Update: Why weren’t 54 votes enough?


This just in from Fallows, with an acidic flahback: In this post, James Fallows discusses the matter of yesterday's insufficient 54 votes.

We weren’t being facetious in our earlier post. After reading Jonathan Weisman’s jumble of verbiage in today’s New York Times, we no longer felt we knew why 54 votes weren’t enough on the gun bill.

After reading Fallows today, we’re still not completely sure we know. But let these points be clear:

In this morning's Washington Post, one person after another failed to explain, in any way, why 54 votes weren’t enough. The Post took a pass on the topic.

In this morning's New York Times, the editorial didn’t explain. Neither did Gabrielle Giffords, in her op-ed column.

One person did seem to offer an explanation. That person was Weisman, but alas—his collection of words was basically indecipherable. All his words were drawn from English. But assembled in the order he chose, they didn’t seem to have a recognizable meaning.

The incompetence of the upper-end press corps is simply astounding. Truly, our intellectual and journalistic elites are sad, inept, broken, dishonest. If we might adapt Lord Russell’s riposte about the turtles all the way down:

In modern intellectual culture, it’s mediocrity all the way up! Mediocrity, or something much worse.

Speaking of Fallows and sub-mediocrity: A few weeks back, Fallows posted this affectionate remembrance of Michael Kelly on the anniversary of his death in Iraq in 2003.

Because Kelly was such a terrible journalistic force in the years before his death, some people pushed back against Fallows’ piece. Ta-Nehisi Coates was one. This led to a follow-up post by Fallows, in which he politely lamented some of Kelly’s work.

We thought Fallows’ response was, to borrow a phrase from Kelly, “dishonest, cheap, low.” We were struck by the fact that Coates, and almost all his readers, had no idea this was so.

What was wrong with Fallows’ second post? As part of his backtracking, Fallows regretted something Kelly wrote about Al Gore in 2002. This is part of what Fallows wrote in his response to Coates:
FALLOWS (4/6/13): In September, 2002, Al Gore gave a speech arguing against the impending invasion of Iraq. I considered it brave and sensible at the time, and I think it only looks better in retrospect. This was Michael Kelly's response in his Washington Post column:

“[The speech] distinguished Gore, now and forever, as someone who cannot be considered a responsible aspirant to power. Politics are allowed in politics, but there are limits, and there is a pale, and Gore has now shown himself to be ignorant of those limits, and he has now placed himself beyond that pale.

“Gore's speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts—bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.”

Michael's judgment was not merely wrong. It was "dishonest, cheap, low." And it had impact. It is hard now to convey the drumbeat of arguments for the war and also of ridicule and impatience for anyone who lacked war fever. That is what you see in Michael's contemptuous dismissal of Gore.
As Fallows continued, he said that Kelly, as Atlantic’s editor, helped him write an antiwar piece, even though Kelly supported the war. We were struck by the things Fallows didn’t say about Kelly and Gore—and about Fallows himself.

Sorry, Charlie! Kelly didn’t start sliming Gore in the fall of 2002. He was a balls-out crackpot on the subject from at least 1997 on. And here’s what Fallows forgot to say in his slick response to Coates:

In the summer of 2000, as the Bush-Gore election was drawing near, Fallows and Kelly joined forces in a reprehensible way to slime Candidate Gore in a high-profile cover story in Atlantic.

Alas! Fallows’ judgment in that Atlantic cover story was not merely wrong. It was “dishonest, cheap, low.” And it very much had impact!

As he discussed what Fallows wrote about Kelly, Coates showed no sign of knowing that. Neither did the many commenters to his posts about Fallows and Kelly. That isn’t surprising, of course.

The liberal world has aggressively disappeared the mainstream journalistic wars which were conducted against both Clintons, then against Gore. People like Coates and his readers truly don’t know what people like Fallows did to send George W. Bush to the White House.

Based on that April 6 post, it’s abundantly clear that Brother Fallows has no plans to tell them.

