Democrats are desperate and afraid. The reality that their nominee for president has a compulsive tendency to make things up to make himself look good is sinking in. The image was sealed by the tall tale he told in front of 46 million Americans in the first presidential debate: that he traveled to the fires in Parker County, Texas, in 1996 with federal disaster czar James Lee Witt. As with creating the Internet and suggesting he and Tipper were the inspiration for "Love Story," it was not true.
This was not the storyline the national media pressed after the debate, of course. Washington Post reporter Dan Balz began his front page article on Thursday by announcing the debate was "Devoid of memorable moments or crippling mistakes ... " Deep inside the paper, on page A18, was the Post's first mention of the fairy tale about James Lee Witt. The New York Times selected A26 to bury the story. USA Today put it on A15, and implied that Republicans picking on the Witt fib was a personal attack.
The furor that ultimately followed does not prove that the media love to pick on Al Gore, as hardcore Gore partisans in the press like Time's Margaret Carlson suggest. It proved something quite different -- that liberal media spin does not always win the day, especially when millions of Americans have seen the politician's spiel for themselves. Instead, the furor and sudden plunge in Gore's polls proved that alternative media outlets, from talk radio to the Internet to newspaper columnists to Republican researchers, have a power all their own to overcome the spin the liberal media prefer.
Nearly every Gore gaffe that's become part of the campaign talking points was originally ignored by the major media, which attempted to strangle the mistakes and embarrassments in the crib. Now that they're resonating, liberals are huffing and puffing about how Gore's gaffes aren't really gaffes. He didn't really say he "invented the Internet," they complain, he "took the initiative in creating it." The real point here isn't the complete lack of distinction between "inventing" and "creating" the Internet. It's that Gore said this on March 9, 1999, to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, and Blitzer didn't even blink. He didn't follow up. His eyebrows didn't even move. He just asked another question. The statement went completely unreported on television for 10 days.
That same pattern of media apathy and omission has followed almost every other Gore boast and flub. So, if this image has taken hold, it's not something the liberal media caused. Blame the high profile of a presidential debate, matched with the conservative message taking hold in public opinion, despite the liberal media's best efforts at organized amnesia.
Suddenly, Gore's boasts define his entire career. The Drudge Report listed 1988 campaign memos from aides begging him not to boast of his agricultural record. That was followed by a 1979 House hearing transcript in which Gore says (I'm not making this up), "I have raised chickens myself; 10,000 at one time, 5,000 in each of two houses, and I know what it would be like to have to destroy that many chickens for a business."
If the media were objective, by now they'd be suggesting the Democrats did a bad job in selecting a nominee. After all, they've suggested that the Republicans didn't do so well with Junior Bush, and shouted from the rooftops that Republicans had messed up by nominating un-schmoozy Dick Cheney for vice president. A good candidate wouldn't sloppily use anecdotes that can be easily picked apart, like the poor, unseated girl at the supposedly impoverished, overcrowded school in Sarasota, Fla. When the school turned out to be modern and fancy, Gore blamed the girl and her father, instead of placing any blame on his campaign's utter lack of homework.
Instead of hounding Gore, the media have sold Gore's wild stories. Look at Winifred Skinner, who took up hours of network air time, with anchors getting out hankies about how she needed to scrounge for cans to pay for prescription drugs. Now it turns out her son's wealthy, but she won't take his money or live in the open apartment on his 85-acre horse ranch. Not only that, she publicly opposed government funding of her prescription medicine.
Check your memory banks. Did you hear either of these Gore-unfriendly revelations reported on ABC, CBS or NBC? Case closed.