At last, some presidential campaign news, and, indeed, the first interesting news in months. At a campaign stop in Illinois, George W. said under his breath: "There's Adam Clymer, major league asshole from the New York Times." His running mate Cheney agreed: "Oh yeah, he is, big time."
Bush and Cheney, the whole country is with you on this one. The only problem is that the comment didn't go far enough. Include just about every other political reporter for every major news outlet in the country, and you guys would be right on target.
Why is this considered a gaffe instead of a humanizing display of personal feistiness? Because it was (in Joe Sobran's definition of a gaffe) a rare occasion when a politician inadvertently told the truth. We might add that Bush told the truth in a way that defamed a powerful left-liberal, which certainly makes it a "gaffe," and not at all a disarming display of feistiness.
What, precisely, are the grounds on which we are supposed to be outraged? Casting about for some spin to explain why we should be upset, the press finally landed on the great evil of Hypocrisy. You see, Bush promised to bring a new "tone of civility" to Washington, whereas this comment was just plain mean. How can you be a "compassionate conservative" and have anything nasty to say about someone who works for the New York Times?
MSNBC had such an attack of "civility" that it refused to print the word asshole. It said Bush had called a reporter a derogatory "epithet," a term usually reserved for street names for blacks, Jews, and gays. When the reporter finally got around to hinting at the offending language, it was printed as "ass****. " But why not ***hole? Why not "a***ole?
Clearly, the media, whose members never cuss, were trying to make the remark seem worse than it really was. What a bunch of you-know-whats!
As for hypocrisy, this was not a public comment. It was whispered but the microphone was on. What's more, it is accurate about Clymer in particular. He is openly gunning for Bush and drumming up all sorts of phony rationales to help Gore. Reading his stories, you couldn't possibly doubt it. With his prattle about the Texas environment, this guy is doing Gore's campaign research. At least Bush and Cheney know their enemies.
For all these reasons, the accusation of Hypocrisy doesn't quite work, does it? Whispering something to your running mate does not drag down public affairs. On the other hand, you could have the view of communists and other totalitarians (the folks at the EEOC, for example) who believe that there should be no line drawn between public and private communications.
Beside, if you believe that all private remarks should perfectly reflect public pronouncements, shouldn't the press have had a few condemning words for the president and his wife, whose use of the f-word is legendary among anyone who has ever had any dealings with them? This is the foulest-mouthed White House in American history. But listening to the press, you would think no presidential aspirant used rough language between Nixon and George W.
A Reuters report inadvertently revealed why the press is so upset. With his remark, Reuters schoolmarmed, Bush "displayed little warmth for a reporter on Monday." So you see? It's is not enough not to call names. You must display "warmth."
Stranger still was the comment from the Gore camp: In contrast to Bush, "we hold virtually all members of the Fourth Estate in the highest regard and we believe they should be part of the democratic process day in and day out." Ah, that's warmth. Was this supposed to be sarcastic or sardonic? Maybe. But we know that it is true nonetheless. The Gore camp has every reason to love Clymer and the rest of the gang.
The press bias against Bush has been open and aggressive since he first entered the race. They hate him. Sometimes, even most of the time, that works to the Republicans' advantage. Whereas Democrats think of elections as clumps of special interests, including the press, ganging up on the rest of us via the electoral process, Republicans are far more likely to view themselves as outsiders, like the rest of us. Far from being a supposed gaffe, this remark by Bush will be — I predict — good for his poll ratings.
September 5, 2000
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. edits a daily news site, LewRockwell.com.
© 2000 Lew Rockwell