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MOTIVE MOUTHS! Gore endorsed Dean—and cited the war. On Fox, they preferred other motives:


DON’T MISS IT: In this morning’s Post, Howard Kurtz reviews the way Ted Koppel prepared for last night’s New Hampshire debate. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss this report in detail. Clearly, Koppel’s staff gave Kurtz full access thinking the process would make them look good. But how do Koppel and staff really look? You know what to do—just click here.

MOTIVE MOUTHS: Somehow, the Washington Post’s Michael Powell managed to hear what Gore said. This morning, he reports on Gore’s endorsement of Dean. Why was Gore endorsing Dean? He starts with one of Gore’s stated reasons:

POWELL (pgh 1): Former Vice President Al Gore returned Tuesday to a well-worn campaign trail and gave an emphatic endorsement to Howard Dean, proclaiming him the only presidential candidate with the courage and judgment to oppose the war in Iraq.
As Powell continues, he does the improbable—he actually quotes what Gore actually said! “Our nation in its 200-year history has never made a worse foreign policy mistake,” Gore tells an Iowa audience. “Therefore, it’s no minor matter to me that the only candidate with the judgment…to articulate the right choice was Howard Dean.”

Was the war in Iraq a gigantic mistake? That is a matter of judgment. Was Dean against the war from the start? Some Dean opponents dispute that. But Gore savaged the war in yesterday’s statements—and he said that’s why he was backing Dean. Somehow, Powell managed to state these facts right at the start of his story.

But you know those Washington pundits! If such empty suits didn’t exist, they would be very hard to imagine. How did pundits respond to Gore’s statement? Of course! All over TV last night, Motive Mouths swung into action—simpering cyphers who deftly explored the real reasons behind the endorsement. On Fox, the clowning was huge—and predictable. Brit Hume thumbed his list of Fox Democrats, and Susan Estrich was soon on the air.

“What was behind this?” Hume asked Estrich. Why was Gore endorsing Dean? And let us only make this point—in her entire session with Hume, Estrich never even mentioned the reason Gore himself had given. Why was Gore endorsing Dean? Breaking out her ouija board, Estrich rummaged through every earthly reason—except for the one Al Gore gave!

Was Gore backing Dean because of the war? Estrich never mentioned Gore’s statement! We offer you the entire session. Normal humans just can’t get this dumb:

HUME: So why did Al Gore abandon his former running mate to back a man who appears to be heading in the opposite direction from which Bill Clinton and Al Gore at one time, at least, tried to take it? For answers, we turn to Susan Estrich, law professor, Fox News contributor and long-time Democratic Party activist. Hi, Susan.

ESTRICH: Hi, Brit. How are you?

HUME: I’m well. Tell me about what—your take on this. And what was behind this, in your view?

ESTRICH: Well, I was really, very disappointed by Al Gore’s decision. I think, first of all, Joseph Lieberman deserved better. Gore himself was, at various points, very troubled by questions of loyalty, of Bill Clinton. And you know, you have to ask yourself why didn’t he wait two months? I mean, all he had to do, as a leader of the Democratic Party, as Joseph Lieberman’s former running mate, was to wait two months, give voters a chance to vote.

Dean is the front-runner. I think all the smart money says that he’ll probably win Iowa, almost certainly win New Hampshire. And at that point, Brit, as a leader, Gore could have stood up at a critical point in the process and said now it is time to come together.

But to jump out ahead of everybody else, step on his former running mate, kick Dick Gephardt, who carried the Clinton-Gore agenda for years in the House, put his ambitions aside in 2000 to endorse Al Gore, just seemed to me not the right move for Al Gore or for the party, for that matter.

HUME: But if he had waited, would his endorsement have meant as much to a nominee or to a candidate in a person of Dean whose candidacy would be much further advanced by two months from now, say?

ESTRICH: Well, meant as much in what respect? I mean—

HUME: Well, adding to momentum.

