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Daily Howler: Boys like these have a Freak Show Within--a Freak Show which won't let them go
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FREAK SHOW WITHIN! Boys like these have a Freak Show Within—a Freak Show which won’t let them go: // link // print // previous // next //

HOW A FORD BECOMES A YUGO: Does Harold Ford “want to give the abortion pill to schoolchildren?” Michael Grunwald repeats the claim in this Washington Post piece—then fails to say if it’s accurate.

Has Harold Ford “taken contributions from pornographers?” Fiery liberal Eugene Robinson repeats this claim in his column today, then forgets to say if it’s accurate.

And how about this one? Is Harold Ford “a guy that likes Playboy bunnies?” Does Ford “take money from porn kings?” Pat Buchanan said those things on Scarborough Country last night. And when he did, Michael Crowley and Amy Sullivan stared blankly off into air:
BUCHANAN (10/26/06): Joe, let me say this. I—I agree with Michael here. I don`t take this [ad] as racist. Look, the Terrell Owens thing—you remember that? You had the girl stripping right down in the locker room in the Super Bowl ad for some beer or something, or whatever it was. But look, I don`t take this as racist at all. I think Michael is right. This is an attack on character. Harold Ford is a guy that likes Playboy bunnies. Almost all of them are white. He takes money from porn kings. You know, he`s against repealing the death tax. And it causes us all to start talking about this. We’ve been showing this ad. You keep watching the whole ad. And Harold Ford is arguing about the ad. He`s not gaining ground with that. And I think Corker has cut himself loose from this thing and he’s moving on.
Does Harold Ford “take money from porn kings?” When Buchanan made this statement last night, Crowley and Sullivan didn’t say Word the First. Our question: What the f*ck is in the Kool-Aid they give our fiery liberal spokesmen? Have you ever seen a gang of losers like the ones we send out on the air?

Special Report: Truth told slowly!

PART 4—FREAK SHOW WITHIN: Give them credit. No one else in their “Gang of 500" has told anywhere near as much of the truth about Campaign 2000 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/26/06). But good grief! No one else can fudge, obscure, and couch the truth quite like these two writers. They describe the press corps’ gross misconduct in reporting on Gore—but then, they say it was all Gore fault! They decry the tall tales the press corps told—and then, they recite these tales themselves! They claim that Candidate Gore emitted “a steady stream of new careless remarks” during Campaign 2K—and their list of examples is straight from Clown College. Intermittently, the boys do tell a good deal of the truth—but they can’t quite bring themselves to stick to it. As we’ve noted: Before these boys can tell you what’s true, they fell they must tell you what’s false.

Next week, we’ll look at the most useful and important part of this book—the part where Harris and Halperin explain the fact that our political discourse has been a “Freak Show” for the past many years. That “Freak Show” has badly damaged Democratic candidates, the pair correctly say. (For that reason, fiery liberals with one ounce of sense would want to make the Freak Show stop.) But as we read their chapter on Gore, we couldn’t help noting that Harris and Halperin are still carrying a bit of a Freak Show Within. As noted, they routinely repeat the fake tales which comprised the Freak Show, even as they decry its vile ways.

No, Candidate Gore didn’t display “a penchant for exaggerating his achievements,” as becomes embarrassingly clear when they boys try to list some examples; that claim comprised the heart of Campaign 2000's Freak Show, the Freak Show these writers claim to deplore. But as we noted, we were especially struck by one minor false claim from Campaign 2000 which gets reprised in Harris and Halperin’s book. As cited yesterday, here it is—a claim which came and went, at Gore’s expense, in June 1999:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (pages 130-131): In the eyes of Washington’s elite reporters and political operatives, Al Gore’s biggest political problems all derived from Bill Clinton. Gore had defended Clinton on the day of impeachment, then condemned his conduct when he entered the presidential race.
Seven years later, the boys reprise a bogus claim. And yes, this is a golden oldie. Here’s the way the editors of the New York Post expressed this claim about Gore in an editorial headlined “AL GORE, LIAR” which ran on June 18, 1999:

Just seven short months ago, Vice President Albert Gore was all but nominating President Clinton for a place on Mount Rushmore. At the post-impeachment pep rally on the White House lawn last December, Gore declared that impeachment “does a great disservice to a man I believe will be regarded in the history books as one of our greatest presidents.”

