Special Report

Al Gore and the Media Protection Racket

CNN Hires Kathleen Parker as Weigel resigns from Post and Frum throws a Times covered book party.

By 6.29.10

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The Al Gore police report is disturbing.

To be specific, it's 67 pages of the quite graphically disturbing, as posted here by Red State.

You are reading the news of this police report -- originally filed in October of 2006 -- only because the National Enquirer scooped the story. In June of 2010. You did not read it in the Portland Tribune, which has been on this story since 2007 and failed to tell its readers until the Enquirer broke the story. The Tribune's explanation for this is to be found here.

Then there's the interesting news that Kathleen Parker, she the "conservative" columnist who has gained renown in liberal quarters for Palin-bashing, has been selected by CNN to partner (so-to-speak) on a new political chat show with Client Number 9 for a rousing -- according to press reports -- $700,000. Client Number 9, of course, would be former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was identified as such by the investigating feds curious about the ex-crime busting state attorney general's passion for expensive prostitutes. Said passions led to Mr. Spitzer's resignation as governor.

 Next up is the recent news that the Washington Post's David Weigel (who has occasionally written here at TAS), hired to blog about conservatives, has resigned after e-mails came to light that suggested he hoped Rush Limbaugh died and said that Matt Drudge should "handle his emotional problems more responsibly and set himself on fire." Not content with this, the Post's longtime media reporter Howard Kurtz tells us Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller has Weigel writing behind the scenes that "conservatives were using the media to 'violently, angrily divide America' and lamenting news organizations' 'need to give equal/extra time to 'real American' views, no matter how [expletive] moronic.'"

Last but not least, the Sunday New York Times of June 5, featured a front-page story in its Sunday Styles section on a Washington book/dinner party hosted by David Frum for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the considerably brave Somali-activist-turned-Dutch parliamentarian who is now, but of course, the target of the same Islamic jihadist thinking that launched on Salman Rushdie, not to mention the world.

So what do we have here as we look at these four, seemingly unconnected events?

What does the almost three year absence of the Al Gore-Portland-police-problem story from the Portland Tribune, CNN's hiring of Parker, Weigel's resignable sentiments from the Post and the Times story on the Frum party tell us about the state of the Establishment or liberal media -- and of conservatives and conservatism itself?

First, the Portland Tribune. The explanation offered for withholding the story sounds eminently reasonable on the surface. Clearly, the paper's editors felt they needed verification of the guts of the story -- the information included in a police report about the former Vice President. The problem here is that the existence of a police report is itself a story.

Let's go back to today's granddaddy of political scandal reporting -- Watergate. What happened in the first few hours of this story? The Washington Post was tipped off to the story only by a longtime contact who told the paper of -- a police report. From that scanty info on a burglary attempt at the Democratic National Committee's Watergate Headquarters, information was published -- verified information -- almost instantaneously.

What happened next is important. Not understanding exactly what they had on their hands, the two young reporters Woodward and Bernstein did not realize that one of the people they named -- James McCord -- was "the security coordinator of the Committee for the Re-election of the President." They simply made a rookie mistake and didn't follow up. But what they had done -- reporting the basic fact of the police report on the arrest, which was a fact, not speculation -- launched the Associated Press on a quest to learn more about Mr. McCord. Then the news was out -- and the next piece of the puzzle was provided.

The question here is why didn't the Portland Tribune publish what they had? Well, says the paper, all they had was an unverified police report. What is missed here is that a police report on a former Vice President of the United States -- a man who has emerged even in political defeat as one of the most listened to voices on the planet on environmental issues and global warming -- existed. The report itself existed. It was fact. And hence news.

Had Woodward and Bernstein held the news of the names of those listed in the Washington, D.C. police report until they could verify that there was some actual confirmation of high level involvement -- possibly by the President himself if not his senior staff -- Watergate would have fizzled and faded away almost immediately. It was precisely because the initial Post report set off a chain reaction in the media that others -- notably the Associated Press in the beginning hours -- jumped on to the story and began looking where Woodward and Bernstein had "embarrassingly" (in their later words) failed to look.

The Tribune dismisses as nonsense the idea that they would not have held back if the subject in the Portland police report was named George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. We'll take them at their word. But there is a disturbing problem here nonetheless.

What problem?

