Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Catching up on some old business:
Bill O'Reilly was on Good Morning America
this week to promote his new book. The topic of Al Franken came up and O'Reilly was scathing in his comments about the comedian, which was to be expected.
In any event, we were thinking again about the Bill and Al spat at the Los Angeles Book Expo earlier this year. In particular, remarks by Al Franiken about the right-wing coverage of the Paul Wellstone memorial: (58min, 10 meg MP3 audio, from this
website) (at the 20 minute mark)
They distorted that memorial so badly.
I wish Tucker were here today, for Tucker the next day said that Republican senators who had come, friends of Wellstone, were shouted down by people, by the crowd, when they were trying to speak. When they tried to speak.
That wasn't the format of the memorial.
There was lie after lie.
Weekly Standard - Christopher Caldwell did the most vicious thing on that, on the Wellstone memorial, did not see it. All he saw, I think, were some clips on Fox, that Mr. Hannity had put together.
We meant to track down the Caldwell story in the Weekly Standard
back in June, but never got around to it ... until now. The article, Mourning in America
, is available on-line
, and includes these words: (excerpts, emphasis added)
It is in this context that the nationwide outrage over last week's "memorial service" for Wellstone at Williams Arena in Minneapolis is best understood. Millions of Americans--and 55 percent of Minnesota households--tuned in on television to watch a solemn commemoration and found a rally devoted to a politics that was twisted, pagan, childish, inhumane, and even totalitarian beyond their worst nightmares. The crowd of 20,000 booed a succession of people who had come to pay their respects to a dead colleague: Senate minority leader Trent Lott, Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, and former Minnesota senators Rod Grams and Rudy Boschwitz. Vice President Dick Cheney was disinvited from the affair. Former president Bill Clinton appeared on the Jumbo-Tron yuk-yukking and giving thumbs-up signs, looking happier than he had since . . . well, since Ron Brown's funeral. And most bizarrely, Wellstone's treasurer and friend Rick Kahn staged a confrontation with Republican representative Jim Ramstad and three senators (Domenici of New Mexico, Brownback of Kansas, and DeWine of Ohio) that was reminiscent of a Maoist reeducation camp. With the help of the mob, Kahn sought to bully and shame these Republicans into abandoning their party and supporting Walter Mondale, taunting: "We can redeem the sacrifice of his life, if you help us win this election for Paul Wellstone." And if they don't help. . . ? Small wonder Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd was said to have apologized afterwards to his Senate colleague Domenici. It was a sinister incident, unexampled in recent American politics.
Most of those who watched this spectacle felt a disgust bordering on shame. Lott and Ventura walked out of the service, and Ventura announced he had changed his mind about appointing a Democrat to hold Wellstone's seat for the next two months. But such feelings arose from decency, not partisanship. Minnesota's Republicans, after all, have every reason to be delighted with the political fallout from this "memorial service." The Democrats' beyond-the-pale politicization of Wellstone's death opened the way for Republican Norm Coleman to begin campaigning again, his only chance of making up an 8-point poll deficit against Wellstone's replacement, former vice president Walter Mondale. Television stations were flooded with angry calls, and the GOP received $150,000 in spontaneously generated phone contributions since the service. GOP leader Ron Eibensteiner asked for equal air time, on the grounds that Minnesota's Democrats had exploited their colleague's death to bamboozle networks into running a three-and-a-half-hour campaign ad--and hardly anyone thought that was going too far. One journalist at WCCO in Minneapolis-St. Paul said his station felt "hoodwinked and embarrassed."
The real sin was not against Wellstone's political foes (or the people his "mourners" cast as his foes) but against Wellstone himself. As has often been remarked in the days since, one clip in the video portion of the event showed Wellstone saying, "Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives." The service blew a gigantic raspberry at that worldview. The late senator was treated as little more than one broken egg in a great get-out-the-vote omelet. The pilots and aides who died with him were barely treated at all. This Machiavellian glibness in the face of death was what left viewers most uneasy. One of our major political parties, or at least a sizable wing of it, appeared to be dancing a jig on the grave of a particularly beloved fallen comrade. What must they think of the rest of us?
Remember, the Weeky Standard
is the baby of the "respectable" William Kristol, who gets on This Week
, Fox News Sunday
, and the Charlie Rose Show
NOTE: Al Franken covers the reportage of the Wellstone funeral in his latest book, Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them - A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
, which we learn from a review
at Common Dreams.
And what did Chris Caldwell go on to do with his life? Become a speechwriter for Dick Cheney?
To doubt that people who really KNEW Paul Wellstone were mourners (with his quotation marks) shows just how bereft of human feeling this writer reveals himself to be. What an asshole.