18 May 1999
The Howler postscript: Slick like thee
Synopsis: Maureen Dowd took liberties with a few basic facts to show what a mess Gore is in.
Bill Says Chill
Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, 5/16/99
Clinton Admits to Concerns As Gore Campaign Stumbles
Richard L. Berke, The New York Times, 5/14/99
Bush Is Hardly a Passive Fund-Raiser
Don Van Atta Jr., The New York Times, 5/16/99
Finally! It never took so long for a Sunday to come, but at last we heard the reassuring Clunk! as the paperboy reached DAILY HOWLER World Headquarters, and dumped the Times near our Press Intake Center. We had agreed, with the analysts, to conduct a test of their headstrong assessment of Times tyro Maureen Dowd. Together, wed read her Sunday column, in search of her bruited clairvoyance.
But when the analysts started to scan Dowds piece, the smirking began almost instantly. Dowd reviewed Clintons critique of the Gore campaign, but her remarks were all stale on arrival. We searched--in vain--for a hint of a view we hadnt heard voiced a hundred times before.
It didnt take long for Dowd to retype every silly current tale about Gore. Shed hit Love Story, the Internet, and those crucial farm chores by the end of her dreary fourth paragraph. Then she typed obvious points about Clintons remarks, points made in Richard Berkes May 14 piece--along with stale comments, made often before, in a succession of talking head fora.
Its embarrassing that Gore is behind in the womans vote, even though hes been loyal to Tipper. Its embarrassing that Bush has raised big dough just sitting on his porch down in Austin. Its embarrassing, too, that Gore hired Coelho to supervise his White House campaign. Gore got in trouble fund-raising; so did Coelho, Dowd said. Man! In all the reading wed done last week, wed never heard anything like that!
Yep. Dowds column was filled with keen observations--if youve been unconscious in Luray Caverns all week.
But remember--in the infantile world of the Times Queen of Heathers, everything Daddy does is embarrassing. And sometimes Dowd will spin the truth to show just how embarrassing Daddy is. In this case, the analysts flagged Dowds remarks on Gore fund-raising, and we had to agree that they had a strong point. Sure enough, there was Dowd, spinning her readers, doing exactly what she hates in Bill Clinton:
DOWD: Embarrassingly, W. has already raised $13 million sitting on his porch in Austin, while the Vice President has endured a cross-country marathon and reported only $8.9 million.
Dowd, of course, has no idea if this is embarrassing to Gore. But what is embarrassing is Dowds slick way of spinning the facts on fund-raising. Determined to prove how embarrassed Gore is, Dowd played fast and loose with simple facts.
Dowds figure of $13 million for Bush comes from Don Van Attas May 16 article:
VAN ATTA: On the frontiers of presidential fund-raising, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas has shattered previous Republican records by raising $13 million with help from the Pioneers.
But that is the amount Bush has raised to date. The Gore figure, reported again and again in the press, is the amount raised by March 31:
VAN ATTA: On the Democratic side, both Vice President Gore and former senator Bill Bradley have piled up impressive numbers. Mr. Gore raised $8.9 million in the first three months of this year.
It isnt possible that Dowd doesnt know this. Indeed, Van Attas article, like many others, specifically mentions that Bush raised $7.6 million by March 31, the campaigns first formal reporting date.
Dowd badly wanted, in her gloomy Goth way, to say things were embarrassing for Gore. But she couldnt do that by saying that Gore outraised Bush at the first reporting. So she reported Bushs total for the middle of May--and compared it to Gores for the end of March! She then told her readers how embarrassing it was that Bush had raised so much more money.
But of course, she didnt quite tell readers that. Like the politicians whose slickness she claims to despise, Dowd frequently treats herself to deniability. Dowd wrote that Bush had raised $13 million, and that Gore had reported 8.9. And why did she make that choice of words? Because that way, kids, everything Dowd stated can be defended as literally accurate.
Thats right, readers. Its exactly the kind of slippery construction Dowd hates in that naughty Bill Clinton. You have to parse every word this gal says!
So, while were still on the topic of whats embarrassing, wed have to start out with Dowds writing. And then wed move on to the remarkable fact that this writing just won a big prize. No--nothing will turn on the minor deception Dowd worked into her latest column. But the idea that this prattle is the best we can do? Embarrassing is too kind for that.
Stress points: We want to stress what weve said before--nothing weve said should be taken to suggest that there is anything wrong with Gov. Bushs fund-raising. To date, no reporting has suggested that Bush or Gore has done anything but play by the rules.
And yes, we know Van Attas article was published on the same day as Dowds column. But we hadnt seen the $13 million figure in print before, and it isnt unusual for Times columnists to have access to info from Times news sources before the information is published. Wherever Dowd got the $13 million figure, her presentation is spun to deceive.