FORBIDDEN STORY: Yglesias speaks!

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

Part 2—Sixteen years later, the truth:
If we might borrow from our Springsteen:

In the summer of 02, Matt Yglesias was 21.

Several years earlier, Yglesias had undergone what he now calls “the formative experience of my political life.” Two weeks ago, he described that formative experience in a lengthy piece for Vox.

Mainly, Yglesias’ piece concerned the new tax plan proposed by Candidate Jeb Bush. His analysis has a lot to recommend it.

Yglesias discussed that new tax proposal. That said, this is the way he began:
YGLESIAS (9/14/15): The formative experience of my political life was the 2000 presidential campaign, in which the media mercilessly persecuted Al Gore over a series of trivial exaggerations and now-forgotten pseudo-scandals while giving George W. Bush a pass on the fact that the central premises of his economic agenda were lies.
Was Campaign 2000 really the formative experience of Yglesias’ political life? We have no way to assess that.

That said, Yglesias’ description of that fateful campaign focuses on its journalism. “Journalism failed in 2000,” he says at one point in a bit of an understatement.

Did journalism fail in 2000? We’d quibble with some of Yglesias’ formulations.

(Were those “trivial exaggerations” exaggerations at all? In pretty much every case, we’d say that Candidate Gore’s alleged exaggerations were actually journalistic inventions. The press corps invented Gore’s troubling lies, then agreed to pretend that he said them.)

We’d also challenge some of Yglesias’ emphases. We’d pick at points of chronology, including one which is basic.

(Did journalism fail “in 2000?” In fact, the journalistic war against Gore started in earnest in March 1999, as soon as Gore made his first trip to New Hampshire. The journalistic misconduct that year established the framework for everything which would follow. By December 1999, all the frameworks used against Gore had hardened, then turned to stone.)

One more quibble! Are those pseudo-scandals from Campaign 2000 really “long forgotten?”

Two days before Yglesias’ piece appeared, Dana Milbank typed this critique of Candidate Hillary Clinton in the Sunday Washington Post:

“And now comes the latest of many warm-and-fuzzy makeovers—perhaps the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones.”

Good God! We promise—before the week is done, we’ll review the history of Candidate Gore’s infamous, ballyhooed “earth tones!” But Yglesias is dreaming if he thinks those pseudo-scandals are forgotten. As we’ve long told you, script never dies! Life-forms like Milbank are programmed, right in the shop, to retain all their guild’s inventions.

Yglesias gives an imperfect account of that campaign’s “journalism,” which was actually no such thing. That said, his account is well worth reviewing, especially in a world where the story he tells is forbidden.

Over the course of the past sixteen years, career liberal journalists have all agreed—the story of that “failed journalism” must simply never be told. As such, this story has been a forbidden story.

That stricture has helped create the current moment in time, as Yglesias semi-notes.

Liberal journalists have always agreed—they must obey a code of silence regarding Campaign 2000. In our view, Yglesias’ account of that campaign’s “failed journalism” is less than perfect.

Having said that, less us also say this:

In the fuller account which is shown below, Matt Yglesias is breaking a heinous and disgraceful professional code. In what follows, he briefly tells a two-part story, a story of heinous misconduct:
YGLESIAS (9/14/15): The formative experience of my political life was the 2000 presidential campaign, in which the media mercilessly persecuted Al Gore over a series of trivial exaggerations and now-forgotten pseudo-scandals while giving George W. Bush a pass on the fact that the central premises of his economic agenda were lies.

People too young to remember the campaign may wonder how Bush persuaded the country that budget-busting tax cuts for the richest Americans were the prescription the country needed. The answer is that he simply misdescribed his plan. In speeches, in televised debates, and in advertisements he represented his plan as consistent with a continued budget surplus and as primarily benefiting middle-class taxpayers.

Bush won the election and enacted hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Surpluses turned into deficits, and the promised economic boom never materialized.

None of this was surprising or unpredictable to anyone who cared to dig into the details. The problem was political reporters had found those details much less interesting than snarking about Al Gore's wooden speaking style and complaining that his “demeanor” was disrespectful during a debate exchange in which Bush repeatedly attacked Gore with bogus math.

Journalism failed in 2000

According to the conventions prevailing at the time, to offer a view on the merits of a policy controversy would violate the dictates of objective journalism. Harping on the fact that Bush was lying about the consequences of his tax plan was shrill and partisan. Commenting on style cues was okay, though, so the press could lean into various critiques of Gore's outfit.
In that, his opening passage, Yglesias tells a two-part story about the “journalism” of Campaign 2000.

