What Is Likely From the Debate

I thought it would be instructive to look at how Al Gore was treated by the mainstream press in the 2000 campaign, and particularly in the first debate.  You can find a lot of information about this inglorious episode in our history online, but I am going to quote at some length from a 2007 article at Vanity Fair which collects in one place a lot of what you need to know.

The 2000 election is very important because, as we are facing today, the country had to make a choice between a highly competent and informed Democrat, and a ludicrous, ignorant jerk on the Republican side.  It is important to understand how the press rigged that election so that the country had to face the worst eight years of leadership in its history.

A sample from this rather long article:

"In 2000, we would get stories where if Gore walked in and said the room was gray we'd be beaten up because in fact the room was an off-white. They would get stories about how George Bush's wing tips looked as he strode across the stage." Melinda Henneberger, then a political writer at the Times, says that such attitudes went all the way up to the top of the newspaper. "Some of it was a self-loathing liberal thing," she says, "disdaining the candidate who would have fit right into the newsroom, and giving all sorts of extra time on tests to the conservative from Texas. Al Gore was a laughline at the paper, while where Bush was concerned we seemed to suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations."

In the Republican fictional world largely invented by the New York Times,

"As he was running for president, Al Gore said he'd invented the Internet; announced that he had personally discovered Love Canal, the most infamous toxic-waste site in the country; and bragged that he and Tipper had been the sole inspiration for the golden couple in Erich Segal's best-selling novel Love Story."

Not one bit of which was true, but it all served to present Gore to the American people as an egomaniacal liar who had nothing but contempt for the intelligence of the voters.  And again, I must remind you that this was not coming from some Rovian propaganda factory, or from Breitbart, but from our "Newspaper of Record."

"Could such an obviously intelligent man have been so megalomaniacal and self-deluded to have actually said such things? Well, that's what the news media told us, anyway. And on top of his supposed pomposity and elitism, he was a calculating dork: unable to get dressed in the morning without the advice of a prominent feminist...

One obstacle course the press set up was which candidate would lure voters to have a beer with them at the local bar. "Journalists made it seem like that was a legitimate way of choosing a president," says Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter. "They also wrongly presumed, based on nothing, that somehow Bush was more likable..."The last six years have been a powerful bit of evidence that we have to judge candidates for president on their preparation for the office with the same relish that we assess their personalities."

Fat chance.

And Gore just kept going on about issues. Alluding to five speeches he made in two months on education, crime, the economy, faith-based organizations, and cancer research, (NYT reporter Katherine) Seelye wrote, "Mr. Gore becomes almost indignant when asked if his avalanche of positions might overwhelm voters." The Washington Post's David Broder later found Gore too focused in his convention speech on what he'd do as president. "But, my, how he went on about what he wants to do as president," wrote Broder. "I almost nodded off." 

Discussing issues.  How boring!  How contemptuous of American voters, who, the writers of the national press presume, want to hear none of that, but are really interested in turning the country over to the guy they would like to have a beer with!  Sound like any recent candidate you know?

Eight years ago, in the bastions of the "liberal media" that were supposed to love Gore—The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN—he was variously described as "repellent," "delusional," a vote-rigger, a man who "lies like a rug," "Pinocchio." Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, "He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters.… Everybody kind of let loose on the guy."

The high priest of Washington pundits at the time, David Broder, was just put to sleep by the facts.  And the rest of them found competence and seriousness to be repellant and delusional, while ignorance and belligerence were just oh so refreshing.

 This should sound very familiar to you, because it is being replayed in excruciatingly familiar detail with Hillary and Trump.  And now on to the first debate:

"The trivial continued to dominate during the postmortem following Gore and Bush's first debate, on October 3, 2000. The television media were sure Gore won—at first. But then Republican operatives promptly spliced together a reel of Gore sighing, which was then sent to right-wing radio outlets. Eighteen hours later, the pundits could talk of little else. "They could hear you audibly sighing or sounding exasperated as Governor Bush was answering questions," Katie Couric scolded him the next day on the Today show. "Do you think that's presidential behavior?" For the Times's Frank Bruni, the sighs weren't as galling as Gore's familiarity with the names of foreign leaders. "It was not enough for Vice President Al Gore to venture a crisp pronunciation of Milosevic, as in Slobodan," he wrote. "Mr. Gore had to go a step further, volunteering the name of Mr. Milosevic's challenger Vojislav Kostunica."

