The Crazy came for our thought leaders too!

FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2022

We were too soft to push back: How crazy was American upper-end journalism as of 1999?

To what extent had The Crazy extended its reach into the world of our own blue tribe? To what extent had The Crazy invaded our own tribe's culture—and thereby our national culture—without our admittedly brilliant tribunes saying so much as a word?

By the time that President Donald J. Trump was offering thoughts about how to fight Covid with Lysol, our slumbering tribe had begun to notice the role The Crazy was playing in our lives. But how far had the Crazy's reach extended back when the press corps was partying like it was 1999? 

How far had the Crazy's reach extended? We offer such comments by the upper-end press as the comments shown below—a tiny sampling of the full roster of The Crazy which was rolled out that year. 

These comments were made by highly-paid members of the upper-end, blue tribe mainstream press corps. We'll start with Mary McGrory, a Pulitzer-winning, long-time pillar of the insider press corps establishment. 

In late October 1999. Candidates Gore and Bradley staged the first Democratic debate of the 2000 White House campaign. The debate was broadcast by CNN. The candidates principally spoke about health care—and the upper-end press corps said this:

MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.

Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. Maybe it was the first step in shedding his Prince Albert image.

A hail of similar insults followed. Already, The Crazy was saddling us with "journalism" like that. 

McGrory avoided the health care discussion in this and in her subsequent column. Our own blue tribe's demented thought leaders said nothing about this lack of focus. They simply sat and stared.

In fact, it isn't true that our leaders said nothing. In fact, our tribe's thought leaders were pouring it on. 

By now, our tribe's thought leaders had been assailing Candidate Gore's disturbing wardrobe for roughly a month. Every part of the candidate's wardrobe was frisked by these subhuman creatures. This let the occasional sane observer see a blinfingly obvious fact:

The Crazy already prevailed.

The candidate was attacked for his suits, his boots, his polo shirts—for the height at which he was hemming his pants. He was assailed for the color of his suits, but also for the number of buttons observed on his suit jackets.

The candidate had actually worn one or more three-button suits! A crazy employee of NBC News described this offense against decency on his nightly NBC cable news program as he questioned a "body language" expert:

MATTHEWS (11/12/99): You know, there's been a lot of talk about the new costuming of Al Gore. You know, he used to wear blue suits like I do, or gray suits. Now he's wearing these new olive suits. He's taking up something rather unconventional, the three-button male suit jacket. 

I always– My joke is, “I'm Albert, I'll be your waiter tonight.” I mean, I don't know anybody who buttons all three buttons, even if they have them. What could that possibly be saying to women voters, three buttons?

DIMITRIUS: Well, I, I think that–

MATTHEWS: Is there some hidden Freudian deal here or what? I don't know. I mean, Navy guys used to have buttons on their pants. I don't know what it means. Go ahead.

For the record, Matthews was smuttily employing a theme which had come to dominate the story-telling of the upper-end mainstream press—the notion that Gore's wardrobe somehow represented a fiendish, sexualized attempt to attract female voters. 

To her credit, Jo-Ellen Dimitrius seemed puzzled by the lunacy of Chris Matthews' insinuations and questions. After some initial fumbling, she took a diplomatic approach to the problem, suggesting that Gore might understand that “olive green, dark green is much more approachable” than dark blue in a man’s suit. 

“Is that why Peter Pan wore green?” Matthews quickly and crazily asked. As Dimitrius fumbled again for an answer, her host finally asked a relevant question:

“How does my mind work that way?” he asked his puzzled guest.

Whatever the answer may have been, Matthews’ mind kept “working that way” all through the month of November. He raised the topic of Gore’s disturbing three-button suits on half a dozen Hardball programs, running through November 24. 

On five of these occasions, Matthews said the three-button suits made Gore look like a waiter. He told his “I’m Albert, I’ll be your waiter” joke on three different programs. 

Nor was Matthews the only major figure counting the number of buttons on Gore’s deeply troubling suits. On November 9, Arianna Huffington clownishly attacked the candidate for wearing four-button suits!

In fact, Gore hadn’t worn any four-button suits. Huffington had simply added a button, making her unadulterated nonsense stand out from the rapidly growing pack.

“The way he's now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him,” she told a panel of pundits on Geraldo Rivera’s nightly CNBC show, after miscounting the buttons. (Rivera's was one of the rare cable shows of the era whose host was defending Bill Clinton in the wake of his impeachment.)