The Tribune is owned by Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. of the Pamplin Media Group. And a check of campaign contributions recorded by the Federal Elections Commissions records money donated by various members of the Pamplin family to federal candidates -- of both parties. From Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to ex-Republican Senator Gordon Smith, from ex-Democratic Congresswoman Darlene Hooley to the Bush-Cheney campaign, the Pamplin family contributions run the political gamut.

Which means, of course, that whatever else it is or is not, the Portland Tribune is owned by what in this day and age would be called The Establishment. The folks who have their hands politically, socially and financially on the wheel that steers or helps to steer Portland, Oregon.

Rule One for Establishments everywhere is: don't rock the boat.

And by not publishing what was a verifiable fact -- which is to say news -- that a police report existed placing one of the most powerful people in the American and global Establishment at the scene of a disturbing potential sexual crime, the Tribune signaled on just which side of the power equation it sees itself as sitting. By remaining silent, it was effectively heading off an investigation into Gore's activities from any manner of other media outlets with more resources at their disposal than those available to a small Oregon paper. Just as the printing of the report on James McCord by the Washington Post caused the Associated Press to discover that McCord was not just some hired hand caught in a bad moment. But rather the security coordinator of the re-election campaign for the President of the United States.

In other words, the Tribune seems effectively to have protected the Establishment Mr. Gore because, consciously or not, the paper's instincts themselves are those of the very same Establishment. How, after all, would the paper's owners and reporters be treated in their community by the likes of the Oregon Establishment if seen as prying National Enquirer-style into Al Gore's sex life? Even when the reason for this so-called prying is not peep-hole spying but the hard cold fact that Gore has wound up as the subject of a quite official police report?

WHICH BRINGS US TO CASE NUMBER TWO, CNN's hiring of columnist Parker to pair with Eliot Spitzer. Parker, recall, made some news when she used her post at National Review in 2008 to whack Sarah Palin as being "out of her league." And calling for the Alaska governor to get off the ticket. For this kind of thing, Parker is graced with -- what else? -- the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. The ultimate symbol of liberal Establishment approval to conservatives -- provided they aren't Ann Coulter or Michele Malkin.

The hiring of Parker is a pluperfect example of the way some conservatives try and get ahead -- by attacking other conservatives in a fashion that will appeal to the dominant liberal media. Parker's willingness to do this is nothing new. It is a familiar if unseemly trait of some conservatives well recognized over the years, documented most recently in R. Emmett Tyrrell's After the Hangover: The Conservative Road to Recovery.

Not for nothing do Pulitzer judges find themselves aglow at Parker but somehow never quite managed to get around to William F. Buckley. How ever could that be?

This willingness to bend the knee to the liberal media establishment is in fact what makes Parker or any like-acting conservative acceptable to the CNN brass and that of the Establishment media. If Fox News did not exist, would they hire Sean Hannity? To ask the question is to answer it. Notice that this job offer did not find its way, as far as we know, to, say, Ann Coulter or Michele Malkin or Laura Ingraham or any number of conservatives male or female known to conservatives if not to CNN. Does anyone really think CNN would ever offer a $700,000 a year job to any conservative who actually had the brass to defend Sarah Palin? Would that conservative have gotten a Pulitzer for said Palin defense? Are you kidding? Or would CNN have hired anyone who might make the gross breech of televised liberal decorum by saying something that would actually drive Eliot Spitzer over whatever edge he hasn't voluntarily leapt off already? Of course not.

Trailing along in the Parker vapors is the story of Washington Post blogger David Weigel. Now this story is mostly an Inside-the-Beltway story. Our TAS colleague Phil Klein has defended Weigel as a good guy, and there's no reason to think otherwise. No one here is accusing him of heinous crimes against humanity.

What there is reason -- more than reason -- to think is that Dave Weigel is just the latest example of a "slip-of-the-mask" moment from those who present themselves to conservatives and Americans in general as just your basic impartial journalist. When in fact, beneath the mask of professionalism, they are actively pushing a liberal/left-wing agenda that is anything but impartial.

Mr. Weigel, assigned to cover conservatives in some presumed impartial fashion, turns out -- shocker! - to have serious issues with those he covers. In the series of remarks quoted above he shows himself to be a walking stereotype of precisely how conservatives have viewed mainstream media journalists over the years. Smooth and friendly words that hide contempt, coupled with a hilariously overblown sense of moral superiority. Busy supporting liberal agendas that depend on, among other things, the most vividly racial approaches (segregation, for example) to buff up a self-congratulated reputation as a friend to, say, seniors. Like that Social Security program, Senator Bilbo? Thanks for the vote -- give our best to the Klan.