ESTRICH: I guess it—I guess the answer would be no. Would it have meant something different, all right? You know, what is Gore bringing today? It increases his sense of inevitability. Sure, if you’re Joe Trippi, the campaign manager, you love the greater sense of inevitability. It will make it very tough for the other guys to raise money. So yes, it helps in that way.

On the other hand, I can make the case if you are trying to be a party leader, that what leaders do is stay neutral until the voters a chance to actually vote and then pull the party together at that critical moment. And you know, if you look at it from Al Gore’s perspective, I mean here he is, the former vice president. He hardly wants an ambassadorship, a cabinet job. I mean, what is he looking for, king-maker credit?

HUME: You don’t think he’d take Secretary of State?

ESTRICH: Well, maybe he would. But I don’t think he should. Do you? I thought he was supposed to be going into business to compete with us, with the liberal network and what he’s done today is really piss off, I have to tell you, everybody who’s supporting a different candidate, everybody in the Democratic Leadership Council, which he helped form, the more moderate wing of the party. Many of whom are concerned, frankly, about Howard Dean. And if Howard Dean should be the nominee and not win, I got to tell you, the knives will be out for Al Gore.

So, maybe he helps himself become Secretary of State. But why would a former vice president even want to be Secretary of State? I just don’t get it. I don’t think Al Gore has very good political instincts. We just—we haven’t even mentioned all his former staff people working for Wesley Clark. I mean, maybe this is his way of saying John Kerry, as it were, to the Clintons. [Note: We don’t understand that sentence, either.] And I think there is some of that in here, too. But it really does set him apart from a lot of folks who have helped him in the Democratic Party.

HUME: Well, what about that element of it, that it would appear that the Clintons, to the extent that they’re tipping their hand on any sympathies here, are backing Wesley Clark? And Harold Ickes, close—someone close to Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, has been critical of Howard Dean, suggesting some concern there. Was Gore getting back at Bill Clinton for what he considered to be his disloyalty?

ESTRICH: Well, you can argue, when you look at the Clark campaign, it is just chock full of Clinton. But also Gore people. I mean there are all these guys in there who spent years sweating for Al Gore. So, if he was trying to get at the Clintons by doing in Wesley Clark, he got at his own people at the same time. And you keep coming back to the point of why? Maybe it’s just that he thinks Dean is the right guy and wanted to help him.

But it is not like Dean was falling on his face without Al Gore. I can make the case that Dean was on the road. And the one funny part that nobody’s focusing on here, Brit, is the old tradition in the Democratic Party. Which is that when somebody gets too far ahead of the game, there is a tendency in voters in states like Iowa to say, well, the heck with that, I’m going to revolt.

HUME: Well, particularly New Hampshire. I wanted to ask you about that.


HUME: New Hampshire has been exceedingly unkind to front-runners—

ESTRICH: To front-runners—

HUME: —in both parties.

ESTRICH: I’ve been there.

HUME: Yes. You bet. And I just wondered whether you think that this actually adds to this kind of momentum that New Hampshirites love to put the brakes on.

ESTRICH: You know, in all honesty, I still think Dean is the front-runner. I still think Dean is the man to beat. But if you are sitting in Gephardt’s camp tonight, or in Kerry’s camp tonight, you have to say your best shot may be some approach that that says don’t let them take your vote away.

HUME: Got you.

ESTRICH: And nobody has given up yet.

HUME: Susan Estrich, Great to have you. Thanks very much.

ESTRICH: Thanks.

“I just don’t get it,” Estrich said. Was Gore really angling for Secretary of State? Was he really getting back at the Clintons? The puzzled pundit cited every possible reason—except for the one Al Gore actually gave! “You keep coming back to the point of why,” Estrich pondered. But Gore explained why, as Powell reported. Somehow, Estrich knew not to care.

Alas! Such consummate clowning was widely indulged as Insider Pundits reviewed Gore’s endorsement. Motive Mouths were all over the dial. They made a large joke of your discourse.