In the summer of 2000, Fallows joined forced with Kelly to become a major part of the ongoing War Against Gore. In part because of its cover art, the Atlantic cover piece was very high-profile. Beyond that, it formed the primer for mainstream hacks who wanted to know how to deal with Gore in the upcoming debates.

The instructions from Fallows and Kelly were clear: You should call Gore a liar.

Despite the misdirection he handed to Coates, Fallows helped send Bush to the White House through his collaboration with Kelly, an inveterate Clinton/Gore-hater. But then, these are terrible people.

For our weeklong report on the Fallows/Kelly collaboration, just click here, then scroll back to the week of July 11, 2000. For part 1, just click this. (Our headline: “The Atlantic’s cover shows the schoolboy level to which our discourse has fallen.”)

Yes, those five reports were done in real time. That said, our efforts weren’t enough, and everyone pretends today that none of this ever happened. (In later years, through more research, we learned more about how bogus Fallows' claims against Gore really were in that lengthy takedown.)

Fallows is upset by Kelly’s attack against Gore in 2002! Truly, such bullshit is rich.

We didn’t want to mention Fallows today without recording the con he ran in his April 6 response to Coates. These people will never admit what they did, let alone explain why they did it.

If they must play people like Coates, play them they will—every time.


  1. Thank you for drawing attention to this Fallows-Kelly collaboration. Too few people remember it.

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  3. How are the book sales going, Bob?

  4. Kelley was awful, and I didn't know much about this Fallows jerk. Out on the west coast, the drum beat was led by the truly terrible Marc Cooper, of the Nation and LA Weekly. Cooper, a decent features writer, has been purged from the system but still tells dumb Al Gore jokes on his Facebook Page.
    A book of Cooper's LA Weekly pieces, say, 96 t0 2000, would tell us as much about how W got to President as we need. And I hope somebody someday DOES notice Bob's book.

    1. You should look up Fallows before you take Somerby's word that he is a "jerk."

      In 1996, Fallows wrote a prophetic book, "Breaking the News," in which he described an emerging very wealthy celebrity class of "journalists" who were increasingly disconnected from the issues and concerns of middle class America.

      In that book, he also wrote convincingly and eloquently, focusing on "The MacLaughlin Group," of the deterioration of the American discourse caused by televised "shout shows" designed more for entertainment value by producing heat instead of light, that also have the effect of launching careers into the elite pundit class.

      Sound familiar?

      As for the Atlantic piece, sorry, but the "Gore is a liar" meme was well in place by the summer of 2000. In fact, as Bob himself writes ad infinitum, Karl Rove pretty much set it in place by the end of 1999 and early in 2000 through the use of three "examples" --- "discovered Love Canal," "invented the Internet," and "farm chores."

      If I remember it correctly, the Atlantic piece was about "Gore, the ruthless campaigner" and the cover art he refers to (which Fallows may or may not have had anything to do with) was a caricature of Gore as a vampire.

      As far as Bob's book, it seems he stopped writing it a few years ago. He put out six chapters then seemed to quit after Love Canal for reasons known only to Somerby.

      I tried reading it, but it is an ungodly, poorly sourced, stream-of-consciousness mess that is screaming for focus and a good editor.

    2. I think Somerby's Gore/2000 campaign coverage is incredible. Covers the eras' emerging cable landscape much like Perlstein covered the cultural landscape in Nixonland. Works for me better than Fallows "light vs. heat" ruminations I knew the country was due a hard landing once Congressional bullyboy staffers were flown in to bang on glass and shut down ballot counting. A turning point.

