Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pundits create their own version of reality
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Some years ago, I accepted a magazine assignment to write about the
Texas Prison Rodeo. Never having set foot inside a penitentiary, I asked
a friend who’d been a prison warden in two Southern states for advice.
After we talked for a bit, my friend leaned back, put his boots up on
the desk, lit a cigar, and cut to the chase. “You don’t strike me as a
naïve person, so don’t take me wrong,” he said carefully, pausing for
emphasis. “But some of those boys will lie to you.” In that spirit, a
guide to the upcoming marathon presidential campaign. Lest anybody tell
you different, all candidates are consumed with ambition; all seek
power; all have formidable egos. Nobody who didn’t could survive the
ordeal. Furthermore, all political events are stage-managed to the
maximum extent possible. Even if they appear on “Oprah,” they’re not
there to bare their souls. An American presidential campaign is the
ultimate reality-TV show. It follows that the anchor creatures and
pundits who bring it to your living room use it to advance their own
careers, often by substituting made-for-TV plots and themes for the
humdrum issues that candidates prefer to discuss. Few voters grasp how
much the media’s obsession with personality, “character” and hot-button
issues like race and sex often involves distorting reality to fit a
pre-selected theme.

On his Web site, The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby has exhaustively
chronicled how fictive scenarios about Al Gore and George W. Bush
dominated the 2000 presidential election. The Beltway press consistently
portrayed Gore as a big faker who made up self-aggrandizing tales about
himself, while Bush was an “authentic” politician with a common touch. A
gushing Bush profile in, yes, The New York Times set the tone early:
“Nobody would ever mistake him for Vice President Gore.... His style is
an amalgam of East and Southwest, Yale and the oil patch. Call him the
Madras Cowboy.”

The “Madras Cowboy” line never took, but the theme sure did. I vividly
recall talking with two Democratic friends, both physicians who are both
a lot smarter than myself, who’d swallowed the anti-Gore story line
whole—invented the Internet, “Love Story,” the lot. The first claim Gore
never made; the second, author Erich Segal made clear, was largely true.
He had modeled his novel’s protagonist on Gore, his former student.

The result is that our president’s a bicycle-pedaling “Texas rancher”
who to my knowledge has never owned a horse or cow, and an epic
prevaricator rivaled only by Richard Nixon and his fellow Texan, Lyndon
Baines Johnson.

Many people find it hard to grasp how today’s Beltway press operates
because, in their own professional lives, inventing or ignoring
dispositive facts ultimately leads to firing, disgrace and revoked
licenses. In Washington, it brings fame, fortune and guest spots on
“Hardball,” where pundits ponder questions like this one from the
excitable host about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s alleged unwillingness to
explain her vote authorizing the Iraq war: “Everybody in America knew we
were going to war with Bush. He made it pretty clear from Day One we
were going to war. How come she still pretends that she didn’t know he
was going to war? It’s like she didn’t know anything about Bill and his
behavior! How many times is she going to be confused by men?”

See how it works? From weapons of mass destruction straight back to Bill
Clinton’s pants. Never mind that when the Senate voted in 2002, Bush
swore that war was the last thing he wanted. Did Hillary Clinton believe
him? I have no way of knowing. Her contemporaneous public statements
accepted intelligence reports touting Iraq’s WMD or friendly relations
with al-Qa’ida, both now highly questionable.

But the senator is clearly this campaign’s Beltway piñata, a calculating
phony like Gore. Recently, for example, a New Hampshire voter asked her
why she hadn’t called her Iraq vote a mistake. Reporters for the
trend-setting New York Times and Washington Post knew what to do. They
paraphrased her answer and guessed at her motive. “Mrs. Clinton,” the
Times reported, “stuck to a set of talking points that she and her
advisers hope will ultimately overcome the antiwar anger that is
particularly strong among Democrats.” Here’s the transcript of what
Clinton actually said: “I have said, and I will repeat... that, knowing
what I know now, I would never have voted for it. But I also—and, I
mean, obviously you have to weigh everything as you make your decision—I
have taken responsibility for my vote. The mistakes were made by this
president, who misled this country and this Congress into a war that
should not have been waged.” How much does Clinton’s position differ
from those of Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, depicted
as her main rivals? Hardly at all, in practical terms. But you’d never
know that if you follow the spin.

•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.


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