Gore hadn’t worn any four-button suits. That just made the story sound better. 

Meanwhile, concerning the crazy claim that “the way [Gore was] now dressing makes a lot of people feel disconnected from him,” let it be said that Gore went on to win the New Hampshire primary and every other Democratic primary in that election cycle. (No other Democrat had ever won every contested primary.)

Apparently. Democratic voters hadn't felt quite as "disconnected" from Gore as Huffington had imagined. Nor was Huffington the only major observer who gave voice to such crazy thoughts about the way Gore's troubling suits were being viewed by the public.

On Sunday, November 28, the Washington Post's Marc Fisher went down this same path in a crazy profile of Gore in the newspaper's Sunday magazine. Fisher linked a viciously misogynist sets of attacks on a female adviser to Gore with a similar lunatic claim about the troubling suit Gore had worn at that first Democratic debate.

Fisher added a widespread claim his guild had adopted from the annals of pop psychology“—the endlessly-repeated claim that Candidate Gore "doesn't know who he is."

Had the candidate been duped by aides? Fisher asked. If not, he wasn't "fit to be president:"

FISHER (11/28/99): We have two choices: We can say Gore's a good man who's been duped by over-eager aides, or we can say this is a man who does not know himself, a man who is unknowable, unreadable and therefore not fit to be president.

A person who makes her living by writing pop philosophy about sex tells a man who would be president of the United States that he must be a different kind of man, that he must be more assertive, that he must wear a brown suit of a sort that is alien to virtually every American. And he says, "Okay."

To call him unreadable is to be charitable.

That was the end of Fisher's profile. According to Fisher, Gore had been wearing a brown suit "of a sort that was alien to virtually every American."

Fisher's statement about Gore's suit came live and direct from The Crazy. To this day, he writes lengthy, front-page pieces for the Washington Post.

It's impossible to fully convey the extent to which The Crazy had invaded our upper end (mainstream) press corps by this point in time. This manifest lunacy about Gore's wardrobe went on and on, then on and on, all through the mainstream press. 

On NBC cable, Brian Williams writhed and railed, night after night, about the way Gore was costuming himself in a way designed to woo female voters. No other journalist said a word about the manifest lunacy driving this onslaught. Already, The Crazy was in the saddle and was riding upper-end humankind.

We're sparing you the transcript of Chris Matthews' half-hour interview with Gennifer Flowers in August 1999. At that time, Flowers was offering a for-profit website devoted to recitations concerning Bill and Hillary Clinton's many murders.

Matthews went on and on, in embarrassing ways, about what a stone-cold super-babe Flowers so plainly was, especially compared to Hillary Clinton. Along the way, Flowers' performance with Matthews was so crazy that she was gifted with a full hour on Fox to discuss the Clintons' murders. 

She got the full hour on Hannity & Colmes, but she'd broken through on NBC cable. Before this lunacy jumped to Fox, our own blue tribe was performing a rendezvous with The Crazy.

It took our tribe a very long time to see that The Crazy surrounds us. This week, we've ended up with the Jill Biden breakfast tacos "scandal"—and truly, you simply can't get any dumber than to see a scandal in that.

Is there a way out of this mess? In this morning's New York Times, David Brooks sees a (possible) bad moon rising:

BROOKS (7/15/22): I’d like you to consider the possibility that the political changes that have rocked this country over the past six years will be nothing compared with the changes that will rock it over the next six. I’d like you to consider the possibility that we’re in some sort of prerevolutionary period—the kind of moment that often gives birth to something shocking and new.

Brooks poses the possibility that "the political changes that have rocked this country over the past six years will be nothing compared with the changes that will rock it over the next six." 

He considers the possibility that "we’re in some sort of prerevolutionary period—the kind of moment that often gives birth to something shocking and new."

Long ago and far away, classicist Norman O. Brown already said that he saw that coming. Among liberal intellectuals, Brown was very hot at the time. The year was 1966, and Norman O. Brown said this:

BROWN (1966): I sometimes think I see that societies originate in the discovery of some secret, some mystery; and end in exhaustion when there is no longer any secret, when the mystery has been divulged, that is to say profaned...And so there comes a time—I believe we are in such a time—when civilization has to be renewed by the discovery of some new mysteries, by the undemocratic but sovereign power of the imagination, by the undemocratic power which makes poets the unacknowledged legislators of all mankind, the power which makes all things new.

