But first . . .

Springsteen speaks! (Executive Summary: for God’s sake, vote Kerry.)

And this . . .

‘The characteristics embodied by these plaintiffs are ones that our society and the institution [of marriage] need more of, not less. Let the plaintiffs stand as inspirations for all those citizens, homosexual and heterosexual, who may follow their path.‘ –
decision of Superior Court Judge William L. Downing, yesterday, overturning Washington State laws that deny equal rights to same-sex couples (of special note: the respect with which Judge Downing treated the arguments of both sides)

And now . . . (I have a larger point here, so bear with me) . . .

Mark P: ‘I receive virtually daily e-mails from friends and family saying various negative things about John Kerry. It would be really helpful if there were a web site where people could go to get responses to those e-mails, so we could reply with facts.’

☞ Well, start with this, from the best known of the Urban Legends web sites. I especially like the one that has Senator Kerry voting against every vital weapons system. (‘Status: False.‘)

Most of the folks forwarding this message around the Internet probably don’t know how dishonest it is (‘inaccurate and grossly misleading,’ as the web site characterizes it, and ‘all the more ridiculous’ because Dick Cheney opposed some of the very same weapons systems himself) . . . but its originators surely knew what they were doing.

Indeed, this is not a casual effort. It was the same calculated dishonesty that led nearly half the voters in 2000 to favor for President a man whose top priority (his budgets have now confirmed) was the plight of the very rich rather than the challenges faced by ordinary Americans.

Why would so many Americans vote against their own economic interest?

A large part of the answer is the Republican ‘echo chamber’ that so effectively diminished a very good man (Gore), and which now attempts to diminish another.

To wit, and well worth reading, excerpted almost in full from yesterday’s Daily Howler:

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4, 2004
It isn’t that hard to debunk phony spin.
Let Jon Stewart-a comedian!-show you:

. . . [I]t isn’t that hard to debunk bogus spin-points-the scripted, repetitive, ginned-up claims that now decide our White House elections. On Monday night’s Daily Show, in fact, Jon Stewart showed how easy the process can be. By Tuesday morning, we were flooded with e-mails about his effort, like the one we report below. But then, we often get rueful e-mails about Stewart:

E-MAIL (8/3/04): Did you see The Daily Show last night? Jon Stewart interviewed Congressman Henry Bonilla and actually forced the issue about the ‘number one liberal’ statement, citing the National Journal’s actual lifetime averages. It’s a sad day when we have to rely on a ‘fake’ news show to tell the truth.

Readers often note how sad it is-that Stewart, a comedian, debunks this crap, but our ‘journalists’ resolutely will not.

. . . As we’ve noted, Republicans cite the National Journal when they claim-as they now do whenever they breathe-that Kerry and Edwards are the first and fourth most liberal members of the Senate. But as the Journal has clearly explained, those figures cover 2003 alone-a year in which Kerry and Edwards, out campaigning, missed about half the relevant votes. (Note: That’s the way our system works. While still governor, Candidate Bush spent seventeen months campaigning outside Texas.) Indeed, as the Journal has made abundantly clear, Kerry is far from the ‘number one liberal’ if you measure his lifetime record, and Edwards is nowhere near number four, the claim voters hear again and again, recited by a gaggle of hacks who are sent on the air to mislead them. But so what? RNC shills state their bogus point-and millionaire ‘journalists’ sit, drool and stare. For example, here’s how Newt Gingrich began his closing remarks on this week’s Fox News Sunday:

GINGRICH (8/1/04): I think what decides this race in the end is, do you think America can go forward better with President Bush continuing to lead, or do you really want the most liberal member of the Senate and the fourth most liberal member of the Senate, people to the left of Teddy Kennedy, people to the left of Hillary Clinton? And I think that choice is going to be so wide and so clear by mid-September.

Did Chris Wallace challenge this scripted point-a claim which baldly misled viewers? Of course not! Instead, here’s what he said when Gingrich stopped speaking: ‘I’ve got to say, Speaker Gingrich, that’s the biggest bumper sticker I ever heard, but it was a good answer.’ In short, it’s easy to mislead voters this way. Our ‘press corps’ is happy to let you.

