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CONTEMPT (PART 2)! Clowning about Howell Raines and Al Gore, Bernie G shows contempt for your discourse:


RAINES MAKER: You really need contempt for your readers to play them the way Bernie Goldberg does. Is Margaret Carlson the queen of all Hillary Shills? Bernie wanted readers to think so. So he cadged a quote from a piece by Carlson—a piece which focussed on Clinton’s alleged “character flaws”—and he let his readers enjoy a good cry about the way mainstream pundits love Hill (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/17/03). Carlson was showing her “endless devotion to Ms. Hillary,” Bernie said—offering as proof a quote from a piece which mocked the senator’s greed and ambition! Readers weren’t told that Margaret Carlson routinely trashes Hillary Clinton. Bernie wanted his readers’ cash—so he fed them a story they’d pay for.

But so it goes all through Goldberg’s work. Yes, it takes a special kind of man to mislead readers the way Bernie does. But he did it all through his clowning work Bias, and he does it all through Arrogance, too. Consider the way he misleads his readers about the appalling New York Times.

To state the obvious, no pseudo-conservative can enjoy a good cry without lambasting the evil Times—without engaging in endless clowning about that paper’s intense liberal bias. Bernie was eager to fool the rubes. So he handed the rubes some pure bullsh*t:

GOLDBERG (page 66): A lot of people—and not just conservatives—think [the Times] hit rock bottom in 2001, when Howell Raines took over as executive editor…

Raines was famously quoted as saying that “the Reagan years oppressed me.” He has also declared that Reagan, a man beloved by millions of his countrymen, “couldn’t tie his shoelaces if his life depended on it.”

In contrast, there was his view of Bill Clinton: “Huge political talent,” declared Raines when Charlie Rose asked how he thought history would regard Clinton. “Huge political vision…I think President Clinton’s role in modernizing the Democratic party around a set of economic ideas and also holding onto the principles of social justice, and presiding over the greatest prosperity in human history—those would seem to me to be central to his legacy.”

There you have it. Bernie’s readers can enjoy a good cry about the way Raines just loved Mr. Bill.

Did the Times hit rock bottom when Raines took control? We’re not sure, but Goldberg is careful to avoid discussing Raines’ prior record as editorial page editor. Yes, it’s true—Raines showed poor judgment during his career at the Times. But how did he show that poor judgment before 2001? Goldberg’s readers will never find out, but Raines showed his judgment with years of editorials trashing the monstrous Bill Clinton! And it’s not like Bernie doesn’t know this fact. Indeed, just before the quote from Charlie Rose which Goldberg cites, Rose and Raines mordantly chuckled about the way Raines beat up on Clinton. This January, in the Nation, Eric Alterman took a look at the record:

ALTERMAN: When [Raines] ran the editorial page, it sounded almost like the Wall Street Journal on Bill Clinton and Monicagate. “Until it was measured by Kenneth Starr,” thundered the voice of the paper of record, “no citizen—indeed, perhaps no member of his own family—could have grasped the completeness of President Clinton’s mendacity or the magnitude of his recklessness.” Meanwhile, the only problem with Starr’s Torquemada-like investigation, opined the Times, was “legal klutziness…In the main, Mr. Starr did his legal duty.” As Michael Tomasky pointed out in these pages, as of December 13, 1998, the day after the House Judiciary Committee voted on the fourth and final article of impeachment, this alleged bastion of Upper West Side knee-jerk liberalism had published some fifty-five editorials in re Monica Lewinsky. Exactly two concerned themselves with Starr’s egregious investigative techniques. The other fifty-three found fault with the President.
According to Raines, he only opposed Clinton’s removal from office, not his impeachment; he said this to Rose only moments before the quote which Goldberg cites. Bernie knows that—but his readers won’t have to. Goldberg wants them to enjoy a good cry, so he cherry-picks quotes about Reagan and Clinton, and lets them draw their own (misleading) conclusions. Nor will Goldberg’s readers know about front-page Times clowning before Howell’s reign—for example, about the way the Times invented the Whitewater pseudo-scandal with a series of deeply-flawed front-page reports whose “errors” have never been explained. An honest story would defeat Bernie’s purpose. So that story just can’t be told.