Either Gore was lying then—or he’s lying now. Chatting with Diane Sawyer in an interview broadcast on “20/20” on Wednesday [June 16], the day he formally declared for president, Gore suddenly decided that he found Clinton's dalliance with an intern "inexcusable" and "terribly wrong.”
As you can see, this is the claim which Harris and Halperin reprise in their book. According to the editors, when Clinton was impeached in December, Gore said that he was a great president. But just that week—some six months later—Gore had “suddenly decided” that Clinton’s conduct was “inexcusable” and “terribly wrong.” Al Gore had gone and flip-flopped again! Al Gore was a big phony LIAR.

Seven years later, Harris and Halperin are still willing to pimp this bogus script, even as they decry the Freak Show. But this script was part of that campaign’s Freak Show. Is it possible that Harris and Halperin don’t know that? Let’s go back and get clear on the reasons why this claim by the New York Post was so wrong.

Was it true? Had Gore “suddenly decided,” in June 1999, to say that Clinton’s conduct with Monica Lewinsky had been “inexcusable,” “terribly wrong?” In one of the million-and-one such claims against Gore which defined the “Freak Show” of Campaign 2000, the New York Post—and a string of others—were making this accusation this week. But this claim was blatantly false, as anyone who read John Harris’ Washington Post would have known perfectly well.

In fact, Gore had routinely condemned Clinton’s conduct in the nine months before his June announcement. Back on September 19, 1998, Ceci Connolly had first reported Gore’s views in the Washington Post. “Acknowledging that President Clinton's behavior in the Monica S. Lewinsky controversy has been ‘indefensible,’ Vice President Gore said today he nevertheless feels sympathy for a suffering friend and does not want Clinton to resign,” she wrote. Four days later, she reported Gore’s views again. “In his public appearances, Gore is unwavering in his support of administration policies,” Connolly wrote on September 23, 1998. “At the same time, Gore has said repeatedly that Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky was ‘indefensible.’”

None of this was confusing or hard to follow. Gore thought Clinton’s conduct was “indefensible,” but it didn’t warrant impeachment. And major news orgs kept reporting Gore’s views—views which jibed with Clinton’s statements about his own misconduct. For example, on December 14, 1998, with the House impeachment vote drawing near, the Associated Press reported Gore’s latest statement. “Gore said Americans agree that Clinton's actions in the Monica Lewinsky affair were ‘terribly wrong,’ ” the AP reported. “But he says an ‘overwhelming’ majority don't want Clinton to be impeached and removed from office.”

Gore had repeatedly stated his views. But two months later, in February 1999, Connolly reported an odd complaint. RNC chairman Jim Nicholson had told reporters that Gore “has not shown the courage or character” to criticize Clinton, "even for his self-admitted behavior...He's the only politician in America who hasn't done that.” Nicholson’s charge was plainly absurd—as a matter of fact, it was simply a lie, like so many things that Nicholson said during the course of Campaign 2000. Result? Connolly ran through Gore’s past statements about Clinton again (Washington Post, 2/27/99). But for Gore, the questions about Bill-and-Mo just kept coming. A few weeks later, he made his first informal campaign trip to New Hampshire; in response to a reporter’s question, Gore stated his views once again. “When he made a terrible personal mistake and it came out that he actually did, I condemned it, and I condemn it again today,” Gore said, quoted by Connolly. "It was indefensible, terribly wrong. He apologized for it and the American people made a judgment that they wanted to move on, and I think that judgment still holds.” Connolly had now been reporting these statements for a period of more than six months.