Brown made those remarks in a Phi Beta Kappa address. We can't say we know exactly what he was talking about, but as our society breaks down around us, we highly self-impressed blue tribe members should remember this:

The Crazy came for us and our "thought leaders" too! This was abundantly clear by the late 1990s.

By the late 1990s, The Crazy was in the saddle among the people we're taught to respect. Our own allegedly brilliant blue tribe was simply too clueless to see this.

Maybe tomorrow: Jill Biden

Special bonus coverage: In the fall of 1999, the clothing campaign took many forms as journalists pounded away at Gore’s deeply troubling character through the medium of his wardrobe.


Amid the various crazy claims concerning the candidate’s boots and suits, Brian Williams was treating himself to a small nervous breakdown concerning Gore’s polo shirts.

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 news" program. 

The polo shirts “don’t always look natural on him,” he weirdly complained two nights later. 

For whatever reason, Williams said Gore was wearing the polo shirts in an effort to attract 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. 

Williams continued this stupid behavior into the next year. The Crazy was part of our national life. We liberals were simply too dumb to notice, too supine to push back.

This conduct by the upper-end press sent George W. Bush to the Oval Office, Alito to the Supreme Court. No one has ever discussed this obvious fact, and no one ever will.

The Crazy came for us long ago. Is there any hope of escape in (let's say) the next six years?


  1. The democratic experiment is over.
    Strangled in the crib, by SCOTUS.


  2. "How far had the Crazy's reach extended?"

    During the last year and a half it extended so far, dear Bob, that according to Chris Hedges: “At no time, including the Cuban missile crisis, have we stood closer to the precipice of nuclear war.

    And that is your retarded tribe's fault, dear Bob. And yours.

    Oh well...

    1. The only thing that makes sense in your reply is "Oh, well..."

    2. I blame the Right for focussing too much on making women second-class citizens, and not enough on making the world a better place.

    3. Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen demonstrated empirically that when women participate fully in a country's economy, that nation becomes a better place for all, more prosperous, stable, with fewer social problems. The Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot if their party's goal is to increase business prosperity and wealth.

    4. Good luck with your goal to increase misery and poverty, dear government scientist.

    5. Mao,
      Still disappointed you won't be able to send the rapist of a 10-year old a Father's Day card?
      You poor, poor victim.
      Cheer yourself up, by shitting on refugees. Kicking down will temporarily distract you from your hurt fee-fees.

    6. Exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother even though the first two are debatable. In every other case make people accountable for their own choices and ban killing others to make their own next few months more convenient.

    7. 5:06,
      Totally agree, but the discussion is about abortion.

    8. Here you go, 5:06.

  3. Somerby believes we should push back when someone is arguing in bad faith.
    Told you he was a liberal.

  4. "the upper-end, blue tribe mainstream press corps"

    The mainstream press is not part of the "blue tribe". It is not liberal.

    While I do not fully agree with the Media Bias chart shown at this link, even it does not consider the mainstream media to be leftist:

    If he didn't constantly cut corners, Somerby should in fairness identify who he means when he refers to high-end media. Rachel Maddow, for example, is not a news reporter. She is an analyst and pundit, a purveyor of opinion, interpretation and speculation. Her job is to organize and comment upon the news, not report it. But Somerby nearly always conflates opinion columnists and editorial writers with news reporters, making no distinction based on the purpose of someone's writing.

    Note that the Media Bias chart shows a much longer tail on the right than the left, and assigns misleading, fabricated, misinformation exclusively to the right wing, whereas the left is only considered selective or incomplete. The left is not in the business of making shit up. Given that the left tends to be more fact-based and reality-based than the right, it would be a good thing if even the mainstream media skewed more left than right. But that isn't how it is perceived by anyone except Somerby and his comrades on the right, who routinely label the press as liberal.

  5. Here is some Crazy that is now prevailing:

    1. Chris Matthews is no longer on the air. He is now 78 and long retired.
    2. Al Gore was a failed presidential candidate 22 years ago. He retreated from politics after his defeat in 1999 and has no political influence on current politics.
    3. Somerby appears to be unable to let go of his obsession with how Gore was treated by the press, which disliked Gore almost as much as the voters did.
    4. Calling statements that you disagree with "Crazy" is not the same as having a truly crazy president like Trump and watching how he coerced Republicans into tolerating his dysfunction.

    1. He’s talking about when the crazy embedded itself into journalism.

    2. Oh and btw … Gore got more votes than Bush.

      You Bob haters really need to get a life. Are you all paid to troll him so obsessively?

