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Daily Howler: If only Franke-Ruta had been around to fight hard for Candidate Gore
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BORN TOO LATE! If only Franke-Ruta had been around to fight hard for Candidate Gore: // link // print // previous // next //

BIG APPLE/BIG EASY: Was New York’s fourth-grade reading test easier this year? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/6/05.) In this morning’s Times, James Kadamus says no, it was not. Kadamus is Deputy Commissioner of the state’s Education Department. He says the 2005 test was carefully constructed to be just as tough as the previous version:
KADAMUS: All questions used on the 2004 and 2005 tests were "field-tested" at the same time with the same students from urban, suburban and rural schools. This gave an accurate appraisal of the difficulty level of each question and each test. Scoring was adjusted accordingly.

All major tests, including the SAT and Advanced Placement exams, use similar methods to ensure a consistent level of difficulty over time.

If Kadamus is right, the 2005 test was just as hard as the test from 2004.

Of course, there’s only one way to know if Kadamus is right; competent analysts would have to examine technical manuals describing the way this exam was “field-tested.” New York state’s fourth graders did substantially better on this year’s test; 70 percent of them passed, compared with 62 percent in 2004. That would seem like a big one-year jump, if the two tests were equally difficult. And of course, that score gain occurred all over the state, not just in New York City, where Mayor Bloomberg quickly said that the jump occurred because of his policies, with the know-nothing Times editorial board rushing to echo his heartfelt self-praise.

Such issues pop up all over the nation as states produce their own high-stakes tests. For this reason, New York Times education writers should be steeped in those technical manuals. Was the fourth-grade test easier this year? Citizens have the right to know—and New York City kids deserve to have the truth sought out about their crucial schooling.

BORN TOO LATE: We never cease to be amazed by the way career liberals write about Gore. At Tapped, Garance Franke-Ruta responded this week to a pointless U.S. News speculation about a Gore run in 2008. As she did, she quoted Chris Bowers’ assessment of the matter at MyDD. Specifically, she quoted Bowers saying this (this was her full quote from Bowers):

BOWERS: Gore has been thoroughly slimed by the Republican Noise Machine, and as of yet not only has he not recovered, he might even be sinking further. Like many others before him, he was slimed in a completely unfair manner, and mostly for telling the truth. However, that does not change the fact that any Gore run would be extremely difficult right now, and that nay poll where he trails is not exaggerated by the Incumbent Rule or anything else. In fact, because he has 100% name ID, if anything, his deficits in current poll would be exaggerated.

It is really too bad. I wish we had been around at the time to defend him.

In context, it seems that Bowers may be talking about the way Gore was slimed in the fall of 02, when he criticized certain aspects of conservative media. But Franke-Ruta seems to think that Bowers is talking about the way Gore was slimed during Campaign 2000. Immediately after providing that Bowers excerpt, for example, Franke-Ruta says this:
FRANKE-RUTA: What the 2000 race would have been like had there been a mature Democratic blogosphere is, indeed, something to ponder. But it's worth noting that the 'sphere, though still something less than fully mature in '04, was not able to unsmear Kerry once he was targeted by TV political advertisements. Its reach simply remained too small. And, I'll wager, it will be too small again in 2008. As Gore himself noted last week, "it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy."
You ought to read Franke-Ruta’s full post, although its meaning is somewhat unclear. But how to untangle the absurd (but familiar) suggestions she seems to make about Campaign 2000?

For the record, Gore was not principally slimed “by the Republican Noise Machine” in Campaign 2000. Nor was he principally slimed by “television delivered over cable and satellite,” as Franke-Ruta might seem to imply. During Campaign 2000, Gore was principally slimed by the mainstream Washington press corps—by the Washington Post and the New York Times, for exampleas the record makes abundantly clear. Say it again: For two solid years, Candidate Gore was principally slimed by our major mainstream press organs, not by those of the right. (On cable, his biggest attacker, by far, was fatuous mainstream insider Chris Matthews. By contrast, Bill O’Reilly was abundantly fair.) But alas! Career liberal writers have endlessly failed to come to terms with this obvious fact, and Franke-Ruta seems to be having a very hard time articulating this fact once again.

For the record, one part of “the mature Democratic blogosphere” did discuss the sliming of Candidate Gore; here at THE HOWLER, we discussed that sliming for twenty months, from March 1999 through November 2000. And here’s something else career liberals hate to mention—major liberal organs, like The American Prospect, simply refused to discus what was happening, even though we were laying it out and yes, they were reading our copy. In short, everyone knew that the Post and the Times—and the rest of Washington’s mainstream press corps—was conducting a war against Candidate Gore, a war built on absurd attack themes and absurd, outright misstatements of fact. But liberal organs—like Franke-Ruta’s current employer—refused to challenge this war in real time, and Franke-Ruta can’t bring herself to state this fact even now. To all appearances, Franke-Ruta simply won’t tell you the truth about her career cohort and her current employer.