Readers, how many times must the cannonball fly? As noted, none of this was confusing or even modestly hard to follow. According to Gore, Clinton’s conduct with Lewinsky had been “indefensible, terribly wrong”—but it didn’t warrant removal from office. According to a long string of polls, American voters had agreed with those judgments, even at the height of the scandal. But no matter how often Gore stated these views, journalists wanted to hear them again—and they often feigned confusion about his deeply perplexing positions. Result? When Gore made his formal kick-off speech, the press was still rocking to one major rhythm—the seductive samba known as Monica. What did Gore think about Clinton and Monica? In his June 16 interview on 20/20, Sawyer asked Gore about this treasured subject again. And, by God, Gore restated his views. Quoting himself, he said the same thing he’d been saying for nine solid months:
GORE (6/16/99): I've said, and I'll say again, what he did was inexcusable, and particularly as a father, I felt that it was terribly wrong, obviously. But I do believe that with the good grace and good sense of the American people, we have been able to get through it.
Gore told Sawyer the very same things he had been saying for nine solid months. Result? Of course! The “Freak Show” swung into action! The New York Post ran an editorial which flatly misstated the facts of the matter—and called Gore a LIAR, all caps. And dissemblers in the mainstream press ran to play “Freak Show” games too.

Because omigod! The New York Post’s editors had plenty of company in making their inaccurate claim about Gore—the nasty and blatantly inaccurate claim which allowed them to call Gore a LIAR. Around the press corps, many scribes were now saying (or implying) that Phony Gore had only begun to criticize Clinton’s conduct that very week. To state the obvious, conservative hit-men were voicing this theme all around their cable lairs. “It was very interesting to watch Al Gore talk about the scandal and impeachment,” Sean Hannity said on June 17, speaking of the Sawyer interview. “His silence was deafening while it was happening. And now he’s saying it’s inexcusable.” On Hardball, Tony Blankley even recited the words of the New York Post editorial—two days before the editorial appeared. “Was he lying then or lying now?” he asked his host, Chris Matthews. Nicholson had floated the bogus claim four months earlier. Now, professional liars like Hannity and Blankley ran the claim out onto the air. And professional enablers—people like Matthews—sat by and allowed them to do it.

But it wasn’t just the “right-wing noise machine” which was voicing this blatant canard about Gore. Omigod! At the Washington Post, Connolly even got in on the action! Yes, she had to be somewhat careful, because she had frequently reported the actual facts, stretching all the way back to September. She had to mislead without overtly lying—but Connolly would always be up to that task! Here’s what she wrote on June 16—the day of Gore’s kick-off speech. You’ll note that she keeps it technically accurate—but her passage is so close to what the New York Post editors wrote two days later that the eds may well have cut-and-pasted her work, then jacked up her prose:
CONNOLLY (6/16/99): Gore begins his 2000 marathon carrying Clinton baggage. Whatever private misgivings he may have had about the president's personal conduct, he soldiered loyally in public. Most famously, on Dec. 19, the day Clinton was impeached, Gore appeared at a South Lawn pep rally to say the vote "does a great disservice to a man I believe will be regarded in the history books as one of our greatest presidents."

Now, however, Gore is blunt in his criticism of the president's affair: "I want you to understand that there shouldn't be any mystery," he told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an interview to air on "20/20" tonight. "I thought it was awful, I thought it was inexcusable. But I made a commitment to serve this country as vice president."
Now, Gore is blunt in his criticism of Clinton? Connolly went on to quote Gore telling Sawyer the very same things he had said all along! And Connolly knew about Gore’s past statements; she had reported these statements again and again. For that reason, this was the best she could offer Nicholson this day. She could only provide a misleading insinuation—an insinuation which was soon blown up into the New York Post’s false LIAR tale.

