We don’t think that’s how it works: In yesterday’s Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley reviewed Matt Bai’s new book about the Hart campaign.
That’s right—about the Gary Hart campaign! In 1987!
Twenty-seven years later, Bai is arguing that this is where the modern bullroar in the reporting of White House campaigns got its start.
In this modern journalistic bullroar, the nations’ reporters thrash about, trying to examine some candidate’s “character,” or at least pretending to do so.
Bai’s thesis doesn’t seem entirely wrong. During Campaign 1988, the press corps registered two major scalps. They got Candidate Hart on an adultery charge and Candidate Biden for plagiarism.
Because we happened to know him in college, we can tell you something about a third candidate in that 1988 campaign. Some reporters were trying very hard to get Candidate Gore for youthful drug use, and on an additional count from his youth.
We got many phone calls on these matters, from one reporter in particular. (We don’t remember who it was. Based on the published record, we could take a guess.) At the time, we were struck by how much the reporters wanted to get that third scalp and, if you really have to know it, but how poorly conceived their drug jihad was.
They were eager to get that third scalp! But in one fairly obvious way, we remember being struck by how dumb their questions were.
This wasn’t exactly the start of this candidate-hunting crap. Way back in 1972, they got the scalp of Candidate Muskie on a “character” rap. By the way:
Can we possibly notice that all these scalps came from one of the two major parties? We don’t know if there’s a reason for that. But we were struck by this passage from Yardley’s thoroughly worthwhile review:
YARDLEY (10/12/14): It happens that though I was not in any way involved in The Post’s coverage of Hart and have never met [reporter] Paul Taylor, I did devote part of a weekly column I wrote in those days to Hart’s case. I said that “in Washington, and wherever else two or more politicians may gather, he who does not get caught has ‘character’ and he who gets caught has none.” That seems to me as true today as it was then. The persecutorial media that so alarms Bai has no real interest in “character” and oceans of interest in sex and sensation. This unfortunately at times has involved what is known as the “mainstream” media, but the contributions of People and US Weekly and the National Enquirer and, especially, the Daily Mail Online and all those bloggers madly typing away have only intensified things. Probably the political climate would be a lot healthier and the political discussion a lot more constructive if the media would simply obey that most basic of biblical injunctions: He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.To us, that passage seems to suggest that the press corps stages its jihads against candidates in a way which is dumb and unwise, but which is also “nonpartisan.” Simply put, the jihad starts when one of the hopefuls gets caught.
We don’t think that’s necessarily the way this syndrome works. The historical record seems fairly clear:
Decisions are often made in advance about which candidates have “character.” The jihads proceed, or get suppressed, on the basis of those prejudgments. It isn’t true that the jihads begin at the point when someone gets “caught.”
That passage by Yardley conveys a certain sense of the way these candidate jihads work. We think he’s offering an idealized portrait of the way the press corps works, as opposed to The Way We Are.
Tomorrow: Final points concerning two favorites of the analysts, their uncles Boehlert and Drum
McCarthyism is a movement around which men of good will and stern morality can close ranks.ReplyDelete
Like the Spanish Inquisition?Delete
Bob compliments Boehlert. But he was a fellow traveller with Walsh in '00. Walsh graduated college in Joe's home state but we won't hold that in her favor.Delete
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, but any thinking person expects McCarthyism from the likes of Ted "Carnival" Cruz and his merry band of teahadists.Delete
"Some reporters were trying very hard to get Candidate Gore for youthful drug use, and on an additional count from his youth.ReplyDelete
We got many phone calls on these matters, from one reporter in particular. (We don’t remember who it was. Based on the published record, we could take a guess.)
That was 26 years ago. About the same that elapsed between the erroneous Nashville Tennessean report that Al and Tipper were the models for Love Story and Gore retelling that tale on Air Force Two.
Neither Gore nor author Erich Segal, nor, to this day, Bob Somerby, seemed to recall the name of the reporter who wrote that story, and through negligence changed the course of history.
Based on the record I could guess it was Al Gore himself. He is the only person I can name who worked for the Tennessean at that time.
He said he could guess, but that isn't solid enough to make a public accusation, even if this is just a blog.Delete
Truth be told, 12:18, he said he couldn't remember before he said he could guess. And he said his guess would be based on the "published" recordDelete
about which reporter called him "many" times asking him about drug use of his college roomate who was then running for President.
But you are right. Bob has scruples even if he has no long term memory of this trivial matter demonstrating the early days of the collapse of our intellectual culture.
Unless, of course, the reporter called him anonymously in order to add credibility to his claim he would treat Somerby as a confidential anonymous source.
Do any of you believe this story or claim?Delete
You seem to shortchanging Bob a few bucks on this exchange.Delete
Feel free to supplement my efforts.Delete
OMB (Oui, oui, oui, me, me, me. E-I-E-I Ohio)ReplyDelete
"We got many phone calls on these matters." BOB
“I I I I I I I.” According to rumor, that’s the slogan on Maddow’s coat of arms." BOB
After singing this “personal” song of himself, Bob admits he can't recall.
$8 plus a bonus $2 = $10. All you trolls keep supporting Somerby so he can fight the good fight.Delete
Hey, trolls get $10 from Rachel everytime they get her name in a comment. They get a $2 bonus everytime a response calls them a troll.Delete
You think they want Somerby to quit?
