The 2000 Code

It’s 2000 all over again in more ways than one.

For seven years Americans have huddled in long desperate lines waiting to cross the bridge to the 21st century. It’s the bridge that Bill and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore built. Al Gore tried to cross the bridge but instead was run over by a news delivery truck filled with menacing clowns. Hillary Clinton is poised at the entrance to the bridge, ceremonial scissors in hand, ready to cut the seven year old ribbon. The news delivery truck is revving its engines.

Is 2007 the new 2000? In 2000 Big Media clowns echoed by Nader and the Naderites blared their right-wing manufactured lies. Together these interest groups villified tan suit wearing Al Bore Gore while good Democrats either did not understand the full insidious perfidy done to their candidate, or stood by, silently watching .

DailyHowler from July 2006:

She’s going to get the Al Gore treatment supersized. “She,” of course, is Hillary Clinton. She’ll be trashed by the press, just like Gore (only more), the commenter predicts in this note. That may—or may not—happen. On the one hand, it may be harder now to slander a Dem in the way the mainstream press slandered Gore; there is now a rambunctious liberal web which is quick to respond to misstatements, as in this current instance. On the other hand, a large part of the “liberal” web is now made up of loudmouth know-nothings who seem all too eager to demonize pols of the center or center-left. They already have their negative nicknames for a long string of major Dem pols; with people like these name-calling Big Dems, it may turn out that the next Dem nominee is demonized more from the “left” than from the right—or from the press. Even if it wants to, the press corps might not have to demonize the next Dem nominee. We’ll dumbly perform that chore for them.

And of course, we “liberals” have already hurt ourselves in one important respect. That commenter knows what happened to Gore, but most American voters do not. They’ve never heard a word about the War On Gore, because a wide array of major “liberals” have simply refused to discuss it. (For one example, Atrios rarely mentions this life-changing part of our recent history. Kevin Drum doesn’t mention it, either.) Result? When kooky stories arise about Clinton, they produce no suspicion on the part of the public; most voters have no context for such suspicion. Voters will see such reports as random events—because they haven’t been told about the recent relevant history. In our bizarre silence, we’ve sacrificed an important piece of argument. We’ve sacrificed the ability to tell voters this: Omigod! There they go again!

Will the Naderites (ensconsed in the Big Blog megaphones) and self-interested Big Blog owners defend the Democratic nominee? We doubt it. Will the “liberal” media demonize Democrats? Cue Frank Rich, stage right, repeating, as we wrote yesterday, every Naderite cliche while not even once mentioning Big Media’s big complicity in the selection of George W. Bush:

What I saw on television last Sunday was the incipient second coming of the can’t-miss 2000 campaign of Al Gore.

That Mr. Gore, some may recall, was not the firebrand who emerged from defeat, speaking up early against the Iraq war and leading the international charge on global warming. It was instead the cautious Gore whose public persona changed from debate to debate and whose answers were often long-winded and equivocal (even about the Kansas Board of Education’s decision to ban the teaching of evolution). Incredibly, he minimized both his environmental passions and his own administration’s achievements throughout the campaign.

He, too, had initially been deemed a winner, the potential recipient of a landslide rather than a narrow popular-vote majority. The signs were nearly as good for Democrats then as they are now. The impeachment crusade had backfired on the Republicans in the 1998 midterms; the economy was booming; Mr. Gore’s opponent was seen as a lightweight who couldn’t match him in articulateness or his mastery of policy, let alone his eight years of Clinton White House experience.

Frank Rich, cheaply imitating Patrick Healy, also included talk about Hillary’s laugh while simultaneously and without self-awareness demanding a substantive issue based “firebrand” candidacy. DailyHowler earns cheers from us today as it dissects Rich and Russert and sets the record straight on Gore.

Now Mrs. Clinton is erupting in a laugh with all the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer. Mocking this tic last week, “The Daily Show” imagined a robotic voice inside the candidate’s head saying, “Humorous remark detected — prepare for laughter display.” However sincere, this humanizing touch seems as clumsily stage-managed as the Gores’ dramatic convention kiss.