According to Yglesias, journalists refused to tell the truth about the proposals of Candidate Bush. At the same time, they “mercilessly persecuted” Candidate Gore over a series of pseudo-scandals even as they pounded him about his alleged demeanor, his wooden style and his troubling wardrobe choices.

In our view, Yglesias slightly overstates the press corps’ deference to Candidate Bush. He understates the war which was waged against Candidate Gore.

That said, Yglesias is telling an astonishing story of journalistic misconduct. Beyond that, he says this story was the “formative experience of [his] political life.”

Yglesias makes an important point as his report continues. He notes that the current coverage of Candidates Clinton and Bush seems to be following the unholy pattern he observed during Campaign 2000.

We think he’s basically right about that. For that reason, we ask a basic question:

Yglesias describes grotesque journalistic misconduct in the coverage of Campaign 2000. If the conduct was so bad—if it was the formative experience of his political life—why is he telling this story now? Why hasn’t he told this remarkable story many times in the past?

To his credit, Yglesias tells a forbidden story at the start of that piece for Vox. It’s a version of the forbidden story Bill Clinton told on CNN last weekend.

This forbidden story helps explain why we may have a President Rubio in our future. If you can’t understand that simple fact, you need to stop following politics.

Bill Clinton tells this forbidden story at fairly regular intervals. When he does, career liberal journalists all agree—they must pretend not to notice.

Some sixteen years later, Yglesias spilled. Tomorrow, a fairly obvious question:

Why did the gentleman wait?

Tomorrow: In some ways, the same old conduct, Yglesias correctly says

28 comments:

  1. Had every career liberal journalist who once agreed had did what Yglesias did at Vox a few months ago, there would be a forbidden story that was in the public sooner. Do you see that now as a help explain us why we might have had a President Walker in out future?
    If you can't understand that simple fact you need to stop trolling the Howler.

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  2. But These are The Trolls We're Stuck WithSeptember 29, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    Dana Milbank, Sunday Washington Post, September 2015: "the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones"

    Ugh, that Awful Bob Somerby can't ever shut up about campaign 2000 and his always-perfect buddy Al Gore.

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    1. Howler Fan You Are Left WithSeptember 29, 2015 at 11:51 AM

      Silly Milbank. Everybody knows Al, Jr. took the initiative in creating earth tones. He never claimed he discoverd them. He looked around and discovered a character he inspired in Love Story.

      Delete
    2. Sick burn brother, HFYALW. Uh, what?

      No, but seriously: You are the lowest form of life this planet hosts.

      Delete
    3. Ditto E. Nothing can be lower than making a joke about Al Gore. But HuffPo posting photoshopped moustaches on Hillary Clinton is close.

      Delete
  3. I wish Somerby had not waited two weeks to reveal this about Yglesias. But in retrospect the story of the He-Coon and the Classic Vintage Maureen Dowd posts were quite important and all of us know the Forbidden Tale by heart. At least through Chapter 6.

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    1. Even under an alias you are, singularly, the most unpleasant thing we've got here.

      Delete
    2. Adopting the first person plural style of Somerby and KZ works well for you, E. I find it make hyperbole seem more authoritative.

      Delete
  4. "the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones"

    Oh, ho ho ho. What a wit you are Dana! Look out Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain.

    Once you understand that Milbank's audience is not the paying public, it all makes sense.

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  5. Milbank is not known as the dumbest journalist on the planet for nothing. He's worked very diligently to earn that distinction.

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    1. I am reminded of when Ketih Olbermann banished Milbank from "Countdown." Boy did Somerby have a field day with that.

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    2. @1:19

      Eventually KO was banished from "Countdown." There are limits even for MSNBC.

      Delete
    3. Brent take you back cicero? His loss.

      Delete
  6. Yes, the media's unfair treatment of Gore was unusually bad treatment for a Democrat. But, the media were routinely unfair to his Republican opponent, Bush. E.g., few voters then or today were made aware that Bush's academic record was far superior to Gore's.

