BLATANT BAD FAITH WATCH: Jim Lehrer's a very bad person!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2011

Jim Lehrer’s load of pure crap: We lost a lot of respect for Jim Lehrer during the 2000 debates.

Over the weekend, we read his groaningly awful new book, “Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain.” Our assessment of this insider icon grew considerably worse.

In his book, Lehrer discusses what it’s like to moderate presidential debates. The book is deeply revealing but truly awful, especially if you understand the background to the events he describes.

For today, consider one astonishing claim Lehrer makes in his book.

A bit of background: Over the weekend, we watched Lehrer’s hour-long session with Gloria Borger on C-Span’s “After Words” program. Borger is a consummate insider hack, of course. For that reason, she was assigned to chat with Lehrer about his gruesome new book.

Borger met her match in Lehrer. To watch their full hour, click this.

Early on, Lehrer tells Borger about the first Bush-Gore debate—a history-changing event which occurred eleven years ago tonight. Needless to say, he builds his discussion around the very bad way Candidate Gore behaved. It’s one of the press corps’ favorite tales—and Lehrer really knows how to tell it.

Speaking with Borger, Lehrer stresses how close he sat to the two candidates on the debate stage that night. He also says that, whenever he moderates a debate, he only looks at the candidate who is speaking. After this prelude, Lehrer starts telling Borger about Gore’s deeply disgraceful behavior. What follows only sets the stage for the larger howler to come:
LEHRER (7/18/11): At any rate, to make a long story short, I would ask a question of Bush, and Bush would be giving an answer and Gore would [makes noise] “Aaaah.” He started sighing.

BORGER: Oh, the sighing!

LEHRER: Remember that? You know, he got going like that. Well, that hurt him terribly. Because the public saw that, because they had split screen coverage then and— But when it was all over, I’m walking out of the hall with my family and one of my daughters says, “Oh Dad, that was, that was incredible what Gore did!” And I just stopped and I said, “What did Gore do?” And she talked, mentioned about the sighing and the grimacing and all that. I didn’t see any of that.
Logic is rarely allowed to intrude on this fraternal order’s prime tales. Question:

If Candidate Gore was sighing so much, and if Lehrer was sitting so close to Gore, then why didn’t Lehrer hear all those sighs? Gloria knew she mustn’t ask, and Jimbo didn’t tell us.

But then, Lehrer and Borger joined forces to crank out what follows. Truly, this is astounding—an insult to simple history:
LEHRER (continuing directly): But it was a perfect case. People who listened to that on the radio thought Gore won that debate hands on [sic]. People who watched it on television thought—

BORGER: Kennedy-Nixon? Didn’t that, didn’t that happen the same way?

LEHRER: Kennedy-Nixon. Exactly. Kennedy-Nixon, it’s exactly the same parallel.
Is there a bigger hack on the planet? As even Lehrer and Borger must know, Gore was judged the winner of the debate in all five overnight polls of TV viewers, by an average margin of ten points. Presumably, even a pair like Lehrer and Borger must know that bone-simple fact. But who cares? They agreed to compare this important event to the first Kennedy-Nixon debate, in which (urban legend alert!) all good hacks have always said that radio listeners thought Nixon won, while TV viewers picked Dear Jack because Nixon looked so awful.

In fact, there is no serious evidence supporting this famous old claim, one of the hoariest tales in all of American politics. But let’s get back to the basic point here: Among people who watched the first Bush-Gore debate, Candidate Gore was judged the winner in all five overnight polls. But here was Lehrer, saying that Gore’s horrible conduct caused him to lose the debate among TV viewers.

Surely, Lehrer knows that isn’t true. Please! Tell us he actually knows that!

Naturally, this exchange made us wonder if Lehrer makes this same bizarre claim in his book. And so, we made it our business to look. Jim Lehrer is a very bad person:
LEHRER (page 94): I didn’t want any candidate to use eye contact with me as a way to transmit his own reactions.

So, despite being the closest person in the room, I ended up missing what turned out to be the most important story of that debate.

Through the television device of a split screen, the world watched as Gore on that October 3 evening expressed disgust and displeasure with Bush’s answers.

Gore sighed heavily and repeatedly. He shook his head, frowned, rolled his eyes, and sneered. And—one thing I did know for sure—he also violated the time limits for questions and responses, violated the polite pleas of the moderator, and, generally, came across as overbearing—unlikable.

That, at least, was the consensus reaction from even his own supporters as well as much of the public. Gore was judged the clear loser in the debate, based almost entirely on his body language and not on what he actually said. As with the first Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960, radio listeners came away with an almost entirely different impression than that of those who watched it on television.
Truly, that’s incredible. But there it is, in this bad person’s book. By the way:

In that account, Lehrer adds a second load of standard press bullshit, suggesting that Gore just wouldn’t stop talking during that first debate. In fact, word-counts showed that Bush spoke considerably more words than Gore that night. It’s hard to know how that could have happened if Gore constantly “violated the time limits for questions and responses, violated the polite pleas of the moderator.” But this claim—the claim that Gore just kept interrupting—quickly became another press lie. To see Jeff Greenfield’s extremely bad conduct with respect to this point, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/30/01. (Details below. In that post, we were reviewing Greenfield’s fantasy-laden book about Campaign 2000.)

There’s a great deal more in Lehrer’s new book, including a fairly obvious explanation for the way Lehrer has kept disparaging Gore over the past ten years. Darlings! Gore’s people dared to complain about Lehrer’s conduct as moderator! For the record, this misconduct stretched back to the 1996 debates, and on into 2004.

