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NEWS YOU CAN LOSE, PART 2! Hume’s pundits had never heard of Myers and Tenet. They knew it was news they should lose:


NEWS YOU CAN LOSE (PART 2): Michael Kelly always gets the spin first. On November 20, he had the new points on Gore:

KELLY: The unsubtle Gore made his initial move with a strategy declaration that…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.
Whoever was handing out the spins, angry-man Kelly now had them. Gore was proposing single-payer—the idea for which he savaged Bradley. And Gore’s critique of Bush’s war effort was strident but incoherent.

Kelly’s first spin was simply wrong—a blatant misstatement of fact (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/25/02). But his spin on the war was something much worse—an insult to the American public interest. Even at a time of war and great danger, our celebrity courtiers just won’t stop their spinning—even if it means misleading the public about matters of national peril.

Were Gore’s attacks on Bush “incoherent?” As we noted yesterday, Gore has cited two well-known authorities—the current head of the CIA and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff! In recent weeks, the CIA’s Tenet has said that al Qaeda poses the same level of threat that it posed before 9/11. And General Myers, of the Joint Chiefs? He has said that the U.S. is sliding backward in Afghanistan, with warlords and the Taliban regaining power. For the statements of Tenet, Myers and Gore, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/26/02.

Was Gore’s critique of the war “incoherent?” In fact, he cited troubling statements by two high authorities. But ever since the recent election, courtier pundits have been running hard to promote their careers, racing to polish the boots of New Power. They want to avoid discussing matters which might be awkward for Triumphant Bush. And, of course, they want to sustain their cohort’s mighty, long-standing War Against Gore.

So celebrity courtiers—“butt-boys,” Imus says—ran to call Gore’s remarks “incoherent.” How far will these people go to deceive you, even at this time of peril? To answer that, let’s look in on those self-proclaimed “all-stars” on last Thursday’s Special Report.

Brit Hume started the session by quoting a recent Gore interview. Like a laser, he focused on Afghanistan:

HUME: Let’s take a look at these politically interesting comments that former Vice President Gore has been making…First of all, this is what he says about the situation in Afghanistan. “Now the warlords are back in control, the Taliban is back and for a variety of reasons al Qaeda is back at full strength and Usama bin Laden is back making his threats against the U.S.” That’s Al Gore with the AP yesterday…All right, let’s take these things in turn. Warlords back in control, Taliban back, al Qaeda at full strength, Usama back. What about that?
What about that? In truth, there was nothing complex about Gore’s remarks. Al Qaeda back at full strength? A reference to Tenet’s assessment. Taliban back in Afghanistan? A reference to what Myers said (see yesterday’s DAILY HOWLER). Surely, every competent pundit would know it. But Mara Liasson quickly embroidered something Gore had said:
LIASSON (continuing directly): Well, if you want to take them one by one, some warlords are back. But the Taliban? I’m a little unclear about that one. I haven’t seen any evidence of the Taliban being back in control. Now, al Qaeda being back at full strength, I think is debatable. Al Qaeda being back in some form, I think that the administration has admitted that. And Usama is back making his threats. I mean if you go through this, some of them are correct, and some of them aren’t.
Of course, Gore hadn’t said that the Taliban was “back in control.” But General Myers had said that Taliban forces were regaining power, and Gore had explicitly cited his comment; Liasson either didn’t know, or was simply prepared to pretend. (Liasson didn’t seem to know what Gore meant about al Qaeda, either.) And now, each of the all-stars took his turn shaking his head over Gore’s puzzling statements. Jeff Birnbaum often leads the way when it comes time to cower before power:
BIRNBAUM: Yes, I think that Al Gore is speaking the way Democrats were supposed to have spoken. That is boldly, you know, getting right to the nub of things, saying things strongly. But he’s also saying things that are completely false, which is the problem.

FRED BARNES: That is a problem.

BIRNBAUM: That is the problem, because in particular when it comes to al Qaeda, I think al Qaeda is very much weakened from where it was, with an arrest just today I believe.

HUME: Right.

BIRNBAUM: Another al Qaeda leader, so I think that Gore is setting himself up as the anti-Bush even when there isn’t an opposing side to be on.

There isn’t an opposing side to be on! Could someone inform General Myers on that? By the way, could these people have less of a clue? Birnbaum and Hume were completely wrong about that day’s alleged arrest. In fact, there had been no arrest that day; instead, the name of an al Qaeda leader arrested weeks earlier had finally been released. But then, yowling ignorance of simple facts is par for the course on Fox these days. If we take these folks at their word, total ignorance of the simplest facts turns up as their number one export.

Are the “all-stars” really this dumb? Or are the all-stars dumb like a fox? Fred Barnes now joined Mara. The puzzled all-stars scratched their heads over Gore’s deeply troubling statements:

BARNES: I mean, this stuff is mostly false that Gore is saying. And in addition, he’s used the argument that by concentrating on Iraq, the President has not spent enough time and has not been focused properly on the War on terrorism. Well, what? What happened as a result of that? What can—I’d like Gore to point to some thing that didn’t happen in the War on Terrorism because the President was concentrating on Iraq. I’d like some examples. Maybe he had some. I don’t know any.

LIASSON: The problem with that is the only proof of that proposition is there’s another attack that America is unprepared for and you know, that hasn’t happened. We don’t know.

“We don’t know,” Liasson said—and if one can take this pair at their word, truer words were never spoken. Only two weeks earlier, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had said we were backsliding in the War on Terror. Gore had specifically cited his statement. But Barnes and Liasson both puzzled hard over what Gore could possibly have meant.

