The analysts start to cheer: We did a little snarking last week about Rick Perlstein’s “name-calling” in a recent piece.
Having snarked, let us offer half a cheer. That’s what the analysts started to do in response to one part of Perlstein’s report about the treatment of “Camelot” by the 60s-era press corps.
Perlstein smacks the legendary Theodore White for his serial sycophancy, first toward President Kennedy, then toward President Nixon. At one point, he brought the analysts right out of their chairs.
Is Rick Perlstein allowed to say this? Plainly, no one else does:
PERLSTEIN (11/22/13): The whole thing is a great object lesson in the horrors of access journalism—and access history…If you hate the kind of writing Bob Woodward does now; if you hate Politico or, going back further, if you hate the kind of things Sally Quinn wrote on Monicagate (“ ‘He came in here and he trashed the place,’ says Washington Post columnist David Broder, ‘and it’s not his place.’ ”), or the childish abuse and systematic distortions meted out to Al Gore in 2000 because he didn’t fit into the Washington insiders’ village, blame Camelot—or “Camelot.”Say what? Candidate Gore was subjected to “childish abuse and systematic distortions because he didn’t fit into the Washington insiders’ village?”
If that is true, why hasn’t this been widely discussed by the emerging liberal world? Why haven’t names been named? Some of them very big names?
Perlstein’s statement is true, of course, though he understates what happened by half. This is what he should have written:
PERLSTEIN REWRITTEN: Or the childish abuse and systematic distortions meted out to Al Gore in 1999 and 2000 because he didn’t fit into the Washington insiders’ village.As history clearly records, the abuse and distortions began in March 1999. If Candidate Gore had just been trashed “in 2000,” we very much doubt that Candidate Bush would ever have reached the White House.
Only we liberals and progressives do this! Perlstein is one of the only people we’ve ever seen describing the press corps’ grotesque misconduct in Campaign 2000. And when he does so, he understates their misconduct by half!
Might we state another pet peeve? This involves Perlstein’s complaint against Sally Quinn.
People have made this complaint before. Because Perlstein is an historian, we’re amazed to see him make it.
Should you “hate the kind of things Sally Quinn wrote on Monicagate?” Perlstein quotes from Quinn’s lengthy report in the Washington Post on November 2, 1998.
We regard that report as one of the great contributions to the history of the era. Here’s why:
Look what Perlstein presents in that passage. In that passage, Quinn is quoting someone. She is quoting David Broder, a very important figure in the Clinton-era press.
Manifestly, she isn’t stating her own view about President Clinton.
In that 3700-word report, Quinn recorded such statements by a wide array of very major Beltway insiders. In the process, she established a very important historical fact—as of November 1998, President Clinton was widely loathed by a wide array of major D.C. insiders.
Rather plainly, that loathing was transferred to Candidate Gore starting in March 1999. The historical record is strongly established by Quinn’s lengthy report, in which she didn’t express her own view. (She even stated, several times, that the general public didn’t share the anti-Clinton attitudes of these D.C. insiders.)
We’re amazed to see Perlstein complain about that invaluable report. Absent Quinn’s report, an historian of the era would have to work extremely hard to establish the fact that these major figures held those views toward Clinton. This is especially true because of the familiar scripting which holds that the establishment press, with its liberal bias, simply loves people like Clinton.
We’ve spent years recording the “childish abuse and systematic distortions” meted out to Candidate Gore starting in March 1999. Indeed:
After posting Chapter 6 at our companion site, to complete and total disinterest, we finally couldn’t take it any more! Even for us, it had become too hard to keep devoting years of our time to building the record of this historical episode, even as the pay-for-play children refused to even offer a post about a new part of the story.
(We’re still trying to make ourselves finish Chapter 7, which involves several other remarkable episodes, including the widely-advanced claim that it was really Gore who gave us Willie Horton. Within the guild still described as a press corps, everyone and his “research assistant” made that ridiculous claim at some point in late 1999. It was a long-standing bit of RNC cant; in late 1999, it was uniformly adopted by the “mainstream press.” This, of course, is only one part of that remarkable, long-delayed chapter, which we can’t make ourselves type. Within this broken culture, what could possibly be the point of recording historical fact?)
Perlstein has done an amazing thing in the passage we’ve posted. He refers to stunning journalistic misconduct—an episode which went on for twenty straight months, starting in March 1999.
Given the narrow way Campaign 2000 was decided, it’s obvious that this act of group malfeasance sent George Bush to the White House. It would take a fool to deny that fact—a fool, or a gang of store-bought “career liberals” who have simply refused to tell the public the truth.
Darlings, it just isn’t done! Do you have any idea what that does to a person’s career?
Incredibly, Perlstein notes the fact that a war was waged against Candidate Gore in Campaign 2000. In the process, he understates the length of that war by half—and he complains about the person who most clearly established the historical record about where that war came from.
We live in very peculiar times. Most strikingly, our society’s “manufactured consent” is almost total. The liberal world has refused to squeal about what the press corps did to Clinton, then Gore.
In that passage, Perlstein actually refers to the truth! Is Perlstein allowed to do that?
More about Teddy White’s conduct: Perlstein describes the sycophancy of Teddy White—first toward President Kennedy, then later toward President Nixon.
Let’s return to something we wrote long ago:
In The Making of the President 1960, White describes the sycophancy of the reporters on the Kennedy plane during the 1960 campaign. He described grotesque misconduct on the part of the press, but he couldn’t quite make himself say so.
(He describes reporters singing satirical songs about Nixon with Kennedy staffer as they fly around the country on the Kennedy plane. He says that “all” their coverage was “colored” by the ass-kissing directed at them by Candidate Kennedy himself.)
White’s descriptions are remarkable, as is his refusal to speak frankly about his colleagues’ misconduct. Sad! We had planned to treat this remarkable material at some length in Chapter 9, as it becomes especially relevant to the press corps’ misconduct during Campaign 2000—the gross misconduct your heroes won’t tell you about.
White’s account is astounding, as is his deference to his colleagues’ misbehavior. For a briefer description from ten years back, go ahead—just click this.