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Caveat lector

5 April 1999

A Howler postscript: Post pattern

Synopsis: The Post came up with a third strange word to describe the vice president’s comments.

Starting Early and Urgently
Dan Balz, The Washington Post, 4/4/99

There they go again, dear readers! This time it was the Post’s Dan Balz, struggling to explain what was wrong with Gore’s comments:

BALZ: Republicans have seized on Gore’s inflated claim about creating the Internet and his lyrical description of boyhood summers spent plowing steep hillsides in Tennessee and clear fields with a twin-bladed ax.

Earlier today, we pointed to the peculiar way Post writers have described the Gore comments (see "Confident men," 4/5/99). Writers have strained to capture what's supposed to be wrong with what the vice president said.

Ceci Connolly had referred to Gore’s “gauzy” recollections. To Thomas Edsall, Gore’s comments described “episodic” experiences. Connolly even tried again, describing “Norman Rockwell-style” accounts.

But the plain fact is, Gore’s comments were not being called “gauzy” or “episodic” or “Norman-Rockwell-style.” Gore’s comments were being called false; the RNC had accused Gore of lying. We’ve suggested the writers knew this charge wasn’t true, but didn’t much want to stand up and say it.

The point is driven home by Balz. We’ll offer a dollar to anyone who can find the GOP griping that Gore has been “lyrical.” We can just see the press release now:

F O R     I M M E D I A T E     R E L E A S E:
RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson today complained about Vice President Gore’s lyrical comments.

Nicholson just hates that stuff.

Anyway, “lyrical” isn’t what is being said. Balz ought to stand up and say so.

Republicans have suggested that Gore has lied. “Preposterous,” “shoveling it,” “tall tale”--those are the real words we have been seeing. Twelve years worth of profiles say these charges are false. Post writers should consider reporting it.