The mainstream press corps’ Standard Tales from Past Presidential Debates!


Anderson Cooper recites: Wednesday evening, the Obama-Romney debates begin.

For that reason, our pseudo-journalists are busy reciting their guild’s Standard Tales from Past Presidential Debates.

Last evening, Anderson Cooper read almost all the standard scripts. Along the way, he offered these nicely-twinned groaners
COOPER (9/28/12): Body language plays a part in the presidential debates. In 1992, George H. W. Bush deliberately looks at his watch and he pays for it when the audience and voters see it as disrespectful.

Body language makes a difference in the debate between Al Gore and George W. Bush as well. Gore sighs over and over again. And Bush, the underdog, surprises by winning the debate and, of course, the election.
Body language! At any rate:

As recited by Cooper, one of these scripted tales is foolish. The other tale is false.

Let’s start with false. According to Cooper, Candidate Gore sighed over and over again at his first debate with Candidate Bush. Apparently as a result, “Bush, the underdog, surprise[d] by winning the debate.”

Increasingly, that last claim is part of the script, but it’s just basically false. After that first Bush-Gore debate, five major news orgs conducted “overnight polls,” surveying people who watched the debate.

Gore was the winner in all five surveys. He won by an average margin of ten points.

Cooper works for CNN. Gore won CNN’s overnight poll, 56 percent to 42—unless you listen to Cooper today, in which case Gore of course lost.

By the way: Did Gore “sigh over and over again” at that debate? On balance, we’d have to say no. If you want to test this question yourself, you can watch that full 90-minute debate at C-Span.

We watched that tape about six months ago. You can hear a few sighs or intakes of breath—but in all honesty, we’d say that they’re few and far between. If you watch the full 90 minutes, you can decide for yourself.

Did George Bush win that first debate? Only after the press corps began playing videotaped loops of Gore’s troubling sighs (with the volume cranked, of course). And only after the press corps invented several new “lies” by Gore.

Today, the press corps tends to focus on the alleged sighs, not on the invented lies—but they largely invented both these themes. And just for the record: Before the propaganda took hold, Gore won all five overnight surveys of people who watched the debate.

The second part of that passage from Cooper is just foolish—monstrously so.

No guild member can review past debates without recalling the terrible time when Candidate Bush stole a look at his watch. This tale is profoundly foolish.

Can we talk? People look at their watches all the time. That’s pretty much why they buy them.

Beyond that, performers, or competitors in timed events, will often want to know how far along the event has gone. There’s nothing odd about a debater checking his watch—unless the “press corps” has a story it very much wants to tell.

In that campaign, the “press corps” wanted to say these words: “President Bush is out of touch.” Twenty years later, Bush’s disrespectful conduct is part of Official Guild Lore.

Today, candidates routinely remove their watches before they start their debates! They do so lest this gang of chimps tell a tale about their body language, a tale in which they too are ruined because of a glance at a watch.

There are perhaps a dozen Standard Tales about Past Presidential Debates. Each day as Wednesday night approaches, we’ll show you another press corps member reciting some silly/false tale.


  1. My recollection is that Gore performed poorly in the second debate - which I assume was because his handlers, having obsessed over the alleged perception of rudeness in the first debate, removed his teeth.

    1. Yep. That was the "sit down at the table and agree with each other" foreign policy "debate." That was followed by the "stand up and move around" town hall "debate" when Gore tried to get in Bush's face and wound up looking kinda silly.

      And you know what? After all three debates, after all that press pounding Gore took after the first one, my recollection is that they didn't move the polls a bit, and Gore still wound up winning the popular vote.

      Many, many, many things in 2000 were of far greater consequence, not the least of which was Ralph Nader actively campaigning in Florida in the final week, financed by GOP money.

    2. I recall Gore's "mug demonstrably before giving your ex post facto 'yes' to bombing Panama", a transparent attempt to signal misgivings. Though, it'd've been rich for him to say "no", having supported the invasion in the first place.

      At the end of the day, the only consequence that mattered was that Gore was not chosen. The reasons why not are debatable ad nauseam. Suffice it to say that many active participants in the electoral process only began to get the first inkling that they do not choose their presidents.

    3. My recollection was that Gore won all the debates. Bush lacked information and knowledge, and he presented himself as unprepared. His performance improved in the last debate but I feel that Gore still came out ahead (even considering confirmation bias).

      Horace Feathers

    4. Horace, I was a strong Bushie, but I fully agree with you. I thought Bush performed terribly in the debates for the reasons you give

    5. True, and my recollection is also that Kerry won all three debates rather decisively, and there was none of the "sighing" nonsense after any of them.

      And Kerry still lost in an election that was pretty close from the get-go.

    6. My recollection is that none of the six debates Bush was in did anything to change anybody's mind or vote, regardless of who "won."

      And that's the way these "debates" usually go.

  2. Anyone who thinks the relentless pounding Gore took didn't affect the outcome of the race is delusional. Florida was decided by 537 votes; that means half that many switching their vote would have flipped the race in the other direction. I'm going to guess that a lot more voters than 270 made up their minds because they thought Gore was a buffoon, and besides (the more subtle, but powerful, form of media bias in 2000), they were told Bush was a capable moderate whom everyone wanted to belly up to the bar with and down some brewskies while slapping each other on the back for being good old boys. Yes, Nader was, and remains, a piece of shit, and he was at fault as well (as are the people who sneeringly voted for him, and how many of THOSE votes were cast because people thought Gore was a clown and no different from Bush?). But because there are two factors doesn't mean you can shift all the blame on one of them. Get rid of the horrid, really criminally bad, coverage in 2000 and Gore wins, it's that simple.

