about Gore. He performed a full flip as he did so.
But then, Campaign 2000 represents complete, total breakdown in press standards and practices. Essentially, an increasingly rich-and-Republican press corps had lost its mind over Miss Lewinsky; as a result, they spent twenty straight months inventing fake tales about Clintons vile successor. And many of the tales they mouthed came to them straight from the RNC. Al Gore introduced Willie Horton to America? This was put to damaging use in the later months of the New Hampshire primary. Most Dems and libs dont remember this affair; it didnt achieve iconic status, like many other bogus claims the press corps used to slander Gore. But the press corps misconduct in this episode was astounding—as was the conduct by Bradley.
Bob Herbert is appropriately angry today about the was Willie Horton was used in the 1988 campaign. But he didnt speak up in 1999, when Bradley, and a string of his own journalistic colleagues, were peddling sh*t about Horton. But then, no one else in the press corps spoke up, except for one person: Mort Kondracke.
For our fullest account of this astonishing episode, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/1/02. But be careful! Its hard to digest the events of Campaign 2000; the press corps misconduct was so extreme, the mind screams out that it couldnt have happened. But as 1999 rolled on, this story made its way from hit-man Limbaugh to a long string of the nations top journalists. Herbert watched his colleagues stage this charade—and he failed to speak up.
ALL COKED UP ON BULL-ROAR: As late as January 2004, the loathsome multimillionaire Cokie Roberts was still out there pimping this bull-roar around. Now remember, she said on Morning Edition, it was Al Gore, in primary debates, who was the first person to bring up the issue of Willie Horton. Cokie was very slick this day; she remembered to say that Gore had raised the Horton issue, thereby preserving the broken-souled claim that her statement was technically accurate (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/13/04). Later in the 04 campaign, the loathsome Michelle Malkin pimped the claim too, this time while playing some Hardball. But Malkin hadnt learned her script quite as well as Cokie had. Of course, it was Al Gore who brought up Willie Horton first, the loathsome defective proclaimed to Chris Matthews. Uh-oh! That statement is just flat-out false, indefensible even if technically tortured! If you dont remember the trickeration involved, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/21/04.
THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT ATWATER: In December 2000, Cynthia Tucker recalled Lee Atwaters end-of-life confession. She was complaining about Bush the Youngers outrageous tactics in Florida. Heres a chunk of what she wrote:
TUCKER (12/3/00): Bush ought to know better. He should have learned from the late Lee Atwater, a South Carolinian who used scorched-earth tactics to win the presidency for the governor's father, George Bush. In a death-bed confessional written for Life magazine, Atwater, who died of cancer in 1991, spoke with deep regret of the bitter war he waged against Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee.According to Tucker, Gores supporters wouldnt easily forget the post-election campaign shenanigans. But you cant forget what you never knew, and Tucker is one of the many pundits who kept her mouth shut during Campaign 2000, during the twenty-month war against Gore which was being waged by her colleagues. For example, Gores supporters havent forgotten the way Tuckers colleagues played the Horton card in that race, because people like Tucker, and Herbert, and Dionne, and Hunt and Shields didnt tell them about it. And from that day to this, they have been too polite, too store-bought, too Potemkin to ever discuss that campaign.
And so it fell to Evgenia Peretz to tell the story, some seven years later! Heres a question for those silent on-lookers: We wonder what youll have to say when you pack your satchels for heaven or hell? The whole press corps still stonewalls Peretz in her superlative Vanity Fair piece. Will even one of you ever come forward and confess, as Saint Atwater did?