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Daily Howler: The press corps grossly misbehaved, the boys say. Then they say it was all Al Gore's fault!
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SCRIPT NEVER DIES! The press corps grossly misbehaved, the boys say. Then they say it was all Al Gore’s fault! // link // print // previous // next //

YOU CAN LEAD THEM TO NEXIS, BUT YOU CAN’T MAKE THEM SEARCH: We’ve said it for years. No matter how simple it gets to gather information, you just can’t make the press corps do it. Thanks to electronic search engines, it is now amazingly easy to fact-check a wide range of stories. All big reporters have access to Nexis. But you just can’t make them use it.

In a lengthy “Correction” in today’s New York Times, Jennifer Medina takes the pattern one step further. She did use her search engine, three times, she reports. And the information she sought was right there in it. But she still couldn’t find Joe Lieberman saying “stay the course”—something everyone knew that he’d said. From what planet are these life-forms imported? Plainly, such life-forms aren’t human.

Special Report: Truth told slowly!

PART 2—SCRIPT NEVER DIES: They bury it deep inside their new book. But Harris and Halperin tell an astonishing story about the outcome of Campaign 2000—the campaign which changed the course of world history. How in the world did a guy like George Bush ever make his way to the White House? According to Harris and Halperin, “[a] number of members of the Gang of 500 [the Washington Establishment] are convinced that the main reason George W. Bush won the White House” is because of the “hostile” work of the reporters who covered Candidate Gore! (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/24/06.) Indeed—according to Harris and Halperin, these members of the Gang of 500 “are convinced” that Bush ended up in the White House just because of the hostile work of three Gore reporters! (Ceci Connolly, “Kit” Seelye, Sandra Sobieraj.) And Harris and Halperin seem to agree with this general assessment. “No one who kept a close eye on the media coverage of the 2000 campaign would deny that the press corps assigned to Gore was more aggressive and more hostile,” they write. And they affirm the judgment of Eric Boehlert, who wrote the following in Rolling Stone: “Journalists just refused to drop unflattering Gore stories, no matter what the facts revealed.” In the end, the gentlemen reach a sagacious conclusion about the effects of their cohort’s misconduct. “Not every election is a fair fight,” they write (page 130). “The media...helped Bush tell his good story about himself, and helped Republicans tell a bad story about Gore.”

Considering who the writers are, this analysis is really quite amazing. Seven years later, Harris and Halperin—major press corps insiders—have finally started telling the truth about the conduct of Campaign 2000! But they aren’t just telling the truth very slowly—they’re also telling the truth unobtrusively. Although their analysis is a bombshell, they toss it off as a minor aside deep inside a much longer book. Nothing to look at, they seem to be saying, as they describe their cohort’s astounding misconduct. Nothing to look at, they seem to be saying, as they tell the truth slowly—and oddly.

How oddly do the scribes tell their story? Very, very oddly. As noted, they correctly judge that their own mainstream press corps “refused to drop unflattering Gore stories, no matter what the facts revealed.” But some scripts simply never change in the truth-challenged world of the insider press corps! Even after describing this gross misconduct, the gentlemen stick to a familiar old script; the gentlemen say it was all Al Gore’s fault! Here is one of several passages where they say their cohort’s misconduct was really, in the end, Gore’s doing. In this passage, they refer to those three hostile reporters:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 129): Those three influential reporters—and the influential news organizations for which they worked—certainly played their part in churning out negative copy about Gore, but they were more representative of Gore’s problem than they were the cause. At some point along the way, those reporters contributed to the vice president of the United States losing control of his public image. Seelye, Connolly and Sobieraj most assuredly never resolved to confer with the Gore campaign to help the candidate recover his image. But a more adept campaign (and candidate) would have worked to defuse the danger early on.
For the record, Harris and Halperin vastly understate the misconduct involved in this story. For example, did Ceci Connolly contribute to Gore losing control of his image “at some point along the way?” In fact, Connolly invented wild tales about Gore for twenty straight months during Campaign 2000, turning in one of the most egregious performances in modern journalistic history. Yep! “No matter what the facts revealed,” she refused to drop her unflattering stories—and she refused to stop dreaming up new ones. But according to Harris and Halperin’s clumsy locution, this gross misconduct on Connolly’s part wasn’t the cause of Gore’s problem; rather, it was “representative” of same. No, that sentence doesn’t quite parse. (Note: When professional writers start writing unclearly, they’re often trying to obscure, not reveal.) But later, Harris and Halperin do explain what they mean, rather clearly. If Gore had been a more adept candidate, he “would have worked to defuse the danger early on,” they intone. Somehow, Candidate Gore could—and should—have stopped Ceci Connolly’s gross misconduct.

