One would think I'd been friendly enough to Al Gore over the months and years to avoid getting knocked in a blundering screed by Bob Somerby, the guy who writes the Daily Howler. But there's a deeper annoyance and foolishness here that I'd like to comment on.
A few days ago I made the point that with the economy in a tizzy and so much incompetence from the Bush team we might see a very different dynamic in a 2004 match-up between Gore and Bush. Bush's folksiness might count for much less than it did in 2000 and Gore's experience might count for much more.
Here's what I said.
In 2000 no one doubted that Al Gore was experienced and competent. But it almost ended up being a liability. People just never warmed to him. And they liked George W. Bush. Right now, who you'd rather hang with at the barbecue just doesn't seem quite as important. Competence and experience does.
Here's Somerby's response (which comes in the course of a long post)..
âPeople just never warmed to Gore,â Marshall says, offering no thoughts as to why that happened. Of course, the fact that the press borked Gore for twenty straight months will seldom be mentioned in the press corpsâ narrations. In these renditions, the press corps itself plays absolutely no role; their effect of events is completely disappeared. In the case of Campaign 2000, the press corps is removing itself from the turrible tale as it concocts its group story about Gore.
On one level this strikes me as a stupid comment because anyone who's even remotely familiar with my reporting and columns during the 2000 election knows that I was quite favorable to Gore and quite critical of the way the media covered him. Somerby is partly just at war with writerly brevity. One can't say that people never warmed to Gore because then one is lumped in with the anti-Gore, ass-covering media conspiracy. One has to make the prescibed genuflection, stating that people never warmed to Gore because the press bought into the right-wing's long-standing and well-timed attacks on Gore's character, held him to a higher standard than the bumbling governor of Texas, yada, yada, yada.
Be careful when you encounter that story. Trust us: This press corps never tells you the truth when its own conduct is part of the tale. Do you really think that Ambitious Al weirdly refused to acknowledge Vile Bill? If you believe that, we have a bridge to sell you. Itâs a bridge to the thirty-first century.
In a similar fashion one can never write the grammatically elegant sentence "Gore lost the election" without a hundred yahoos writing in to say, "No, no, no, Gore didn't lose. He got more votes. He won. Bush wasn't elected, he was selected!"
Yes, yes, I know. I too think Gore was robbed. But I'm content to let the language remain unmutilated and assume that right-thinking people remember all that.
The whole thing makes me think of someone who walks to the edge of the road, looks right, looks left, and then walks into the street and gets run over. As his ghost is rising up to heaven he's saying "No, wait, I looked both ways!"
Some things may not be your fault. But they're still your problem.
And this brings us back to the question of Gore and the press. It's stupid to criticize people who are sympathetic to Gore and yet don't muddle up their prose with explanations of why Gore had a hard go of things.
But there's a deeper issue too. Like Hobbes said with respect to life, most members of the press are nasty, brutish and short. And also not that sharp.
But, buddy, that's life! Or at least it's life in the political game. Most of the press was imbecilic in its treatment of Gore. But they were equally so of Bill Clinton and he managed okay. Democrats should mau-mau for press for their imbecility as successfully as whiny conservatives did for years about 'media bias', something that still has most of the press pitifully cowed.
I'm not saying to get over it. I'm saying to do something about it. Much of the political game is a matter of managing and dealing with a craven and shallow press corps. Like bad referees in sports, they may suck, but they're part of the game. Once you get that through your $%(@# head you're better equipped to deal with the situation.