TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2003
THEY ONLY LOOK LIVING: Why is your public discourse in tatters? To find out why, read E. J. Dionnes lazy, who-gives-a-sh*t column in this mornings Washington Post.
Most HOWLER readers will probably agree with Dionnes assessment of Bush-on-the-war. Indeed, they will not only agree with Dionnes assessmentthey will have previously read it about ten thousand times. Could this lazy, empty, regurgitated column have taken more than ten minutes to write? Everyone loved us after 9/11, Dionne says. Then, Bush hyped facts to go into Iraq! Try to keep your eyelids open as you read this phoned-in, empty column.
But theres more to complain about in this piece than the authors lazy recycling. Why was Gore trashed during Campaign 2000, a process which put George Bush in the White House? Let a Post good guy explain it:
DIONNE: In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Bushs domestic opponents and much of the world joined him in supporting tough action against terror and agreeing on the urgent need to advance the values of democracy, free expression and tolerance.In the run-up to Iraq, Dionne says, Bush displayed an almost casual disregard for the link between facts and arguments. Indeed, the administration was willing to say whatever was necessary to get its way. And how does Dionne frame this situation? These tactics belong to political campaigns, not to a run-up to war, he asserts! If Dionne actually means what he says, bald dissembling is fine in a White House campaign. You just have to stop once elected.
Weve tried to tell you, for over a year: Democrats need to understand the way their party lost the White House. And well try to suggest something else this week: Americans need to understand the shape of their clown-like public discourse. Why do we live in an Age of Propaganda? Because good guy pundits like Dionne display lazy, who-gives-a-sh*t attitudes like this. Trust us: Pseudo-con writers are showing more outrage than Dionne musters here over trumped-up claims about Joe Wilson. Well discuss those matters on Wednesday and Thursdayand well revisit Dionnes somnolence when we do.
Whats the shape of your corrupted public discourse? You live at a time when the Coulters (and the Jennifer Harpers) will do and say anything, no matter how stupid, to push their pseudo-conservative propaganda. And you live at a time when the E. J. Dionnes make it clearthey dont really care. Overpaid, over-fed, over-partied, over-praised, the good guy press corps doesnt much care if President Bush lied your way into war. The best they can do? They emit modest peeps: He should save that stuff for his elections!
Why is George W. Bush in the White House? Read this lazy, who-gives-a-sh*t, piece and understand it: These people dont care.
ON THE OTHER HAND: Meanwhile, across the Great Divide, Michael Barone was boo-hoo-hooing on last nights Special Report. Theyve got a double standard, he said at the end of the all-stars first segment, complaining about (who else?) the Los Angeles Times. Indeed, Barone was so eager to state the absurd, he even quoted Fox Democrat Susan Estrich. And when you quote Sue Estrich, readers, lets face ityouve sunk very low:
BARONE: But the issue here theres been a double standard. Sue Estrich pointswhos a Fox News contributor and a law professor in Southern Californiathat the conduct alleged against Schwarzenegger here does not rise to the level that would constitute a sexual harassment civil lawsuit. And thatsReaders, this was so stupid that even the all-stars complained! Oh, please, said Mort Kondracke. Talk to Susan about it, Barone said, wishing the worst on poor Mort.
Yep! While the E. J. Dionnes slumber and snore, the Barones are out there propagandizing. And Baroneboo-hooing for all he was worthknew he was paid to accuse the Times of maintaining a bad double standard. Finally, Brit Hume framed the key question. The only question I have, the earnest host asked, is, did the L. A. Times manifestly behave differently in the case of Clinton and Davis than it did in the case of Schwarzenegger? Probably, Kondracke said. Of course it did, Barone loudly sobbed. But no one mentioned an obvious fact. No one said that the L. A Times was the first paper to publish the Troopergate stories about Clinton, relying on those crackpot (and well-paid) Arkansas troopers. Propagandists know to omit such facts. You live in an Age of Pure Propagandaand the E. J. Dionnes dont much care. More sweet examples of this clowning tomorrow. This is the current shape of your discourse.