    However, whatever bias the media showed in the 2000 race is trivial, compared to their fawning treatment of Obama. IMHO today's media is so predominantly left that I have little hope of the kind of balanced (bad) coverage we saw in 2000. E.g., the WaPo Fact Checker called Carly Fiorina a liar for making a true statement that she had begun as a secretary. http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/09/28/howard-kurtz-washington-posts-take-carly-fiorina-misfire/

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    1. Davin in Cal,

      The Washington Post never "called Carly Fiorina a liar for making a true statement that she had begun as a secretary."

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/09/25/carly-fiorinas-bogus-secretary-to-ceo-career-trajectory-fact-checker-biography/

      I will, however, call your statement a lie.

      Delete
    2. Anon 1:34 -- your link actually supports the truth of Fiorina's statement. It says her first job was as a receptionist for a nine-person real estate firm, where "the brokers at the firm were impressed with her." They gave her "more responsibilities beyond secretarial work, such as writing proposals and participating in strategy sessions about upcoming negotiations." "They encouraged her to pursue a career as an investment real estate agent with [their] company."

      Fiorina's statement was, "I started as a secretary, typing and filing for a nine-person real estate firm." That seems to be just what WaPo said was the case. WaPo finds Fiorina's statement to be a lie by semantics, arguing that her secretarial job wasn't really her "start" because she went to graduate school before resuming her career. Or, maybe WaPo is arguing that her first job wasn't where she "started" because she switched to a different field. WaPo may have a bit of a point, but it hardly seems dishonest to call one's first job the start of one's career.

      Delete
    3. "Anon 1:34 -- despite this two-paragraph Breitbart ripoff, I am not responding to your claim that my statement is a lie."

      FTFY - troll on

      Delete
    4. The Washington Post did not call Firoina a liar for saying she started as a secretary. In describing what the Post did, you leave out more detail than Fiorina did in the statements used by the Post Fact Checker to assess he career progression as inaccurate.

      Fiorina lied when reacting to the Post by doing just what you have done, saying the Post called her a liar for claiming to have been a secretary briefly.

      Based on her description of the work she performed I would call her a liar for claiming she started as a secretary. But I am not the Washington Post. And they didn't call her a liar for claiming to have started as a secretary.

      By the way, I am the child of a secretary.

      Delete
  7. Al Gore and George Zimmerman are two whipping boys the press just can't get enough of.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/george-zimmerman-tweets-trayvon-martins-body_560965b1e4b0dd85030846e5?cps=gravity_2425_7779294880647468542

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    Replies
    1. Just like BENGHAZI!!!, the Zimmerman Defense team will never die.

      Delete
  8. I wish I knew what we can do about this. Constructive suggestions welcome.

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    1. We don’t know how to answer those questions. We’ll stick with our standard excuse:

      Such questions are never asked by the American press, which never presents a serious discussion of any such topics at all.

      Delete
  9. "the most transparent phoniness since George W built his Potemkin ranch and put on his genuine bona fide cowboy hat"

    FTFY Dana

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  10. Yglesias. What a consummate hack! One thinks of the way Camus described the awareness of plague descending upon Oran.

    Perhaps we can forgive the frightened young lad for throwing his X-bombs all around, sometime forgetting to “use his words” to describe the actual problem.

    We can perhaps forgive this young writer for one other fault. We can perhaps forgive him for the clownish, persistent way he embellishes the facts. Does Yglesias embellish his tale...? Only when he types!

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    1. Matt Yglesias is very young. .A question sometimes comes to mind when we sift the work of lads like this: How do they get this way so early in life? Likely answer: They’ve worked very hard at the task. But there again, you see the mental styles of your “press elite” on display.

      And yes, there’s always more. You already live on The Planet of Chimps.

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  11. I would pick a different quibble with the Ygman. The fact is that the Bush tax cuts DID give significant cuts to the middle class (as well as to the non-1% that every politician seems to include in the middle class, the $90,000 to $250,000 class.

    Hence the reason Obama and the Democrats lacked the guts to get rid of them, and instead made most of them permanent.

    How did Obama convince the left that he defeated the Republicans when he signed ATRA into law? That bill made permanent cuts to the Estate Tax and also gave permanent tax favored status to dividend income. Then he claims to be concerned about income inequality. HE never gets called on his lies either - not even by Krugman.

    Why? Because almost everybody with a microphone to make themselves heard is on the gucking fravy train too. Ed Schultz, for example, is worth over $40,000,000. Is he upset about permanent estate tax cuts? Yeah, and I am guessing he makes more money from dividends than most people make for working. $40 million with even a 1% return is $400,000.

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