GABLER GETS IT RIGHT: Neal Gabler offers a spot-on critique of Wallaces question to Clinton: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2006
THE DOCTOR IS CONSTANTLY IN: At this point, we dont have an especially high regard for Bob Woodward or for his brilliant work. (Details to follow in future posts.) For that reason, were going to challenge Digby a tad about a passage from Woodwards new book. (You know? The book which reports that Woodward was wrong in his previous books?) In this post, the Digster says this: We've all discussed the Shakespearean dimensions of this bizarre presidency, but I had no idea about this particular plot-line. Digby then presents a passage from Woodwards book about the way Bush picked brilliant Rumsfeld:
WOODWARD: Cheney had suggested Rumsfeld to Bush in late December 2000. Rumsfeld was so impressive, Bush told Card at the time. He had had the job in the Ford administration a quarter-century before, and it was as if he were now saying, "I think I've got some things I'd like to finish."According to Digby, this part of Woodwards book shows Juniors adolescent need to reject his father. But does this passage really show that? If we come to that conclusion, we are making two assumptions: 1) Card knew how to read Bushs mind, and 2) Woodward recorded Cards statements correctly. We have little confidence in either proposition. By the way, many Bush insiders are now saying the things the mainstream press wants to hear, hoping to curry favor with the press for their future career interests. If Card said this, was he being sincere? We cant imagine why a critic of this Admin would automatically think so.
In our view, we liberals become like kooky-cons (or worse, like Maureen Dowd) when we accept mind-reading, psychiatrizing work like this just because we find it pleasing—just because the psychiatrization of the moment happens to cut in our favor. This kind of journalistic reasoning has been relentlessly used, in the past fifteen years, to do massive damage to major Dem candidates. In the long run, wed guess that we would be better off in we rejected all such piffle from intellectual midgets like Woodward and Dowd.
In many ways, Woodward has become a Dowdian clown. Wed guess that libs would be better off if we rejected all such work—if we skipped the picking-and-choosing about the corps mind-reading sessions. In this press corps, the doctor is constantly IN. The bad news? This doctors a quack.
GABLER GETS IT RIGHT: With the possible exception of Jeff Cohen before him, no one has offered more Fox-on-Fox criticism than Neal Gabler, weekly panelist on Fox Newswatch (by light-years, the networks best program.) In recent months, weve even become a bit concerned that Gabler was becoming a bit too scripted in some of his media critiques. That would have been a shame, because Gablers work has always been so fresh, so sharp, so original. Because of his outstanding track record, we werent surprised this weekend when Gabler gave the best critique to date of Bill Clintons session with Chris Wallace. We agree with almost every word. He spoke with the host of Fox Newswatch, Eric Burns:
GABLER (9/30/06): Well, I mean, look, let's be honest: this network's reputation precedes it, which is why Bill Clinton hasn't appeared on this network previously, and why he set very strict ground rules to make this appearance, where he—they wanted at least half the questions talking about his global initiative.For the record, Burns was jesting when he begged for a name from some other network. But we agree with all of Gablers points. To wit:
WALLACE (9/24/06): When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I have to say I was surprised, most of them wanted me to ask you this question. Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and al-Qaeda out of business when you were president? There's a new book out, I suspect you may have already read, called The Looming Tower. And it talks about the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, bin Laden said "I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of U.S. troops." Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the Cole.Wallace told Clinton that he was asking the question because of e-mails hed gotten from viewers. That isnt necessarily an awful thing. But private citizens are relentlessly mis- and disinformed—especially those who watch Fox News and listen to Rush and Sean. Its up to a newsman like Wallace to fact-check the things he hears from his viewers. In certain ways (especially concerning Somalia), Wallace doesnt seem to have done that in preparing this high-profile question.
So yes, there were some problems with Wallaces question—but we think there were also some problems with Clintons response. As we said last Friday, the Democratic Party has to construct a systematic approach to the news environment which has done so much damage to its interests over the course of the past fifteen years. Tomorrow, well suggest some of the ways Dems should respond to questions like the one Wallace posed.
As he almost always does, Gabler got it right this weekend. Yes, there were problems with Wallaces question—but there also were problems with Clintons answer. What approach might serve Dems better? Tomorrow, some helpful suggestions.