LANDMARK: The good, the bad and the ugly!


We’re talking about Michael Cooper: Michael Cooper’s report in today’s New York Times is a bit of a landmark event.

It includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s take a quick overview:

The good: In this report, the New York Times extends a welcome new practice. It simply asserts, as a matter of fact, that Paul Ryan said various things Wednesday night which pretty much aren’t really true.

In our hard-copy Times, the headline says this: “Facts Took a Beating In Ryan’s Speech.” That is a perfectly accurate statement. It’s good that the New York Times came out and said it. (For an updated version of Cooper's report, click here.)

Warning: Newspapers can be wrong on claims of this type, as with all other types of claims.

The bad: Oof. This report is supposed to be about Ryan’s misstatements. At several points, the report gets blown off course.

One example:

This really isn’t the place to evaluate Romney’s Medicare plan, if such a creature really exists. The Times should be exploring that topic, of course, even though it’s very boring. But this is not the place.

But so what? Midway through his report, Cooper wanders onto that topic, doing a short and sloppy job. This introduces a lot of confusion and distracts attention from his supposed focus—the striking number of misleading or inaccurate claims Ryan made Wednesday night.

The ugly: Good God. Yesterday, we explained the powerful master narrative which has long controlled the discussion of bold honest truthful Paul Ryan. Click here, then also click this.

The skinny is this:

For the past twenty years, the press corps has typed a serial novel in which the big liars have all been Democrats and the truth-tellers have all been alleged “budget hawks.”

This has been a very stupid serial novel. But it still exerts a powerful gravitational pull on the press corps’ work.

On Wednesday night, Ryan’s speech was so dishonest that the mainstream press corps is struggling to say so, even though this flies in the face of that serial novel. But they can’t quite abandon that master narrative! This is what Cooper types early in his report:
COOPER (8/31/12); The growing number of misrepresentations appear to reflect a calculation in both parties that shame is overrated, and that no independent arbiters command the stature or the platform to hold the campaigns to account in the increasingly polarized and balkanized media firmament. Any unmasking of the lies or distortions, the thinking goes, rarely seeps into the public consciousness.

But an interesting question unfolding is whether there is a tipping point at which a candidate becomes so associated with falsehoods that it becomes part of his public persona—which hampered Vice President Al Gore during his run for president in 2000, when his misstatements on the campaign trail were used to stoke the perception that he could not be trusted in general.

In the case of Mr. Ryan’s speech, the jury is still out.
You can bet your sweet bippy “the jury is out” in the case of Ryan’s speech. Within the press corps, players are nervously looking around to see how much truth can be told about Ryan—especially since the obvious truth about his conduct flies in the face of that novel.

Indeed! Even as Cooper tells the world about Ryan’s many misstatements, he can’t—or won’t—escape the pull of that old master narrative. Surely, Michael Cooper knows that Candidate Gore didn’t utter a string of misstatements on the campaign trail.

By now, Cooper and his editor surely know that that claim was a press corps scam. But it still constitutes official history within the journalistic guild. And not only that: Politically, repeating that story helps the Times soften the blow of pointing the finger at Ryan.

That claim about Gore is a long-standing scam. Joan Walsh has kissed the ass of power, allowing that ugly tale to live. And Walsh is only one of many! If you’re a liberal or a progressive, your interests have been sold out by multitudes down through these many years!

We expect to do more with Cooper’s report next week. But even as it represents a major emergence from an old force, it includes the most disgraceful claim which lies at the heart of the press corps' serial novel.

That master narrative makes it hard for journos to tell the truth about Ryan. So sad:

It was easy for them to lie about Gore during Campaign 2000! It’s very hard for them to be truthful about Candidate Ryan today.

Where have they taken Paul Krugman: Everyone understands how this works—everyone except Paul Krugman!

Until yesterday, he did understand.


  1. Something else troubles me about Cooper's report: the false equivalence.

    Both parties appear to have made the same calculation regarding whether to tell the truth, he says. Yet Obama and Biden haven't repeatedly made statements that distort their opponents' record, while Romney and Ryan have.

    Perhaps Cooper isn't skillful enough to describe the situation accurately. But if this is the case, why does the Times employ him?

    (For the record, the abortion ad was misleading at best.)

  2. I can't seem to get into the archives, but it seems to me Joan Walsh DID write about the press mistreatment of Gore, including Matthews, and was given credit by the Daily Howler for it. I've been let down by Walsh of late (repeating the John Wayne Gacy thing was pretty unforgivable), but it seems here the Howler just needed a liberal to smack, and in this case rather lazily grabbed Walsh. Unless She is supposed to write about Gore every day.
    Suggestion: maybe there could be a whole separate blog to note inaccurate mentions from jounos about Al Gore and 2000. It's not that this stuff is unimportant, but it does get rather haphazardly mixed in with everything else, all the time.

    1. I'm grateful to Bob for all the work he has done on the war against Gore, but he does seem to think everything revolves around that set of lies. I'm a Glenn Greenwald fan and before that a Chomsky reader and it seems to me there are more fundamental hypocrisies and lies that dominate our media coverage on all sorts of things--notably subjects like human rights and what is labeled "terrorism" and what isn't--, but for Bob it all started with what was said about Gore in 1999-2000.


  3. The Times has interesting standards for calling a Republican statement a "lie." In order to do so, they apply some stupid reasoning.

    1. Ryan said the President did nothing with the Debt Commission's report. The Times calls that a lie because Ryan opposed the final proposal. But, the Times doesn't dispute Ryan's claim that the President did nothing with the Commission's report.

    2. Mr. Ryan said: “It began with a perfect AAA credit rating for the United States. It ends with the downgraded America.”

    The Times calls that a lie, because one reason for the rating downgrade was the standoff last year over the debt ceiling. Of course, the debt ceiling wouldn't have needed raising if Obama hadn't added all those trillions to the national debt.

    One can subjectively allocate blame for the downgrade. That's a judgment. I think the President gets the lion's share of the blame, because his programs increased the debt, and because with better leadership a President could have avoided the standoff. However, even if you disagree on the blame allocation, Ryan's statement was literally true.

    3. The Times wrote, "In fact, the savings [in Medicare] would come not from trimming benefits for current recipients, but from cutting the projected growth in reimbursements to hospitals and insurers over the next decade."

    Earth to the NY Times: I'm a current Medicare recipient and I hope to live another decade. Cutting reimbursement over the next decade does indeed impact us current recipients.

    1. Earth to DiC: What benefits are being cut? Tell us? Yeah, that's right -- you big liar.

    2. "Of course, the debt ceiling wouldn't have needed raising if Obama hadn't added all those trillions to the national debt."

      Hey David? Where were all your Republican heroes when Bush was adding trillions to the national debt, requiring vote after vote ti increase the debt ceiling?

  4. (On the lighter side) Was the title a reference to Eastwood's speech? If so, you've outdone yourself.

    Check out The Atlantic's website for the most furious spinning you've ever seen, in the comments sections of various articles on that bizarre episode. Conservatives agree: Eastwood's a genius! Though many of the comments seemed strangely defensive, considering what a coup Eastwood pulled off.

    1. Right. How clever of Bob to think up "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" after it's been a cliche for everything from fashion news to sports for over 40 years.

    2. Wow, someone missed their nap!

      It's the timing (right after Eastwood's speech) and the way it was applied that I liked.

  5. Clint's speech, however, did provoke some of the funnier online razzing I can remember since..well,,ever. Having just endured the god awful "J.Edgar" I enjoyed it quite a bit.

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