Part 5—The songs of SEAL Team Six: The broken state of our public discourse has been our subject for seventeen pointless years.
A couple of quick examples:
In February 2000, that broken discourse was on display when Brian Williams and Bill Turque discussed the psychiatric problems suggested by Al Gore’s polo shirts and three-button suits—when they conducted that crackpot discussion and nobody thought it was nuts.
(Williams had obsessed about Gore’s polo shirts all through the fall of 1999, often with Howard Fineman cast in the role of sidekick. Within the pundit corps, everyone agreed to pretend that these crazy discussions made sense.)
In September 2000, that broken discourse was put on display when Fineman told that same Brian Williams why the press corps had just invented two new “lies” by Candidate Gore.
Gore had moved ahead of Bush by ten points in the national polls; inside Washington, it was widely believed that the White House campaign was over. At that point, the guild invented two new “lies.”
On September 21, 2000, Howard told Brian why:
“I don't think the media was going to allow, just by its nature, the next seven weeks and the last seven or eight weeks of the campaign to be all about Al Gore's relentless triumphant march to the presidency,” Fineman said, right there on TV.
Williams took this statement in stride, thereby displaying the broken nature of our American discourse. To Brian, that seemed to make sense.
Our archives are full of bullshit like this from the endlessly horrible Williams. Have you forgotten the Democratic debate he conducted with Tim Russert in October 2007?
Williams was always a mess. The craziness of our discourse lies in the way the liberal world agreed to ignore his lunatic conduct, and that of the others.
In the past few weeks, it has come to seem that Williams may have been crazy in a more fundamental way—in a way which moves beyond the boundaries of standard press corps nonsense.
Yesterday, more apparent bullshit surfaced. This time, the problem involves Williams’ claims about the gifts and gratitude he says he’s received from the men of SEAL Team Six.
As it turns out, Williams has made claims about SEAL Team Six in the past few years which look and sound a bit crazy. Last night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper program opened with a long segment about these claims, which were made on several Letterman programs. (John Berman served as guest host.)
To read the Cooper transcript, click here. For basic background info, click this. In fairness, you have to see Williams telling these stories to get the full taste of the possible craziness which may be lurking there.
It isn’t good when people are crazy. It’s better for the world if such people get some sort of help.
But our mainstream press corps runs on Crazy—and on the agreement by mainstream pundits not to notice this fact. Williams has been an apparent tool for a very long time. You really shouldn’t believe a word which falls from the handsome man’s lips.
That said, we’ve given up on the usefulness of trying to discuss this long-standing state of affairs. The Drums and Dionnes, the Alters and Ezras, were simply never going to tell you what Williams and his colleagues were doing. They are never going to tell you what he and his colleagues have done.
Our national discourse runs on Crazy. Judged by any normal standard, Williams has been crazy down through all these years.
He’s just crazy in a different way now. And crazy like this ain’t allowed!
Crazy right from the start: Back in 1999, we often discussed Williams' conduct, as you can see by clicking through our incomparable archives.
How crazy was Brian back in the day? In Chapter 5 of our companion site, we summarized his scripted obsession with Candidate Gore's polo shirts in this charitable way:
THE WAY HE GOT THERE: [T]he clothing campaign took on many forms as journalists pounded away at Gore’s character. Example: Even amid the bogus claims concerning the candidate’s boots and suits, Brian Williams was treating himself to a small nervous breakdown concerning Gore’s polo shirts.This is the way Jack Welch's Lost Boys pounded at Candidate Gore for two years. In the end, their hard work paid off:
Candidates had campaigned in casual clothing for years, but Williams was suddenly troubled. Gore was “wearing polo shirts twenty-four hours a day,” the anchor groused on October 6, on his nightly cable program. The polo shirts “don’t always look natural on him,” he weirdly complained two nights later. For whatever reason, Williams thought Gore was wearing the shirts in some sort of effort to woo female voters. The anchor repeatedly stated this theory, asking guests when Gore’s strategy would “all start becoming so transparent [that] no one is fooled” (October 6) or (October 8) whether the strategy was going to “become absolutely transparent when they go out into the hinterlands and try to sell it.” On and on the grumbling went. Incredibly, Williams raised the question of Gore’s polo shirts on five separate programs in one eight-day period, with two nights off for weekend rehab. In such ways, the corps obsessed on Gore’s clothing for a full month before they landed on [Naomi] Wolf.
Williams gained great wealth and fame, even as Bush ended up in the White House. The Drums and Dionnes, the Alters and Ezras, will never discuss what occurred.