And one or two additional targets of those legends and myths: Yesterday, we said that much of what we regard as “fact” and “news” is actually myth and legend.
Then too, we have our “forbidden histories,” one of which Nick Turse described to Bill Moyers last weekend. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/11/13.
We described a twenty-year era of fact and legend aimed at Democratic candidates. We said we couldn’t think of a Republican who got the same treatment during that era.
Later, it seemed to us that we might have mentioned one or two.
In 1996, Lamar Alexander was threatening to win the New Hampshire Republican primary. At some point, we were told by a staffer in a position to know that he was the person the Clinton/Gore team didn’t want to run against. (Whether it was true or not, that assessment made perfect sense.)
In the final week of that primary, the press corps staged a classic lunatic orgy in which Alexander was mocked because he didn’t know the price of a gallon of milk. On Election Day, he finished third, losing by 9,000 votes. See comical treatment below!
Beyond that, Dan Quayle was often ridiculed in fairly ridiculous ways by the mainstream press corps. In yesterday’s post, we were thinking of major candidates for president. That wasn’t Quayle’s status when this nonsense occurred.
That said, David Von Drehle’s mocking treatment of Candidate Quayle in the Washington Post in 1999 remains an absolute classic (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/19/12). In fairness, this was a stand-alone gong show and it’s very unlikely that Quayle would have emerged as a major candidate for the GOP nomination in 2000. As such, Quayle’s overall treatment largely represents the end of an era—an era in which the press corps was willing to attack major figures from both major parties in silly or ridiculous ways.
Starting with Biden and Hart in 1987, Democrats became the principal target of this still unexplained journalistic warfare. The liberal world just sat there and took it for the next twenty years, still won’t discuss it today.
Concerning those “forbidden histories,” they do lie all around us.
Turse has written a book about the forbidden history of the Vietnam War. But other major stories are completely forbidden. Despite the endless discussion of “education reform,” just try to find an accurate account of this nation’s rising scores on the NAEP, the widely-praised gold standard of educational testing. After that, try to find even one real attempt to explain our bizarre per-person health costs, which make us the clowns of the world.
Regarding those health costs, Paul Krugman described this remarkable problem in a series of columns in 2005. Everyone else ignored his work on this forbidden topic.
As consumers of “news,” you are denied a great deal of information in various forbidden areas. In the case of health costs and test scores, everyone agrees to pretend that this isn’t happening—or it may be that they simply don’t care.
Dearest darlings! Careers are at stake! Good jobs at very good pay!
In the matter of Alexander: When Candidate Alexander got mugged, we were distributing a weekly satirical news report, The Election Town Crier. We described the nonsense as follows.
Some references are now outdated:
Come on along to the market, Urschel and Keen say—That was good solid comedy fun. Dole got the nomination.
cream Lamar Alexander on the price-of-milk issue
How dairy try to pose as outsider, pair say—
Witty scribes put the pun back in pundit
DERRY, N.H.—What’s the price of milk, and a dozen large eggs? And shouldn’t an “outsider” hopeful be able to tell you?
To USA Today’s Judy Keen and Joe Urschel, it was news when Lamar Alexander couldn’t answer these questions. They filed page-one reports from New Hampshire this week that had candidates scrambling for cover.
Reporters love the old-fashioned price-of-milk-and-eggs story because it involves information so simple that even they can explain it. And it gives talented word-smiths like Keen and Urschel a chance to showcase their grocery-based punning.
On Wednesday, Keen milked the story for all it was worth, leaving the hapless ex-governor with egg on his face. When the hard-boiled Urschel followed up the next day, Alexander must have felt drawn and quart-ered!
The next hapless hopeful to be knocked “over easy” was the bumbling ex-front runner, Steve Forbes. Ironically, Forbes would be rendered a real Grade A foil by his collection of priceless Faberge eggs.
Straight-faced reporters asked the whipping-boy Forbes what he thought a dozen large eggs might be running. He priced the twelve “eggs” around six million dollars. His high-priced campaign was now toast.
Others would handle the questioning better, made aware of the mayhem out on the trail. Pat Buchanan received short-wave reports from the nation’s storm cellars describing the cost of survivalist rations. And Morry Taylor punished scribes with long-winded raps on the cost of a good set of tires.
But the press corps had worked its time-honored magic, forcing recalcitrant hopefuls to get back on the issues. For this wasn’t some silly straw poll, after all. This was New Hampshire—the cream of the crop!
Oh yes. Buchanan rolled to an upset win over Dole. Winning margarine? What else? One percent!