Which brings us back to that fateful moment when the RNC began its campaign against Gore. As noted yesterday, the RNC made it clear, in May 1999, that it hoped to make Gore a figure of ridicule; quoting major Republicans, Alison Mitchell described the plan in some detail, right in the New York Times (see THE DAILY HOWLER 8/3/04). The GOP had run endless probes of Clinton, she noted, but they were planning a different approach with Gore. ‘[W]ith Mr. Gore, Republicans are betting that well-timed ridicule can be more devastating than any inquiry,’ Mitchell wrote. ‘In essence, they are trying to do to him what Democrats tried to do to former Vice President Dan Quayle.’ As we noted in yesterday’s HOWLER, history is repeating itself; Republican sources described a similar plan for Kerry in a front-page report in Sunday’s Times. ‘Mr. Bush’s advisers plan to cap the month at the Republican convention in New York, which they said would feature Mr. Kerry as an object of humor and calculated derision,’ Adam Nagourney wrote. The plan he described was the very same plan that proved so effective with Gore.

And the evidence is clear-in the case of Gore, the campaign of ridicule worked. From March 1999 through November 2000, the RNC churned a string of bogus stories about Delusional Gore, the guy who ‘doesn’t know who he is,’ and the mainstream press corps made little attempt to challenge their idiot renderings. (Indeed, the mainstream press corps took the lead in conducting the War Against Gore.) Al Gore said he invented the Internet. Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal. Naomi Wolf told Gore to wear earth tones. Al Gore misstated the cost of dog pills. The tales were bogus-and never-ending-but the mockery and misstatements worked. Mocking Gore became second nature.

. . . The RNC had hoped to make Gore a figure of ridicule. With the corps’ active help, they succeeded.

And the RNC will succeed with Kerry-unless more pundits perform like Jon Stewart. Everyone knows what the current spin-points are-we’ll list them on Friday-and we’ll soon learn what the new points will be. In most cases, these points are fairly easy to debunk, as Stewart made clear Monday night. But last Friday, we saw a more typical effort-an effort typical of what he saw from pundits in Campaign 2000 as well. Performing his usual yawning vivisection, Sean Hannity ate Janeane Garofalo for lunch, belched three times, then spat her back out (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/2/04). Liberals, progressives, centrists-and all Dems-have to stop accepting this level of performance. Democrats have to tell Dem pundits-this hapless work isn’t OK.

Why, oh why, are Dem-friendly pundits so incapable of strong performance? One thing is clear-your ‘press corps’ won’t challenge fake RNC claims until Dem pundits go out there and make them. Our e-mailers ask us the obvious question: When a comedian, like Stewart, can do so well, why can’t other pundits perform? The answer leads straight to the DNC, an organization with which Dems should be furious. [Needless to say, as DNC Treasurer, I don’t agree. – A.T.]

TOMORROW: Why on earth can’t Terry McAuliffe prep our major Dem pundits?

WATCHING SPIN GROW: Your mainstream ‘journalists’ sleep, snore and burble. For example, here was Kate O’Beirne, pimping the script on The Capital Gang:

O’BEIRNE (7/31/04): In a 45-minute speech, this is [Kerry’s] fundamental problem, one of his problems, he spent 26 seconds talking about 20 years of his public career. He acted as though he disappeared after 1971, when he testified against the war in the Senate, and reappeared magically 30 years later. But an object of the exercise in Boston was to try to persuade people that he’s not a Massachusetts liberal, and of course, his voting record has him No. 1, the most liberal member of the Senate, so he ain’t gonna talk about that much, even though he has 45 minutes.

Except in Cartoon Nation, of course, Kerry isn’t ‘the most liberal member of the Senate.’ But how are American voters supposed to know that? Shields, Hunt and Carlson sat, drooled and stared. No one challenged what O’Beirne said. This is how White House elections are now decided, but your millionaire pundits-Hunt, Shields and Carlson-in a phrase, just don’t really care. They simply don’t care if the rubes are misled. They no longer care about that. How much longer will Dems and their allies put up with their sit-and-stare conduct?

TOMORROW: Tom Vilsack, chumped by Bill Hemmer!