RUNNING ON EMPTY: Why did Gore endorse Dean? According to Gore, it’s because he thinks “our nation has never made a worse foreign policy mistake” than the war in Iraq. But what sorts of problems were on Susan’s mind? The very big issues, which drive modern pundits. Gore should have called Lieberman on Monday, not Tuesday. Gore shouldn’t upset his past campaign staffers. And never mind about that war! Gore just shouldn’t be “kicking Dick Gephardt” around! Remember, nothing will make these people get serious. They are a deeply addled elite—and they don’t waste their time on real matters.

ESTRICH SPEAKS: What does it mean to be a “Fox Democrat?” For one thing, you reliably trash liberals and other key Dems. In her most recent screaming blunder, Estrich took after Hollywood’s Laurie David, who had helped plan a meeting of tinsel-town liberals looking for ways to defeat Bush. Uncritically citing a Matt Drudge report—a report she didn’t attempt to confirm—Estrich wrote a nasty column, claiming that David had stupidly dubbed the meeting a “Hate Bush” affair. (Note the Standard RNC Spin-Point: If you’re against Bush, then you must be a hater.) Reliably, Estrich began sliming David. “This is a self-inflicted wound by another silly Hollywood liberal,” she thundered. Claws out, she continued scratching. Me-ow, everybody! Me-ow:

ESTRICH: Who is Laurie David?

In news clips, she is identified as Larry David’s wife.

Who is Larry David? He’s the star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Maybe his wife should curb hers.

Tough, tough talk from a tough-talking talker! Estrich’s column appeared on December 3. But by the next day—surprise, surprise—her Drudge-derived info turned out to be bogus. The tough-talking pundit turned up on Hannity, and meekly withdrew what she’d said:
ALAN COLMES (12/4/03): Susan Estrich, it is called, not the “Hate Bush” event, but A Mandatory Meeting to Change Leadership.

ESTRICH: Right. That’s right, Alan.

COLMES: That’s not a hateful title. That by itself does not signify hate. People do—

ESTRICH: I agree with you, Alan. And in fairness to Laurie David, she’s now denying that she was the one who put the “hate Bush” title on. I spoke to Lloyd Grove today of the New York Daily News, who spoke to Laurie David, a woman I don’t even know, who claims that she didn’t do it. Some guy in the Midwest is now saying he put the “hate Bush” title on. I don’t know who put the “hate Bush” title on [the e-mail].

David is “now” denying it? David denied it all along! But Estrich “doesn’t even know” David, and plainly hadn’t bothered to call her. She simply typed what Drudge had said—and told the nation that David was “silly.”

But then, reliable trashing of Hollywood liberals is one of Estrich’s principle services. Get the feeling that lawsuits may have been in the air as Estrich cow-towed, back-tracked and slip-slid? But no matter! Days later, Estrich was cast in the role of “Fox Dem” once again, whining about Gore’s rudeness to Joe. Was Iraq a disastrous foreign policy error? That’s what Al Gore actually said. But Susan is a paid Fox Dem. Something told her she just shouldn’t go there.

AND ESTRICH RETRACTS: Here was Estrich’s official “correction,” offered in a December 6 column. Congratulations to Creators Syndicate for putting this pundit into print:

CORRECTION: I wrote earlier this week about the “Hate Bush” meeting in Beverly Hills. Published reports, based on emails circulating in this community, had identified Laurie David, the wife of Hollywood actor-writer Larry David, as the author of the “Hate Bush” title for the meeting. Ms. David has since denied adding the label to the emailed invitations, and a Midwestern man is claiming to have done so. My apologies to Ms. David if she was not in fact the individual who was so foolishly sabotaging the Democratic effort. Somebody was.
“Somebody was!” It can’t get dumber. “Published reports.” Published reports by Matt Drudge. Still describing a “Hate Bush” meeting, Estrich offered a clowning “correction.” In coming weeks, we’ll offer more thoughts about the growing legion of Tammy Bruce Dems.