      Marc Cooper followed now CA Gov Jerry Brown on Pacifica KPFK's late afternoon drivetime in L.A. Listened to him as I drove for years. Was often a very good interviewer. Produced incredible journalism regarding his earlier personal story of political work in Chile. Much recommended reading. And wrote good stuff regarding his beloved Las Vegas. Scornfully turned against Clinton as impeachment unfolded- argued Clinton cost Gore the White House by not resigning out of principle, and in the process ensuring Gore election. Hitchens and Cadell were frequent guests. With proof & acknowledgement of the Clinton seed present, panel member Hitchens sniffed and drolly regretted "it was a loveless affair." Remember discussion of Gore being behind giving away to the Chines nuclear missile technology capable of striking the West Coast in exchange for Buddhist Temple campaign contributions. Talk of crimes against humanity in regards to the "aspirin factory" missile strike. Supported Nader (so did I) in 2000. Memorable interviews- Rep John Lewis discussing his civil rights book, and George Carlin(!), whom Cooper loved. His eulogy of Hitchens is a fair representation of his past discussion regarding the Iraq invasion. of the war. Remember one particular blog column of his being the best defense of "Obama Care" that I have read anywhere in media. Attacked the so-called fringe Left politics with regards to the "activist" convicted cop killer in Phila. or the organization that sponsored some of the large anti-war rallies prior to the Iraq invasion.

      Would be interested in a Lexis researched story on David Halberstam's TV appearance(s) during the 2000 Democratic Convention coverage. Perhaps the only positive discussion not steeped in scorn and/or suspicion that I can recall Gore getting on cable during that time.

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  7. "Sorry, Charlie! Kelly didn’t start sliming Gore in the fall of 2002. He was a balls-out crackpot on the subject from at least 1997 on."

    And where, in the blog post Somerby links to, does Fallows say otherwise? Or even infer that Kelly didn't "slime" Gore before the fall of 2002?

    Fallows cited that incident as an example of how two people on opposite sides of the political spectrum -- "tribes" if you will -- could disagree even vehemently, yet still maintain a high degree of professional and personal respect.

    But nope, Bob doesn't see that. He only sees the strawman he can argue against -- "Fallows said Kelly didn't slime Gore until the fall of 2002" -- and feeds sweet hay to his cattle.

    For a person who decries the "tribalism" he sees in others, it is beyond reprehensible and dishonest for him to cite a heartfelt tribute to a man 10 years dead merely because the deceased belonged to the "other tribe," and that anybody with kind memories of him must also belong to that "tribe" as well.

    1. The issue Bob brings forward, that I thought worthwhile, was the ease with which Fallows can disappear his own role in the war against Gore.

      You don't see that, because this is one of your two standard responses to anything Somerby posts which includes the name "Al Gore." Your other standard response, of course is "Somerby worships Gore."

      Your famous ability to miss the point on such topics is the stuff of legend in this forum...

    2. And once again the peanut gallery has to explain "the issue Bob brings forward."

      No, the "issue that Bob springs forward" is that James Fallows once co-authored, with Michael Kelly, ONE story about Gore that Somerby finds so egregious that he casts Fallows and his entire career into the "War on Gore" tar pit.

      Not only that, Fallows has the temerity to write about the obviously vile, evil Kelly 10 years after Kelly's death in warm, personal tones, while noting that he and Kelly seldom agreed on anything.

      And of course, this is the same Somerby who works himself into a lather against the tribalism of "liberals" -- real or imagined by Somerby -- who fail to see the worth in anyone of the other "tribe."

  8. I was a big fan of Michael Kelly.

    No one was more lucid in articulating Bill Clinton's ability o corrupt everything that he touched, for no larger ethos than his own appetite.

    I think Al Gore's candidacy came into media disfavor after he made the decision to keep Clinton at a distance during his presidential campaign.

    Clinton had become an media touchstone for all that the media detests in the Right, and Gore's declarations of loyalty juxtaposed with a sense of private disapproval and exasperation was too plebeian an attitude for Clinton's media supporters.

    What an unexciting pendantic fellow Gore was to them! Drab and unimaginative even in his purported self-aggrandizing tales.

    1. Right, Cecelia. The "media" was completely in bed with Clinton. That's why we never heard of Gennifer Flowers, Whitewater, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky.