  6. Somerby left out part of Marc Fisher's article that makes it clearer what he objected to about Gore:

    "Enter Al Gore. Seemed like a nice enough guy, maybe even a decent person. That is, until he started doing the kinds of contortions we've seen before in that Unreadable group. He became the New Gore, like the New Nixon. He got folksy on us, like Bush and his pork rinds. He started telling us deeply personal stuff that we didn't want to know, like Carter and his lust."

    It wasn't the suits, it was his attempt to manage his image based on feedback from consultants and focus groups. He called Gore untrustworthy because we didn't know the real Gore. The same complaint was lodged against Hillary.

    I don't believe that is a valid criticism of either candidate, but it also isn't what Somerby called it either. Somerby thinks the press was out-to-get Gore and used a variety of unfair and incorrect criticisms against Gore. Somerby neither accurately summarizes Fisher's complaint, nor does he address it. He makes it something else, conflating it with Matthews obvious political animosity toward Democrats.

    Gore should have been able to handle the mockery. This happens to ALL candidates and there is no rule in politics that says one candidate cannot make fun of the other, and that extends to surrogates and other political actors, including partisan news pundits like Matthews. Matthews is not a reporter, nor is Dowd, and there is no requirement that they be unbiased in their commentary. Gore didn't know how to defuse the criticisms, and that made the race closer than it had to be, ultimately losing to Bush. But Gore's other problems contributed more to his loss, and Somerby never acknowledges that -- instead he blames liberals for not sticking up for Gore sufficiently to win him the election. And that's ridiculous.

  7. "In the fall of 1999, the clothing campaign took many forms as journalists pounded away at Gore’s deeply troubling character through the medium of his wardrobe."

    Here Somerby reveals himself to be anti-clothing. No wonder he continually attacks the fashion pages in the NY Times. The problem isn't that some people didn't like Gore as a candidate, but that people focus too much on clothing.

    And now I have this troubling image of Somerby sitting nude beneath his backyard pear tree, contemplating his navel and Godel's theorem. No wonder his neighbors complain!

  8. Alito didn't single-handedly overturn Roe v Wade. He was the court kook until Trump was elected and appointed three more like-minded kooks to the court.

    Somerby never talks about his own dislike of Hillary, his refusal to support her campaign, the names he called her and the way he boosted Trump's campaign in the 2016 election. He is arguably more to blame than Brian Williams or Chris Matthews, when it comes to holding one's nose and voting for the right candidate. Somerby never talks about Bernie's contribution to Hillary's loss. Somerby was right there, along with the right-wing, complaining about Hillary's failures (believing the NY Times attack pieces) instead of defending her candidacy.

    Maybe Somerby too assumed that Hillary would win, so it didn't matter if he attacked her. If so, that is on him, not the left who supported her and were enthusiastic about her candidacy. And as a result, Trump appointed three crazy justices and women are now second-class citizens (not that this will trouble Somerby at all, given his misogyny).

    1. You’re delusional if you think Somerby hated Hillary or boosted Trump.

    2. It’d be easier to notice if Somerby didn’t repeat nonsense Right-wing memes on a regular basis.

  9. "Maybe tomorrow: Jill Biden"

    I hope Somerby doesn't embarrass himself by claiming that the left attacked Biden for her taco comment. It was Alvarez, the RNC's Director of Communications, who complained on behalf of Hispanics -- part of the right's push to swing Hispanic voters. This is being portrayed as an example of the left's runaway PC identity sensitivity, but it is RNC ratfucking. I hope he sees through it, but I suspect he will pile on in support of the right's campaign to pick off Hispanic voters.

  10. "The Crazy came for our thought leaders too!"

    Chris Matthews was not one of our thought leaders.

    The Crazy being spread by Matthews is nothing like what has been occurring on the right with its conspiracy theories, reptilian aliens, JFK Jr. risen from the dead, nano tags in vaccines, children with guns, and attempted coups.

    Somerby is not my thought leader either, but he too is approaching crazy with his columns here.

    1. Quoting Norman Brown and calling him one of our thought leaders is certainly crazy.

    2. Norman Brown was very big back then. Still influential.

    3. And Matthews was very much a thought leader then. Bob’s talking about the continuity of history here, and he’s right.

  11. David Brooks says in today's NY Times:

    "The Republicans used to be the party of business, but now they are emerging as a multiracial working-class party. In the Times/Siena poll, Hispanic voters were nearly evenly split about whether they favored Republicans or Democrats in the midterms. That may be overstating how much Hispanics have shifted, but it does seem as if the Republicans are genuinely becoming a working-class white-brown coalition. These voters care about the economy, the economy and the economy."

