Jill Lawrence sings the guild’s memorized tales!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15, 2013

Carter, Dukakis and you: Back in the day, minstrels had to memorize Homer. They'd never heard of books!

Memorization plays a key role in modern punditry too. Just last week, we looked in on Jim Lehrer as he recited some memorized tales.

All leading pundits know these tales, although they often aren’t true.

We also checked out the National Journal’s Jill Lawrence as she sang famous old tales. We were linked to Lawrence’s songs by this Ezra Klein post.

Lawrence was musing on Martin O’Malley’s chance to win the White House. Right out of the gate, she sang one of those memorized tales:
LAWRENCE: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley made news at the National Governors Association conference last weekend by acknowledging the obvious – that he is laying the foundation for a possible presidential campaign. What really struck me, though, was his assertion that the nation is enduring "a crisis of confidence" that will last through the 2014 midterms.

The phrase called to mind Jimmy Carter's famous "malaise" speech of 1979, in which he lamented that the country had not come together to solve its problems.

Carter never actually used the word "malaise"–but he did use the phrase "crisis of confidence." In fact, it was the title of the speech.
Nice one! Lawrence went on (and on) from there, but surely you know how this ended.

Jimmy Carter's depressing speech is a famous memorized tale. Just as ancient bards knew how to recite the wrath of Zeus, all good members of Lawrence’s guild have memorized this tale.

And they’ve got a million others! Soon, Lawrence moved from Carter to Dukakis. Again, she started to sing:
LAWRENCE: Let's just get the bad news out of the way all at once. O'Malley's summer reading list, according to TIME, includes Richard Haass' Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order; The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government, by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer; and Parker Palmer's Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. Suffice it to say that Swedish Land-Use Planning seems positively frivolous in comparison. That was the book that 1988 nominee Michael Dukakis read at the beach, sealing his image as a colorless nerd. Another Democrat that Democrats generally try not to emulate.
An even more impressive performance! This is a lesser memorized tale concerning Dukakis’ colorless failures.

Not for Lawrence the pitiful twaddle of Lehrer, concerning the way Dukakis should have punched Bernie Shaw right in the nose!

It’s very hard for people to see it, but these savants are barely sane. An astounding amount of their punditry consists in the application of memorized tales, just as the wandering minstrels of yore used to perform their Homer.

Muskie wept! Bush glanced at his watch! Nixon won the debate on the radio! Most of these memorized tales are bogus, misleading or just plain false. But guild members know them all by heart. And they love to sing.

We chuckled to see Lawrence playing this game. We recalled a special performance.

In March 1999, the guild assembled one of its most consequential tales: Al Gore said he invented the Internet! In fairness, Gore hadn’t really said that—and he hadn’t said the word “invented” at all.

But “invented” made Gore sound like a real clown. And it was easy to memorize!

Within days, everyone had the paraphrase down. Lawrence would go the extra mile. That fall, she co-wrote a piece in USA Today where she and Susan Page sang the story thusly:
PAGE AND LAWRENCE (10/28/99): The evening gave Gore the opportunity to reintroduce himself as a less formal, more engaging figure, telling jokes and teasing questioners. He used the occasion to plead guilty to having exaggerated his role in "inventing" the Internet.
As Page and Lawrence sang the tale, “invented” slipped inside quotes. Just as if Gore had once said it!

These people memorize many tales. Sometimes, despite their rigorous training, they slip up in their recitations, trying to drive home a point.

Unhelpful gaffe by Hall: Mimi Hall beat Page and Lawrence to the “invented” trick. In May 1999, she became the first reporter at USA Today to slip “invented” inside quotes, just as if Gore had said it.

Gore hadn’t said the word “invented!” Unless you were reading Hall, seven weeks later:
HALL (6/2/99): A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll last week found Gore trailing both Republican front-runner George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole, another likely GOP candidate.

A series of negative news stories unnerved Gore's campaign staff, aides say...A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he "invented" the Internet, didn't help.
In fairness, Hall was right! That gaffe surely didn’t help Gore, especially the way she told it.

Our best advice to Brother O'Malley? Say as little as possible!

15 comments:

  1. Part of the problem is the distinction between scare quotes vs. quotes indicating that someone actually said something. Wikipedia says:

    Scare quotes are quotation marks placed around a word or phrase to imply that it may not signify its apparent meaning or that it is not necessarily the way the quoting person would express its concept. Thus, the quotes are used to establish a use–mention distinction, in a similar way as verbally prefixing a phrase with "so-called". When referred to as "scare quotes", the quotation marks are suggested to imply skepticism or disagreement with the quoted terminology.