    2. CeliaMae, ok, I guess you are opining that the press turned against gore because he distanced himself from Clinton. How you could believe something so absurd is hard to fathom.

      AC / MA

    3. CeceliaMae, your right, that someone, including you, could blieve in something that is absurd, is not hard to believe

      AC (nony) Ma

  9. You heard from Flowers before Clinton's first election to POTUS. BTW, this news sparked an actual media discussion on whether personal character in a president was as important as leadership acumen.

    The others you heard about chiefly after the appointment of a a Special Prosecutor.

    1. Wrong again, Cecelia.

      Jeff Gerth of the NY Times first "broke" the Whitewater pseudo-scandal during the 1992 campaign, on March 8. 1992 to be precise. It was because of Gerth's continuous "reporting" that Janet Reno appointed a special prosecutor TWO YEARS LATER.

      Oh, and by the way, the media was so entranced by the Clintons that we never got wind of other such high crimes as the cattle futures deal, travelgate, filegate, as well as the speculation about Vince Foster's suicide.

    2. Where did I claim that the story was never reported or discussed prior to Starr's appointment?

      To claim that would be as ridiculous as as the suggestion that reporting on congressional investigations is proof in itself against the notion that the media was pro-Clinton.

    3. "Where did I claim that the story was never reported or discussed prior to Starr's appointment?"

      Right here:

      "The others you heard about chiefly after the appointment of a Special Prosecutor."

      And since you are so history-challenged, do you recall that Kenneth Starr was NOT the first special prosecutor appointed to investigate Whitewater?

    4. Oh, brilliant... So "chiefly" is supposed to mean "never" in my lexicon, the way "reporting" means lynching Clinton to the first Anonymous.

      I was young then, but I don't remember Fisk being involved with Lewinsky, jones, AND Whitewater (which were referenced in first Anon's post).

    5. "Chiefly" and "never" are both YOUR words, Cecelia. When you couldn't defend "chiefly" you switched to "never" and now that you can't defend that, you claim you said "chiefly."

      It is no surprise that such a self-proclaimed fan of Michael Kelly could be so dishonest, but only you think that you are clever. But you go ahead and pick whatever word you want. You are still wrong on both counts.

      But maybe now that it's been shown that you have no idea of the timeline between the appointment of the special prosecutor, who the first one was, and the string of pseudo-scandals, perhaps there is even the slightest glimmer of hope that you might try to educate yourself.

      If so, I suggest you start by looking up "Fools for Scandal."

    6. I also see that Cecelia refused to defend her original premise that the media turned on Gore because he tried to "distance" himself from the media darling of the moment, Bill Clinton.

      And for her information since she was a mere child and knows nothing about the 1990s, the first prosecutor appointed to investigate Whitewater was named Fiske, not Fisk.

    7. Actually, Anon 5:03am, "never" was the exact word that used in the first response to my post : "Right, Cecelia. The "media" was completely in bed with Clinton. That's why we never heard of Gennifer Flowers, Whitewater, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky."

      I didn't change any terminology. You don't bother to read.

      The "never" term is why I responded with the more reasonable (and accurate) formulation that the things mentioned in that anon's post, were "chiefly" made the stuff of media fodder after the appt. of an SP.

    8. Anon 5:16, I've only to read you characterization of my statement to know that you play fast and loose with the truth.

      I didn't say I was a child in the Clinton era, I said that I was young. Twenty years later, I'm old.

    9. As for not defending my opinion Gore's treatment in the media, you should learn to read too, Anon 5:16.

      I argued that Gore's decision not to make the very successful Clinton a feature of his campaign infuriated the media and in their minds, generated a contrast between their gregarious lovable bad boy Clinton ( brilliant, flawed, and therefore persecuted by unsophisticated right wing Pharisees), and stodgy, pedantic family guy bore... Gore.

      That's a subjective analysis, but it's certainly as viable as the one which argues that the media preferred the cowboy conservative.

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