WHO IS BOB SCHIEFFER (POST-DEBATE)! Is a vote for Kerry a sin? And did Schieffer show what friends are for?
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2004
WHO IS DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: Its all over now but the spinning! In particular, well wait to see how the press corps treats John Kerrys unwise comment about Dick Cheneys daughter. On Imus this morning, Imus was slamming the comment hard—and so was his early guest, Doris Kearns Goodwin, who turned in the type of revealing performance one sometime gets from guests on this program. Well wait till tomorrow before we discuss the ten-minute Goodwin appearance in detail. But Goodwins performance was an instant cable Democrat classic. She started out trashing Kerry, then trashing Gore. She said that she and all her friends thought Bush won last nights debate. (They felt he was speaking more clearly to Joe Sixpack.) She then puzzled hard, trying to figure why Kerry had won the post-debate polls; it must be because of Iraq, she opined, because it surely wasnt Kerry. And she revealed the inevitable, of course; she said she had only watched parts of last nights debate because she was watching the Red Sox instead. Question: Does anyone know why a person too lazy and disinterested to watch this debate is on TV the next morning discussing it? But Goodwin has been this way for years. When she isnt copying pages out of real scholars books, shes busy reciting inane cable spin. For liberals and Dems who want to know why their whole leadership must be replaced, this appearance is a real classic. Well bring you full excerpts tomorrow. But the actual outcome of last nights debate will turn on press reaction to Kerrys dumb comment. And yes, if the pundits decide to stampede, that comment may decide this election.
Final note on this stampede syndrome: Over the weekend, we watched Bush-Dukakis Debate II, the debate where Dukakis outrageously failed to punch Bernie Shaw when Shaw asked an extremely rude question. What followed that iconic moment in this debate? Long, repeated, extended passages in which Bush promised, pledged and swore that he would never raise anyones taxes! The pledge was almost surely fake when Bush made it; everyone knew he was going to propose a large tax hike, as, indeed, he later did. But you know the emptiness of your press corps! Sixteen years later, all they can mention from that debate was Dukakis failed reaction to their colleagues rude question—and what it showed us about his troubling character. Your press corps loves to seize on dramatic events and use them to define a debate.
Yes, your press corps is empty, inane and dishonest—and theyre far too lazy and far too detached to watch a debate on which theyll pass judgment. Dems and liberals should trash Doris Kearns every time she appears on the street. And then they should work—and work very hard—to get themselves a new gang of spokesmen. When Goodwin isnt busy stealing the labor of others, shes busy insulting you on TV. But you know the shape of your celebrity press corps! Goodwin has acquired Millionaire Pundit Values. She doesnt give a good g*ddam about Joe Sixpack, and she did a very good job of proving that again this fine day.
WHO IS BOB SCHIEFFER, POST-DEBATE EDITION: He did less well than we had expected. No, we wouldnt say that Bushs good friend necessarily went out there to win one for the Dubya. But when the moderator of a presidential debate is a close friend of one of the candidates, people will naturally be suspicious. And yes—elements of Bob Schieffers effort last night were worse than we had expected. (We call him Bob Schieffer to distinguish him from his brother, Tom Schieffer, George Bushs close personal friend and long-time business partner.)
Did Bob Schieffer try to sand-bag Kerry? We wouldnt make such a claim. But his last two questions to a floundering Bush were not unlike a pair of lifelines. Here is the text of those questions:
QUESTION 18 (of 20): Mr. President, let's go to a new question. You were asked before the invasion, or after the invasion, of Iraq if you'd checked with your dad. And I believe, I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority. I would like to ask you, what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?Theres the text, but heres what those questions really asked: Mr. President, tell us how deeply religious you are. Then tell us how youre a great husband!
Were those questions unfair? Unwise? Ill-advised? Yes, Kerry got to answer the last question too. (The question seems to be drawn from an earlier century, given its implied view of relations between the sexes.) But Bush is married to a popular, highly-visible First Lady, and Kerry is on his second marriage. Automatic advantage to Bush. Meanwhile, look at the structure of an earlier religious question—a question posed to Kerry:
QUESTION 7 (of 20): Senator Kerry, a new question for you. The New York Times reports that some Catholic archbishops are telling their church members that it would be a sin to vote for a candidate like you because you support a woman's right to choose an abortion and unlimited stem-cell research. What is your reaction to that?What a remarkable question! A tiny number of borderline kooks are suggesting its sinful to vote for Kerry. And Schieffer—with only ten questions to pose to each candidate—gives these crackpots the largest forum they ever will get on this earth! Meanwhile, lets state the obvious—anyone who understands our politics will know how damaging that question can be. Last night, many Catholic voters were watching—voters who were forming their judgment of Kerry. And in Question 7, Schieffer told them that some Catholic archbishops are saying that its a sin to vote for a candidate like [him]. Senator, do you think its a sin to vote for you? Incredibly, thats what Kerry was asked.