HMMM: All of a sudden, Andrew Sullivan is very upset that Bush said Africa, not Niger. He praises our past crusading on the subject, then begs his readers to send examples of newspapers making this basic misstatement. We appreciate Sullys kind wordsand we still agree on Gary Conditbut frankly, were a bit suspicious of the timing. We note a certain smell in the aira slumbering White House is fighting back hard, trying to reverse its mounting losses on the Niger/Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame matter. Suddenly, conservative pundits are taking up the tired old Niger/Africa conflation, and we note that a string of spin campaigns are being waged on the subject of Wilson himself. Rep. Peter King is even suggesting that Wilson should be prosecuted for what he has done. Greg Pierce quotes the high-minded crusader in todays Washington Times:
PIERCE: Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, said Sunday that its Mr. Wilson who needs to be investigatedand even prosecuted if he violated CIA secrecy.To state the obvious, the key words here are if and I assumeand no, as Peter King surely knows, Joe Wilson wont be prosecuted. But the White House has been getting hammered about the Plame outing, and its beginning to fight back harder. Most likely, youll see a stream of hysterical spin campaigns, and the following things will occur: 1) Talk radio listeners will recite all the spin-points, no matter how stupid. And 2) Washingtons slumbering good guy pundits wont look up, comment or care.
Regarding Sullys new passion about that conflation: Yes, its typical, silly press conduct. But the White House itself has said that it shouldnt have relied on that British intelligence. The White House itself has said that it didnt know if Saddam was seeking uranium in Africa. Yes, the press corps should stop improving the story. But as an overall defense of the White House, this is pretty thin gruelunless the intent is misdirection. Joe Wilson should be charged! And, the press corps is lying! These points will soon distract talk-show cons from worrying about who outed Plame. This, of course, helps show why the press should have played this point straight all along.
SHE PROVED IT ALL YEAR LONG: What did we mean, a reader asked, when we said, in yesterdays HOWLER, that Maureen Dowd revived the silly clowning in which Monica Lewinsky is said to have been 21? Heres what we meant: During the year of Clintons impeachment, the press corps reveled in the claim that Bill had hooked up with a 21-year-old-intern. If youre living on this plain, youve heard this said a good million times. But alas! Monica was actually 22 and a half when she first set eyes on her Bill. This makes little actual difference, of course, if youre trying to judge what happened. But your press corps simply loved the idea that Bill had hooked up with a 21-year-old-intern. In our culture, 21 is an official age of innocence, and the phony age made the story much better. And so, although everyone knew that the age was fake, everyone also agreed to keep saying it. Jay Leno would say 22 on his show. But your fake, phony punditspaid those vast sumskept reciting the age they found pleasing. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/4/99, with links to earlier reports. And yes, this really is the way these fake, phony posers do business. Youll note: We reported this howler again and again. And they just kept on with their fake fact.
The Niger matter is really quite similar. Its easier, and its much more pleasing, to say that Bush said Niger in his speech. And so they keep saying it, even though its untrue. This saves them the trouble of having to research and report what was up with that British intelligence. Readers, they love to make preferred stories better. As the press chased impeachment, their 21-year-old-intern kept proving it all year long.
ERROR: We made a mistake in yesterday HOWLER. Subject: Sullys analysis of why Clinton was worse, so much worse than Arnold. Sully said this: [A]ll of Arnolds incidents were one-off. Clinton, for the most part, pursued the same women over time. Comical, isnt it? We dont know why Arnold should get some sort of pass because he only groped targets one time each. But we were puzzled by Sullivans comment on Clinton. Who were these women he allegedly pursued over time, supposedly the bulk of his incidents? Presumably, Sullivan means Flowers and Lewinskybut we said Willey and Lewinsky by mistake. For the record, Flowers claims lack credibility, and she was alleging consensual conduct. Struggling to concoct exculpations for Arnold, Sully was mixing up apples and oranges, with a kumquat thrown in for good measure.
TOMORROW: Good-guy pundits stare into space. And propagandists take over your discourse.