    So, it sort-of makes sense to use scare quotes around "invented" to indicate that Gore didn't use that word. Of course, that usage obviously invites readers to misinterpret the quotation marks and think that Gore actually used the word, "invented."

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    1. "that usage obviously invites readers to misinterpret..."

      Come on. It doesn't merely "invite" misinterpretation.

      It quite obviously COMPELS misunderstanding.

      "That usage":

      "A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he "invented" the Internet, didn't help."

      There's no reasonable reading of this USA Today piece that would have "invented" being anything other than a quote -- a "gaffe" -- by Gore.

      Note also that "scare quotes" are quite ordinarily understood to ALSO BE ACTUAL QUOTES! We put things in "scare quotes" in order to "imply skepticism or disagreement" -- Yes, but we ARE ALSO ACTUALLY QUOTING someone when we do it!

      So the distinction which you find to be "part of the problem" isn't part of the problem at all. It's a lame excuse.

      Making that excuse? -- Now *that* is part of the problem.

      Delete


    2. Poo Poo Platter (Tail of Tale Tellers)

      David in Cal writes:

      "Of course, that usage obviously invites readers to misinterpret the quotation marks and think that Gore actually used the word, "invented."

      Of course, what exactly was Al Gore inviting when he actually did say:

      "During my service in the United States
      Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

      Of course, in this post we are served a platter of memorized, misleading tale from Chef Somerby; that "Al Gore invented the internet" was the assemblage of "the guild" in March, 1999. Like the Rodeo Clown Chicken Clucker he disparaged yesterday, Somerby doesn't names in pointing out who in the guild took the initiative to create the assemblage. That might require pointing the finger at an internet writer for Wired.com, whose work the was instantly picked up and satirized by Rep. Dick Armey, who claimed he invented the interstate Highway system in a press release, and Trent Lott, who delivered the better line, using the exact wording of Gore. "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the paper clip.... Paper clips bind us together as a nation."
      Al, of course, in this telling today, was totally blameless. An internet writer disappears. Eager political opponents turning a boast into a joke go unmentioned. It was the Guild, it was the guild, it was the guild.

      http://web.archive.org/web/20040603092645/http://commons.somewhere.com/rre/2000/RRE.Al.Gore.and.the.Inte1.html

      Delete
    3. This Anon seems to be saying "invented the Internet" was a reasonable paraphrase. He conveniently neglects the next part of the article:

      "Gore's meaning, obvious to anyone who knew the record, was that he did the political work and articulated the public vision that made the
      Internet possible. No reasonable person could conclude that Gore was claiming to have invented the Internet in any technical sense. The first half of his sentence makes this clear: he is talking about work he did in the context of his service in the Congress. The creation of the Internet was a process that had several phases and took several years, and Gore is claiming the principal credit for the political side of that effort. It is a substantial claim, but an accurate one."

      The only way we knew about it was the Guild. We never would have heard a thing about what Armey and Lott said without the Guild, and it wouldn't have been repeated 567,798 times except in the Guild.

      Sounds like this anon is an angry member of the Guild, doesn't it?

      Delete
    4. "Sounds like this anon is an angry member of the Guild, doesn't it?"

      We'll never know, maybe -- but Anonymous Poo Poo is definitely full of shit, and likes the sound of his own keyboard better than anything else.

      Delete
  2. "Al, of course, in this telling today, was totally blameless."

    Well, just how was he to blame?

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  3. Well, urban legend and Anon @ 3:08, thanks for your effort to not respond to my question posed above.

    I think the best response to my question about what was Al Gore inviting when he made his famous quote came from Al Gore himself. You see, unlike Bob, I won't try and convince you Al did not say something stupidly open to parody and misinterpretation. I won't try and convince you that the "debate" at Dartmouth turned on the structure of American health care. And I won't try and tell you Page and Lawrence were sneaky guild members slipping "invent" into their coverage of the debate.

    For brevity I have to rely on the oft maligned Ron Fournier of AP, but there is a link below to his coverage of that famous town hall event at Dartmough in October, 1999. You can assess the accuracy of Somerby's claims by reading a transcript of the entire "debate" Somerby earlier claimed turned on the issue of the structure of American health care. It is the second link.

    Here is the short form of Al Gore's answer to my question:

    "Asked to identify his biggest mistake, Gore replied sheepishly, ''My choice of words when I claimed to have taken the lead in the Congress for inventing the Internet'' -- a comment that earned him ridicule from Republicans and standup comics alike.