Jon Stewart has a right, if not duty, to poke fun at candidates by doctoring editing tapes for comic effect. Frank Rich, losing track of the difference between comedy and dramatic reality regurgitated Stewart’s fun on the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times. Patrick Healy clued his audience about Hillary by using the pejorative “cackle” to describe Hillary’s laugh. Karen Tumulty at Time magazine puzzled “Am I the only one who wonders whether that’s a word that would be used about a male candidate?”

Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe echoed our sensible comments:

HENS CACKLE. So do witches. And, so does the front-runner in the Democratic presidential contest.

Former Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris recently described Hillary Clinton’s laugh as “loud, inappropriate, and mirthless. . . . A scary sound that was somewhere between a cackle and a screech.” Politico’s Ben Smith referred to Clinton’s “signature cackle.” Conservative radio hosts routinely play Clinton’s “cackle” on their radio shows.

Yet according to a new poll, the cackler is leading her closest competitor in New Hampshire by 20 points. As a result, her challengers made her their target during last week’s Hanover, N.H., debate.

Any woman who has ever been the only female in the room knows the guys are always waiting for that perfect moment – the one that makes the woman look silly, stupid, weepy or best of all, witchy. The men running against Clinton are still waiting for such an opportunity.

So far, all they have to work with is her laugh. The cackler is smooth, well-scripted, and undeterred by their now-familiar attacks. [snip]

Not too long ago, Clinton’s cleavage attracted all the attention. She wore a tank top under a blazer and her modest confirmation of breasts became the subject of serious presidential campaign analysis. Now, the critique is moving from chest to throat, and to a sound associated with female fowl. What’s next, speculation that Clinton will cry if Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says something mean about her? [snip]

The media and her opponents can marginalize Clinton all they want. But the polls indicate the voters are listening to the candidate’s words, not to her laugh. Until her opponents start saying something to impress the voters more than she does, Clinton remains the front-runner and presumptive nominee. Her standing is enhanced with each debate. They play to her discipline and command of issues and the stage. That doesn’t mean Clinton can’t be successfully challenged and knocked off stride.

But her opponents have yet to figure out how to do it. Giggle, giggle.

With Al Gore it was Maria Hsia and the Buddist Temple fundraising “scandal”. Hsia was about illegal “straw donors”. The Justice Department decided Al Gore was a “victim” of the Hsi Lai “scandal”. With Hillary, and the never mentioned other Democrats and non-profit organizations he gave money to, it is Hsu. Same story, same outcome, same Big Media attacks.

The Politico collects the sniping and parrots Jon Stewart:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) last week flew into a sudden burst of media wind shear. After months of mostly rosy portrayals of her campaign’s political skill, discipline and inevitability, the storyline shifted abruptly to evasive answers, shady connections and a laugh that sounded like it was programmed by computer.

Clinton’s campaign attributed the change of weather to the vagrant attention span of the national news media, combined with the professional interest of reporters and analysts in ensuring a competitive race for the Democratic nomination.

But the intensity and sharp personal edge of much of the commentary was a reminder of a thread in American political culture reaching back to the early 1990s: the deep and mutual skepticism between the Clintons and the elite media.

Hillary Clinton, like her husband, can take solace in the fact she has survived and prospered amid peevish coverage from New York and Washington news organizations — stories that often echo the buzz in social circles in both cities.

This week’s stories, however, all in various ways highlighted what her strategists and independent analysts have recognized as a genuine challenge for her in 2008: overcoming perceptions that she is a politician so infused with ambition and artifice that she can not connect with ordinary voters.

The New York Times ran a Sunday story about what it called “the Cackle” — it is actually closer to a guffaw — suggesting that it is the senator’s technique for disarming persistent questioners.

In the same issue of the Times, columnist Frank Rich pondered whether she is too cautious and contrived in a piece headlined, “Is Hillary Clinton the New Old Al Gore?” On the facing page, columnist Maureen Dowd argued that, “Without nepotism, Hillary would be running for the president of Vassar.”

The day before, columnist Gail Collins had called one of Clinton’s answers from Wednesday’s debate “an excellent example of how to string together the maximum number of weasel words in one sentence.”

The Associated Press ran an unusually harsh post-debate analysis called “Clinton’s evasions,” with the headline: “Evasiveness on issues contradicts image Clinton seeks to project as strong leader.”