Connolly, of course, was willing to push it. Had Gore just started criticizing Clinton “now?” She made this insinuation three times in eleven days—the third time, on June 27, in a report she co-authored with Harris! Meanwhile, at the New York Times, Katherine “Kit” Seelye was a bit more bold. Seelye just flat-out misstated:
SEELYE (6/17/99): While Mr. Gore has said—and repeated tonight in a taped interview on the ABC News program "20/20"—that Mr. Clinton's behavior was inexcusable, he had not said publicly before that he was upset over the time that was squandered. During the impeachment scandal, Mr. Gore stood loyally behind the President and declined to criticize him.
Say what? “During the impeachment scandal, Mr. Gore...declined to criticize Clinton?”That, of course, was baldly untrue—and Seelye had reported Gore’s past statements, just as Connolly had done. But “Kit” showed more courage than Ceci this day. She went beyond mere insinuation. She constructed a bewildering, self-contradictory paragraph—a paragraph which ended with a bald misstatement. No, let’s say it—a paragraph which ended with a bald, flat-out lie.

And now, seven years later, Harris repeats this canard once again. From September 1998 through June 1999, Gore consistently said the same things. He said that Clinton’s behavior had been “terribly wrong”—but he said he had been a superlative president, whose conduct didn’t merit impeachment. None of that was ever confusing—except to boys like this:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (pages 130-131): In the eyes of Washington’s elite reporters and political operatives, Al Gore’s biggest political problems all derived from Bill Clinton. Gore had defended Clinton on the day of impeachment, then condemned his conduct when he entered the presidential race.
What do we do with boys of this type? In fact, Gore had “condemned Clinton’s conduct” every step of the way! He had condemned Clinton’s conduct in September 98. He had condemned it during the week of impeachment. He had condemned it in March, when he first campaigned in New Hampshire. And then, in June, he condemned it again—telling Sawyer the very same things he had told everyone else all along. But seven years later, Harris and Halperin keep repeating the bogus tale—Al Gore “condemned Clinton’s conduct when he entered the race.” Seven years ago, Jim Nicholson put this bogus claim out. Seven years later, these weak-minded boys are still pimping The Chairman’s False Tale.

What do we do with a boy like John Harris? He seems to want to tell the truth—but seems unwilling to pay the price. He decries the Freak Show—but keeps telling its tales. Boys like this have a Freak Show Within—a Freak Show which won’t let them go.

A BIT OF PERSPECTIVE: Al Gore “suddenly decided” to criticize Clinton! No, this wasn’t one of the major, iconic false tales which eventually sent George Bush to the White House. It wasn’t Al Gore said he invented the Internet. It wasn’t Al Gore said he inspired Love Story. It wasn’t Al Gore said he grew up on a farm when he actually grew up in Washington. It wasn’t Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal. It wasn’t Al Gore hired a woman to teach him how to be a man. It wasn’t Naomi Wolf told Al Gore to wear earth tones. It wasn’t Al Gore lied about Bradley’s health plan. It wasn’t Al Gore doesn’t know who he is. It wasn’t Al Gore has a problem with the truth. It wasn’t even that other Nicholson favorite: Al Gore wants to eliminate the automobile as we know it!

What was this tale, which still lives in Harris and Halperin’s puzzling book? It was one of the million-and-one daily tales which helped define Gore as a LIAR. These claims routinely started with Nicholson, then made their way through the mainstream press. Actual journalists would have written pieces with headlines like this: “JIM NICHOLSON, LIAR.” (One Richmond columnist—Marsha Mercer—actually did!) But Ceci Connolly peddled Nicholson’s garbage for twenty straight months during Campaign 2000. And omigod! In their book, Harris and Halperin almost say that she did so! But then, the boys seem to get very scared, and they start repeating Nicholson’s tales—such as the one we’ve just run through.

Al Gore “suddenly decided” to criticize Clinton? The tale came and went in a matter of weeks. But many voters heard Gore called a LIAR because he’d engaged in this troubling conduct. The press corps’ liars repeated the tale. The Dionnes and the Riches allowed it.