It’s hard to believe that this happened: By the time of Campaign 2000, your so-called mainstream American press corps was in full break-down mode.
In November 1998, Sally Quinn described the “outrage” Establishment Washington felt toward President Clinton. She described that outrage at great length in a very important report in the Post.
She included the press corps’ insider elite among her many complainants.
In February 1999, Clinton’s impeachment trial was held. Three weeks later, Candidate Gore began to campaign—and the “press corps” landed on his head like a ton of bricks. How might we describe what followed?
Dan Kennedy called it “a virtual wilding.” We’d have to say Dan got it right.
Twenty months of misconduct followed. Rather plainly, this sent George Bush to the White House. And from that day forward, the press corps has refused to discuss what it did those summers. (And those autumns; and that winter.) To this day, very few voters understand what occurred.
One result: Newt Gingrich parades around and about, complaining about that vile “liberal bias.” In our tribe, we keep our traps shut about the Clinton/Gore years. Joan refuses to tattle on Chris. You might call it, “Careers in the balance!”
Yesterday, we thought of this long-standing code of silence when we read the following comment to a Paul Krugman post:
COMMENTER (1/25/12): Maybe instead of conflating "truth" with "intent,” Politifact could issue a ruling on the former and provide space for commentary on the latter. The media did this in 2000. They had to say negative things about Al Gore to equal the negative things about GWB, even though there was much less to say about Gore. They had to be even-handed and thus being even-handed wasn't truthful.That well-meaning liberal reader still doesn’t have the slightest idea what happened in Campaign 2000. He thinks the press corps made up shit about Candidate Gore just to balance the volume of shit they were dumping on Candidate Bush.
Plainly, that isn’t what happened; that isn’t what happened at all. In fact, the press corps went very easy on Bush, defending him at (almost) every juncture. (When John McCain finally rose in the polls, their ardor cooled for several months.) But how in the world would a reader know that? For the past twelve years, the liberal world has agreed not to tell the truth about what occurred.
In fact, that reader is reciting the Cokie Roberts cover story about the way this campaign was covered! That is the ludicrous cover story, almost exactly as Cokie once told it!
You can hardly blame a liberal reader for not understanding what happened. The real events were simply astounding—hard to believe—and they went on for almost two years. In Chapter 6 of How He Got There, we describe a pivotal episode in this campaign, an episode from December 1999. It was in that month that the press corps’ most punishing narrative locked into place, the claim that Al Gore was a LIAR.
To read Chapter 6, just click here.
Tomorrow, we’ll post an excerpt from that chapter. The excerpt deals with the work of Chris Matthews. Few people worked any harder to send George W. Bush to the White House. In this particular instance, Matthews played a very key role in building the narrative which pretended that Gore was a LIAR.
It’s astounding to think that the “liberal” world would accept this man in their midst for an instant. In the meantime, Chapter 6 is long and astounding.
And yes, these events did occur.