And Washington Post columnist David S. Broder complained about her “dodginess” in the debate, and many outlets mocked her answer to who she would root for in a Cubs-Yankees World Series: “Would probably have to alternate sides.”

Even Jon Stewart bared fangs on “The Daily Show,” splicing together clips from Sunday morning shows that his network, Comedy Central, calls “creepy delayed laughter” on a segment called “Hillary’s Laugh Track.” He suggested the candidate was bionic. [snip]

The flak comes at a time when Clinton is dominating polls, with averages kept by Real Clear Politics showing Clinton 17 points ahead of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) nationally, 21 points in New Hampshire and 24 points in Florida.

A Newsweek poll released Saturday found that while Clinton led among all Iowa Democratic voters, “Obama enjoys a slim lead” among likely Democratic caucus-goers. [snip]

The spate of stories does indeed reflect an element of media groupthink, and the tendency of the political press to pile on, to switch storylines to make the coverage more exciting, and to find new twists on broad themes that have been articulated in a few high-profile news outlets.

But in the case of Hillary Clinton, there is a personal dimension. Dating back to the 1992 campaign, she and Bill Clinton were stung by the coverage of his extramarital adventures and her role in the Whitewater land deal.

Once in the White House, both were disdainful of what they saw as the tendency of Washington and New York journalists to cover personality, political process and scandal over substance. Even late in his presidency, establishment journalists like Howell Raines at The New York Times and Sally Quinn of The Washington Post could provoke profane outbursts from Bill Clinton — attitudes that aides say Hillary Clinton usually shares.

Last week before the Hanover, New Hampshire debate a Big Media consensus emerged during MSNBC’s day long trashing of Hillary: Barack Obama was not attacking Hillary Clinton with sufficient brutality and instead, due to his passivity, preventing other candidates, like John Edwards, from having the opportunity to get an open whack at Hillary.

Subsequently, with his late week acceptance of public matching funds, it became apparent that John Edwards would not have the financial resources to beat Hillary either. The Bitchy Boys of Big Media, aided by two sad clownish women, decided to take Hillary down. They will keep trying and silence from voters is their best ally.

In the presidential election of 2000, George W. Bush, in just about all his campaign speeches, would raise his right hand and utter the dramatic line “I will restore honor and dignity to the White House”. When was the last time the American television viewing public has seen that videotape?

Was the “restore honor and dignity to the White House” along with appropriate ominous music ever broadcast during the Scooter Libby trial? When Karl Rove was exposed as a leaker of Valerie Plame as C.I.A. covert operative did we see the videotape? When Karl Rove was shown to have pushed prosecutor firings for political purposes? Has the video been broadcast during any of the myriad scandals and ethical misbehaviors of the Bush White House? During Alberto Gonzales? The many Justice Department resignations and scandals? Miers failed appointment? Fifth Amendment pleas by officials? E-mail accounts impropriety and disappearances? Walter Reed? The Scooter Libby conviction? The Scooter Libby pardon? Abuses of civil liberties? Cronyism? Brownie? Wolfowitz and Iraq? Wolfowitz and girlfriend? Matteo Fontana and the student loan company stock? Lurita Doan and the Rove luncheon? Julie MacDonald, and the spiked recommendations at Fish and Wildlife Services? Kenny boy Lay and Enron? Philip Cooney, the then and now oil lobbyist and the butchered global warming reports? Darleen Druyun and the conviction on conflict of interest rules? Jack Abramoff? J. Steven Griles, and the guilty plea? David H. Safavian and the 180 months imprisonment? Roger Stillwell, and his guilty plea? Claude Allen, convicted thief? O’Neill non-divestiture of aluminum stock and subsequent huge profits? Rove approval of the Intel merger and subsequent profits on his stock?

Instead of repeated viewings of Bush fantasy “honor and dignity” contrasted with Bush reality scandals – normally a cable news delight we are afflicted with assaults on Gore’s sighs at the debates and his changes of wardrobe and Love Story and his “invention” of the internet Hillary Clinton’s laugh in the pages of the ‘liberal’ New York Times.

The Bitchy Boys of Big Media will not crown another clown prince. We’ve broken the code. This time we won’t remain silent.