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TRY TO BELIEVE THAT THEY SAID IT! Brian and Howard found a way to spin Gore. Just try to believe that they said it:


OUR EMPTIEST SUIT: Did we note that a fight for the soul of the press corps is on? With that in mind, try to believe the following transcript, from Tuesday night’s News with Brian Williams. During Campaign 2000, Williams was one of the press corps’ most mindless Gore-bashers—author of some of the most vacuous commentary ever seen on American TV. On Tuesday’s program, Williams interviewed Liza Mundy, who profiled Gore for the Post’s Sunday magazine. Also appearing was Howard Fineman. Try to believe that this happened:

WILLIAMS: Good evening to you all. And Liza, you knew you this was coming. You get to start this off. So you’re home this weekend. You filed this story for the Sunday magazine. The phone rings, and take it away.

MUNDY: Well, it was a Saturday morning, the phone rang, and my daughter answered, my seven-year-old. We were getting ready to go to a birthday party, and she took the call, and she gave the phone to me, and I said, “Hello.” I thought it was somebody calling to ask for a ride to the birthday party, but it was Al Gore.

WILLIAMS: And what did he have to say?

MUNDY: Well, he was unhappy. My story had come out that morning. He was unhappy not at the story, which he said he hadn’t read, but because a couple of quotes from it had appeared in the Washington Post the day before. There had been an agreement that we would not release transcripts from the story, but some other news organization had released their transcript early, and the newspaper felt once they were doing a story on those transcripts that we had to mention the fact that we had a story too and include a few quotes. It was a conversation he was certainly entitled to have. It would have made more sense, I think, to have it with an editor at the Post in the office, since it was not a decision that I had been involved in. It was above my pay grade, as they say.

WILLIAMS: Well, while we’re talking journalism here and where it connects with politics, Howard Fineman, why would the former vice president, presidential candidate care that much to call, in this case, a seven-year-old and talk to—talk to the mom of the house, but raise—raise this point during this media campaign?

Just try to believe that Williams did this—wasted time on so pointless a matter, then offered the ludicrous assessment we’ve read, in which Gore seems to be at fault because Mundy’s daughter answered the phone. And try to believe that the well-scripted Fineman then offered this instant “analysis:”
FINEMAN (continuing directly): Well, I think there are many pluses and minuses to Al Gore as a public figure, and one of the minuses might be a tendency to micromanage down to the seven-year-old level. It was clearly unnecessary.
And no, we’re not making this up! The fact that the seven-year-old daughter answered the phone is, to Fineman, Gore’s fault and doing. “It was clearly unnecessary,” The Scripted One says—as the battle for the soul of our press corps continues. By the way, note the logic of this mindless discussion. The Washington Post breaks a promise to Gore. When he calls to ask why, he gets trashed.

But then, Williams and Fineman engaged in such sessions all through Campaign 2000. As long as the pair could express Standard Spin-Points, there was simply no subject too trivial to ponder, no judgment too numbingly stupid to express. Without question, Williams is one of the emptiest suits ever seen on so major a stage. And clearly, Fineman is willing to do and say anything—as long as he can shape-shift events into stories his cohort prefers.

One person here was still normal. That person, of course, was Liza Mundy. Here is the exchange which ensued when Williams returned to his guest:

WILLIAMS: Liza, just so people don’t think you spend your time going to birthday parties, that was an extraordinary piece of journalism in the Sunday Washington Post magazine section, the way you trailed him and illustrated what he’s like on the road. How is he in the humility area? After all, what a come-down to then make a conscious decision to go out and meet those same people across the country face to face again.

MUNDY: Well, I think he’s really—let me say, I don’t want to make a too-big deal about the call at home. It’s—it’s, it’s sort of legendary in my family now and—

WILLIAMS: Well, it is now.

Of course, if Mundy doesn’t want to make a big deal out of trivia, she should stay away from this empty man’s program. (By the way: Imagine Williams questioning someone’s humility!) But, finally answering the question on Gore, the scribe made the following statement:
MUNDY: He has achieved, I think, a real grace on the road, and he does a very good shtick about his come-down. And he likes to say to audiences, you know, “Imagine what my life has been like for the past two years.” And they’ll sort of get alarmed there’s going to be some terrible confession, and then he’ll say, “They let other cars on the road with me now.” And then people will laugh, and he’ll say, “It slows you down.”
That, of course, is the same shtick—where audiences laugh—which led the self-described all-stars over at Fox to tell us how bitter Gore is (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/02). Mundy—who was there—referred to Gore’s grace. They weren’t there—and they told preferred stories.

According to Mundy, Gore has achieved a real grace on the road. It’s too bad Brian Williams hasn’t. Williams is one of the emptiest humans ever to hold so high a place in our public discourse—an illustration of the terrible problem afflicting our troubled democracy. In Campaign 2000, Williams insulted the public interest again and again with his endless spinning of Gore; there is every sign that his work will continue. As we’ve told you, the fight for the soul of the press corps is on as Target One comes back center stage. Just try to believe that this mindless discussion occurred. And oh yeah—get ready for others.

