Monday, October 1, 2007

Rehashing the 1990s, because the alternative is to take responsibility for them

Bob Somerby has a good reminder of why Al Gore would have to be crazy to ever run for president again.

The dishonest trashing of him by the mainstream punditocracy (not FOX News or Limbaugh or the National Review, where it would be expected; I'm talking about the Times, the Post, the broadcast networks, and the rest of the respectable sources) would pick up in mid-sentence where it left off a few years ago. The zombie lies--you kill them, and a few minutes later they get back up and walk the earth again--would continue unabated.

Case in point, Times columnist Frank Rich. I've featured Rich approvingly several times in the last three years here at p3 because he's written some good stuff about the legal, political, and moral excesses of the Bush administration. But when it comes to facing candidly how Bush got where he is in the first place, Rich (as Somerby might say) whistles quietly to himself and looks at the ceiling.

It's not that Rich is a Republican (I have know way of knowing but if I had to guess I'd guess he isn't); and his equally complicit Timester Dowd seems largely beyond the reach of party identity. Anyway, this isn't about Republican versus Democrat (although it creates an advantage for Republicans that they've not failed to take advantage of); it's about the Opinion Elite versus whomever they find it amusing to disrespect, but especially Gore, and especially then in his role as putative stand-in for the ever-hated Clintons.

Somerby writes:
And of course, the nation’s pundits were calling Gore every name in the book as he trailed Bush in 1999—and were inventing a series of “lies” he had supposedly uttered. Of all people, Rich should remember that history well; after all, he had invented the first of these “lies,” the Love Story nonsense, in December 1997. In March 1999, Rich’s colleagues dragged out his old counter-factual slander, and they hounded Gore with the ludicrous tale all through the 2000 campaign. They added “invented the Internet” and “discovered Love Canal”—and in the process, they invented Bush’s route to the White House. And yes: This all began with Rich’s dissembling in 1997, a fact this pompous and stupid man has somehow forgotten. Again.

But then, has anyone ever dissembled as much on any subject as Rich dissembles on the subject of Gore? In the passage we quote above, Rich seems to applaud “the firebrand who emerged from defeat, speaking up early against the Iraq war and leading the international charge on global warming.” But this is all reinvention. What happened in the fall of 2002, when Gore spoke up against Iraq? Of course! As always, Rich trashed him as a fake and a phony! Rich essentially lied about what Gore had said on the Today show, and he insisted that Gore was just saying these things because he wanted to run for the White House again (links below). “[O]f course he is still running for president,” the pompous scribe all-knowingly wrote; he added this, with astounding condescension: “[W]hat else does the guy, a political lifer, have to do with himself?” But Gore didn’t run for president again; instead, he found something else to do with himself, becoming the firebrand who helped change the world’s discourse on global warming. And what happened in the spring of 2006, when Gore’s firebrand film first appeared? Of course! As always, Rich trashed him as a fake and a phony! Rich mocked Gore’s film from stem to stern—and, as always, he brilliantly knew that Gore was just running for president again.

Read the whole thing. You might be amazed--and appalled--at the things you've forgotten about the 2000 campaign. A daily parade of fresh outrages can do that to a person. (But Somerby never forgets.)

I could be wrong, but I don't think I am: We've seen the last Al Gore presidential campaign, in large part because he knows perfectly well that this dishonest twaddle is what he would get, instead of even vaguely serious coverage of his campaign issues.

And if you wonder why the zombie lies about Gore persist--and why Edwards's haircuts are continuing news but his health care plan isn't, or why Hillary's preferred baseball team is of urgent importance but not her position on taxes--here you have it. The Insiders create the story, perpetuate it, then insist the candidate respond to it on the high-minded grounds that people are asking about it.

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