FROM THE GREAT PLANET WASHINGTON POST: On what planet does the Washington Post’s editorial board now reside? In Tuesday’s paper, the board expressed pride in Tom Ridge’s recent performance:

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (8/3/04): In his statement, Mr. Ridge stayed away from politics, although he did, as in the past, find it necessary to attach a list of his homeland security achievements along with the warning, which did reduce its impact.

Really? Mr. Ridge ‘stayed away from politics?’ That came as news to a letter writer whose missive appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. . .

NEW YORK TIMES LETTER (8/3/04): I live in northern New Jersey and work in Midtown Manhattan, near the Citicorp Center. I was listening carefully to Tom Ridge’s warning, as the sites he was mentioning for possible attacks basically encompassed all of my daily life. Then he said, ‘We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president’s leadership in the war against terror.’

I realized that I was listening to a paid political announcement and turned the radio off. The credibility of the announcement had been reduced to zero.
J- M-
Ridgewood, N.J.

‘We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president’s leadership in the war against terror.’ There was more to Ridge’s TV ad, but let’s keep it simple. To the Post, that wasn’t politicization. Indeed, the Post went out of its way to say that Ridge didn’t do that.

For the record, someone else noticed the politicization. And yes, you guessed it-at The Daily Show, Jon Stewart played tape of that very statement by Ridge, and his young audience hooted and groaned. So let’s see. A letter writer in Jersey could see it. A comedian and his comedy audience could see it. But the brilliant eds at the Washington Post? Somehow, they just couldn’t see it-indeed, insisted it hadn’t occurred! And readers, this is the context in which those spin-points are being recited, embroidered and spun. And this is why Dems and liberals must insist that their public spokesmen be better prepared. Your mainstream ‘press corps’ is asleep, snoring, absent. Dems must remember Campaign 2000, and they must insist-they must insist-that the hapless, inert, inept DNC not let this mess happen again. Your spokesmen are good at losing elections. More on this problem tomorrow.

☞ I do think this is unfair to the DNC. We don’t control the Washington Post editorial page or the TV pundits . . . and if Jon Stewart can nail it night after night, why can’t others?

But . . .

(a) You can be sure I will be reading tomorrow’s Daily Howler (which is to say, today’s).

(b) The problem the Daily Howler has identified is hugely important and very real.

The morning after John Kerry’s home-run Convention speech, I watched CNN’s Bill Hemmer interview former RNC chair Mark Racicot. And sure enough, there was Racicot feigning perplexity, pretending to try to square Senator Kerry’s strong defense rhetoric with the fact that he’s voted against every major weapons system (or words to that effect).

Obviously, Mark Racicot knows this is ‘inaccurate and grossly misleading‘ – just as he must know Senators Kerry and Edwards are not the first and fourth most liberal senators in the Senate . . . and just as the Republican leadership surely knew Al Gore never said he invented the Internet and all the rest.

Just as, indeed, candidate Bush must have known it was a trillion-dollar lie to look into the camera and tell the American people, with regard to his proposed tax cut, that ‘by far, the vast majority of the help goes to the people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.’

But what does Bill Hemmer know? It would be ideal if he knew enough to challenge Mark Racicot on an inaccurate and grossly misleading statement. Failing that (and I’m not saying I would be any better in such a situation than Mr. Hemmer), wouldn’t it be great if CNN and others had a segment called REALITY CHECK periodically throughout the day? What more valuable role could CNN and all the other news organizations play than to give prominent and repeated air time to moments like this?

The effect would be two-fold. First, of course, and most directly, millions of people would be better informed. The next time they heard the same false charge echoed, they could nudge their compatriot and say, ‘That’s not really true. They’re scamming us.’

Second, and of perhaps even more significance, talking heads on TV (on both sides of the desk) might make an effort to avoid the embarrassment of a REALITY CHECK, and thus better serve the viewing public.

Yes, ‘my side’ might come in for the occasional REALITY CHECK, too. But to quote James Carville again from the 1992 campaign: ‘We say one plus one equals three, and the Bush folks say one plus one equals three thousand, and [the press reports], ‘both of them are wrong.”

Why is fake news guy Jon Stewart doing the best job out there? C’mon, real news guys, catch up!

 

Comments are closed.