SINGLE BRAIN CELL: Michael Kelly is good with his spin-points. Here’s how he started on Wednesday:

KELLY: A terrible banality is born. Again. The rollout of the new, putatively 2004, model Gore is now well underway.
Hay-yo! As we told you on Tuesday, Al Gore is constantly reinventing himself is one of the pundit corps’ great, mighty themes—applied in every situation during Campaign 2000 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/02). And Kelly loves the mighty spin-point—he flogs “the new Al Gore,” “a new Gore,” and “the effort to reposition Gore” throughout this well-scripted column. But when Kelly speaks of “a terrible banality,” he seems to be describing himself. If Gore runs, what will his stand on health care be? At this point, we don’t really know, but that doesn’t stop Kelly’s shouting:
KELLY: The unsubtle Gore made his initial move with a strategy declaration that, henceforth and in implicit contrast with his posture of 2000, he would “speak from the heart and let the chips fall where they may.” He followed this with strident but incoherent attacks on President Bush over the handling of the war on terrorism and the economy, and, most recently, with the pronouncement that Gore had “reluctantly come to the conclusion” that the solution to the “impending crisis” in American health care was the “single-payer national health insurance plan”—the idea he savaged his 2000 Democratic primary opponent, Bill Bradley, for supporting.
Has Gore’s critique of Bush-on-terrorism been “incoherent?” In fact, it’s the same critique Brent Scowcroft made; it may be right or it may be wrong, but it’s only “incoherent” to half-wits. But then, this is Michael Kelly. Does the man ever know what he’s talking about? For example, did Bradley support “single-payer insurance?” Sorry. Kelly’s own paper never described Bradley’s plan that way—except to draw a contrast. Here was the Post’s John Harris on December 21, 1999, in a lengthy profile of the Gore/Bradley health plans: “Bradley does not accept some of the more far-reaching proposals of some Democrats, such as the idea that government should impose a ‘single-payer’ system covering all people equally.” And here was Mike Allen, about six weeks earlier:
ALLEN: Bradley’s audience today was the American Public Health Association, a largely liberal group whose leaders want a plan even bigger than his. Some argued for medical insurance for homeless people, and for illegal aliens. Victor A. Sidel, professor of social medicine from the Bronx, N.Y., wore a button saying, “We Want F.D.R. Again.”

Many in the audience of doctors, nurses and other public health workers strongly favor a single-payer national health insurance program, which would amount to a complete reconfiguring of the nation's medical system.

Afterward, the group’s executive director, Mohammad N. Akhter, called Bradley’s plan “the very best we have seen from a politician, but we need to go beyond this.”

No major paper described Bradley’s plan as “single-payer” because, of course, it wasn’t. What will Gore propose if he runs? At this point, we don’t really know. But don’t worry. Whatever Candidate Gore does propose, Kelly will instantly bungle the facts—and he’ll flawlessly state his great spin-points. Just try to believe that this hapless man still sits as a steward of our discourse.

HE WORKS RIGHT OUT OF HIS VAN: The notion that Gore was psychiatrically strange was widely spun during Campaign 2000. On Monday night, a free-lancing doctor was once again IN as some all-stars tried to puzzle out Gore. The session began with Mara Liasson presenting a great, mighty spin-point. On Special Report, it’s the law:

LIASSON: I hope this is the last invention of Al Gore, but to me it is the most interesting one. I mean, he says it’s going to let it rip and he seems to be doing that. He now is talking about a single-payer health system. He has gone farther than that timid speech he gave at Brookings, about the economic plan. He said he actually would roll back some of the tax cuts and tilt them more to the middle class.
Liasson found the “invention” intriguing. But then, a brilliant doctor was IN:
MORTON KONDRACKE: In the aftermath of the election, he is, you know, he is making himself—making people pay attention to him. I watched him on Letterman and I watched the Barbara Walters interview and I’ve read these various interviews of his, and he was hilarious on Letterman. You know, and then you get these sort of angry strident comments about Bush—we want to dominate the world? And all I can conclude is that Al—the new iteration—the new, new, new, new Al Gore is kind of bipolar. He’s sort of laughing on the one hand and a lefty on the other. And you don’t know which one you’re going to get which time.
Just try to believe that you read that! Sometimes Gore jokes, and sometimes he doesn’t. To Kondracke, that make him “bipolar.”

Kondracke is pushing some old old spin as he hammers away at the new new new Gore. But the shrink talk is really intolerable. It was widespread in Campaign 2000; some are toying with the theme once again. But then, a fight for the soul of the press corps is on. So far, Kondracke keeps losing.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For a taste of Brian Williams’ vacuous work in Campaign 2000, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/11/01, with links to earlier entries. Trust us—this is only a taste.

HOWLER hosannas will go to Josh Marshall. You know what to do. Just click here.