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25 March 1999

The Howler review: Standard practice

Synopsis: The Weekly Standard was at it again, with a howler from down on the farm.

Internet Al, Down on the Farm
Scrapbook, The Weekly Standard, 3/29/99

Gore: A Political Life
Bob Zelnick, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1999

Here’s how the Standard’s “Scrapbook” section pictured Gore’s life on the farm:

SCRAPBOOK: As for the mules, it occurs to THE SCRAPBOOK that maybe one of them kicked young Al in the head.

Cute. More of the lovely, friend-of-man imagery we picked up in the Standard last week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/22/99). We don’t know why that old Scrapbook’s so mad, but its ornery ways keep affecting its reporting. After quoting Gore’s remarks on the chores he’d been taught, here’s what them old varmints said:

SCRAPBOOK: How preposterous. Even when he tries to slum, Gore betrays his blue-blood upbringing. Real farmers, even poor ones, have been hiring bulldozers to clear land since before Al Gore was born, or at least using chainsaws. Only a hobbyist would use an ax. Not to mention, no responsible farmer since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s has plowed a steep hillside; you don’t want your topsoil to get washed away.

The Scrapbook hands were disputing Gore’s claim that his father had taught him “how to clear land with a double-bladed ax” and “how to plow a steep hillside with a team of mules.”

But Bob Zelnick, writing for the Regnery Press, sees things a little bit different. He specifically describes how Senator Gore, Sr., set up chores to teach Gore about work. Maybe things weren’t done like this in the stacks, where future editors boned up on farm theory. But this is the way that Zelnick tells it. Maybe someone kicked him real hard, too:

ZELNICK: [T]here was always a special summer-long assignment. One year the senator instructed him to clear a field that was over-grown with trees and shrubs, with only a small hand-axe as his tool. “It nearly killed him, but he finished it that summer,” [family friend] Donna Armistead recalled. “It was backbreaking work, with a tool far too small for the job, but his father wanted him to learn work and the work ethic.” [Our emphasis]

Maybe some of them books fell out of those stacks, and hit them Scrapbook fellers right plumb on their heads! Or maybe this: maybe if them Scrapbook boys had Gore’s home training, they’d know how to get things right too.