Tuesday :: Feb 12, 2008

The Genius of Frank Rich

by eriposte

Over the weekend, Frank Rich, the Resident GeniusTM on the New York Times Op-Ed Page (I don't mean to offend the nearly equally BrilliantTM Maureen Dowd) published one of his trademark columns (I'm not including a link to the column - you can find it pretty easily). The most effective way to understand the GeniusTM of Frank Rich is to showcase how he covered former Vice President Al Gore. You will continue to see the exact same shades in his coverage of Hillary Clinton: deep-seated and irrational hatred for Clinton (/Gore) packaged in a combustible mix of half-facts, fabrications, distortions and lies. Let's trudge through just a few snippets of history here, thanks to The Daily Howler, so you can appreciate the real Frank Rich.

1. Gore and Iraq in 2002

2. "An Inconvenient Truth"

3. Love Story

4. Gore and Bush

5. The Real Frank Rich

1. Gore and Iraq in 2002

Here was Resident GeniusTM Frank Rich trashing Gore in 2002 after Gore's prescient stance against the Bush administration's sabre-rattling on Iraq in 2002:

In his November 23 column, Rich didn’t "ignore" what Gore said on Iraq—he openly ridiculed Gore for his efforts. Gore had just appeared on Today. Here’s how the pundit played it, in what was roughly his three millionth column about what a Big Phony Fake Gore is. By the way—note how Rich mocked the foolish idea that Gore might not run for president:

RICH (11/23/02): [I]t took Katie Couric all of three minutes to uncover the old Al Gore lurking inside the latest model. When he protested that he wouldn't really, really decide whether to run for president until after the holidays, she spoke for many viewers by responding, "Why am I having a hard time believing that wholeheartedly?" Then came the Gore equivocation and hair-splitting that he perfected in the 2000 debates. Ms. Couric had to ask seven questions to pin him down on how he would "handle Saddam" if he were president. The answer? He said that President Bush was taking "the right course of action" by winning a unanimous Security Council vote. And now what? "I don't know where this goes from here," said Mr. Gore.

People don't change. Mr. Gore doesn't let the chips fall where they may; you can still spot him counting each one before doling them out. And of course he is still running for president. Polls of Democratic voters and politicians alike show that he remains the first choice of a plurality of them, and besides, what else does the guy, a political lifer, have to do with himself?

Republicans profess to be delighted at this prospect while non-Gore Democrats are despondent. They are united in their recognition that he is the least spontaneous presidential contender since Richard Nixon, who similarly kept rolling out "new" incarnations of his public persona after each defeat. But Nixon did bounce back, and from a worse setback than Mr. Gore's: He lost his own state even more embarrassingly, in a failed post-vice-presidency run for governor, and then threw a public temper tantrum to blame his own failings on the press. Six years later he took the White House anyway, at a time when the country and the party in power were both traumatized by a war without end.

So many have written off our former vice president in 2002 that the conventional wisdom could be as wrong about him as it was about the former vice president of 1962. Yet if Mr. Gore—or the tongue-tied party he all too perfectly embodies right now—is going to be taken seriously by voters, "I don't know where this goes from here" will hardly do.


We discussed this column by Rich in real time (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/25/02). What was wrong with the scribe’s presentation? According to Rich, Couric had to struggle to get answers from Gore—and Gore had ended up agreeing with Bush, saying that he had no idea "where [the matter of Iraq] goes from here." Because of Gore's "equivocations," Rich wrote, he "perfectly embodied" his "tongue-tied party." This was the same old Gore, Rich sneered. But then, he made the same point in Sunday's column, after watching those students laugh at Gore's joke in his phony new film.

But uh-oh! Anyone who reads the transcript of Gore’s appearance can see that Couric had no trouble "pinning him down" about Saddam. In fact, she only asked six questions—and as you’ll see from reading the transcript, the only reason she had to ask six was because she kept interrupting Gore's answers. Meanwhile, Rich baldly misled his readers when he made it sound like Gore ended up agreeing with Bush and had no ideas of his own. In fact, Gore challenged Bush from his opening sentence—and he did say what he'd do about Iraq. Rich's column was remarkably false. [Eriposte emphasis] But it was true to his cohort's great "narrative"—the script in which, as Toles pointed out, Gore was long cast as the "punch line."

