Sunday, October 08, 2006

Mutha Cokie and the Blind

We dedicate this feature to Cokie Roberts, the mutha of the modern day press core and we mean "mutha."

Would you vote someone into Congress if they'd recently been arrested for driving drunk and hadn't bothered to tell voters?

We don't think most people would. We think the fact that someone lied about an arrest would be seen as a "minus." We believe that it goes to character.

It would also be interesting to see how the press might cover such a revelation or cover it up.

In the October 16, 2006 issue of The Nation, Eric Alterman reads a bad book and weighs in. He focuses on the 2000 election and reminds readers of the pass the Bully Boy got for his own AWOL from the National Guard during Vietnam, of the supposed non-ideological mainstream press booing Al Gore in New Hampshire, the way that same press distorted Al Gore's statements and, well, you know the drill. He has nothing to say on the DUI.

But no one really wanted to tackle it in real time. Cokie Roberts played the "as a mother" card (again) in an apparent attempt to scare Baby Boom voters about their own children finding out what was in their "youthful" closets. Even some of your usually bold voices (for instance, one who can't shut up about the 2000 election, seven years later) gave it a pass -- non-defining moment was the verdict.

Let's deal with the spin first. Karen Hughes was schilling like nobody (because "big man" Bully Boy always hides behind others -- he also hid behind Katherine Harris' skirt during the 2000 recount). In real time, CNN noted Hughes' spin:

1) Bully Boy was pulled over for driving slowly.

Implying that Bully Boy was 'careful' and 'responsible' while drunk.

2) Bully Boy now opposes driving while intoxicated.

Well she couldn't very well hail him as the would be Frat Boy President, could she?

3) Bully Boy had never told his daughters and they only found out the evening the story broke. He has tried so hard to set "a good example".

This was actually a key piece of spin that the Cokies would pick up and amplify.

4) The "timing."

Always a way to push the blame as anyone who caught Newt Gingrich's Saturday remarks on the Mark Folely cover up should know -- was suspicious.

In that one incident, you can see the way the Bully Boy would be covered by the press. A late breaking scoop (from a local TV station) would pop up and the mainstream press would be forced to cover it. They wouldn't be forced to answer why they themselves were not breaking the scoop or exactly what they'd been doing in the months that they covered the Bully Boy. They would, however, be first among the medicore in dumbing down and down playing the news. (Think of the way the Downing Street Memos were non-covered by the mainstream press.)

The incident wasn't examined in real time, the Cokies were on the march. Bully Boy's account was that he " told the guy I had been drinking, what do I need to do? He said, 'here's the fine.' I paid the fine."

The reality? The arresting officer, Calvin Bridges, "saw Bush's car slipping briefly onto the shoulder before getting back on the road. Bridges stopped the car and asked Bush to take a sobriety test. Bush readily admitted he had been drinking, Bridges said, and made no attempt to evade the consequences. Bridges placed him under arrest. After failing a second alcohol-level test at the police station--his alcohol level was 0.12, over Maine's 0.10 legal limit--Bush was released on $500 bail. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, paid a $150 fine and had his driving privileges temporarily suspended in Maine" (Adam Cohen, Time magazine).

Not quite the happy little tale Bully Boy told. He wasn't pulled over for driving slowly, he was pulled over because he couldn't keep his car on the road. After he was ordered by the officer to take a sobriety test, Bully Boy did admit to drinking. He failed two tests. He was arrested. He was booked. He had to make bail. He had to pay a fine, yes, he also had to plead guilty and he lost "his driving privileges."

This was four years after a previous drunk driving offense. Bully Boy was thirty-years-old at the time, hardly a "youth."

Adam Cohen, who did one of the better pieces on the D.U.I., noted, "The reason he did not disclose the D.U.I. arrest specifically, she says, is that he did not want his behavior to set a bad example for his twin daughters, now freshmen in college--an excuse that struck some listeners as similar to one that President Clinton gave for lying about Monica Lewinsky."

In that sentence you can see so much of today's coverage. What of Bully Boy's actions? Throw Bill Clinton into the mix. What did Bill Clinton have to do with an arrest? Not a damn thing (but even the one who can never stop yapping about 2000 did the same in real time as well). Bill Clinton becomes the cover all excuse for any misdeed. (Even in the Foley coverage, they can't shut up about Bill Clinton who did not have sex with anyone underage.)

But Cohen also notes the spin line that would be repeated over and over. "Twin daughters." Twin daughters must be protected. Poor Bully Boy, he was a father and somehow that trumped being honest with voters. That was the spin they held on to, the Cokies. (Cohen's also taken in when he offers the claim -- it's false -- that Texas governors automatically requested a new driver's license number. One call to Ann Richards, who preceeded Bully Boy as Texas governor, could have straightened that lie out immediately.)

Cohen almost touched on the heart of the matter when noting a "lesson" of dumping the "bad stuff" early on in a campaign. "As a mother," Cokie Roberts screeched over and over (she had many more outlets then -- ABC's This Week, ABC's Nightline, ABC's Good Morning America, ABC's World News Tonight, her slop-eds with Stevie, and NPR). She should have clutched the pearl and stated, "As an idiot . . ." It would have been more honest.

