SOLVING THE PROBLEM! Harris couldnt tell Charlie the truth. So he gave him a pile of pure bull-roar: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2006
AND MORTON MAKES TWO: How much does the playing field tilt against Democrats in congressional races? On last evenings Special Report, Mort Kondracke discussed this important topic:
KONDRACKE (10/10/06): Right now the generic poll shows, as you showed, that the Democrats are ahead by 15 percent....Lets cut through the clutter. According to this analysis, if Democrats outpoll Republicans by seven percent, theyll break even in the House. Thats very close to the analysis offered by Krugman last April:
KRUGMAN (4/21/06): [A] combination of accident and design has left likely Democratic voters bunched together—I'm tempted to say ghettoized—in a minority of Congressional districts, while likely Republican voters are more widely spread out. As a result, Democrats would need a landslide in the popular vote—something like an advantage of 8 to 10 percentage points over Republicans—to take control of the House of Representatives. That's a real possibility, given the current polls, but by no means a certainty.We Democrats never discuss this matter. Thats because were breath-takingly stupid.
Special report: The way to spin
PART 2—SOLVING THE PROBLEM: Harris and Halperin were facing a problem when they sat with Charlie Rose last Thursday (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/10/06). They planned to explain how Clinton and Bush managed to win our last four White House elections. (They appeared with Rose to discuss their new book, which is called The Way to Win.) But uh-oh! In at least one way, as we have noted, their premise didnt quite make sense. According to Halperin, the gentleman wanted to answer this question: What do these two families [Bush and Clinton] know that sets them apart from the losers in presidential politics? But of course, the loser in Campaign 2000 (Al Gore) got more votes than the winner (George Bush). Almost surely, he would have won the electoral vote too except for that butterfly ballot. Given that circumstance, it doesnt quite make perfect sense to ask, What did Bush know that the loser, Gore, didnt? But the gentlemen plowed ahead all the same. They were well-known press corps penseurs, equipped with a large tome to sell.
But uh-oh! Given a troubling piece of our recent history, the pair faced an even larger problem when they sat with Rose. Sorry, but no mainstream pundit can safely discuss the actual role his mainstream press corps played in Campaign 2000. Result? Fairly quickly, Harris was feeding Charlie a line that just flat-out isnt so.
Harris fled from recent reality when he discussed some famous old advice from Dick Nixon. Tricky always used to say that you ran to the right in a GOP primary, then moved to the center for the general election. Things have come a long, long way since then, the Post pundit opined:
HARRIS (10/5/06): One conclusion we made as we look at who has been effective politically is the old Nixon advice—do you remember that? You are supposed to swing to the extremes during the primary and then swing to the center during the general election. That does not work in this era. You have to get a coherent and consistent message in both the primaries and the general election. Reason? In this day, everybody has got video, everybody has got Nexis; everybody has got Google. And the worst thing you can be as a political leader in this country is weak or opportunistic. And so the old Nixon strategy would be almost a guarantee of not the way to win; it is the way to lose, by making yourself seem totally insincere, totally opportunistic.You cant get away with that now, Harris said. Why, the press corps would catch you in a Texas lege minute! If you swung to the center after the primaries, youd look insincere—opportunistic. Why, the Washington press corps would land on your bones in just about ten seconds flat!
To his credit, Charlie sat there and took it like a man. But Harris was completely ignoring his cohorts remarkable conduct in Campaign 2000. Basically, he was dumping sh*t right in Charlies chapeau. And telling him, Please, sir—put it on.
