What's Wrong With the Media: A Howler Example

Bob Somerby does excellent though sometimes he goes off the rails. But his column today is Grade A, as he explains in clear detail how our Media simply fails at its job. This time he discusses Margaret Carlson's latest travesty in discussing Al Gore and the 2000 election:

There are no words, except bad words, to describe this new column by Margaret Carlson . . . [She] muses about the lessons we can learn from the events of Campaign 2000. And omigod! Even today—even after Iraq—Carlson simply refuses to stop. Her cohort is shameless beyond all compare. They’re disgraceful, like those who enable them:
CARLSON: George W. Bush's win (if that's what it was) over then-Vice President Al Gore was attributed in part to style. Gore took every opportunity to lecture voters on how a bill becomes a law. He even invoked the “Norwood-Dingell” patients' bill of rights legislation in a debate to show how much his 24 years of government experience mattered versus his opponent's five.

Even today—even after their conduct has led to Iraq—these people are determined not to stop. In the first paragraph quoted above, Carlson refers to the third Bush-Gore debate, the “town hall forum” held in St. Louis on October 17, 2000.

Question: Did Gore mention the Dingell-Norwood bill “to show how much his 24 years of government experience mattered versus his opponent's five?” Did he mention this bill because he “took every opportunity to lecture voters on how a bill becomes a law?” Yes, that’s what the laughable fellow did—if you live in the fictionalized world of a moral disgrace like Carlson. In the real world, though, a different reason intrudes; Gore mentioned Dingell-Norwood (not “Norwood-Dingell”) for a good and obvious reason. Bush had been saying that he supported a “patients bill of rights” too; Gore wanted to show that Bush was supporting a weak bill, one that was favored by industry.

Here’s the part of Gore’s reply where he mentioned—and named—Dingell-Norwood:
GORE: Mr. Hankins, I think that the situation that you describe has gotten completely out of hand. Doctors are giving prescriptions, they're recommending treatments, and then their—their recommendations are being overruled by HMOs and insurance companies. That is unacceptable.

I support a strong national patients' bill of rights. It is actually a disagreement between us [gesturing at Bush]. The national law that is pending on this—the Dingell-Norwood bill, a bipartisan bill—is one that I support and that the governor does not.

JIM LEHRER: Time is up, Mr. Vice President. Two minutes response, Governor Bush.

Instantly, Bush did what he did all through these debates—he began obscuring Gore’s distinction. Here’s the kind of rank dissembling journalists once felt they should clarify:

BUSH: Actually, Mr. Vice President, it’s not true. I—I do support a national patients bill of rights. As a matter of fact, I brought Republicans and Democrats together to do just that in the state of Texas, to get a patients bill of rights through. It requires a different kind of leadership style to do it, though. You see, in order to get something done on behalf of the people, you have to put partisanship aside. And that's what we did in my state. We've got one of the most advanced patients bill of rights. It says, for example, that a woman can—doesn't have to go through a gatekeeper to go to her gynecologist. It says that you can't gag a doctor. A doctor can advise you. The HMO, the insurance company can't gag that doctor from giving you full advice. In this particular bill, it allows patients to choose a doctor, their own doctor if they want to...

Bush was grossly misstating his role in the enactment of that Texas bill. (He vetoed a tougher bill of rights in 1995; two years later, he allowed a weaker bill to become law without his signature.) Beyond that, his answer obscured the distinction Gore was making. Gore hadn’t said that Bush didn’t support any bill of rights at all. He had said that Bush didn’t support a strong bill of rights—the bipartisan bill, Dingell-Norwood. After Bush’s attempt to fudge, Gore again attempted to draw the distinction. In the process, he again named the bill which Bush declined to support:

GORE: Jim, we have a direct disagreement on this... I referred to the Dingell-Norwood bill. It is the bipartisan bill that is now pending in the Congress. The HMOs and the insurance companies support the other bill that's pending, the one that the Republican majority has put forward. They like it because it doesn't accomplish what I think really needs to be accomplished... I specifically would like to know whether Governor Bush will support the Dingell-Norwood bill, which is the main one pending.
. . . There you see the kind of exchange which ought to define a presidential debate. In a rational world, journalists would rush to clarify such a disagreement; they would explain the competing bills to the public, helping voters see what each candidate was supporting. But as you may recall, your “press corps” took a somewhat different approach; they chose to mock ridiculous Gore for saying the funny words “Dingell” and “Norwood.” Sam Donaldson especially embarrassed himself on the October 22 This Week. But this clowning, insulting behavior was common. It was the press corps’ final “fuck you” to the public in this campaign—the campaign which has changed the world’s history.

That in a nutshell, explain our incompetent irresponisble Media. Either from ignorance, laziness, or malice, Margaret Carlson cannot state a fact correctly, cannot understand the signifcance, and can not serve the public. Her incompetence is patent. And Carlson is not unique or below average. This is our Media. This is what they serve.

It is why we do not trust them and have decided to find out for ourselves. Margaret Carlson is the poster child for what is wrong with the Media. Not charlatans like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Hannity, but those so-called respectable MSM, whose prominent feature is utter incompetence.

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    you're missing the point (1.00 / 1) (#3)
    by HeadScratcher on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 03:00:10 PM EST
    she's arguing about his style. He can be rather pendantic at times. Look at him in 2000 and then look at how he carries himself now. He's looser, friendlier, warmer, and not nearly as condescending.