We’ll return to this book in the next week or do. We think it reveals a great deal, in various ways, about the people who comprise our multimillionaire “press corps.” Lehrer’s fatuous notions are on full display, along with his gruesome bad judgment and his blatant dishonesty.

It isn’t a pretty picture. But then, multimillionaire cultural icons tend to end up that way.

More about Greenfield’s account: In the old post we link to above, we gave you the word count for the long exchange in that first debate about Bush’s prescription drug plan. Total words spoken during that segment: Bush 1091, Gore 682—and we include the full transcript for that discussion, so you can see for yourself. But go back and look at the way Greenfield tried to make you think that Gore just wouldn’t shut up during that segment. The notion that Gore just wouldn’t shut up was already a standard part of the fraternal order’s tale.

That said, even Greenfield felt he had to admit the basic fact that Gore won every overnight poll. Here’s how he explained that problem away:
GREENFIELD (page 194): Yes, the instant polls showed a narrow Gore victory. But it was the kind of victory the villainous wrestler scores with a questionable chokehold. A lot of voters were saying, "Yeah, he won— but I don’t like that guy.”
Oh. And please note that ten points became “narrow.”

By now, Lehrer feels free to reinvent even the most basic facts about that event. But this is how these people function. And fiery liberals have rarely said boo.

Darlings! Jim Lehrer is powerful! The Gore folk complained about Lehrer’s misconduct. And look what Jim’s doing to him!

10 comments:

  1. I remember the events well. Day one: Gore wins, hands down. Day two: Bush astounds the media by not making an utter fool of himself (as predicted). Day three: Bush wins, hands down. Day four: Chiseled in stone.
    Here is a good commentary from April 2000.
    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2000/0004.parry.html

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  2. "Day one: ... Day two: ... Day three: ... Day four: ..."

    A content-free summary, worth approximately what we're paying for it -- nothing.

    Whatever its merits, the Robert Parry article is unrelated to your thumbnail debate summary, and in fact doesn't comment on the debates at all.

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  3. Lehrer tells us he heard the sighs.

    "At any rate, to make a long story short, I would ask a question of Bush, and Bush would be giving an answer and Gore would [makes noise] “Aaaah.” He started sighing."

    He tells us he didn't see the facial expressions, because he wasn't looking at Gore.

    "He also says that, whenever he moderates a debate, he only looks at the candidate who is speaking."

    So why this statement?

    "Simple logic rarely intrudes on this fraternal order’s prime tales. Question: If Candidate Gore was sighing so much, and if Lehrer was sitting so close to Gore, why didn’t he hear all these sighs? Gloria knew she mustn’t ask, and Jimbo didn’t tell."

    Where are the analysts?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lehrer tells us he heard the sighs.

    "At any rate, to make a long story short, I would ask a question of Bush, and Bush would be giving an answer and Gore would [makes noise] “Aaaah.” He started sighing."

    He tells us he didn't see the facial expressions, because he wasn't looking at Gore.

    "He also says that, whenever he moderates a debate, he only looks at the candidate who is speaking."

    So why this statement?

    "Simple logic rarely intrudes on this fraternal order’s prime tales. Question: If Candidate Gore was sighing so much, and if Lehrer was sitting so close to Gore, why didn’t he hear all these sighs? Gloria knew she mustn’t ask, and Jimbo didn’t tell."

    Where are the analysts?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I double dog dare you to write about this review of Friedman's latest book-like object without mentioning oral sex.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/03/books/that-used-to-be-us-by-friedman-and-mandelbaum-review.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1317662329-R++zdrJR9WHYj6FoejuXRg

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  6. An interesting post again about the Bush-Gore debates. We would love to read about it in "How He Got There", a book whose chapter six has been delayed by more than nine monthe, although the author says it's due any day now. Wanna bet?

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  7. Bob really is the point of the spear in pointing out this insanity we live in though. If anything at all could change it, it seems like it has to be the press.

    So to have any positive effect on political world, one has to have a positive effect on the press.

    If that's true, what can anyone else do, because not everyone has Bob's genius. I don't mind saying it.

    Maybe the point of the point of the spear is the advertisers? (Not sure if that would work for Lehrer).

    But to the point at hand, isn't there video evidence of all this, I mean, can't someone just post the feed from that night, and settle it that way? I can read Bob's archives, but I thought it was basically settled that there was maybe one infamous 'sigh,' that was of course blown to the moon by the rabid media.

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  8. The group think in those darkest of bad media days seems to have spread even into PBS land. There were echos of this during the News hours attacks on Hillary Clinton (Mark Shields calling out the Clinton campaign for racism with the same hard evidence we get from Harris Perry), but on balance I thin the News Hour is a pretty good show.
    What would be interesting to see is some other journos of the time questioned on these matters. No doubt some, like Bill Press, will argue it was all Gore's own fault. Here on the west coast, we had ultimate Clinton Gore hating nutball Marc Cooper pulling down all kinds of space in various media. Maybe some, if asked, would be a little more honest. But as The Howler says, "it simply isn't done...."

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  9. I personally don't think hes the darkest of the media men. He did a fantastic interview on Elaine Charles's Book report radio show last week that gave some great insight to the debates and his book Tension City. Elaine asked some great questions and I suggest listening to it before you make your decision of what kind of person he is. Heres a link to the The Book Report show and the show is already up there in the archives. http://bookreportradio.com/archives.html

    ReplyDelete