Where did things stand by the end of this session? No one mentioned what Tenet had said. None of the pundits mentioned Myers. But the self-proclaimed all-stars were all deeply troubled by the “completely false” things Gore had said! According to Hume, Gore had said “a series of thing that are outright false about rather serious matters.” Birnbaum agreed: “He is much more partisan than the old Al Gore was, even to the extent of breaking up—stretching the truth to the breaking point.” Fred Barnes finished things off, as only this tired old spinner can do it:

BARNES (11/21/02): Here’s the point though, what would Al Gore do? He says that the warlords are back in control. What would he do? Would he occupy—militarily occupy all of Afghanistan, which the Soviets tried and the British tried in the 19th century? Didn’t work too well. Would he increase defense spending? What would he do? I mean, there’s a lot of criticism and a lot of it is false, but what’s the Gore plan? I’d like to hear it.
What would Gore do? Here’s what he’d said to Katie Couric two days earlier. Two days earlier, Gore had explicitly answered Fred’s question. Fred must have been dozing off:
GORE (11/19/02): What would I have done differently? Well, first of all, I praised President Bush for his immediate responses to 9/11, and I think he did a magnificent job rallying the country. Soon thereafter, I think we did lose focus. First, by refusing to allow the international community to put enough forces into Afghanistan to establish peace and order there. Now the warlords are back in control, the Taliban is back in the country, and al Qaeda is back at the—posing as much of a threat, according to our intelligence agencies, as they did in the weeks leading up to September 11th. I think it was a mistake to allow that to happen. I think we should have been single-minded.
It’s easy to say what Gore would do—but Barnes kept viewers in the dark. For the record, this nonsense continued on Fox News Sunday, with more completely hapless “analysis” of the troubling things Vile Gore had said.

You get two choices as you watch these pundits. First possibility: They may be just as uninformed as they would have you believe. After all, this is the Washington press corps—and this is the Fox News Channel. Two days later, Peter Beinart would appear on Fox and say that, “as far as I can tell,” Gore hadn’t said what he’d do about the Bush tax cuts (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/25/02). With this crew, complete, total, howling ignorance is pretty much par for the course. And usually, as with Beinart’s astounding performance, it comes with a big dose of ’tude.

But there is a second, more likely possibility. These people may know what Tenet has said. They may know all about General Myers. And it may be that Mara, Fred and Jeff understand what Gore has said, too. In short, these people may simply be spinning you blue—deceiving you at a time of great peril. They may simply be promoting key scripts—hiding awkward news about Bush, and trying to cashier Gore as they do. Don’t doubt for a minute that this may be true. These people spun you throughout the 2000 race. Don’t doubt that they’re spinning now, too.

What species of people behave this way, even at a time of great peril? Barnes, Liasson, Birnbaum, Hume—they are, without question, a “special” breed. The American people deserve to know what Myers and Tenet and Gore have said. Such figures deserve to have their words reported and respected. And, at a time of major peril, great nations will want to discuss such statements. But over at Fox, they’re spinning you blue. Courtier pundits are bowing to power—and they’re reciting their net’s approved scripts. Myers and Tenet? That was news they could lose. Gore, of course, is always lying.

Gore’s critique was “incoherent,” Kelly said. It took a special breed to say it. But your pundit corps spills with such special cats. You live at a time of managed news. Hume, Barnes and Liasson do it.

NEWS THEY COULD LOSE: General Myers’ statement was reported atop front page of the Washington Post on Friday morning, November 8. It was discussed that evening on Hardball. According to a Nexis search, it has never been mentioned on Fox.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Here’s part of the exchange from that November 8 Hardball, with Sebastian Junger providing the “incoherence.” It takes a special breed of cat to pretend that Myers never spoke, and to pretend that Gore’s comments are “mostly false,” “completely false,” “outright false” or “incoherent.” But that special breed is available nightly, spinning out fables on Fox:

MATTHEWS: In a speech earlier this week joint chiefs of staff Chairman Richard Myers had this to say about the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Quote, “I think in a sense we’ve lost a little momentum there to be frank. They’ve made lots of adaptations to our tactics and we’ve got to continue to think and try to outthink them and to be faster at it.” Sebastian, what do you hear? I keep hearing things from the strangest sources that that war over in Afghanistan has gotten to be really bad. People say get out now. Other people say stay forever, you’ve got a nation to build. What is it?

JUNGER: Well, I think the best way to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan is to make sure Afghanistan doesn’t fall into the chaos that gave a home to al Qaeda a few years ago. In my opinion, we really do need to nation-build there. We need more troops and much, much more money. We’re willing to spend $9 billion a month to invade Iraq, and al Qaeda is barely in Iraq. They’re from Afghanistan, or they had a home there, and it’s absolutely imperative that we support that country.

MATTHEWS: What do we have to do? Do we have to support a government that becomes strong enough to challenge al Qaeda or do we have to stand there ourselves and do it?

JUNGER: Well, al Qaeda is not functioning in Afghanistan right now, but it will be very, very quickly if the situation there falls apart. 5,000 American peacekeepers, American troops in Afghanistan, is a joke. In Kosovo, a much smaller country, there are 50,000. We need troops on that order. President Bush requested $350 million to rebuild the country. It’s a drop in the bucket. It’s ridiculous. It’s not going to work at those levels.

Oops! Like Myers, Junger suggested that Triumphant Bush had misfired in part of the war. By definition, that makes his remarks “incoherent.” Don’t look for such comments on Fox.