Unfortunately, the boys absent-mindedly forget to tell us how Gore might have done that. All through their chapter on Campaign 2000, they keep reciting this puzzling script; they tell us, several times, that Gore “let” himself be abused by crackpots like Connolly. “In the end, Gore lost because he let his bad story resonate much more strongly than his good story,” they write on page 132 (our emphasis). But then, on page 128, the boys have already said much the same thing; writing of the endless stories their cohort gimmicked up about Gore, Harris and Halperin say this: “That nearly every one of these controversies was overplayed or mischaracterized by the Old and New Media might be unfair, but that does not alter the fact that Gore violated numerous Trade Secrets by neglecting to confront the stories.” But if reporters are simply making up stories—and if they refuse to stop telling these stories, “no matter what the facts reveal”—how is a candidate supposed to “confront” this, to stop this from happening? Absent-mindedly—and behaving like good, well-trained boys—Harris and Halperin forget to say! Amazing, isn’t it? These boys describe astounding misconduct on the part of their own “influential” colleagues. But in the end—of course!—it was all Al Gore’s fault! Once again using the Baby-Talk categories they spread all through their puzzling book, the gentlemen offer this weird thought at the end of their chapter on Campaign 2000:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 132): The main Trade Secrets to be learned from Gore’s experience are:
If your traveling press corps is hostile to you and the Old Media has settled on a negative meta-narrative about your candidacy, you cannot make real progress in any part of your campaign until you address those problems.
Well, no shit, Sherlock! But once again, the well-trained boys forget to explain how a candidate is supposed to “address” such misconduct. Two paragraphs later, as they finish their chapter, they refer to Gore’s “ineptitude in dealing with the Old Media.” But wouldn’t you know it! They have told us, again and again, that Gore should have “addressed” or “defused” the press corps’ misconduct. He shouldn’t have “let” Ceci do him that way! But how was Gore supposed to stop her? How was he supposed to “address” the problem? Absent-mindedly, the boys forget to answer that obvious question. Instead, they return to their cohort’s Great Script: What happened was Gore’s fault, not ours.

To their credit, the boys are actually telling the truth about their colleagues’ astounding conduct in the campaign which has changed the world’s history. Seven years later, they even dare to suggest the plain truth—they dare to suggest that Bush reached the White House because of Seelye and Connolly’s rank misbehavior. No one in the Gang of 500 has ever told this much of the truth about Campaign 2000. But uh-oh! As well-trained members of this cohort, the boys are telling the truth very slowly—and as a favor to their colleagues, they feel that they still have to blame this on Gore. Al Gore did this to himself! It’s their cohort’s last-gasp script—their firewall against the truth. And it seems to be a script these well-trained boys aren’t prepared to abandon. Indeed, tomorrow we’ll see how far they will go to keep Preferred Press Tales alive.

TOMORROW—PART 3: Did the press corps “overplay or mischaracterize” nearly every Gore story? No shit! So do Harris and Halperin!

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Teddy White played this same canard in The Making of the President, 1960. He described the mainstream press corps misbehaving grossly on the Kennedy plane—and then, he said it was all Nixon’s fault! It has always been thus with these self-dealing losers. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/14/03.

SEE BOEHLERT TELL IT: How was Gore supposed to stop the press corps’ misconduct? Eric Boehlert asked the same question in his own review of this book. You know what to do—just click here.