    Taking a somewhat different tack, someone should point out one of the amusing sidebars of the 2012 election. Ryan is portrayed by our glorious media as delightfully wonky, a guy who just loooooves delving into the nitty gritty of issues -- why, he even uses Powerpoint, and on some of his Powerpoint slides he has graphs! And this is supposed to be a good thing, something that sets Ryan apart as "serious." Contrast that with how Gore in 2000, and to a much lesser extent, Kerry in 2004, were covered; how Clinton still is covered to a degree. When a Democrat shows a willingness to dig in on issues and expound upon them, it instantly makes them tedious showoffs. Thumb, meet scale.

    1. +1

      "delightfully wonky"


      "When a Democrat shows a willingness to dig in on issues and expound upon them, it instantly makes them tedious showoffs. Thumb, meet scale."

      Never more succinctly stated!

    2. til, it is easy to look at a razor-thin election, apply only the factor you want to apply, and say "THAT is what decided the election."

      There were lots of things going on in Florida besides the mean things Maureen Dowd, et al, were saying about Gore.


      1. The naked voter suppression efforts especially in Miami-Dade, up to and including Election Day.

      2. The whole Elian Gonzalez thing that brought a lot of Latino votes into Bush's column.

      3. The "butterfly ballot" in Palm Beach where Pat Buchanan unexpectecly got a load of votes.

      4. Nader's last-minute, GOP-funded push in Florida which got him more than 100,000 votes.

      5. Punch-card ballots with their "hanging chads."

      6. And certainly not least, the bizarre Bush v. Gore decision. I sincerely doubt that Antonin Scalia was influenced by the "War on Gore."

    3. This is odd, because I keep hearing not that Paul Ryan is a serious "policy wonk" as much as I am hearing that his seleciton was a sop to the Tea Party to re-energize the base about a top candidate they aren't all that thrilled with, and makes it more difficult for Romney to "Etch-A-Sketch" his way back to the middle.

    4. Anom, if Jeffery Toobin is given any weight, Justice O'Conner may have been influenced by "The War On Gore" quite a bit.

  3. " ... lest this gang of chimps ...."


  4. After over a decade of suppressed guilt, I will now admit that my wife and I sighed multiple times during the Gore/Bush debate. It simply was not right to arrogantly perceive some of the statements made by Bush as sigh-worthy. In our defense, our responses were instinctual not intellectual.

    I'll also reveal here for the first time that during the inaugeration of Bush/Cheney, as I worked on my computer in another room, I listened to what Bush/Cheney said on that auspicious occasion and instead believed I listened to a SNL skit due to the absurd fact-free opinions and fantasies formed from their shared delusional conclusions.

    Since the life changing events described above I spent five years in a monastery lashing myself with wet noodles until the importance of harnessing arrogant responses to perceived vaccuous and mendacious statements made by superior human beings, was realized.

  5. Nadar argued that his campaign for the presidency was grounded in the fact that there wasn't a "hill of beans" difference between the corporate owned republican and democratic parties.

    The reality was that Nadar's run for the presidency was an act of vengeance by a petty man who wanted to get back at the Democratic Party for not supporting his campaign. He didn't care any more than those he criticized, and the votes he took from Gore resulted in an eight year campaign, started by George w. Bush's father to empty the treasury to benefit himself and certain members of his political party. George Bush and Dick Cheney succeeded in getting away with the largest robbery of the American people in history after stealing their suffrage on December 12, 1999.

  6. The third party are the lungs of the left wing, the Democrat is the muscle. You're basically arguing to continue the marathon with no air in your lungs. Look at Gore's actual platform -- pandering to religious groups, tax cuts, and all while somehow balancing the budget. It was nonsense. Obama's only slightly better but nobody like him in style or substance existed before Democrats got seriously scared of everyone thinking they're elitist jerks.

  7. Tiny fraction of people who voted according to their consciences for "Nadar" (No, I can't spell it correctly, on purpose(!) = horrible, awful people.

    Huge fraction of people who couldn't be bothered to vote at all = no big deal, I'd rather focus on "Nadar" (SEE, I DID IT AGAIN!)

    1. Couldn't be bothered to vote, or couldn't vote?

      Look what "early voting" did to the turnout in 2008.

      As for the "tiny fraction" who voted for Nader, 97,421 Floridians voted for Nader. Exit polls demonstrated that 38 percent would have voted for Gore, 25 percent for Bush, and 37 percent would have not voted for president altogether or voted for "other" such as Buchanan.

      That would have given Gore a 12,000-vote advantage.

      Now was that the ONLY factor that cost Gore Florida and the election? No, of course not. But it was one of them and at least equal to the "War on Gore" factor.

    2. "But it was one of them and at least equal to the 'War on Gore' factor."

      How do you know this?

    3. It was pulled from the Rectal Duct of Knowledge.

  8. I voted for Gore, but he did sigh too much in that debate. And he sighed loudly. It was distracting, and it made him look like a bit of an idiot and a mope, honestly. The sighing was a bad move.

  9. My spouse and i chosen pertaining to Gore, yet he or she did sigh excessive in that argument. And the man sighed loudly. It turned out annoying, and it manufactured him or her appear to be a bit of an fool as well as a mope, honestly. The particular sighing would have been a undesirable proceed.
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