Sep 4, 2007

I Feel Fine

It’s too little too late. The October issue of Vanity Fair has an article by Evgenia Peretz about Al Gore being skewered, ridiculed, mocked and dismissed by the supposedly left-wing media during the 2000 presidential campaign. It dissects the coverage and also examines how some of the pundits and reporters are now “coming to terms” with their actions. Well, boo-hoo. Their disregard for objective reporting was an insult to their readers who had entrusted them with providing relevant information about a serious matter, electing a president. Redolent of the same sloth and hubris they illuminated in other politicians, it was sophomoric pack-mentality behavior from those who should have known better. (And it’s still happening.)

The article quotes Time magazine's Margaret Carlson saying, during an Imus interview, “…It's fun to disprove Al Gore. As sport, and as our enterprise, Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining to us.” That's right up there with former FEMA director Michael Brown wondering in an email to a colleague during the Katrina aftermath about which tie to match with which shirt. Maggie, you're doing a heck of a job.

Ceci Connolly, a Washington Post reporter covering the Gore campaign, is portrayed as a vindictive, threatening nut job with an awareness of her inordinate power who makes good on her threats by writing articles explicitly slanted against him after she isn’t given a suitably juicy quote. Now, she denies anything of the sort but, curiously, she goes on to say she remembers the “mediocre quote.” She sounds like so many politicians who are loathe to admitting they might have made a mistake; it was everyone else who was in the wrong, shades of Larry Craig.

Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, both of the New York Times, are also damningly quoted from pieces they wrote during the 2000 campaign, showing they bought into the distortions, this from two opinion scribes about whom you could say I am generally aligned with politically. It pains me to say that at times I find them to be tiresome writers who care more about overreaching effect than anything else.

Dowd is an op-ed version of a chick flick, by turns amusing and annoying. Rich is, well, rich. At times brilliant, the sweat in his prose is often visible as he labors to make his sometimes contorted points. (A recent pleasant surprise was catching the former NY Times’ chief theater critic on LA 36, a local public affairs channel in Los Angeles, in a conversation with playwright Tony Kushner at UCSD, entitled The Theater of Politics, The Politics of Theater. A return by Rich to writing about theater would be welcomed by many.)

Katharine Seelye, of the NY Times, on the other hand, and in hindsight, says she should have “left out... or debunked” the distortions written about Gore’s campaign. Also, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter are both capable of stepping back and seeing the anti-Gore bias for what it was: irresponsible journalism.

Thankfully, most if not all of the above mentioned names are regarded as old-style mainstream media now that the bloggers are running the show. In light of the Vanity Fair article, it could be argued the bad behavior of the political press during the 2000 campaign was instrumental to the Internet coming to the fore in political coverage in the years since. After enduring six and a half years of the man the MSM helped elect, it’s stone cold comfort but I’ll cuddle up to it.