If you'd like to take the walk down memory lane Rich does his best to avoid, here are some useful links to the history, as told by the incomparable Daily Howler.
HOWLER HISTORY: How did George Bush reach the White House? We advise you to read all of this piece—including the segment, found at the end, in which we see the way Frank Rich covered Bush and Gore’s final debate. Through the campaign, the haughty scribe kept insisting: There was no difference between Bush and Gore. Anyone could see how foolish that was. But Frankly, we think you ought to see the way Rich struggled and strained to “prove” it.Sigh, it looks like Rich will now lead the charge on Hilary Clinton.
Special report—Frankly, that’s Rich!
READ EACH INSTALLMENT: We had to laugh when a certain pundit reviewed Al Gore’s deeply troubling new film. But Frankly, Rich has produced this sort of nonsensical work for years. Be sure to read every installment:PART 1: Gore was right on every big judgment—but Rich is in love with a narrative. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/31/06.Today, we Frankly revisit the way Rich “covered” Campaign 2000.
PART 2: Gore had made a string of sound judgments. But omigod! Someone laughed at his jokes! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/1/06.
PART 3: Gore was right in 2002, Rich says. In 2002, he said different. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/2/06.
PART 4: Before the Swift Boats, Rich invented Love Story. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/5/06.
Frankly, Rich was always ready to mock the two hopefuls—and to say that Bush and Gore were just alike. After Super Tuesday, for example, his haughty wisdom was ours to admire:RICH (3/11/00): 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. Both are wealthy, Ivy-League-educated boomers who took safe paths through the Vietnam War, whose career advancement was greased by their dads, who advertise their intimacy with Jesus, who reek of smarmy soft money and who will do anything to win, whether it be Mr. Gore's lying about his own Congressional voting record in a debate or Mr. Bush's heartless exploitation of women's fears of breast cancer in a scurrilous attack ad.Poor Frank! The voters had selected a matched set of bozos! Bush and Gore were just alike! Yes, it was hard to get much dumber than this—even before we saw Bush run a war. But as Rich gazed down at Bush and Gore, the great savant saw no real difference. And yes, they were both like Bill Clinton!RICH: In the true Clinton manner, both are also chameleons, ready to don new guises in a flash—from Mr. Gore's down-home wardrobe to Mr. Bush's last-minute emergence as a champion of campaign finance reform, patients' rights and clean air. The substantive disputes between the men are, in truth, minimal in a prosperous post-cold-war era when both parties aspire to Rockefeller Republicanism (literally so in that each standard-bearer is the prince of a brand-name American dynasty).Frankly, what was the difference? Rich asked. And there you see the dumb-ass judgment which eventually sent George Bush to the White House—and gave us our miserable War in Iraq. There you see the type of Rich insight we got all through Campaign 2K.
Is Hillary Clinton the New Old Al Gore?
THE Democrats can't lose the White House in 2008, can they?
If you buy into the Washington logic that a flawless campaign is one that doesn't make gaffes, never goes off-message and never makes news, then this analysis makes sense. The Clinton machine runs as smoothly and efficiently as a Rolls. And like a fine car, it is just as likely to lull its driver into complacent coasting and its passengers to sleep. What I saw on television last Sunday was the incipient second coming of the can't-miss 2000 campaign of Al Gore.
That Mr. Gore, some may recall, was not the firebrand who emerged from defeat, speaking up early against the Iraq war and leading the international charge on global warming. It was instead the cautious Gore whose public persona changed from debate to debate and whose answers were often long-winded and equivocal (even about the Kansas Board of Education's decision to ban the teaching of evolution). Incredibly, he minimized both his environmental passions and his own administration's achievements throughout the campaign.
He, too, had initially been deemed a winner, the potential recipient of a landslide rather than a narrow popular-vote majority. The signs were nearly as good for Democrats then as they are now. The impeachment crusade had backfired on the Republicans in the 1998 midterms; the economy was booming; Mr. Gore's opponent was seen as a lightweight who couldn't match him in articulateness or his mastery of policy, let alone his eight years of Clinton White House experience.
Mrs. Clinton wouldn't repeat Mr. Gore's foolhardy mistake of running away from her popular husband and his record, even if she could. But almost every answer she gave last Sunday was a rambling and often tedious Gore-like filibuster. Like the former vice president, she often came across as a pontificator and an automaton — in contrast to the personable and humorous person she is known to be off-camera. And she seemed especially evasive when dealing with questions requiring human reflection instead of wonkery.
Well, here we go. Rich has spoken. Clinton is a robot-like Gore-clone. Then, of course, there's the long discussion of "the laugh" or "the cackle," depending on which story you read in the Times today -- there was another one, in addition to Rich's take down.
But it would be nice -- and intellectually honest -- for Rich to admit his role in hammering home the ridiculous notion that Gore's "rambling" answers in the debates were no better than Bush's knowledge-free ones.
Postings will be light for the next few days. Stay tuned to Somerby for more, I'm sure, on this maddening topic.