But honesty's always been lacking in this story. That's partly to do with the fact that the big press never explored Bully Boy when he was a candidate (a trend they've continued to this day). It's why you can hear nonsense and read it at Crap-a-Pedia:

In 1977, he was introduced by friends to Laura Welch, a young schoolteacher and librarian. After three months of courting, Bush married Laura and settled in Midland, Texas. His twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were born in 1981. Bush also left his family's Episcopal Church to join his wife's Methodist Church. Today, their home church is Highland Park United Methodist Church, near Dallas.[12]
In 1978, Bush ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 19th Congressional District of Texas.

Remember, kids, it's not Encyclopedia, it's Crap, Crap-a-pedia. To read the above, which gets repeated by the press, is to assume that Bully Boy decided to run in 1978. This, 2006, is an election year. Most of the candidates in your area declared their intent to run not in 2006, but in 2005. Here's Bully Boy reality from MSNBC:

In 1977 Bush announced that he was running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Shortly after he declared his candidacy, he met Laura Welch, a Midland native who worked as a librarian and an elementary-school teacher. In November 1977, three months after they met, the couple wed. Bush became the Republican congressional candidate after a tough primary race, but he lost the general election in 1978.

Frontline also noted that Bully Boy began running in 1977. It was July of 1977.

Why does that matter? Go back to the original question at the top: Would you vote someone into Congress if they'd recently received been arrested for driving drunk and hadn't bothered to tell voters?

September 4, 1976, Bully Boy was (again) arrested for drunk driving. July of 1977, not even a full year later, he's running for the US Congress. He didn't tell voters. He didn't come forward with the truth. And the twin daughters?

They weren't even born. They weren't even conceived. The would be born in 1981, five years after that arrest, four years after he had declared himself in a race for the United States Congress.

The only reason to lie then (and it is a lie to campaign and not tell voters, "I was arrested for drunk driving ten months ago") was to save his own ass.

He did and the press did. They've continued to do so. Real reporting would have meant Bully Boy being put on the spot about the fact that he had run for Congress and failed to tell voters. "Youths" don't normally run for Congress. The question could have gone like this, "When you first ran for national office, you didn't tell voters about your arrest. Now, days before this election [2000], you are talking about only after it was revealed. Do voters have reason to be suspicious that there might be other incidents you are hiding?"

The one who can't stop yapping about election 2000 wasn't yapping in real time, he was handing out passes. He was saying it didn't matter. He who thinks he is on top of all the spin was buying the big media line/lie. This wasn't dabbling with drugs nor was this an event Bully Boy should have forgotten. (Even were he too blotto to remember the actual arrest, he'd certainly remember being finger printed, mug shot and bailed.) Now if he had gone on about his life and not run for public office until after "the twins" were born, he might have had some defense with the press spin of "he lied because he didn't want to set a bad example for his daughters." We wouldn't have bought it. Some might have.

But he wasn't a private citizen. He was a candidate for a national office less than a year after his arrest and he never bothered to tell voters about it. (To kind souls who offer he was "in his disease," he still is, he's a dry drunk.) He began his public life as a candidate with a lie (and possibly while his Maine drivers' lic. was still suspended). He lied to voters then and it's no surprise that he lied later.

It is a surprise that the Cokie Roberts want to provide cover for a lying politician (well maybe not) and that they'll resort to cheap theatrics such as "As a mother . . ." When the news broke immediately before the election in 2000, there were a number of ways the press could have covered it. Instead, they went with Hughes and Bully Boy's finger pointing. (The day after Hughes would make her statements, the no longer semi-contrite Bully Boy would begin making public statements about 'dirty tricks.' The biggest 'dirty trick' we're aware of is the one he played on Texans in 1977 and 1978 while running for office.) And, to take the edge off, the Cokies came forward with their testimonials intended to clamp down on a serious discussion about an arrest that should have been made public long ago.

If you're dealing with issues of voter fraud and/or voter dienfranchisement, by all means continue to discuss 2000. Pick up 2004 as well. But if, at this late date, you want everyone to gather round the campfire one more time while you regale everyone with your keen 'insight' about election 2000, either address reality or accept that you're 'war stories' have gotten old.
Our calanders show the year to be 2006. We've heard the stories and then some. We've heard much more than the modern-day gramps ever offer. At this point, we think the nostalgia goes to the fact that they'd rather live in the past than address reality. But keep singing those greatest hits on the oldies circuit, maybe it will make you a few bucks.

[In fairness, two people did appear to grasp the reality in real time, Eleanor Clift and Al Hunt. Clift, Newsweek, noted of the "for the daughters" spin: "That is a very poor excuse. I too am a parent and frankly if you want to make the case you shouldn’t drink and drive, that was a powerful bit of information that he should have divulged. Secondly, if we’re going to use that as a good excuse, I don’t think President Clinton wanted Chelsea Clinton to know what he was doing either" -- PBS' The McLaughlin Group the weekend before the election* ; connecting the dots on CNN's Capital Gang, November 4, 2000, Al Hunt, Wall St. Journal, noted: "Less than eight years after the national press lamented that Bill Clinton came to the presidency with too many unresolved questions about him and his past, it could happen all over again if George W. Bush wins next Tuesday. On stories ranging from his failure to disclose his 24 year old drunk driving record, to substantive matters like the $1 trillion gap in his Social Security plan, an acquiescent press, perhaps feeling guilty about being duped by Bill Clinton, has let Governor Bush get away with entirely too much."]

[*The McLaughlin Group airs at various times and dates dependent upon each PBS channel's choice. Some may have seen it as early as November 4th.]
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