    In a race that shouldn't have even been close Gore barely lost (or barely won). He didn't carry his home state (which has a Democratic governor).

    I supported Gore in the 1988 primaries for President, but can't see even coming close to voting for him in 2008.

    You're missing the point (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 03:10:17 PM EST
    She missed the substance  and mischaracterized what Gore said and what it meant.

    She was too ignorant too understand it apprantely.

    She is an incompetent.


    bleh (none / 0) (#7)
    by scarshapedstar on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 05:10:18 PM EST
    he carries himself now. He's looser, friendlier, warmer, and not nearly as condescending.

    So, you're saying, Gore is better than ever. And yet...

    I supported Gore in the 1988 primaries for President, but can't see even coming close to voting for him in 2008.

    Uhh, okay. Call me crazy, but I suspect you're not being entirely honest here.

    For the record, I find the "Gore was too much of a know-it-all" argument infuriating. I get the impression that if you went to the doctor with chest pains and he told you that your coronary artery is nearly blocked and your only option was immediate surgery, you'd say "This doctor thinks he's so smart but he ain't know sh*t! Ima go find a doctor who'll tell me the cure is a six-pack and a coupla quarter pounders!"


    I have to concur with the dissents here (none / 0) (#9)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 05:45:40 PM EST
    Being President is too serious a position to vote on style over substance, assuming for the sake of argument, style is what cost Gore the Whitehouse. The trivial was trumpted over the substance in 2000.

    I didn't find him pedantic in 2000. I thought he was correct on the issues. Further I though any serious examination of Bush's record showed he was a failure. Bush failed at Arbusto, and was bailed out by his daddy's friends;  Bush failed at Spectrum 7 and was bailed out by his daddy's friends; he broke insider trading laws and was bailed out by his daddy's friends.

    A serious examination showed he was a figurehead with the Texas Rangers and Molly Ivins warned us the executive branch in Texas had no real power. Those were his successes.

    In short when Bush was "the decider" things were decidely fouled up. Bush is the first MBA president and likely to be the last for awhile.



    yep (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 01:51:18 PM EST
    this kind of utter, complete, unabashed ineptitude is what basically got bush in the white house.

    do i want him over for bbq? hell no! with him around, the damn grill would explode. frankly, i want someone who can actually construct a complete, meaningful sentence. bush doesn't, and never did, qualify on that count.

    why anyone would be at all surprised to discover mr. bush is totally incompetent, i have no clue. he's been a failure at every turn in his life, private and public. his past was prelude to our future.

    as mr. somerby notes in other columns, that mr. gore has been proven right on pretty much every issue of public import. yet, the MSM continue to dredge up these fantasy comments, as if saying them makes them so. ms. carlson is merely one of the herd of overpriced, overeducated morons populating the media today.

    But.... (none / 0) (#2)
    by TomStewart on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 02:10:12 PM EST
    Gore Bad! Gore lies! Everybody knows that! Right? The Liberal media told us so!

    also (none / 0) (#12)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 04:40:28 PM EST
    Let's not forget that Bush is a likable dunce but that's okay because everyone likes a dunce, and if they don't, then they must be some kinda tiresome stick-up-the-a** preachy environmentalist who believes in naught but taxes and speech codes, in that order.

    Thanks, liberal media. After all, it's not like anything important was about to happen! You guys don't have any blood on your hands whatsoever. Sleep easy.


    Well she (none / 0) (#5)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 03:34:36 PM EST
    twisted some obscure portion of the debate to make her point, which is that style, not substance, is what gets you elected. In short, she concocts a scenario to reinforce a ridiculously senseless observation. Gore won the election in the first place. If stealing elections is style, then yes, Bush has style.

    Where do they find these people?

    On a related note about the MSM blacking out news, I ran across this little item yesterday. I think I'll send it to Olberman. Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it.

    Maggy (none / 0) (#8)
    by koshembos on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 05:13:52 PM EST
    Gore is not the issue in this post; it's the media's habitual offending of reality and their sticking the rock of the 90s.

    The Bible talks about the "desert generation" that had to die in the desert in order to enable new life. We need to be clear that we expect the Carlsons, Friedmas, Kleins and Ignatiuses to go away and let MSM start from fresh scratch.

    kurt vonnugot (sp) wrote (none / 0) (#10)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 12:11:00 AM EST
    a short story, which name escapes me at the moment. in it, everyone got to be president for a day, regardless of how much of an idiot they might be.

    there's a scene in which that day's president is advised of some incident involving a foreign country. to the chagrin of the advisor calling him, this "regular guy" president's immediate response is to attack with nuclear weapons.

    perhaps, gore's campaign should have used that scene in a commercial. not as effective as the infamous 1964 "daisy" commercial, i'll grant you, but the point would have been made.

    Excellent post, johnny6644, but... (none / 0) (#11)
    by Bill Arnett on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 12:17:24 PM EST
    ...respectfully, would one kindly use an abbreviation of characters within a word to avoid the outright use of profanity?

    You know, BS, sh*t, @$$hole, etc? TL does not condone the use of profanity, and even though it was contextually correct as you used it (again, excellent comment), would you kindly not use direct profanities, please?

    I agree with you completely about the error of electing "likable" people instead of QUALIFIED people.