But, wait! Here was Resident GeniusTM Frank Rich rewriting history in 2006 - the history of his own egregious behavior back in 2002 (emphasis mine):

But just drink in the whole daffy statement:

RICH: [Gore's] totally—he’s completely right. Yeah, he’s completely—there’s no question that he’s right, and I think that’s one of the good things about him. And he was right about it when a lot of people were saying it’s nonsense, and now almost everyone accepts that this is a major problem. They may disagree about some of the details and about some of the solutions but he was a voice in the wilderness. And look, he was also—and this is another good point about himhe was right about the Iraq war very early. He spoke in September 2002, about six months before the invasion, when the Democrats were all cowering, he was saying, “What’s the plan for after we topple Saddam? Are we gonna nation-build? Do we have the troops?” He was asking these questions and largely being ignored.

2."An Inconvenient Truth"

Here was the BrilliantTM Frank Rich discussing his Deep ThoughtsTM on Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" (emphasis mine):

Though many of the rave reviews don't mention it, there are also considerable chunks of ''An Inconvenient Truth'' that are more about hawking Mr. Gore's image than his cause. They also bring back unflattering memories of him as a politician. The movie contains no other voices that might upstage him, not even those of scientists supporting his argument. It is instead larded with sycophantic audiences, as meticulously multicultural as any Benetton ad, who dote on every word and laugh at every joke, like the studio audience at ''Live With Regis and Kelly.''

We are also treated to a heavy-handed, grainy glimpse of Katherine Harris, Michael Moore-style, and are reminded that Mr. Gore is not a rigid blue-state N.R.A. foe (he shows us where he shot his rifle as a farm kid in Tennessee). There's even an ingenious bit of fearmongering to go head to head with the Republicans' exploitation of 9/11: in a worst-case climactic scenario, we're told, the World Trade Center memorial ''would be under water.”


RICH (5/28/06): If ''An Inconvenient Truth'' isn't actually a test drive for a presidential run, it's the biggest tease since Colin Powell encouraged speculation about his political aspirations during his 1995 book tour. Mr. Gore's nondenial denials about his ambitions (he has ''no plans'' to run) are Clintonesque. Told by John Heilemann of New York magazine that his movie sometimes feels like a campaign film, Mr. Gore gives a disingenuous answer that triggers an instant flashback to his equivocation about weightier matters during the 2000 debates: ''Audiences don't see the movie as political. Paramount did a number of focus-group screenings, and that was very clear.'' You want to scream: stop this man before he listens to a focus group again!

Keep that in mind when you read the execrable trash below in BrilliantTM Frank Rich's latest Clinton-hating and race-baiting screed (emphasis mine):

The [Clinton] campaign's other most potent form of currency remains its thick deck of race cards. This was all too apparent in the Hallmark show. In its carefully calibrated cross section of geographically and demographically diverse cast members—young, old, one gay man, one vet, two union members—African-Americans were reduced to also-rans. One black woman, the former TV correspondent Carole Simpson, was given the servile role of the meeting's nominal moderator, Ed McMahon to Mrs. Clinton's top banana. Scattered black faces could be seen in the audience. But in the entire televised hour, there was not a single African-American questioner, whether to toss a softball or ask about the Clintons' own recent misadventures in racial politics.

[NOTE: Even now, both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have virtually equal favorability ratings amongst African-Americans, even as African-Americans are overwhelmingly and unsurprisingly supporting Sen. Obama during the primary. I've written at some length previously (as have some others) about the myriad false accusations of racism directed at the Clintons].

3. Love Story

Here was the BrilliantTM Frank Rich, the unrepentant fabricator:

Yes, you have to be half-nuts to engage in this version of "journalism." And no, this isn’t a matter of Rich being "dumb;" when Rich invents facts about total trivia and mind-reads to tell us what these phony "facts" mean, the issue goes well beyond "dumb" to the point of mental dysfunction. How appalling was Rich on Love Story? Time's Karen Tumulty was one of two scribes who actually heard what Gore said on the subject. For those of you who haven't seen it, we'll now reprint what Tumulty said, in September 2000, after Rich's tale had been used to savage Gore for almost two years. Again, Tumulty was one of only two scribes who actually knew what Gore had said:

TUMULTY (9/7/00): I am the reporter to whom Al Gore claimed that Love Story was based on him and Tipper...I was sort of appalled to see the way it played in the media. I mean, it was an offhand comment made during a two-and-a-half hour conversation that was mostly about other things and it was a comment that was, you know, true in most respects. I mean, he was a model, Erich Segal said, for the preppy character in Love Story, and it had been reported in Tennessee newspapers that it was modeled on both of them. But all of that got lost in, again, this kind of snowball—I think that there was probably something there worth gigging him about, but the degree to which it became a symbol of the man’s integrity I thought was very unfair. And I say that as the person to whom he made the comment and who wrote it.