    Even Al knew what he invited. And it was Al who slipped the word "inventing" in before the horrid Jill Lawrence took her cue from THE GUILD.

    http://onlineathens.com/stories/102899/new_1028990004.shtml

    For the full transcript go to:

    http://partners.nytimes.com/library/politics/camp/102899wh-dem-debate-text.html

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    1. Why aren't you calling yourself Poo Poo anymore? You're just as shit-filled as ever.

      That Gore didn't more strongly fight the press treatment hardly demonstrates that the press treatment was based on anything legitimate.

      And why don't you answer urban legend: why did you not bother to include (aka delete) the following context):

      "Gore's meaning, obvious to anyone who knew the record, was that he did the political work and articulated the public vision that made the
      Internet possible. No reasonable person could conclude that Gore was claiming to have invented the Internet in any technical sense. The first half of his sentence makes this clear: he is talking about work he did in the context of his service in the Congress. The creation of the Internet was a process that had several phases and took several years, and Gore is claiming the principal credit for the political side of that effort. It is a substantial claim, but an accurate one."

      Delete
    2. Shorter Gore: My biggest mistake? I gave you the rope you used to hang me.

      Of course, this was a fairly self-effacing response by Gore, who knew well that in this case as in so many others, ANYTHING he said would be fashioned by the press into a hanging rope.

      Delete
    3. @Anon 12:51am

      "And it was Al who slipped the word "inventing" in before the horrid Jill Lawrence took her cue from THE GUILD."

      The link proves the above statement is false.


      According to the New York Times transcript, Gore does not use the word "invented."

      Q. Yes, sir. Thank you very much. I'm Keith Irwin from Enfield, New Hampshire, and my question to you, sir, is what is the biggest mistake you have made in your political career, and how have you changed as a result of it?

      GORE: There are so many to choose from. (Laughter.)

      If I was going to pick one right off the bat -- everybody hates to get that question, you know -- if I was going to pick one right off the bat, I would say that my biggest mistake was in my choice of words when I claimed to have taken the lead in the Congress in creating the Internet. (Laughter, scattered applause.)

      Delete
  4. Anon @2:02

    Poo Poo Platters are the tile I give to commentary on what Somerby is serving. I usually use PPP at the end of responses to others to help poor readers like yourself distinguish amongst us here at Blogger's Anonymous meetings. Slipped up on the last one. My apologies.

    I could have included the quote from the article to which I linked, but my purpose was not to debate Gore's role in developing the internet, which many went to great lengths to prove after he had been savaged for the self serving claim for which he later pled guilty. I look forward to an academic work on the Role of Gore's Public Vision in Creation of the Internet. I know you do as well. I hope it isn't written by a professor.

    My purpose was to show how the great press critic, Bob Somerby, distorts or leaves out facts in developing HIS narrative.

    I also could have included Al's entire answer when he copped a guilty plea to uttering stupid self serving words instead of just linking. Since you insist, I'll do so now since they address Anon's comment at 2:06 (I assume he/she is different).

    "If I was going to pick one right off the bat -- everybody hates to get that question, you know -- if I was going to pick one right off the bat, I would say that my biggest mistake was in my choice of words when I claimed to have taken the lead in the Congress in creating the Internet. (Laughter, scattered applause.)

    I -- and I've had an opportunity to talk about that -- (scattered laughter).

    I'm proud of what I did in that area, incidentally, because there was a little network called DARPANET in the Pentagon, and I did take the lead in the Congress in providing funding for the people who created what later became the Internet -- held hearings, got the money through the process, and tried to proselytize the idea of an information superhighway. I'm -- you know, I'm not proud of what I did to try to take too much credit for it, but I'm proud of what I did to further that goal and bring it along." Al Gore 1999

    You know folks, around here the blogmaster is fond of telling the press what they should have said. Perhaps Gore should have told Wolff:

    "During my years in Congress I took the initiative to get research funded which helpedcreate the Internet."

    You know, kind of like Bob's suggestion recently that Chris Hayes put the word "some" in front of "white people."

    PPP

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    Replies
    1. PPP, you can go on and on as the Daily Howler's Daily Howler, but I think you are off target here. Bob, perhaps ad nauseam, has made a valid point about how Gore's statement about the internet, and many other things, was shamefully distorted by the press. The bigger picture is that so much of campaign coverage devolves around so-called "gaffes" and when they are made up or distorted, it is especially obnoxious.

      Delete
    2. Poo, Poo, Poo, ...

      Hoisted by your own petard. Go back and look at your first cut and paste. You have a journalist quoting Gore as apologizing sheepishly using the word "invented." Then pulling the longer quote from somewhere else, you show that Gore had been misquoted. He didn't use the word "invented." You even bolded the misquote.

      Delete
    3. Anon 5:00 PM

      You are correct. Gore did not use the word "invented."

      Delete