So go ahead, Garance, be a brave girl! Be the first in your self-dealing crowd to say it: Starting in March 1999, the mainstream press corps continued its ongoing War Against Clinton (he had just licked impeachment) with a ludicrous, twenty-month War Against Gore. And when they did so, your current employer refused to say Boo about their misconduct—conduct which ended up putting Bush in the White House. Go ahead, Garance—just stand up and say it! And by the way—almost surely, that’s exactly what Franke-Ruta herself would have done, “had there been a mature Democratic blogosphere” publishing her pensees in 1999 and 2000. To this very day, Franke-Ruta’s career liberal cohort refuses to describe these simple facts about Campaign 2000—and she keeps refusing to describe those facts too. Why on earth would anyone think that she would have challenged the corps’ ruling clique then? The American Prospect rolled over and died—and almost surely, that’s what she would have done. Just for once, can’t we stop pretending that these brave boys and girls would have stood to fight for Gore—thereby challenging their current pay-masters and endangering their lucrative future careers?

Sorry, Charlie—Gore wasn’t principally slimed by “the Republican Noise Machine.” Nor was he principally slimed by “television delivered over cable and satellite.” As is abundantly clear, Candidate Gore was principally slimed by the powers that be inside Franke-Ruta’s industry—by the people who will sign her future pay checks. From that day to this, career liberal writers—boys and girls like Franke-Ruta—have refused to say what happened in the sliming of Candidate Gore, the sliming which eventually sent Bush to the White House. The Republicans did it, they just keep saying—and how we wish we’d been there to fight them! As they do so, you’re being played for complete, total fools—just as we all were played for fools by the people who sign Franke-Ruta’s checks during Campaign 2000.

THE MATURE DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE: What would have happened, during Campaign 2000, “had there been a mature Democratic blogosphere?” We’ll guess: Non-career Dems and liberals would have complained about the press corps’ war on Gore, and career liberal writers—the Garance Franke-Rutas—would have hid behind their desks, saying nothing, just as their current owners did. After all, there already was a “mature Democratic” journalistic establishment in full flower during Campaign 2000—and these publications said next to nothing about what was happening to Gore. The American Prospect? It did and said nothing. The New Republic? It did and said nothing. (Mid-campaign, editor Chuck Lane and writer Dana Milbank took jobs at the Washington Post, the paper they had failed to criticize.) The Nation? Please! It was publishing Standard Crackpot Slanders of Gore as late as October 2000 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/19/05). The Washington Monthly did publish one piece on the War Against Gore—a piece which, just for the record, was totally plagiarized from THE DAILY HOWLER. (The piece appeared in April 2000; the Monthly kept quiet after that.) What on earth would make Franke-Ruta think that she would have stood and fought for Gore when her cohort’s brave leaders were behaving this way? What would make us believe such insinuations when, right to this very day, she still won’t tell us what really happened in that history-changing race?

Career liberal writers have persistently refused to discuss what happened in Campaign 2000. We’ve rarely seen an established elite deceive the public quite so thoroughly. And for reasons completely unknown, average liberals just sit and take it. Maybe Thomas Frank’s next book should be titled: What’s the Matter with the Prospect’s Subscribers?

DAVID, IN PRAISE OF GOLIATH: Here at THE HOWLER, we’re big fans of David Brock; we like him personally (although we’ve only met a few times), and we think he’s done tons of great work at Media Matters. But Bowers begins by quoting the start of Brock’s book, The Republican Noise Machine—and that part of David’s book is amazingly wrong in its portrait of Campaign 2000. On pages 2-5, Brock presents a picture of Campaign 2000 in which conservative media drove the War Against Gore, with the mainstream media dragged in behind them:

BROCK (pages 4-5): In the 2000 presidential campaign, the Republican Noise Machine, which worked for years to convince Americans that the Clintons were criminally minded, used the same techniques of character assassination to turn the Democratic standard-bearer, Al Gore, for many years seen as an overly earnest Boy Scout, into a liar. When Republican National Committee polling showed that the Republicans would lose the election to the Democrats on the issues, a "skillful and sustained 18-month campaign by Republicans to portray the vice president as flawed and untrustworthy" was adopted, the New York Times reported. Republicans accused Gore of saying things he never said—most infamously, that he "invented" the Internet, a claim he never made that was first attributed to him in a GOP press release before it coursed through the media. Actually, Gore had said, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet," a claim that even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich verified as true.