Tumulty had actually heard what Gore said; she had heard his "offhand comment," a tiny part of a much longer discussion. Her reaction? The resulting scandal had been "very unfair," she said; she said she had been "sort of appalled to see the way it played in the media." But Frankly, it was Rich about whom she was speaking. It was Rich who invented this idiot's tale. It was the haughty but hapless Rich—mind-reading about trivia once again.


EVEN HIS CORRECTIONS ARE RICH: Segal agreed with Gore on every point, as Tumulty noted in her statement. In particular, he told the Times that the Love Story lead had been based in part on Gore and in part on Tommy Lee Jones, Gore's friend in college. (Although none of this was ever worth discussing.) Incredibly, Rich offered a "correction" to his original column on 12/20/97. Try to believe that he actually wrote it (and actually typed the word "Sorrygate"):

RICH (12/20/97): Harvard vs. Yale: In writing about Sorrygate this week, I noted that when "Love Story" was released in 1970, some in Cambridge found it a Yale man's revenge on Harvard: its author, Erich Segal, had been teaching at Yale since 1964. But as almost his entire class wants me to add, Mr. Segal was a Harvard grad before that ('58). So Harvard can proudly take credit for instilling in him the good literary sense not to model a romantic hero on Al Gore.

Except Segal had plainly told the Times that the character had been modeled on Gore. Remember: Fatuous millionaire pundits like Rich will do and say anything to promote their great insights. Is Al Gore just a big fake and a phony? To Rich, Love Story just had to prove it!

4. Bush and Gore

Here was the BrilliantTM Frank Rich describing Bush and Gore, reciting the pleasing elitist garbage that he and his ilk whip out on a daily basis:

Eight months to go—but hey, who's counting?—and we're stranded with two establishment, tightly scripted, often robotic candidates who are about as different from one another as J. Crew and Banana Republic.


Collectively Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush have succeeded in uniting the country in exactly one bipartisan belief—that neither of them deserves to be president.


That would be Al Gore, who is a hyperventilating fount of worst-case scenarios and details we don't want to bone up on (Dingell-Norwood, anyone?).

[NOTE: Dingell-Norwood was the Patients Bill of Rights that Gore supported (and the Republicans and HMOs/insurance companies and) Bush opposed. Bush had lied through his teeth to claim he supported a Patients Bill of Rights - and Gore made it a point to highlight it in a debate. BrilliantTM Frank was sharp enough to not focus on the actual facts, quick to note Gore was just a big bad bore and then used every occasion in 2000 to point out how Gore was no better than Bush. Remember, Frank Rich is a GeniusTM and he's a "liberal"!]

One could go on, but I think I've made my point.

5. The Real Frank Rich

As Bob Somerby said to a reader (bold text is my emphasis):

[...] But the underlying theme with Rich must always be: "I, Frank Rich, am brighter than all." ("Along with my upper-class Manhattan cohort.") So he had to be smarter and better than Clinton and Gore—although, quite plainly, he isn't—and he reacted with horror any time they did anything that might suggest respect for the "red-state" electorate. When Gore occasionally mentioned his religious faith, for example, this struck Rich as fake and reprehensible, and he offered thunderous complaints about what a phony Gore was—just like Bush. [This also explains the absurd remarks in Rich’s recent column about the fact that Gore once owned a rifle. He’s kissing up to the NRA!]

For the record, Rich did more than fall for the scripts; in fact, he invented the script on Love Story. And after Gore gave his 9/02 speech on Iraq, Rich trashed him in a deeply dishonest way (see tomorrow). The record here is just horrible.

You're right, in that Rich would score well on an IQ test. But I think there's something unbelievably dumb in the Millionaire Pundit Values I have discussed—and Rich is clearly the reigning poobah of the Manhattan branch of this worthless brigade. His "reasoning" in Sunday's piece is so dumb that it borders on mental dysfunction. (Gore was right about global warming. But he once owned a rifle!) This would be easy for liberals to see—if we weren't inclined in his favor because he takes our side (often embellishing facts) about those worthless red-staters.

Frank Rich may be popular in some liberal circles because he writes predictably pleasing pieces against Bush and the GOP. But people like him - who hate, lie and repeatedly and pathologically make stuff up about Democrats - are the catalysts that corrode the progressive movement from within.

eriposte :: 12:24 AM :: Comments (14) :: Digg It!