WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2003
TAMMY, TELL ME UNTRUE: Weird, isnt it? Tammy Bruce said, two times each, that she was progressiveand a Big Democrat! She stressed that she was openly gay, and a Big Feminist to boot (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/16/03). But just as soon as she opened her mouth, she began praising Bushand trashing Dems. Bill OReilly even had to fix her fake facts. No wonder our analysts were so kerflubbled as they watched this progressive Democrat in action.
But Bruces performance on the Factor was just about par for the course. Ever since Fox unveiled her as its newest contributor, this progressive Democrat has taken the chance to recite those Republican spin-points. Why, one can almost imagine that Fox has begun to play a new trick on its poor, misled viewers. One can almost imagine thatfar from being a progressive Democrat Tammy Bruce is a fake and a fraud.
Consider Bruces first appearance as a Fox political analyst. On September 19, the progressive Democrat appeared with guest host Laurie Dhue on Greta von Susterens show, On the Record. Dhue asked Bruce, a Californian, what she thought of the recall election. In particular, what did Bruce think when Gray Davis said that Republicans were trying to overturn an election? Bruce let everyone know shes a Dem. But look what she said after that:
BRUCE (9/19/03): Well, Im a registered Democrat, and Im insulted This attempt to drum up support with this fake Republican conspiracy theory is an insult to every Californian who wants the state to get better, and thats what we did with the petitions, is we said whether it be Republican or Democrat. [sic]Huh! To quote Ronald Reagan, there she went again! Bruce said she was a registered Democratthen quickly began trashing Dems!
But then, the same thing occurred when the Girl Named Bruce took her second turn as a Fox analyst. On October 23, Bruce did her first OReilly Factor. Mr. O posed a Culture War Question: Were liberal actors ruining their careers with all that public anti-war clowning? The Man Named Bill popped the question to Bruce, knowing that shes a progressive Democrat. And dang! It seemed that Bruce and all her hip friends were ticked off at those dumb liberal thespians:
BRUCE (10/23/03): Well, a lot of my friends are actors, theyre in the film industry, Im a native Los Angelino, and whats discussed out in this city is the fact that the attitude and personalities that George Clooney, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon are developing and the message theyre sending to Americans cannot be eclipsed by a character theyre playing.If you know how progressive Tammy Bruce really isshe has an investment in progressive politics, she admitsyou were probably surprised to see her trashing those Usual Liberal Suspects. How sickening are those antiwar actors? Were insulted by their attitude, she said. Strange, isnt it? Bruce, a progressive, seems to feel insulted every time liberals open their mouths! And so do her hip liberal friends!
Meanwhile, her ferocious feminism seemed to fade when the Girl Named Bruce did Special Report. Governor-elect Schwarzenegger had just made an announcement; he was going to hire a private eye to probe his own past groping and grabbing. Bruce, of course, is a fearsome feminist. So viewers may have been surprised at her insouciance:
BRUCE (11/7/03): My sense of it is that this is a guy who made a promise and he is going to keep it. There really from my assessment, to be honest with you, is nothing to be gained. It didnt matter to me whether he would do it or not.It didnt matter to Bruce if he did it or not? What ever became of the fearsome feminist T-Bruce likes to play on TV? Later, Bruce kept soft-soaping Arnolds groping. Well, you know, heres the reality is that all statutes of limitations have passed. No one has sued. No one has pressed charges And in the meantime, of course, hes already apologized. Is Arnold a changed man? the pundit was asked. Bruce took a dive in the hot tub again:
BRUCE: You know what? I think that, as we all grow older, we all change. We all have regrets. There is no doubt about each one of us has done something, or a few things that maybe we wish we hadnt done and that we would never do again in the future. This is a man, and Ive used the analogy from the As Good As It Gets movieI believe that the California people make Arnold Schwarzenegger want to be a better man. And it is going to be an exciting prospect to see him grow and make this state come alive again.Holy sh*t! Bruces hip actor friends cued the strings! Meanwhile, Bruce was refreshingly honest, as always. She admitted that she was a Dem herself. Then she batted those Dems all around:
BRUCE: What is most interesting, Tony, about all of this is that the Democratsthe guy isnt even sworn in yet. And theyre already moving into politics as usual.As a Democrat, Im concerned that the Democratabout the Democratic posture, Bruce said. If the Democrats continue to do what theyre doing, if [Attorney General Bill] Lockyer is any indication that they are going to be obstructionists, were going to see a big change continuing in Sacramento.
Tammy Bruce is a Dem herself, as she once again admitted. But she even used the O-word, obstructionistthe word Reps now use to trash Dems.
Weird, isnt it? Every time Bruce shows up on Fox, she tells the world what a Big Dem she is. And then she starts to trash her own party! Our youthful analysts were just plain confused. So we decided to tell them who Bruce really isand we decided to deepen their understanding of the endless faking that goes on at Fox.
TOMORROW: WarningBruces books can get nasty.
FRIDAY: Is T-Bruce our only faux Dem?
