Part 3—The press corps has had some bad luck: In fairness, the press corps has had a lot of bad luck over the last twenty years.

Childishly, the press corps has typecast various pols in the role of The Last Honest Man. But wouldn’t you know it? These journalists have gotten a lot of bad breaks as these ballyhooed pols kept refusing to stick to the script.

Yesterday, we recalled the way Maureen Dowd, then a reporter, assured us that Candidate Tsongas was being “as usual, straightforward” about the state of his health. But wouldn’t you know it? As it turned out, Tsongas and his doctor may not have been sticking to the script—the script in which Tsongas was being cast as the first of The Last Honest Men.

(For background, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/5/12.)

Was Candidate Tsongas being straightforward? Below, we include a few paragraphs we withheld from yesterday's post:
DOWD (2/16/92): Last night, at a crowded 51st birthday party for Mr. Tsongas at a Holiday Inn here, his doctor, Tak Takvorian, was citing an invitation for the candidate to be the host of "Saturday Night Live" as an indication that he's ready for prime time.

But when Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas stumbled a second time and the spotlight swung to Mr. Tsongas this week in New Hampshire, he was nowhere to be found. To the utter astonishment of the pundits, his public schedule was nearly empty on Tuesday and empty on Wednesday.

Riding in his campaign van on Thursday, Mr. Tsongas was asked how he spent his day off. Without looking up from his favorite task, signing copies of his economic booklet, he replied: "I took my daughter to school. I went swimming. I spent three hours on the phone. In the evening, I spent some quiet time with the kids. I heard all the horror stories about overscheduling on the Dukakis campaign and I don't want to run around like a chicken without a head, exhausting myself and making no progress and looking haggard on television."

Mr. Tsongas, whose doctor says he has been free of cancer for five years, knows questions are raised about his health when he keeps light schedules. But he has his own way of dealing with the health issue, and it is, as usual, straightforward.


Mr. Tsongas gets tired of being asked about his recurrent cough, and tells reporters that it is simply from a dry throat, and that Mr. Clinton has the same thing. But Dr. Takvorian says the explanation is that because of the candidate's "history of radiation," his throat tends to get drier.
As usual, This Last Honest Man was being straightforward about his health. That recurrent cough was explained away. So was his unusual lack of activity out on the trail.

Indeed, his doctor was saying that Candidate Tsongas had been free of cancer for five years! But then, he had also oddly promoted the candidate at a birthday bash.

Drat! Before the year was done, Tsongas, a good decent man, was back in the hospital. Tragically and prematurely, he died in January 1997, with the Times’ medical expert reporting that he and his doctor had withheld the true state of his health condition—even that they may have misreported some basic facts.

The mainstream press corps got a bad break when Tsongas failed to stick to the script! But this pattern has re-emerged again and again in the past twenty years as our “journalists” keep trying to tell the world that they’ve spotted The Last Honest Man.

Candidate Tsongas was a first draft for this role in the press corps’ dime novel. By the fall of 1999, the press corps was massively hyping Candidates Bradley and McCain as the world’s well-twinned Most Honest Men.

The hype for the straight-talking pair was gigantic. In November, the gents appeared on the cover of Newsweek, the single word “Straight-shooters” emblazoned across their chests. All around the mainstream press, major pundits stood in line to declare them The Most Honest Men.

But wouldn’t you know it! More bad luck! By December, Bradley was disgracing himself with his ridiculous, ugly charges about Al Gore and Willie Horton—charges which completely contradicted what he had written in a best-selling book, just three years before. (There were quite a few other misstatements.)

By January 2000, Candidate McCain was running a grossly misleading set of ads about Candidate Bush’s tax cut proposal. Try as they might, our “journalists” couldn’t seem to explain what was wrong with this straight-talker’s ads.

Four years before, the same situation had obtained with Candidate Dole, who basically lied about Candidate Forbes in a series of ads which tipped the closely-fought New Hampshire primary.

In that case, everyone knew that Dole was lying, but he was slated to run against Clinton, and the press was scripting the campaign this way: Clinton has character problems, Dole is out of touch. Within the framework of that silly novel, the press corps wasn’t allowed to tell you that Candidate Dole was—let’s be honest—basically lying through his teeth about Forbes, in a way very few candidates at that level have done.