Even more laughable is Goldberg’s take on the way the Times covered Al Gore. As readers will know, the Times’ coverage of Campaign 2000 was so unbalanced that even the mainstream press finally noticed; by the summer of 2000, industry shills were trying to explain why Frank Bruni was going so easy on Bush while Katharine Seelye was chopping up Gore. In August 2000, the Financial Times finally stated the obvious; in her coverage of Gore, Seelye was “doing little to hide [her] contempt for the candidate and his team,” the London paper correctly noted. But Bernie wanted readers to think something false; Bernie wanted readers to think that the Times pandered hard to its darling, Al Gore. He knows this is consummate bullroar, of course. But he found a slick way to imply it:

GOLDBERG (page 65): By now some of the stuff the paper was running, even on its front page, was so slanted it was funny—almost. For example, during the 2000 presidential campaign, on September 12 to be exact, the Times ran a page-one piece headlined “Democrats See, and Smell, Rats in G.O.P. Ad.” The story, which turned out to have been fed to the Times reporter by the Gore campaign, claimed that the Republicans were trying to slip voters negative information about the Democrats subliminally, under the radar—a charge that was categorically denied by the ad’s producer…
Goldberg goes on to weep and moan about this story by Richard Berke—a story which we described at the time as “the latest example of the press corps’ devotion to trivia.” (For a second, fuller quote, see below.) But Berke’s report, however absurd, was unlike the vast bulk of New York Times coverage. This story appeared in the brief, three-week period when the mainstream press corps swung in Gore’s favor—the period after the Democratic convention, when Gore took the lead in the national polls. But Gore’s strange honeymoon would be brief. Six days after Berke’s story appeared, the press corps was once again gimmicking tales about alleged “lies” which Gore never told (see below), and Berke was writing nasty stories explaining why Gore was such a Big Liar. Why was Gore such a liar, by the way? Because his mom was a Big Liar too, Berke explained. Goldberg brushes these moments aside as he peddles his rank, phony story.

It really takes a special man to mislead readers the way Goldberg does. It takes a man with contempt for their souls—and a man with contempt for your discourse.

BERKE’S FOLLY: Berke’s “RATS” report was utterly laughable. But because the story hurt Bush and helped Gore, it was hugely unlike the Times’ overall coverage. For the record, here’s how we began one piece that September. We wrote this as part of our “Howlings” column for Links are no longer available:

HOWLINGS/SPEAKOUT.COM (9/20/00): When it put the “RATS” story on page one, the New York Times bowed low to King Trivia. And the national press corps also bowed down, having fun with the tale for a week. It also was trivial when Governor Bush said a naughty word [“major-league asshole”] near an open mike. “Issues” like these aren’t worth a rat’s #$$. But they bring squeals of delight to the press corps.
As Goldberg notes, the RATS story appeared on September 12. But quickly, the press turned back against Gore. On September 18, the Boston Globe’s Walter Robinson broke the ludicrous doggy-pill tale; on September 20, Walter Shapiro came up with the inexcusable “union lullaby” nonsense. The coverage turned back hard against Gore. In the Times, Richard Berke was soon explaining what a Big Liar Gore’s mother was.

So Goldberg types an edited tale. He wants to give readers a good, soothing cry. If he has to mislead them, he’s eager to do so—and to show his contempt for your discourse.

LOOSE END: By the way, what about that oddly truncated quote from Raines—the one in which he says that Reagan “couldn’t tie his shoelaces if his life depended on it?” Careful! It’s clear that Raines thought poorly of the Reagan Admin, although he told Brian Lamb in a 1994 Booknotes that “President Reagan himself was as genial a person as one could want, and I think at bottom a caring person.” (File under: Quotes you’ll never hear from Bernie.) But what about the “shoelaces” quote? Careful! We’ve never seen the full quotation—it doesn’t seem to exist on Nexis or Google—but it comes from Raines’ 1993 book, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis, a book that is largely about…fly fishing! (Kirkus capsule: “A bold and eloquent work in which New York Times editorial page director looks at his obsession with fly fishing.”) Meanwhile, Goldberg has cadged the “shoelaces” quote from the Media Research Center, a gang that routinely sets the gold standard for taking quotations out of any sane context. There’s no doubt that Raines thought poorly of the Reagan Admin—but what was the “shoelaces” quote all about? Here at THE HOWLER, we won’t be shocked if the quote is connected to that book’s discussion of fly-tying. (Yes, the book discusses several fly-fishing presidents.) Any chance that the “shoelaces” quote is a rumination about a certain “genial” person—about how he’d do on the river or stream? Here at THE HOWLER, we simply don’t know. But with Goldberg, one must always ask.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: In Bias, Goldberg ranted and railed about a vile quote—a quote which, as it turned out, concerned insects! Can you see why you have to look everything up? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/12/02. Enjoy a good laugh, but remember one point: Bernie Goldberg has contempt for your discourse.