Debate watch: Cooper blames the voters!


The role of the press disappears: The press corps loves to peddle its piffle about past White House debates.

Last Friday, Anderson Cooper rattled the official approved standard silly-bill list of the mainstream press corps’ official tales. As we noted yesterday, this has largely become the standard list.

Once again, here is that list. We include a few quotes from Cooper:
The mainstream press corps’ Standard Tales from Past Presidential Debates:
1960: Richard Nixon “sweat[s] profusely under the hot studio lights.”
1976: Gerald Ford makes a ridiculous statement about Soviet domination of Poland.
1980: Ronald Reagan wins the election by saying to Carter, in jocular fashion, “There you go again.”
1984: Reagan cinches re-election by telling a joke about Mondale’s age.
1988: Michael Dukakis fails to punch Bernie Shaw right in the nose.
1992: President Bush “deliberately looks at his watch,” blowing his chance for re-election.
2000: Al Gore “sighs over and over again. And Bush, the underdog, surprises by winning the debate and of course, the election.”
The press corps loves reciting these tales. As they do, they improve these favorite tales in three important ways:

They embellish the facts: As the years drift by, these silly offenses become more grave as the press corps embellishes facts.

One example: Gore’s sighs are getting louder and more frequent with each passing year. By last week, the Daily Beast’s Miranda Green was referring to “Gore’s perpetual sighing during the first debate” (our emphasis). Cooper had him sighing “over and over again.” At the Associated Press, Connie Cass invited her readers, as they look back, to “think of Al Gore sighing loudly and often.”

Once again, we invite you to watch the tape of that crucial debate at the C-Span site. Go ahead, take the C-Span challenge! See how many perpetual sighs you can actually hear!

They embellish the effects of these pointless events: The children love to overstate the effects of these largely pointless events. In a recent kill-joy move, Gallup reported that it can find “few instances in which the debates may have had a substantive impact on election outcomes. The two exceptions are 1960 and 2000, both very close elections in which even small changes could have determined who won.”

Even in the case of those elections, we think Gallup’s methodology is weak in several ways. But good lord! According to Gallup, George Bush didn’t blow the 1992 election by disrespectfully checking his watch! For years, the children have been happily implying that he did!

Most important, they blame the voters: This third move is very important.

In all these instances, the children must pretend that the public turned these pointless events into big major pieces of history. They have to hide the role they played in creating these silly distractions.

Last Friday, Cooper performed this vital task. Here’s the way he explained the horrible blunder by Dukakis:
COOPER (9/28/12): In the next election, Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis is asked this controversial question in his debate with vice president George W. Bush.

BERNARD SHAW: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?
MICHAEL DUKAKIS: No, I don't, Bernard. I think you know that I have opposed the death penalty during all of my life.

COOPER: The public sees his answer as cold and dispassionate and that very night, his poll numbers dropped.
It was "the public" which formed the judgment! It wasn’t the biddies of the press corps, who stampeded out of their fetid press room and turned this into a point of high concern!

Cooper made the same deft move with respect to Bush’s “deliberate” glance at his watch:
COOPER: Body language plays a part in the presidential debate. 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.
Is it true? Did “the audience and voters” really “see it as disrespectful” when George Bush glanced at his watch? We’d love to see the evidence for that bit of mind-reading by Cooper.

Cooper was rattling nicely along, blaming all this manifest bullshit on the reactions of voters. But even he seemed to draw the line at the most consequential ginned-up debate blunder of them all:
COOPER (continuing directly): 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.
In fact, Bush didn’t win that first debate; Cooper was embellishing (changing) the facts. But even Cooper wouldn’t say that it was the voters, as opposed to the press, who made a big deal of those sighs.

In our view, Gallup tends to understate the effects of that first Bush-Gore debate. Gore’s standing in the polls dropped like a rock as the press corps pounded away at his sighs and lies. (The press corps' claims that Gore lied at that debate are now being disappeared.) This changed the whole arc of the subsequent campaign.

But manifestly, it was the press corps who made a big deal of those deeply troubling sighs. Even Cooper wasn’t willing to blame that one on the voters!

Before the week is done, we will offer a quick review of what went down in the case of those sighs. But make no mistake—those sighs were ginned up by the press corps.

Guild members like Cooper will never say that. They live to embellish and mislead. Regarding the work of their own horrid breed, they never descend to the truth.

Darlings! It just isn't done!

Tomorrow: Gwen Ifill's attempt at a list


  1. With Romney even with Obama despite the usual horrid behavior of the press, there is some reason to believe these clowns are less relevant and on their way to irrelevant.

  2. There has been the impression that because radio listeners thought Nixon won the first 1960 debate that meant he won on substance because listeners couldn't be distracted by Jack's handsome face.

    Balls. I've listened to the debate and believe listeners could have as easily been lulled by Nixon's beautiful baritone voice, as compared with Jack's Bugs Bunny nasality and odd-sounding nasal. We hadn't yet learned to associate JFK's vocal oddities with Ted Sorenson's soaring rhetoric.

    The original Marshal Dillon was Wm. Conrad. But despite his terrific voice and Hemingwayesque face, He was a short fat man, so the 20-year TV role went to big handsome Jim Arness.

    The original radio Superman was voiced by game-show host Bud Collier. But he was a slender man who looked like a cross between Geo H. W. Bush and Liberace, so the TV part went to big handsome Geo Reeves.

    David Boren, brilliant Rhodes scholar left-of-center governor and senator from mid-Southern Oklahoma might have been our 42nd president were it not for the fact that he was a small-looking fattish man of unprepossessing appearance and dogged by rumors of homosexual tendencies. Instead, the presidency went to another brilliant Rhodes scholar left-of-center governor from a mid-Southern state dogged by rumors of heterosexual tendencies, big handsome Bill Clinton.

    Boren didn't have a great radio voice, either. But you get the point.

  3. I remember the 1992 debates and as I was a Clinton fan I was happy that the press trumpeted the "Bush looked at his watch" nonsense. But it was completely non-obvious in real time except that one channel apparently did a reaction shot of Bush while Clinton or Perot was speaking.

    The problem for the press was that while they seem to grock that Clinton won - he had a far stronger mastery of the policy material than the other two and presentation skills to match - they couldn't find a way to explain it so they resorted to the watch story. But the fact was Clinton was far and away the most charasmatic on the stage, and Perot was a strong (albeit a little strange) second, with Bush the competent bureaucrat coming in distant third.

    The Goring of Gore was amazing - Bob has documented it all but as a Gore fan I was thrilled at his first debate (which the public broadly awarded to Gore) then devastated at the second as it was clear that Gore had taken the press criticism way too much to heart.

    But perhaps the worst was Kerry-Bush. The worst V debate by a national candidate ever - and I include Admiral Stockdale in my estimation because at least he was upbeat and had a strong sense of humor - was GWB in debate #1 against Kerry. The worst part was that he very obviously had some kind of ear piece that was giving him verbal advice over a radio ... no that is not wacko conspriacy, watch the video of him saying "LET ME FINISH!" and swishing at his ear with his hand although no one was interrupting him. Spectral analysis of the debate photos found that there was some bulky object under his jacket such as a receiver - but the press covered up for his performance and for his cheating.

    In 2008, though, the press really didn't do anything. McCain was already in free fall at the time of the debates, Palin was already a national punch line, and McCain already had a number of embarrassing national events like the green screen presentation. No spin was needed. I wonder what wil happen in 2012.