Somewhere Al Gore is probably experiencing painful campaign flashbacks. Like if he heard NBC's Andrea Mitchell ask Hillary Clinton in a recent interview, "Does it hurt you when people say you are too lawyerly, you parse your words, you are not authentic, you're not connecting?"
Or when the Wall Street Journal published a piece suggesting so much of what Clinton does sounds "scripted and poll-tested." Or when Politico declared she's a White House hopeful "with an authenticity problem." Or when the Washington Post reported, "Her campaign has struggled to present her as authentic and relatable." Or when McClatchy Newspapers asked "Is Hillary Clinton Authentic Enough for Voters," and likened her to Richard Nixon.
"Authenticity" has clearly become the Beltway media's latest buzzword to describe what's supposedly wrong with Clinton's campaign, even as she continues to have a sizeable national lead over her Democratic competitors.
The answer: She's a phony.
Why is this all likely ringing in Gore's ears? Because the last White House campaign that the Beltway press openly waged war against (the way it's now openly waging war on the Clinton campaign) was Gore's 2000 push. The Beltway elites hated Gore and didn't try to hide it, just like so many journalists seem to openly despise Clinton today. ("Reporters liked Bush and didn't like Gore," observed Paul Krugman at the New York Times.)
In 2000, Gore was widely ridiculed in the press as the wooden, over-calculating, poll-driven phony who was running against the epitome of true authenticity: George W. Bush. Sure, Gore knew his stuff cold and Bush seemed wobbly on the facts, and forget that Bush's entire campaign turned out to be built around the staged-crafted prevarication known as "compassionate conservativism." The press loved the Bush image and couldn't stand the Gore persona -- The New York Times mocked him as "Eddie Haskell," the neighborhood brownnoser from Leave It To Beaver.
The press dutifully spent the entire campaign regurgitating the Republicans' playbook on Gore: he's a phony who can't be trusted. Fast-forward and the Republican playbook reads the same on Clinton: She's a phony who can't be trusted. So yes, the media's current authenticity chatter plays right into the GOP's hands. It perfectly coincides with conservative talking points about how to undermine the Democratic frontrunner.
But the authenticity math doesn't seem to add up.
In 2008, Clinton tallied 18 million votes during the Democratic primary season. Obviously, she lost to Barack Obama but how did she win a whopping 18 million votes if, according to the press, she can't connect with people due to her utter lack of authenticity? (Reminder: Clinton won her 2000 New York Senate race in a landslide.)
The recent "authenticity" wave began with a New York Times article that claimed "there will be new efforts to bring spontaneity to a candidacy that sometimes seems wooden and overly cautious." The piece came complete with the mocking headline, "Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say." (Punch line: Clinton's handlers have to instruct her be warm and funny?)
Commentators immediately mocked the Clinton camp. "You don't project [authenticity] by having your campaign tell the world you're going to project authenticity," Bloomberg News' John Heilemann said on Face the Nation. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank ridiculed Clinton aides as "moron[s]" and fired off this insult: "And now comes the latest of many warm-and-fuzzy makeovers -- perhaps the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones."
I couldn't have scripted that Gore reference better myself. Convinced Clinton is a phony who isn't comfortable in her own skin, Milbank reminded readers that Gore was such a supposed phony that he started wearing "earth tones," a reference to a manufactured kerfuffle from the 2000 campaign when the press claimed author Naomi Wolf counseled Gore on what color clothes he should wear. (Why? Because Gore doesn't know who he is!)
Turns out though, Wolf denied the claim as did Gore's aides. In fact there was never any proof to substantiate the charge, first floated as speculation in the Washington Post, about Gore and an earth tone wardrobe makeover. But that didn't matter because the press loved it and repeated the claim endlessly as proof of Gore's complete lack of foundation. (It ranked right up there with the made-up story about Gore claiming to have invented the Internet.)
Recap: During the 2000 campaign, the Post, citing speculation by Dick Morris, invented a tale about someone telling Gore to wear "earth tones," which supposedly proved what a phony he is. For the 2016 campaign, a Post columnist revived that false "earth tones" story and used it as a reference for how phony Clinton is.
So yes, the symmetry is perfect.
Now we're onto the Catch-22 phase of the "authenticity" blitz, in which commentators are sure any attempt by Clinton to show humor and heart is part of a calculated plan at authenticity.
In other words, after demanding that Clinton be more authentic, the press is now deducting points from Clinton for being more authentic. So really, there is no way for her to win. If Clinton's not spontaneous enough, the chattering class complains. If she is spontaneous or shows more of her private side, the chattering class dismisses it as orchestrated.
It's true that in 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney was hounded by allegations he wasn't being real enough. But much of that was driven by his clear pattern of flip-flopping on major issues, like the fact that as governor of Massachusetts he championed health care reform that looked a lot like Obamacare. Then he campaigned to abolish Obamacare. That eye rolling was amplified when Romney, the former center-right governor, suddenly declared himself to have been a "severely conservative" overseer in Massachusetts.