PARTY PLANNER: When pundits partied hardy with Rummy, Tim Russert managed to top the rest, prophesying that Saddam had been captured (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/16/03). Should journalists party with people they cover? That, of course, is a matter of judgment. But as we pondered this wintry mixer, we thought of Peter Johnsons profile of Russert in USA Today (11/1/00). How does Tim handle the party circuit? Theres nothing wrong with what is described. But it does give a window on Washington:
JOHNSON: [Colleagues and competitors] say that Russert has always had an intuitive sense of how to get ahead and has worked hard to get there. He is, they say, a player.Did Russert refuel at the local White Castle? Conconi, a genial guide, isnt sure. But Chuck was making a larger point: Russerts extremely ambitious. We read this profile just after reading Russerts interview in Bernie Goldbergs new Arrogance. And we thought the profile might shed some light on the absurd things that Russert had said.
Russerts ambitious, Conconi says. And in the world of network TV, ambitious people try to boost ratings. That may be why Russert pandered to Goldbergs readers in the ludicrous way he did, even implying that he has been picked on because hes Catholic and didnt attend elite schools. Well be frank: We were disgusted by Russerts interviewby the cheap, slimy shots it aimed at his colleagues, and by its ludicrous victimhood tales, tales designed to sell Goldbergs readers on the idea that a sneering elite looks down on them too. Russerta multimillionaire in a millionaires tony neighborhoodpretends hes picked on by the elite. After reading Tims boast about that mixer, we recalled how he works the exclusive parties at which hes so vastly misused.
We know--we're being too hard on Russert this week. And there's nothing wrong with being ambitious. But there was something wrong with that chapter in Arrogance. We hope this provides some slick context.
LAST BOOK OF LISTS: Were sorry to stay with the Gore-Lieberman matter, an utterly pointless non-story. But the pundit corps has rarely made its utterly vacuous values more clear, and the record should be kept for posterity. Before we present a few more examples of the laughable clowning in which pundits engaged, lets review a bit of news that your pundit corps deftly disappeared.
Did Al call Joe to tell him the news? Fatuous pundits boo-hoo-hooed about the matter all week. But on Friday, the New York Posts widely-read Lloyd Grove printed some news you might could have used. According to Gores daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, Al had tried hard to reach Joe:
GROVE (12/12/03): Al Gores eldest daughter vehemently defended the 2000 Democratic nominee yesterday from presidential candidate Joe Liebermans allegations that Gore blindsided him with his surprise endorsement of rival candidate Howard DeanGrove has been widely quoted since he went to the Post. But not this time! Friday evening, Wolf Blitzer reported Schiffs statement on CNN, and Jim Lehrer mentioned her statement on the NewsHour (text below). But we can find no sign in the Nexis archives that anyone else ever mentioned Schiffs statement. You know the way that press corps is! When they get a story they very much like, they tend to deep-six dissonant data. Indeed, we only heard about Schiffs statement when a reader e-mailed us yesterday!
Meanwhile, readers keep sending examples of pundit boo-hooing about that meaningless phone call. For example, Gloria Borger does it again in the current U.S. News:
BORGER: For Al Gore, man of caution, it was a Clark Kent moment. Out of nowhere, the once mild-mannered man of the establishment whooshes into the Democratic presidential contest to endorse the man who makes the establishment cringe Then he flies off into the clouds. (Or more precisely, to Sweden, to be a guest at the nifty Nobel Prize banquet.) Who was that man in the red cape? Reinvention, thy name is Gore!Good God! Borgers cut-and-paste clowning has long been extreme, but this was gold-star work, even for her. Like Russert, Klein, Page, Doocy and Greenfield, she recites the invented the Internet joke, and she works the key spin-pointreinventioninto her first and last paragraphs! Heres how the simpering ended:
BORGER: In casting his lot with Howard Dean, Gore has made a calculation: that the partys future is not with Clinton centrism but with Deans left-leaning supporters. Forget free trade, welfare reform, and other silly Clinton ideas. This is about the futureor at least Al Gores future. And reinvention has always been his specialty.The motive-based mind-reading of that last paragraph is indulged in all through this piece. (This isnt about what Gore believes, the nattering know-it-all says.) Meanwhile, Borger assembles an etiquette list; Gore should have called Kerry and Gephardt too, she decrees. (Rudely, she omits Charlie Rangel.) Meanwhile, the pundit gets bonus points for saying that Gore brutally attacked Bradley in his primary fight in 1999. Good God! Once these people establish a spin-point, it neversimply neverdisappears.
Another reader asked us to post Mark Shields from Friday nights NewsHour. One night later, Cap Gang pundits would make a long list of all the people Gore should have called. But their leader, Shields, had beaten them to it. Weekdays, he writes for the Washington Post. Friday, a different PostEmilywas his guide:
SHIELDS: Al Gore being Al Gore and always sort of lacking that deft touch at personal relations did it in a way that took away all the luster of his endorsement by just absolutely dissing Joe Lieberman, who had been the exemplar of loyalty, who had foregone his own presidential ambitions until Gore made up his own mind; didnt even give him the decency of the human phone call.Rangel, of course, is supporting Clarkendorsed him just last week. At any rate, Shields included Edwards; omitted Gephardt; and brought Rangel back in the fold. Kerry makes everyones list.
We assume we wont visit this story again. Saturday night, pundits recovered from all their crying by enjoying a wintry mixer chez Rummy. Phew! Cutting-and-pasting old spin is hard work! They spent a tough week making extra-long lists. It was time for the joy of the season.