Our plan for the next few frightening weeks: We modern pseudo-liberals!
We tell the truth extremely slowly. Ever so slowly we turn!
We refer, of course, to Paul Krugman's new column, in which he briefly tells an extremely important old tale. Quite correctly, he ties this important old tale to the current coverage of the White House campaign, in which Candidate's Clinton lead in the polls has been shrinking in a frightening way.
Krugman tells an important old story; few voters have ever heard it. We've been describing this problem since March 1999. Essentially, though, it has been impossible to get career writers to tell it.
Headline included, here's how Krugman's column begins. Alas! In this passage, Krugman is describing several decades of journalistic misconduct:
KRUGMAN (9/5/16): Hillary Clinton Gets GoredWe don't agree with every word. Was Candidate Bush really "dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics?" We've spent years researching that campaign, and that seems like a wild overstatement.
Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election—bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.
You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration—an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.
Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore—whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate—as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.
And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again.
That said, Krugman is describing a truly remarkable piece of journalistic history. As we've endlessly detailed, the mainstream press corps spent twenty months during Campaign 2000 portraying Candidate Gore as a strange, perhaps pathological liar.
Al Gore had a problem with the truth! Just like his boss, Bill Clinton!
Did Al Gore say he invented the Internet? Unless your mental age is six, no, he never did, just as Krugman says. But that was only one of the "lies" the mainstream press corps invented and stuck in that candidate's mouth.
They kept this up for twenty straight months. When Gore's lead was widening in September 2000, they invented two new lies (the union lullaby and the doggy pills) and brought his lead in the polls back to earth. Given the narrow way that campaign was decided, it's blindingly obvious that this astounding group behavior sent Candidate Bush to the White House, just as Krugman suggests at the end of today's column.
Krugman is referring to an astonishing part of modern journalistic history. It involved twenty months of Campaign 2000, then continued from there.
Quite correctly, Krugman ties this episode to the current coverage of Candidate Clinton alleged character problems. But very few voters will be struck by this connection.
The reason for that is simple. Few voters have ever heard about the mainstream press corps' two-year war against Gore. For that reason, it can't become a source of skepticism about the coverage of Clinton.
Today, the press corps' war against Gore has finally achieved headline status in a major publication. This raises the world's most obvious question. Given the remarkable series of episodes which lie behind Krugman's brief account, how is it possible that liberal, centrist and conservative voters haven't heard about this matter again and again and again?
Another piece of modern political history should be noted here. Starting in the 1960s, conservative politics has been built around repeated complaints about the alleged liberal bias of the mainstream press corps.
Some of those complaints have had some actual merit. As this narrative came to dominate pseudo-conservative thought, more and more of these complaints came to be pure propaganda, skeins of disinformation.
That said, those complaints have been heard by every American voter over the past fifty years. But those same voters have never heard about the mainstream press corps' war against Gore! For that reason, they can't develop a concomitant skepticism concerning the press corps' treatment of Candidate Clinton.
Why have liberals failed to discuss the press corps' astonishing war against Gore? Rather plainly, the war against Gore grew out of the press corps' disgust with President Clinton in the wake of the year of impeachment. Why in the world have career liberal writers persistently failed to discuss this?
Why have career journalists failed to discuss these matters? On balance, the answer seems fairly obvious. But whatever that answer might be, we've all been living in a world we've often described:
Conservative pundits won't stop dissembling about the press. We liberals won't tell the truth!
As we speak, Candidate Clinton's lead in the polls is shrinking. It seems fairly obvious that her apparent substantial lead was built upon Candidate Trump's weird behavior in July, which has now largely stopped. (Unless you go to your favorite liberal orgs, where you'll be served your daily tribal porridge.)
Meanwhile, Candidate Clinton's reputation has largely disappeared during the current campaign. In significant part, this results from the peculiar press coverage which Krugman goes on to describe in his column.
As Clinton's lead has shrunk, some of the children have begun to emerge from the woodwork. For reasons which are largely subjective, we find Josh Marshall to be the most annoying member of this group:
MARSHALL (9/3/16): We've had a number of looks recently at how The New York Times appears to be revisiting its 'whitewater' [sic] glory days with its increasingly parodic coverage of the "Clinton Foundation"—I'm adding scare quotes to match the dramatic effect, even though of course the Clinton Foundation is a named legal entity...[T]he latest installment from the Times explains how Bill Clinton's request for diplomatic passports for aides accompanying him on a mission to secure the release of two US journalists held captive in North Korea constitutes the latest damning revelations about the corrupt ties between the Foundation and the Clinton State Department.We don't necessarily disagree with any of that. But good lord! Ever so slowly we turn! Why hasn't this powerful problem been a focus of Marshal's frequently dumbed-down site over the past many years? Why are liberals suddenly raising these topics now? Why hasn't this been Basic Commentary 101 since the mid-1990s?
The Times uniquely, though only as a leading example for the rest of the national press, has a decades' [sic] long history of being lead [sic] around by rightwing opposition researchers into dead ends which amount to journalistic comedy—especially when it comes to the Clintons.
[T]he Times had a decades long institutional issue with the Clintons. There's no other way to put. It goes beyond single reporters and even individual executives [sic] editors. Why this is the case I'll leave to biographers and psychologists. But that it is the case is obvious from reading a quarter century of their reporting on the topic.
I should be clear here that while the Times is possibly the worst offender because of the scale of the failure and the influence the Times exerts far beyond its own pages, it's far from alone.
And no, this deeply important structural problem hasn't been discussed by career liberal players. Let's not pretend that it has.
Among other things, Candidate Clinton is sinking beneath the waves of decades of mainstream press corps "character narrative." She may still win the November election, but she also could lose.
We're going to discuss these topics over the next few weeks, but we're going to push them into our afternoon posts. It's much too late to warn the public about the topics and concerns people like Marshall (and others) are now rising to discuss.
By now, the trashing of Candidate Clinton's character has been disastrously "baked in the cake." The baking of that particular cake began with the era of Whitewater pseudo-scandals. It then proceeded through the undiscussed twenty-month war against Gore. It has now landed on another candidate's back.
This morning, Krugman has pushed one key part of that history into the headlines at the New York Times. We'll only complain about the statement we highlight:
KRUGMAN: Yet throughout the  campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore—whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate—as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.Over the past eighteen years, Krugman has been the reigning MVP of mainstream and liberal journalism. That said, few people have the right to proclaim the "sick, sinking feeling" he describes, in which they feel that the undermining of Candidate Gore "is happening again."
And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again.
In large part, "it's happening again" because the silence of the career liberal lambs has enabled this pattern down through the years.
The lambs have kept quiet again and again, even as their liberal and mainstream colleagues and employers have played key roles in the endless characters wars against Clinton, Clinton and Gore.
On balance, the motive behind these decades of silence seems rather obvious. But whatever the motives may be, the silence of the career liberal lambs has helped put Candidate Trump within reach of the White House. Very few of these people has a right to complain about the way this makes them feel.
Try to believe the sheer craziness here. People are dead all over the world because of the conduct Krugman describes during Campaign 2000. But this is only hitting the headlines of the New York Times today! Only now, so many years later, are we told about what happened.
Krugman has been an MVP. Some others are rising in protest now. Amazingly slowly they rise to speak! We'll mention a few other names this week, though in our afternoon posts.
Tomorow, though, we may start with our old pal, Chuck Todd, a fellow we've always liked. What does anti-Clinton "character narrative" look like?
We thought we saw the fruit of such narrative on yesterday's Meet the Press.
Starting tomorrow morning: Our latest award-winning series, "Where the test scores are"