The media's authenticity police rarely ticket Clinton over substantive issues or for policy flip-flops. She's written up for personality infractions. Authenticity sometimes seems to be media shorthand for, 'We don't like you.'
Al Gore can relate.
Hillary Clinton's race for the White House might be historic in more than ways than one. Not only would a successful presidential campaign usher in a new era of a female president, but if Clinton ends up running unopposed during the Democratic primary season it would represent a modern-day first for a non-incumbent or a non-sitting vice president.
That prospect has generated endless hand-wringing among journalists who seem nervous about covering a Democratic primary season where there are no serious Clinton challengers. But instead of acknowledging their professional desire for a story to cover ("The media wants a fight, they love a fight," notes Democratic strategist Joe Trippi), some journalists have presented their agita as concern for Clinton's political well-being. They stress that an uncontested primary would hurt her chances in 2016. And specifically, commentators suggest Clinton's press coverage would improve if she had a Democratic opponent.
The argument goes like this: If a primary challenger steps forward, the media's harsh focus would move off Clinton and onto her opponent who'd be the target of equally vigorous scrutiny.
"She needs someone else in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination -- someone to divert the news media," wrote Richard Cohen at the Washington Post. He stressed that currently, "Clinton's chief opponent is the press. It covers her like the proverbial cheap suit, if only because it has no one else to cover." The New York Times cited a Republican strategist who suggested "an absence of top-tier Democratic campaign rivals would hurt Mrs. Clinton because the glare of the news media spotlight intensifies when a single person is in it."
In other words, the current campaign dynamic of the press squaring off against Clinton and essentially acting as her opponent in the absence of a challenger is bad news for her, which is why she'd benefit from a capable opponent.
Bonus: Having a challenger would supposedly force the press to cover substantive issues as two or more candidates battled over ideas.
That all sounds logical, in theory. But somebody might want to ask Al Gore if that's what happened during the 2000 campaign when he was the prohibitive Democratic favorite and faced a single challenger, former Sen. Bill Bradley.
Ask Al Gore if the emergence of Bradley's campaign meant the former vice president's caustic press coverage suddenly lightened up as reporters scrambled to dissect Bradley with equal vigor; if Bradley's presence meant the press obediently focused on the issues instead of obsessing over trivial campaign gotcha and claims of character flaws.
They did not.
In a July 25 editorial, the Washington Times continued to push falsehoods about climate change, such as claiming that "the Climategate scandal showed that scientists manipulate data to bolster their stories of impending doom." However, numerous inquiries have found no evidence that scientists manipulated any climate change data. From the Times:
During the past several years, the Climategate scandal showed that scientists manipulate data to bolster their stories of impending doom. That, combined with the absence of actual temperature elevations, has soured the public's acceptance of Mr. Gore's central article of faith that human activity is heating the planet.
While viewers in the Northern Hemisphere are likely still to be fanning themselves when the show airs in September, those tuning in from south of the equator might still be suffering from late-winter shivers. The inconvenient truth is that global temperatures have not warmed in nearly 15 years.
The latest warmist excuse is that China's coal-burning power plants are throwing huge clouds of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere that reflect solar radiation and counter the heating effects of man-made greenhouse gases. Yet climatologist Patrick J. Michaels points out that there is very little mixing of air flow between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Readings in the north have risen slightly since 1998, while those in the south have fallen, with no net change. In other words, there has been no global warming.
Right-wing media have recently smeared former Vice President Al Gore and global warming activists by comparing them to Harold Camping, the fringe preacher who incorrectly predicted the Biblical day of rapture would occur on May 21. Right-wing media have previously smeared the scientific consensus on global warming as a "cult."
As the Guardian reported, former Vice President Al Gore is fighting back against News Corp. for forcing his television network off the air in Italy. According to Gore, Current TV was told it would be dropped from News Corp.'s Sky Italia because of the network's decision to hire Keith Olbermann.
Gore pushed back against the News Corp. decision, noting that the incident demonstrates how the company lets ideology get in the way of its business decisions:
In an interview with the Guardian, Gore said the Current TV news and documentary channel was told unexpectedly three weeks ago that it could no longer be carried by Sky Italia because of its decision to hire a US left-leaning commentator often critical of Murdoch's company.
He added that the decision reflected how News Corporation operated worldwide. "News Corporation is an international conglomerate with an ideological agenda. It seeks political power in every nation they operate. They wield that power to shut down voices that disagree with the agenda of Rupert Murdoch," Gore said.