Must go to work now but I'll come back later to see what I owe. Seems to me the Maddow trolls owe Somerby a kickback for not moderating the comments.Delete
They owe you a kickback if you put your money where your keyboard is.Delete
AnonymousOctober 13, 2014 at 1:11 PMDelete
Must go to work now but I'll come back later to see what I owe.
AnonymousOctober 13, 2014 at 3:29 PM (NYT/MSNBC thread)
Monitors security cameras at the White House.Delete
Fact-checker for Rush Limbaugh.Delete
Bob complains that "all these scalps came from one of the two major parties". I seem to recall Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew being "scalped", not that they didn't richly deserve it. I also recall massive support for John McCain as Republican candidate in 2008, especially from the NY Times. Of course, they turned around and savaged him once he was running against a Dem.ReplyDelete
And, an entire set of books could be written about the media's harsh treatment of Sarah Palin -- treatment that continues to this day.
1:17 PM. Our choice for current most interesting commenter!Delete
"Scalping" here means taking down a politician on nonsense charges or spurious tales of bad "character."Delete
Nixon and Agnew were basically felons. And are you really defending Sarah Palin?
If that's what scalping means, then Gary Hart wasn't scalped. As another commenter pointed out, Hart deserved what he got.Delete
I thought Sarah Palin had weak qualifications. Her administrative experience was only something like 2 years as Governor of a small state. I do think she was "scalped" on her cultural views, which were more moderate than the media represented.
Also, Palin's experience was little worse than Barack Obama's. Of course, his educational attainments were much superior to Palin's, but he had little or no administrative experience. His Senate experience was negligible. He had spent much of that brief period campaigning for President. One could not point to any particular Obama achievement in the US 'Senate.
Gary Hart was "scalped" by scandal unrelated to his politics, his policies, or the execution of his job. Nixon and Agnew were basically felons.Delete
Obama was a Senator in the 109th and 110th Congress. He was a junior Senator in the minority for the former. It's the nature of the institution that he wouldn't have had his hands on the levers of power. Nevertheless, he sponsored or co-sponsored 570 bills, although only 15 became law. He proposed amendments to 50 bills, 16 of which were adopted. You can't point to his accomplishments because you never check the facts. Agree with his political positions or not, it's absurd to compare his involvement with his branch of government to half-term Palin's involvement with hers.
(The same applies to his career in the Illinois Senate, when he was in the majority party for only two years. He sponsored 100 bills a year for each of the eight years he was in the Illinois Senate, and worked on health care, anti-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, capital punishment, and more.)
Sarah Palin's major accomplishment as governor was to abuse her office in a vendetta to get her former brother-in-law fired from his job as a state trooper.
Actually her major accomplishment involved working against powerful oil companies. Wiki says, "She also helped pass an increase in the severance tax oil companies pay to extract oil from state land."Delete
As for Obama sponsoring or co-sponsoring bills, BFD. Did he read the bills? Did he draft them or help draft them? Were they good bills? Did Obama's expertise contribute to their content?
I'm not saying that the answers to these questions are all "No". I'm saying that raw numbers tell us nothing.
Still troubled by 1988!ReplyDelete
Must not have many customers or supervision.Delete
I'm the boss of me, $21Delete
So, its the no customers option? Better be or you are just procrastinating.Delete
If there were no customers, I'd have no money to throw around like this. $24Delete
Somerby is lucky to have someone like you joining in the effort to keep him funded. This is kind of like a troll matching fund. Keep it up -- love to send more money Somerby's way!
You should also volunteer to serve as Bob's moderator.Delete
"You should also volunteer to serve as Bob's moderator."Delete
I was thinking more along the lines of him/her/it volunteering for the first manned landing on the sun.
Really, Bob. The Gary Hart-Donna Rice scandal is virtually unprecendented in its egotistical hubris.ReplyDelete
And Bob? He was blown out of the water (almost literally!) in the spring of 1987.
If you are any friend at all of Al Gore, you wouldn't even think of bringing up Gore in the same post as Gary Hart.
"The jihads proceed,"ReplyDelete
And Bob? Please stop misusing terms from religions you make no effort to understand to score points on your blog.
The usage finger writes and having writ moves on, and you can't do fuck-all about it. Yes, "jihad" means struggle, and it can denote a personal and internal struggle. But it can also mean a war against the infidel, from which the slang usage takes its meaning.Delete
Are you going to complain when English speakers use "nirvana" to mean paradise?
Can anyone tell me what "telegenic in a faux-Kennedy fashion" means?ReplyDelete
Here's a thought for Somerby.ReplyDelete
You think the same private dicks that Lee Atwater hired to dig up dirt on Gary Hart might have also been digging for dirt on every potential Democratic nominee?
In other words, it may have not been a "reporter" whose name Bob can't remember who called him repeatedly about Gore's alleged youthful drug use.
But then again, that wouldn't fit the pleasing story Bob tells his rubes.
More on Gary Hart please, Mr. Bob. He was more exciting than Gore and had better taste in women than Clinton or Kennedy. Except for Marilyn, of course.ReplyDelete
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