Al Gore has promised if he runs again for the presidency, he's not going to hold back his opinions. He's going to "let 'er rip." If what he's been saying recently is any indication of the reinvented Gore, the campaign should be loads of fun to watch.
Exhibit A: In an interview with the New York Observer, the man who would be leader of the free world declared the political press includes "major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party." He cited Fox News, The Washington Times, and Rush Limbaugh, sneering that some of these are "financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media."
So far, Gore sounds like a 1998-vintage Clinton White House argument, Xeroxed from a Sidney Blumenthal memo. But he got nastier. "Most of the media [have] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks - that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what's objective as stated by the news media as a whole."
Imagine what would have been the media's reaction were Richard Nixon to talk about the conspiracy of media forces slanted against him? At the very least, it would have been seen as bad manners (the rantings of a sore loser who never accepts blame for his own flaws) and bad politics (antagonizing major media outlets is never seen as smart, and is often portrayed in menacing undertones as thinly disguised hatred of a free press). More likely, the press would declare him a paranoid nutcase.
But days after Gore's artless (and mindless) rant, in the very demonized studios of Fox News, there were Mara Liasson and Juan Williams attempting to explain how there's "some truth" in the future candidate's talking points.
Is there "some truth" in Gore's "fifth column" accusation? Webster's Dictionary defines the term as "a group of secret sympathizers or supporters of an enemy that engage in espionage or sabotage within defense lines or national borders." Calling your enemies a "fifth column" is saying they are not merely misguided, but a very unpatriotic guerrilla army arrayed against the United States. I'd like to hear Liasson or Williams try to identify the "truth" hidden inside that bizarre insinuation.
Sadly, Gore is serious, and the more he tries to explain his position, the weirder he gets. As our possible future president sees it, first a talking point begins inside RNC headquarters. Then Fox and the Washington Times and Rush "create a little echo chamber, and pretty soon they'll start baiting the mainstream media for allegedly ignoring the story they've pushed into the zeitgeist. And then pretty soon the mainstream media goes out and disingenuously takes a so-called objective sampling, and lo and behold, these RNC talking points are woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist."
What is this man talking about? Let's insert here any too-painfully-accurate portrayal of Gore in the last election cycle, and see how it works. Al Gore told Wolf Blitzer on CNN, "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." The television networks ignored this bold-faced lie for weeks. (Blitzer sat through it nodding.) Then, when the RNC hammered on it, the allegedly "less objective" press failed to turn down the volume. Gore didn't want his truth-bending arrogance "woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist." He wanted the entire media to nod along with Wolf.
But perhaps the most embarrassing Gore mangling of reality is his grand theory of recent journalistic history. The arrival of talk-radio and the Internet, he told the New York Observer, has lowered the media's standard of objectivity. "They're selling a hybrid product now that's news plus news-helper. Whether it's entertainment, or attitude, or news that's marbled with opinion, it's different." Only on Planet Gore could you find a news media more objective in the Nixon era or the Reagan era than during the Clinton years. This statement is simply a ridiculous joke instead of serious media history. It should be greeted with the same credibility as the notion that newspapers are made out of sugar plums and fairy dust.
But perhaps former Columbia journalism professor Gore isn't really attempting to observe reality here. That was never the point in the Clinton White House. The Vast Right-Wing Media Conspiracy theory was deliberately designed to nudge naturally liberal reporters into more partisan liberal reporting. Gore knows he isn't going anywhere in 2004 if the supposed caricatures of the 2000 zeitgeist aren't ripped from the minds of the electorate. Thus the man who reinvented government now reinvents himself.