And that is how it was done folks- given the chance to elect a serious, honest leader who would have never started a three trillion dollar war of aggression, and not have destroyed the economy, or stood by laughing as a major American city was drowned, the American people were conned into electing a corrupt, ignorant buffoon.  And it took more than just the Republican party to accomplish that, it took the press too, working as hard as they could to see that the rich guys who wrote their paychecks got whom they wanted in the White House.

As I said, this should all sound so familiar to you, because it is exactly what is being done again this year.  The members of the mainstream press have not learned one damned thing about the danger of selling their souls to the devil, and are at it again.  I am confident that, no matter what happens in this first debate, unless Trump rapes a donkey on stage, the press will rally round him as they did in 2000, and endlessly proclaim him to be the winner.  And that could be the real end of the election, as their malignant deception really was in 2000.  Of course, Bush was a knight in shining armor compared to Trump, but what the party of the rich wants, the party of the rich must have; and don't think any of the reporters at the New York Times or the Washington Post or the cable news networks is going to stand up to them, and lose their multimillion dollar salaries, and their houses in the Hamptons and their private jet rides and their luxury vacations, just because accepting those things means doom for all the rest of us.  No, the people who are allowed to preach to us in the media are picked too carefully for any of them to think of doing that.  Oh, they may write just enough weak articles questioning the propriety of consigning the country to third world status, so in the future they can deny their role in our downfall, but that will amount to nothing compared to the damage they are willingly able to do.  And once again, they are going to try their hardest to accomplish their mission.

I just want to end here by stating what even many left wing commentators seem unable to grasp:  The members of the mainstream press are not the dupes of the Republicans, they are their collaborators.  They have worked hand in glove with the Republican party to turn this country over to corrupt, evil monsters like Reagan, Bush and Cheney, and now Trump, and until their weapon is forcibly taken out of their hands through the kind of press regulation that worked well enough from FDR through Jimmy Carter, this will continue, and the whole country will only be one election away from devastation.

Update:  And right on cue, a long article in (where else?) the New York Times this morning, devoted to blaming Al Gore for all the lies the press told about the first Gore-Bush debate:

"Note to Hillary Clinton: You can be whip-smart in a presidential debate, yet still blow it spectacularly. Just ask Al Gore."

I'm not going to bother getting into any more of the self-congratulating, tendentious mangling of reality in this article, but let me just state that this sentence should really read:

"Note to Hillary Clinton:  You can maul your opponent, as Gore did to Bush in the first 2000 debate,but that can't stop the entire mainstream press from reporting over and over again that you lost, until the vast majority of American voters believe it."


Marc said…
Ever since seeing NBC News Overnight, then being stationed overseas and watching news of the US from the outside, I've not bothered with the US news media. Fox is just the most public face of it, but the rest of the 'news' organizations are in the same douche canoe. I mainly buy the local Sunday paper for coupons and the entertainment section - the rest of the paper is generally good for birdcage liner, since I'm in a (R) state, with a strong TEA-publican element running the show, so you know how the rest of the paper reads - particularly around election season. Too bad many folk still think the fourth estate is trustworthy.
Green Eagle said…
The United States has the most right wing press of any industrialized nation on earth. Most Americans react with outrage if you state that simple fact, but a fact it remains. And we are continuing to pay a massive price for allowing this corporate corruption of a vital national resource.
Marc said…
Well, the head of the Comission for Presidential Debates came out and stated journalists shouldn't fact check, but leave that to the candidates. Could Hillary just use a recording of Joe Wilson's "You lie!" during the debates, just to save her voice?
Professor Chaos said…
Well said!
Tweeting this out and posting to Facebook.
Professor Chaos said…
Oh, and I would add that not only the political press piled on Gore, comedians were just as bad. Esp. Late night talk shows. How many jokes did you hear about Al Gore claiming to have invented the internet?
And after the debacle in Glorida, how many jokes about Gore demanding recounts of the Oscars, the Super Bowl or whatever?

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