The script must hold! Even as Dole lied about Forbes, Newsweek ran a profile of Clinton and Dole, contrasting Dole’s upstanding character with Clinton’s obvious fecklessness. “Saxophone versus sacrifice,” the profile’s remarkably foolish headline said.

The photographs explained the headline: Clinton was shown in his high school band uniform, Dole in the uniform he had worn as part of his military service! As Newsweek vouched in this way for the great man’s high character, he lied through his teeth about Forbes.

Were Dole, Tsongas, Bradley dishonest men? Not especially, no—but that isn’t the point. As part of the press corps’ ongoing dime novel, these highly ambitious pols were being scripted as the much-more-honest opponents of Clinton and Gore, each of whom was being cast as The World’s Biggest Liar.

To all appearances, these ambitious pols were willing to take advantage of this foolish typecasting.

By 1999, the press corps’ devotion to its stupid dime novel reached the point of near insanity. They invented lies by Candidate Gore and dishonestly pimped the straight-talking “Straight-shooters.” (Candidate Bush wasn’t exactly The Last Honest Man, but he was “plain-spoken.”)

As this conduct transpired down through the years, major liberals slept in the woods. Other liberals joined the lying about Candidates Clinton and Gore.

Over the past twenty years, there have been two major ways to become The Last Honest Man. You could run for office against one of the Clintons or Gore (or, to some extent, against Kerry). Or of course you could simply be a self-professed “budget hawk.”

As long as you were proposing deeps cuts to Medicare and Social Security, you were one of The Last Honest Men! It didn’t matter how much bullshit you emitted in support of this theme—and tons of such shit were emitted.

In all honesty, the need for “Social Security reform” has been the largest source of disinformation in our politics over the past thirty years. Inevitably, the people who peddled that disinformation were listed as Most Honest Men.

This is the remarkable way Paul Ryan got to be honest.

Ryan got to be honest the new-fangled way—by dissembling about basic budget matters in support of “entitlement” cuts. Paul Krugman has been describing this problem for years. But the press has been typing a novel.

For reasons they have never explained, journalists didn’t intend to change their remarkably bogus group story.

Within the past week, at least two major journalists—Joe Nocera and Will Saletan—have denounced their previous love for brave honest truth-telling Ryan. Saletan’s renunciation was rather straightforward. Nocera issued a jumble of words in the New York Times.

But neither man really explained why he had praised this Last Honest Man through years of nonsense and prevarication, the endless dissembling Krugman had noted. People! When these people type a dime novel, the typecasting must hold!

Can we talk? None of these Last Honest Men could have sustained this silly designation without the help of mainstream journalists and even a string of career liberals. Tomorrow, we’ll remember the way one rising liberal was still fawning to Ryan last year. And we’ll mention another Last Honest Man, the one who told a very odd tale at the UN.

In the face of Colin Powell’s misstatements, Rachel Maddow rolled over and died. Did you see her fawn to Gwen Ifill, the journalist who rolled over and died for the misstatements of Condi?

Career liberals have pimped The Last Honest Men. They also pretended that Clinton and Gore were The World’s Biggest Liars.

Endlessly, the liberal world has put up with these people. We have one question:


Coming: Career liberals praise The Last Honest Men

Also: The Last Honest Women, “education reform” subdivision


  1. Bob,
    Last night big Dems did what you said they would never do; challenge Republican distortions point by point.

    It's time you moved back into the 21st century.

    The pundits already had their script written and memorized, i.e., "Clinton and Obama don't like each other, Clinton loves the crowds, Obama is a loner. Clinton will clearly explain what the Democrats will do because Obama can't", etc., etc.

    Bill Clinton attacked Romney and Ryan on specific points.

    I had switched PBS because I couldn't stand Chris Matthews or Lawrence O'Donnell any longer. I don't watch their shows anyway.

    PBS had the convention speakers sitting in with their commentary, a nice touch.

    Poor David Brooks was overwhelmed by the events. He complained that nobody talked about jobs.

    All he could say about Clinton was that his speech was too long.

    It reminded me of that scene in AMADEUS where Salieri tells the Emperor
    to inform Mozart that his latest composition had "too many notes."

    1. I think Bob's gripe is with the press & their lazy non reporting Not sure how he feels about the Dems