In a May 9 post to MichelleMalkin.com headlined, "The Circle is Complete: Access to Al Gore's Invention Threatened by Global Warming," Doug Powers utilized a U.K. government report on wi-fi internet access being jeopardized by climate change to mock Al Gore and downplay the possible effects of "rising temperatures and stormier weather." From Powers' post:
Global warming being a threat to the Internet Al Gore took the initiative in inventing is the six degrees of separation in this claim. What's even more catastrophic, the separation of six degrees will increase by one and a half degrees to a full seven and a half degrees of separation by 2050 if we don't send the global warmists our money (snail mail only, no Internet transactions please -- if you've been paying attention you know why).
Actually it'll be kind of nice if global warming cripples the Internet a bit and spares us an intolerable onslaught of "hot 'nuff fer ya!?" Tweets.
The Daily Beast published an article, titled "Al Gore's Weird Silence," which falsely claimed that Gore has only made one public statement on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, Gore has made numerous public statements about the spill.
Daily Beast reporter Dayo Olopade writes that Al Gore's "only public statement has come in a short article for The New Republic's website comparing the oil gusher to CO2 emissions" and that Gore "has been largely silent during the worst environmental catastrophe in memory."
However, the article itself provides a quote from a Gore spokesman challenging the claim that Gore has only spoken once about the oil spill:
Kalee Kreider, a spokesperson for Gore's office in Nashville, said in a statement: "Former Vice President Gore has addressed the crisis in the Gulf in a major speech, an essay in The New Republic and through numerous postings on his Twitter and personal online journal on algore.com. He also works closely on the climate crisis, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and the oil spill through the philanthropy that he chairs, the Alliance for Climate Protection, based in Washington, DC."
It turns out that Gore's spokesperson is correct and Olopade's claim is meritless. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Gore addressed the oil spill in his commencement speech at the University of Tennessee. Gore's New Republic piece [subscription required] -- which Olopade describes as "short" -- is a 2000+ word essay dealing with the spill. He has repeatedly written about the spill on Twitter and on AlGore.com. KBSW also reported that he discussed the spill during the Panetta lecture series in California -- a video of which is embedded in Olopade's piece.
From the June 1 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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For the 10th anniversary of his blog, Mickey Kaus takes a stroll down memory lane, giving readers who missed some of his work a second chance to become exasperated at his inanity. Here's one reminiscence:
Worst case of being spun: Watching from the press area, I thought Gore cleaned Bush's clock in their first 2000 debate. Then I went to the spin room where Stuart Stevens immediately mentioned that Gore hadn't been to Texas with James Lee Witt, as he'd boasted. Didn't that play into the festering press meme that Gore was an insecure embellisher? It sure did. I wrote a goading piece saying this was a test of whether reporters could trash a Dem as they had said they would. (It was a test they passed.)
Since a butterfly flapping its wings could have tipped the 2000 election the other way, and since Gore would have been a better president than Bush, I've been feeling guilty about that piece. It's true that a) there were other reasons Gore "lost" the debate among viewers--he grunted and sighed obnoxiously, something I couldn't hear in the press area. And b) every Dem political pro I've talked with thinks it was inexcusable-- and telling--that Gore boasted about Witt when he knew and was surely told that any new little boast would kill him. Still ... flap, flap ....
Ok. First of all, Gore didn't lose the debate among viewers. Polls taken immediately after the debate found that Gore won the debate among viewers. He "lost" the debate after reporters like Mickey Kaus began nit-picking his performance to death. Nit-picking that Kaus now admits was off-base. Still, he can't bring himself to tell the truth: Debate viewers thought Gore won. Reporters like Kaus undid that victory via what even Kaus admits was lousy reporting.
Second, how obnoxious could Gore's grunts and sighs have really been if Kaus wasn't even aware of them at the time?
Third: Every Dem political pro Kaus talks to is wrong to blame Gore. Had Gore said nothing even remotely inaccurate, the media would have made some thing up. Don't believe me? Review the Love Canal fiasco. Go ahead; I'll just sit over here, slamming my head against the wall while I wait.
Ok. Finally: Mickey Kaus thought it was an open question in October of 2000 whether reporters would "trash a Dem"? Seriously? What planet had he been living on rock had he been living under? Had he somehow missed eight years of harassment of Bill Clinton? Had he missed the Love Canal and Love Story and Internet debacles? Had he been asleep for the entire presidential campaign up until that point? If Mickey Kaus has a purpose in the world, it is that he is (supposedly) a savvy observer of the media - and he really wasn't sure by October of 2000 whether reporters would "trash a Dem"? That's a level of cluelessness that should be disqualifying.
Citing the case of Willie Horton, a black man whose image as a criminal who committed crimes while on a weekend furlough from prison was used against 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, Politico's Roger Simon wrote that Al Gore "raised the issue in a New York primary debate against Dukakis." In fact, while Gore questioned Dukakis about "weekend passes for convicted criminals," Gore did not mention Horton's name, his crimes, or his race.