Was something wrong with Question 7? That is a matter of judgment. But just compare those religious questions—Question 7, posed to Kerry, and Question 18, to Bush. Question 18 is open-ended—a softball, an invitation to shape a pleasing self-portrait. Question 7, by contrast, is deeply accusatory. For the first time ever in a White House debate, we actually heard that it may be a sin to vote for one of our two major candidates! Meanwhile, couldnt Schieffer have crafted a similar, accusatory question for Bush? Couldnt he have asked something like this:
POSSIBLE QUESTION 18: Mr. President, after the invasion of Iraq, Bob Woodward asked you if youd ever sought advice from your father, the former president. And you said, quote, You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to. Meanwhile, Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, recalls hearing you say, quote, ''I believe that God wants me to be president on the day of your second inauguration as Texas governor. And some of your religious supporters see Biblical prophecy being carried out in current Middle East politics [this should be researched more fully]. Should voters worry that your religious belief might sometimes stand in the way of sound judgment? Why didnt you get advice from your father?If its maybe a sin to vote for Kerry, why isnt the other guy maybe a nut? Is it maybe because of all those golf games? Because of all that fun in spring training?
In fairness, Schieffer lobbed Kerry at least one softball—question 15, on the back-door draft:
QUESTION 15 (of 20): Senator, the last debate, President Bush said he did not favor a draft. You agreed with him. But our National Guard and Reserve forces are being severely strained because many of them are being held beyond their enlistments. Some of them say that it's a back-door draft.If youve followed this election, you know that question was right in the senators wheelhouse. On the other hand, Karl Rove couldnt have done any better in crafting this groaner for Kerry:
QUESTION 9 (of 20): Let me direct the next question to you, Senator Kerry, and again, let's stay on health care. You have, as you have proposed and as the president has commented on tonight, proposed a massive plan to extend health-care coverage to children. You're also talking about the government picking up a big part of the catastrophic bills that people get at the hospital. And you have said that you can pay for this by rolling back the president's tax cut on the upper 2 percent.You have proposed a massive plan! How many millions do we have to pay so we dont get a question like that?
Did Bob Schieffer showcase his Bush-buddy bias? Thats a matter of judgment—and of mind-and-soul-reading. But one thing isnt a matter of judgment as we look over Bob Schieffers questions. Revisit that religious question to Bush. And lets look at some of its low-lights:
QUESTION 18 (of 20): Mr. President, let's go to a new question. You were asked before the invasion, or after the invasion, of Iraq if you'd checked with your dad. And I believe, I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority. I would like to ask you, what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?God help we disenfranchised Americans, whose millionaire stewards conduct business like this! Doris Kearns Goodwin was too lazy to sit and watch the debate she would judge. And Schieffer? He was too lazy and too undisciplined to look up Bushs actual quote, or even to find out when he said it! By contrast, how is it that we able to present Bushs real quote in our POSSIBLE QUESTION? And how did we know that Bush made this statement after the war? Easy. We set aside about ten minutes and looked up the quote in Bob Woodwards book! Then we actually went on-line and searched out that quote by Richard Land (there are others). But Schieffer? Ten of millions of people would watch when he hosted this crucial debate. But go ahead and reread that question! He didnt know when Bush made this statement, and he didnt know what Bush had said. Is he simply too lazy to look up this info? Or was he just playing dumb for a friend? Here at THE HOWLER, we cant read his mind. But we know that Goodwin needs to be gone, and Schieffer needs to go out the door with her. I dont know the exact quote, he said. How much must we pay these compromised people before theyll agree to be gone?
TWO QUOTES FOR THE AGES: Yes, gaze on the soul of your millionaire press corps as we recall these two powdered statements:
Bob Schieffer (10/13/04): I dont remember the quote exactly.Amazing, isnt it? With weeks to prepare, Bob Schieffer forgot to. And Goodwin only watched the debate when she felt too afraid to watch baseball! How many millions do they have to be paid before theyll even pretend to perform? Gaze on the soul of your millionaire press corps—too lazy, too store-bought, to serve.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: And lets not forget VP moderator Gwen Ifill. Yep! One moderator was Bushs old friend; the other was Rices dinner buddy! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/11/03, to recall this earlier portrait of press corps misconduct. (See links to earlier reports on Ifills toothless interview with her friend.) Meanwhile, emit dark chuckles when you hear a familiar refrain—when you hear how Schieffer and Ifill are driven by corrupt liberal bias.
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (10/14//04): Mr. Bush took every possible opportunity to note that Mr. Kerry was once rated by a magazine as the most liberal senator and is from Massachusetts. Mr. Kerry, for his part, seemed to be vying to see how many times he could mention that Mr. Bush was the first president in 72 years to preside over an economy that has lost jobs.Good Lord! Gail Collins is clearly supporting Kerry. But so what? Seven months after the National Journal exposed this highlighted claim as bunk, Collins still types it into her piece. How easy is it to be Karl Rove? Reread that mind-boggling paragraph!
Go ahead—emit mordant chuckles. But by the way—does Collins even read her own pages? On July 26, she published an op-ed piece on this very subject, written by three Brookings Institute honchos. Sarah Binder, Thomas Mann and Alan Murphy told readers about that misleading claim:
BINDER/MANN (7/26/04): The Bush campaign has gotten particularly good mileage out of a National Journal analysis of roll call voting in 2003 that ranked John Kerry of Massachusetts as the No. 1 liberal in the Senate and John Edwards of North Carolina as the fourth-most-liberal senator.The rating was misleading, the Times op-ed said. The National Journal itself had said the same thing in March. But so what? This morning, Collins—supporting Kerry—retyped the claim and passed it to readers. Bush had said it, several times. So Collins—supporting Kerry, for crying out loud—felt she could say it as well.