Anthropology Then: Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell got something right.
Needless to say, his slacker network hasn't yet gotten around to creating a transcript of his program. So we'll have to wait another day to show you what he did.
In the meantime, we told you that the New York Times' exegesis of the various candidates' campaign songs is part of a long, dumb history. Let's recall a pitiful time when one candidate's choice of songs was tied to the press corps' beloved "gaffe culture."
During Campaign 2000, the songs one major candidate used became, inevitably, a part of this pitiful culture. Almost surely you can guess who the candidate was.
It was late October 1999. As a journalistic war picked up steam, Time magazine's Eric Pooley actually handed us this:
POOLEY (10/31/99): Except for his name and party affiliation, Al Gore has now changed just about everything a struggling candidate can change: clothes, consultants, message, manner. But his campaign theme song—the cheesy tune that blares at every Gore 2000 event—still needs work.For the record, Time magazine was still a major big deal at that time.
He started with Shania Twain's Rock This Country, but it only reminded people that the country isn't rocking for him. Since shelving Shania, Gore has used the soul anthem Love Train—a call to unity that rings hollow with Democrats still divided about the nomination. But there's hope. At the New Hampshire "town hall" forum with Gore and Bill Bradley last week, it was obvious what song captures Gore's new mood: the old Motown hit Ain't Too Proud to Beg.
Stalking the stage of Dartmouth College's Moore Theater, grinning fiercely and sweating like the hardest-working man in show business, Gore seemed stoked enough to belt the words himself: "I know you wanna leave me,/ but I refuse to let you go." He wanted to tell voters who have dumped him for Bradley that he'll do anything to win them back.
Of course, since this was Al Gore talking, the words came out a bit differently: "I would like to have your support for me," and "Fighting for all the people—that's what I want to do," and finally, "I would like to work hard; if you elect me President, I will work hard." Which is just the Vice President's way of saying, "Please, baby, please, baby, please, baby, please."
By rule of law within the guild, Everything This Candidate Did Was Laughably Wrong at This Time. "Rock This Country" had been wrong, oh so wrong—but so, of course, was "Love Train." Pooley went on to ridicule Gore through his creative use of the lyrics of yet another old song.
Pooley was having his fun this day in the wake of the first Gore-Bradley debate—the Dartmouth event at which the mainstream press corps, isolated in a separate press room, were reported to have hissed, jeered and booed every word Gore said.
In his mocking "news report," Pooley became the first of three establishment journalists to describe what happened inside that press room that night. In fairness, Pooley seemed to be so dumb he didn't seem to understand that what he was describing here was vast journalistic misconduct:
POOLEY: Last week the ache was unmistakable—and even touching—but the 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.According to Pooley, the 300 media types only erupted in their collective jeer "whenever Gore came on too strong." Here at this site, we'd heard a somewhat different story from a mainstream scribe who called us from Dartmouth minutes after the debate was done.
Two other reports did surface. On Monday, November 1, the Hotline's Howard Mortman stated to us, on a cable news show, that "the media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something" that night.
In mid-December, Jake Tapper, then of Slate, made it three. Tapper said this on C-Span's Washington Journal:
TAPPER (12/13/99): Well, I can tell you that the only media bias I have detected in terms of a group media bias was, at the first debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore, and that's the only time I've ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event.Plainly, this was an astounding event. No one ever heard about it because of the stifling code of silence under which this pathetic guild works.
Pooley's mocking discussion of Gore's campaign songs extended the media's jeering. The ridiculous fellow went on to say this in his report for Time:
POOLEY (continuing directly): Poor Gore. For months the press has been hammering him for taking the nomination for granted and not showing emotion. Now it's hammering him for trying too hard and showing too much. Of course he was sometimes overbearing at Dartmouth—asking faux-Clintonian personal questions ("How old is your child, Corey?") and then, after the event, sitting on the lip of the stage for 90 minutes to expound—impressively, by the way—on policy until everyone was exhausted, and Tipper said, "Al, I'm going to have to go." But the interesting question isn't whether Gore's exhibitionism is a tactic (it is) but whether groveling works any better in politics than it does in love.Today, pundits praise Candidate Warren for staying late at campaign events until everyone get to take a selfie. Back then, scribes took turns ridiculing Gore for staying late at campaign events until everyone got his or her question answered.
(Until everyone got his question answered? By rule of law, this had to be reframed this way: "until everyone was exhausted.")
Twenty years later, the New York Times decided to analyze ten candidates' campaign songs. They filled three pages of yesterday's paper with their thoroughly typical low-IQ pabulum and piddle.
During the press corps' twenty-month war against Gore, this sort of thing was directly tied to their famous, dim-witted "gaffe culture." By the rules of the game, Gore was wrong when he played Shania Twain, wrong when he played something else.
Final point: Gore asked that "faux-Clintonian personal question" when a young woman at the Dartmouth "town hall" event stood and asked him this question:
QUESTION (10/26/9): Hi, my name is Corey Martin and I live in Hanover. There's been talk tonight about health care reform and I'm the parent of a child who has diabetes and I spend a lot of time dealing with the insurance companies and what's covered and what's not covered and it eats up a lot of time and effort. So I'm wondering, if you were to implement health care reform, who would be the decision-makers? Who decides what's covered?Gore asked how old the child was (five). He asked if Martin had good insurance (she did). He then proceeded to answer her policy question, and a gaggle of zombified "journalists" mocked him for trying to be just like Bill Clinton, always without providing the context within which his questions were asked.
From that day right through to this, we've asked if these life-forms are human. We've most commonly asked that question about the people, like Gail Collins, who ridiculed Gore for having had the decency to ask Martin that simple question about her daughter. But the same question must be asked about the long lines of careerist types who have agreed, to this very day, to pretend that none of this ever occurred.
Martin's daughter was five years old at that time. Children that age were soon dying all over Iraq because of what these zombified idiots did, as a group, from March 1999 on.
Today, future experts keep telling us, quite late at night, that this is an anthropological question. It goes to the heart of what we "rational animals" are actually like—to the intellectual and moral limits within which our self-impressed species functions, especially among its elites.
Last night, Lawrence got something right. If his lazy, self-impressed corporate network ever get around to creating a transcript, we'll show you what it was.
But way back when, one major candidate's choice of songs was quickly put to a use. When Candidate Gore played Shania Twain, it was peddled to us rubes as his latest ridiculous gaffe!
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