Saturday, October 19, 2002

More Good Howler

NOT IN THEIR SCRIPT: During Campaign 2000, your “press corps” was willing to look away from endless dissembling by Nicholson. Consider the hitman’s endless, rank and vile dissembling about Gore and Willie Horton.

On January 25, 2000, Nicholson appeared on CNN. He rattled his usual dimwit attacks. “The American people know they cannot trust this guy,” Nicholson said of Gore (who was, of course, widely scalded by the press for being so nasty and negative). “He’s claimed to have invented the Internet. He’s claimed to be the object of the book, Love Story. He’s claimed to have discovered the Love Canal…But there is one thing that he did invent. He invented Willie Horton in the 1988 campaign. He cannot be trusted.”

In his comments about Gore and Willie Horton, Nicholson was reciting classic RNC spin. (The party had recited this nonsense for years.) But did Gore “invent Willie Horton” in 1988? During the campaign, Gore never mentioned Horton by name. He never referred to Horton’s crimes. What did Gore do? At one Democratic debate in New York, he criticized Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis for the (virtually indefensible) prison furlough program in which several convicts serving life sentences committed murders while on weekend release. Horton, of course, wasn’t one of those men. In this one brief critique at this one debate, Gore didn’t mention any prisoner by name. He didn’t mention anyone’s race. He never ran an ad on the subject, and never used any visuals at all. He obviously didn’t “invent Willie Horton.” Later, Gore said he had never even heard of Horton at the time of the primary race.

Did Candidate Gore “invent Willie Horton?” This nasty claim—recited again and again by Nicholson—was impossible to explain or defend. Simply put, it was a scummy, vile lie. And it was exactly the sort of “embellishment” and “embroidery” the deeply moral corps claimed to hate—when the corps was able to pretend that such conduct was coming from Gore, of course. But Timothy Noah’s trembling cohort never said a word about Nicholson’s conduct. Indeed, in a remarkable frenzy in December 1999, most major papers repeated this canard—often couching their bogus charge in the careful way otherwise called “Clintonesque.” (They wanted to slime Gore with this ludicrous charge, while making statements which could be defended as technically accurate. Dissembling reporters—who simply hate this conduct in targeted pols—are exceptionally advanced at this skill.) In short, your press corps was far too cowardly, and far too well scripted, ever to criticize the RNC’s Nicholson for his endless dissembling and his rancid attacks. Do you think you actually have a “press corps?” You didn’t then, and you still don’t now. E. R. Shipp explained what you have—a gang of playwrights, typing dim-witted scripts. Noah—questioning us and questioning Parry, and giving a pass to the org which misled him—shows we still have a way to go before we get a real press corps back.