    He is overestimating the amount of shift among Hispanic voters, but the main problem is the racism latent in the Republican party and the anti-immigrant feeling. It is ludicrous to think that brown working-class voters will align themselves with a party that hates them, so much that it has made anti-immigrant hate part of its appeal to its base.

    I suspect that Republicans have embarked on this attempt to swing Hispanic voters precisely to dilute the perception that Republicans are all racists, to provide cover for existing Republican voters by portraying their party as diverse and hence less white supremacist and bigoted. This is being done without having to change a thing about their actual beliefs, by claiming a shift that has not occurred in any real strength.

    Beyond that, the idea that Republicans will protect working-class interests is a huge joke.

    1. Brooks is a Right-winger, so there's chance he's making a good faith argument.
      Ask him to name one Republican voter who bristled at Trump's HUGE tax break for the corporate rich.

    2. Should be:
      there's no chance he's making a good faith argument.

    3. Republicans don't care that liberals call them "racist" so your theory is wrong. The phony and hateful charge has no power. Everyone sees through it including hispanic voters who come (legally) from shitholes and want no part of Democrats. Republicans are taking working class voters and leaving pregnant men and abortion celebration to Democrats.

    4. Perfect. The Democrats don't need Manchin to tax the rich. The Republican Party has to vote for it, or the working class Republican voters will make them pay for it*.

      * Hopefully by never voting for them again, but more likely by throwing a temper tantrum because black peoples votes get counted in elections.

    5. 5:00,
      Do you have any contact info for that working class Republican voter, who was mildly annoyed by Trump giving a HUGE tax break to corporations and the rich?
      I'd love to interview them and make these charges of racism disappear.
      Thanks in advance.

    6. Wake me when the Republican Party stops being obsessed by pronouns, and does something to help the working class.

  12. Somerby says we were too soft to push back on the crazy. But his example is the criticism of Al Gore. That wasn't crazy at all. Many of us agreed with those criticisms, despite voting for Gore. No one selects a candidate based on their coat buttons. It is insulting that Somerby would think that had any impact on the election results at all.

    Real crazy is what Republicans believe today.

  13. Somerby uses the word "crazy" very loosely.

    It means: "mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way"

    It is hard to say that the left has acted that way, but easy to see how the right has done so:

    1. Look at the Trump rallies.
    2. Look at the 1/6 insurrection.
    3. Look at the accusations coming from the right, including the one about the left being as crazy as the right.
    4. Look at the death threats against public officials who are just doing their jobs.
    5. Look at the association with the white supremacists.
    6. Look at their stockpiling of guns without any clear threat in sight.
    7. Look at their calls for civil war and threats about a coming bloodbath if they don't get their way on things.
    8. Look at the stuff MTG and Boebert keep saying.
    9. Look at their lack of compassion for women, the poor, victims of disasters, immigrants seeking asylum, etc.
    10. Then look at the conspiracy theories.

    It isn't only that their beliefs are unhinged, but they are aggressive about forcing them on others using violence, in the name of God.

    Somerby has not described anything on the left that rises to that level of craziness.

  14. Not one word yet from TDH and his "musings on the mainstream "press corps" and the american discourse" concerning the major face plant by the right wing Media Industrial Complex on the ten-year-old rape victim in Ohio. Not one fucking one.

    1. The child raped by the illegal immigrant boyfriend of her mother, who sent her out of state for an abortion to protect him, and who continues to protect him?

    2. And how is this the child’s fault?

    3. Or about he House of Pelosi just passed a $840 billion Pentagon spending bill, which more Republicans (62) voted against than Democrats (39). For perspective, the Pentagon appropriation is nearly 20 times larger than the amount ($44 billion) the Biden administration requested to confront the biggest threat to the planet: climate change. Not fucking one. See how they fool you?

    4. Why should he. It’s been covered everywhere else, Go to Media Matters for that.

    5. TDH readers already know the media is in the bag for the Right.

    6. 5:27, TDH writes about the "mainstream press", not about congressional bills. And yes, we all know how dedicated the republicans are to fighting climate change. LOL, what an ass.

    7. I believe 5:27's point is, you have to be a real piece of shit to care more about how much your taxes will go up, then about climate change.
      The zero votes from the Republican Party to do anything about climate change proves 5:27's point.

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