What actually happened in Campaign 2000—the second most recent of the four races our two bright lads pretend to explain? Heres what happened: After Bush won the Republican nomination in March, he quickly began to move to the center, as a long string of reporters and pundits quite explicitly noted. He began to say how much he liked gays. He granted a stay of execution to a guy on death row. (His first ever.) He directed his state of Texas to give out $1 million worth of free trigger locks. Having savaged McCain in South Carolina, he began to talk about changing the tone in Washington. He stopped discussing his big tax cuts. And the press corps freely described his strategy. For example, here was Andrew Cain in the Bush-friendly Washington Times:
CAIN (4/17/00): George W. Bush charged toward the political middle last week, emphasizing education, promoting health insurance for the working poor and meeting with a select group of homosexual Republicans.But then, Jay Carney was saying the same thing in Time:
CARNEY (4/17/00): But the future holds its own tough questions for the G.O.P. nominee as he tries hard to move to the political center.But then, everyone was saying it. Here are a few more examples out of many, many:
Ralph Hallow, Washington Times, 4/21/00: Having won the delegates he needs for the Republican presidential nomination by campaigning in the primaries as a conservative, the Texas governor seems to be moving rapidly toward the middle of the road.Trust us—we could do this all day. The notion that Bush was moving to the center was widely discussed, for several months. But guess what? Far from criticizing Bush for this move, the press corps warmly applauded him for the skill with which he was accomplishing it! At the time, the press corps was relentlessly savaging Gore for supposedly reinventing himself; indeed, they were torturing logic and fact and to invent deeply troubling examples. And that is where the humor comes in; even as they savaged Gores reinventions, they applauded Bush for the marvelous way he was moving to the center. For example, here are two statements by David Gergen from the same program—the June 2 Hardball:
GERGEN (6/2/00): Al Gore—he does have wonderful advisers. Bob Shrum—he's one of the best out there. There's no question about that. But we're into, what, the seventh reinvention, the eighth reinvention of Al Gore?Gore was reinventing himself—which was bad. Bush was moving to the center—which was good. Harris consummate nonsense to the side, this is the actual way the press corps reacted to Bushs performance. Across the pond, the Economist did slam Candidate Bush for having reinvented himself—for conducting a makeover. But we dont know of a single American pundit who criticized Bushs widely-trumpeted move to the center. Sadly, embarrassingly, here was E. J. Dionne, that same day, appearing on CNNs Inside Politics:
DIONNE (6/2/00): What's interesting about the current make-over [by Gore] is that it really hearkens back to what he did in the primaries.There was no criticism for Bushs move to the center. But according to this fiery liberal, Gore was involved in a make-over. By the way, what was that alleged make-over byGore? Heres Howard Fineman, in the Newsweek report to which Dionne was referring:
FINEMAN (5/29/00): Al Gore's Next MakeoverWhat was Gores next make-over? He was starting to run an (accurate) biographical ad! And by the way, the ad wasnt even new; it had aired in New Hampshire during the primaries. But so what? Simply in running this accurate ad, Gore was somehow involved in a makeover. Bush, by contrast, had moon-walked away from the religious right.
Lets make this simple. Store-bought boys—boys like Harris and Halperin—cant discuss what their cohort did during the atrocity known as Campaign 2000. On Thursday, Harris found a way to solve this problem; he handed Charlie a big pile of sh*t. And oh yes—he laughed in the face of Charlies misused viewers.
TOMORROW: A trio on tip-toes.
FROM THE DUH FILES: On June 11, Steven Weisman asked a question about this matters in a New York Times Editorial Observer:
WEISMAN (6/11/00): At the risk of self-parody, Al Gore is trying once again this month to break out of a slump by reintroducing himself to voters. He isn't changing his clothes this time, but he is avoiding personal attacks and unveiling big policy ideas connected in some way to life stories. Yet Mr. Gore still seems unable to exploit his obvious advantages as a partner in an administration with policies that most Americans support.Why was Bush able to reposition himself with such ease? The answer was perfectly obvious then, and its perfectly obvious now. But Harris and Halperin still cant discuss it. So they handed Charlie a big pile of bull. You might call it, The Way to Spin.
By the way, note Weismans clowning. To Weisman, when Gore introduced some policy ideas, that was one more reinvention. This nonsense went on for twenty straight months. For reason which must be perfectly obvious, Harris and Halperin cant discuss it.