The right-wing media broadcast this attack and similar attacks relentlessly, in effect giving the GOP countless hours of free political advertising every day for months leading up to the election. "Albert Arnold Gore Jr. is a habitual liar," William Bennett, a Cabinet secretary in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, announced in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. "... Gore lies because he can't help himself," neoconservative pamphleteer David Horowitz wrote. "LIAR, LIAR," screamed Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. The conservative columnist George F. Will pointed to Gore's "serial mendacity" and warned that he is a "dangerous man." "Gore may be quietly going nuts," National Review's Byron York concluded. The Washington Times agreed: "The real question is how to react to Mr. Gore's increasingly bizarre utterings. Webster's New World Dictionary defines 'delusion' thusly: 'The apparent perception, in a nervous or mental disorder, of some thing external that is not actually present ... a belief in something that is contrary to fact or reality, resulting from deception, misconception, or a mental disorder.'"

This impugning of Gore's character and the questioning of his mental fitness soon surfaced in the regular media. The New York Times ran an article headlined "Tendency to embellish fact snags Gore," while the Boston Globe weighed in with "Gore seen as 'misleading.'" On ABC's "This Week," former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos referred to Gore's "Pinocchio problem." For National Journal's Stuart Taylor, the issue was "the Clintonization of Al Gore, who increasingly apes his boss in fictionalizing his life story and mangling the truth for political gain." Washington Post editor Bob Woodward raised the question of whether Gore "could comprehend reality," while MSNBC's Chris Matthews compared Gore to "Zelig" and insisted, "Isn't it getting to be delusionary?"

The well-orchestrated media cacophony had its intended effect: The election was far more competitive than it should have been—and, indeed, was decided before the Supreme Court stepped in—because of negative voter perceptions of Gore's honesty and trustworthiness...

Brock does say that “this impugning of Gore's character and the questioning of his mental fitness soon surfaced in the regular media.” But he suggests that the conservative media were mainly to blame—that the attacks on Gore began in the conservative media and leaked over to the mainstream organs. This is simply bogus. Mainstream press organs took the lead in this war from Day One, and continued to lead throughout the campaign. And as they did so, the “mature Democratic” establishment—the Prospect, the New Republic, the Nation, the Monthly—spent twenty months staying silent.

We thought The Republican Noise Machine was an outstanding book. But Brock started things off with this passage—a passage which is quite hard to fathom:

BROCK (page 2): For the first time since 1929, the Republican Party controls all three branches of government. Fewer people identify with the Democratic Party today than at any time since the New Deal. Conservatism seems the prevailing political and intellectual current, while liberalism seems a fringe dispensation of a few aging professors and Hollywood celebrities. People ask me, a former insider, how the Republican Right has won political and ideological power with such seeming ease and why Democrats, despite winning the most votes in the last three presidential elections, seem to be caught in a downward spiral, still able to win at the ballot box but steadily losing the battle for hearts and minds.

While it is not the only answer, my answer is: It's the media, stupid.

When I say this, in a more respectful way, to folks outside the right wing, I usually get either of two responses. Those who receive their news from the New York Times and National Public Radio give me blank stares. They are living in a rarefied media culture—one that prizes accuracy, fairness, and civility—that is no longer representative of the media as a whole. Those who have heard snippets of Rush Limbaugh's radio show, have caught a glimpse of Bill O'Reilly's temper tantrums on the FOX News Channel, or occasionally peruse the editorials in the Wall Street Journal think I'm a Cassandra. They view this media as self-discrediting and therefore irrelevant. They are living in a vacuum of denial.

In the wake of the Clinton-Gore years—more specifically, in the wake of Campaign 2000—that highlighted passage about the Times is little short of astounding. The New York Times drove the War Against Gore far more than any conservative org. But to this day, the Garance Franke-Rutas keep failing to say so—and they keep forgetting to tell us rubes how their employers, current and future, went along with the twenty-month scam.

THE MONTHLY HELPS ITSELF: Years ago, we briefly discussed the Monthly’s expropriation of our work; see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/23/02. Let us stress: The superlative Bob Parry played no part in this theft; he assiduously sourced his work to THE HOWLER when he self-published this article before it ran in the Monthly. (For the record, we only realized that this was technical “plagiarism” by the Monthly when we read this piece by Tim Noah.)

For those who want to understand the character of those in “the mature Democratic” journalistic establishment, this episode provides a good example. The one time they stooped to publish something about this history-changing matter, they plagiarized someone else’s work! While Charley Peters continued to orate about the glories of working people, his perfumed young minions were helping themselves to a year of someone else’s unpaid work. But then, that is the essential character of the boys and girls who run this “mature Democratic” establishment. When are Dems in trouble? Brock asks. Because of worthless children like these.