Now that this topsy-turvy roller coaster of a year is over, what did we learn about our fabled Fourth Estate? In a word: they're incorrigible.
To ponder another year of the media's misbehavior, a panel of 46 distinguished American remote-control tossers has voted on the Media Research Center's "Best Notable Quotables of 2000." How many perpetual media tendencies can you spot on this year's list?
1. The Clinton suckup. As Bill Clinton marched through the concrete innards of the Staples Center like a professional wrestler before his convention address, Geraldo Rivera all but took out his hanky, winning the "Carve Clinton into Mt. Rushmore Award" in the process: "You're going to miss that guy. Don't tell me you're not gonna miss that guy. This is a master. He may be a rogue, but he is an artful rogue and pleasant rogue and done a hell of a job as President. I'm gonna miss the guy ... He should've been the vice presidential candidate."
A variant on the same theme is the Hillary suckup. CBS "60 Minutes" star Lesley Stahl won the "I Am Woman Award (for Hillary Rodham Worshipping)" for gushing to a Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist about the media-assisted junior Senator from New York: "I'm endlessly fascinated by her ... She's so smart. Virtually every time I've seen her perform, she has knocked my socks off."
2. The media bias denial. Lesley Stahl also won "The Politics of Meaninglessness Award (for the Silliest Analysis)." After being knocked flat by Hillary's genius, she insisted on Bill O'Reilly's Fox program that "I had my opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent." O'Reilly also inspired ABC's Diane Sawyer into a flight of self-delusion when she posed this question to him: "But should you be using the national airwaves to promote your opinions?" This from the same Diane Sawyer who called the Starr Report "pornography for Puritans."
3. The anti-anti-anti conservative bash. In the eyes of the liberal media elite, right-wing Americans couldn't possibly be "for" something. They are always - angrily - against what's right. That's what Matt Lauer sounded like in winning "The Galloping Ghost of Gingrich Award (for Chiding Cheney)." Lauer asked Tim Russert about Dick Cheney's voting record: "And when you talk about votes like that, that he made while in Congress - anti-affirmative action, anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-equal rights - how does George Bush portray him as a compassionate conservative?" Had Lauer viewed Cheney as favoring equality before the law instead of quotas or comparable-worth schemes; favoring an unborn baby's right to life; and favoring the right to bear arms - he never would have asked that question.
It is not surprising that Bryant Gumbel won the appropriately titled "Damn Those Conservatives Award" in 2000 for reacting to conservative Bob Knight's defense of the Boy Scouts with the unintentionally on-camera remark "What a f-ing idiot!" But Bryant was also petrified by so-called conservatives in the Democratic Party, winning the "Good Morning Morons Award" for pleading with his Playboy Mansion host Hugh Hefner about the dangerous tendencies of Joe Lieberman: "In a macro-political sense, do you think the Gore preoccupation with morality is a frightening turn for the party?" (Do you think anyone in that building has ever pondered the "macro-political" of anything?)
4. The loathe-the-military movement. Just hours into Election Month Plus on Don Imus's MSNBC simulcast, Time columnist Margaret Carlson lamented that overseas military ballots might secure the presidency for Bush. She won the "Aiding and Abetting an Election Theft Award" for grousing, "Here we will have possibly a bunch of tax dodgers deciding the election." She would later apologize; we conservatives will forgive, but not let her forget.
5. The infatuation with communism. The major story of the spring was Elian Gonzalez, that six-year-old émigré the loving Clinton administration dragged away from Miami at gunpoint and sent back to Cuba with his communist papa. Eleanor Clift won the "Bring Back the Iron Curtain Award (for Admiring Communism)" for comparing Cuba favorably to America: "To be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better than being a poor child in Miami, and I'm not going to condemn their lifestyle so gratuitously."
Along those lines, former New York Times reporter-turned-columnist Thomas Friedman won the "Quote of the Year" for his valentine to the Elian raid: "Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the U.S. government to turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart."
The year 2000 ends with liberals in the media still wondering why used car salesmen command more respect.