Stunningly, without the least sense of apparent irony, the Post Executive Editor said this, according to a story in the Post:

"Dave did excellent work for us," Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said. But, he said, "we can't have any tolerance for the perception that people are conflicted or bring a bias to their work.…"

Wow.

One hates to suggest to Mr. Brauchli that he's perhaps…ohhhh…decades late on that score.

If irony were oats there would be enough here to choke a cavalry of horses. But, of course, it's not Dave Weigel's fault he doesn't get it. Only that he got caught. Most conservatives I know think this is standard fare at liberal newspapers -- which is why they've mostly stopped reading them. Ditto liberal TV networks. The notion that his executive editor doesn't get it either, or at least says he doesn't, should provide some balm for Weigel.

Outside the Beltway and the herd mentality, I actually wish Dave Weigel, whom I've not met, well. He has a real opportunity here to learn something, pick up his socks and come back as a better journalist. But hopefully he will use this episode as a moment to think through what happened to his once-blossoming career and why.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST is the Frum party for Ayaan Hirsi Ali. So there's no doubt -- hooray for throwing her a party. This is a remarkably brave woman willing to speak out at a time of genuine danger for those like herself -- and eventually all the rest of us as well if we don't face up to it.

This was not, however, just a dinner party. It was a book party, and for author and book to get known this means media invites. But the way this was played out alas adds to Frum's reputation as one of the more fecklessly inept -- someone willing to do almost anything to get publicity, including trashing Rush Limbaugh on the cover of Newsweek even as he knows the only reason he would ever get cover space at even a fading liberal magazine is to trash the number one conservative radio talk show host in the sourest of personal terms.

Sure enough, what was -- one assumes -- a media invite to cover a dinner party for a notable author and book turned into the typical Times effort at conservative bashing. Which is to say, Mr. Frum invited a batch of conservative friends and guests, only to have them set up for ridicule on the front page of the Sunday Times Style section.

The Party, in Exile snarks writer Pamela Paul of the guests. Ms. Paul, it seems immediately, is clueless about the conservative ascendancy going on just about everywhere outside the Beltway and the newsroom of the New York Times these days. But never mind. Mocked for showing up to honor the author are the "summer frock" crowd of Laura Ingraham, Mona Charen and "Barbara Amiel, the wife of the disgraced media baron Conrad Black, now incarcerated at a Florida prison." Presumably that would be the same Florida prison where Mr. Black heard recently (after the Frum event) that the U.S. Supreme Court decided by a 9-0 vote that he had been wrongly convicted. No word whether Ms. Paul writes stories covering parties with guests such as ex-Times publisher Howell Raines (he of the Jayson Blair scandal) or former President Bill Clinton (of impeachment fame) and appending the prefix "disgraced" to their names.

But guess who else is featured in this gem of a story engineered by Mr. Frum? Really. You'll love this on several levels.

Also present was The Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, prom-girl pretty and winner of a Pulitzer this spring for "gracefully sharing the experiences and values that lead her to unpredictable conclusions," including a rebuke of Sarah Palin. "Like all the best conservatives, I started off as a liberal," she trilled. In a similar display of the intellectual right's discomfort with Wasilla-brand populism, Ms. Frum mocked a speech by Ms. Palin in April on The Huffington Post. ("There was not a single memorable line, not a single new political idea, not a single proffered solution beyond the cliché.") And lending a poignant immediacy to the rejiggered state of affairs was the Republican Senator Robert Bennett, ousted last month in the Utah primary for his votes on health care and Wall Street reform. A certain kind of nomad, all."

Getting the flavor here? Try as they might, even though Parker is willing to mock Palin and gets a Pulitzer from the Liberal Establishment for sharing her "unpredictable conclusions," even thus Parker is a figure of idiocy to the Times as she "trilled" her way though her latest thoughts "prom-girl pretty." Right alongside the defeated Senator Robert Bennett, upended in Utah by those nasty Outside-the-Beltway tea partiers.

Perhaps most pitifully of all, Mr. Frum -- the host in his own home -- was written up as having "lost his salaried post at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, in March, after calling the passage of health care legislation the Republican party's 'Waterloo.'" A dissection of Mr. Frum's problems follows. Ouch.

The point? 

What ties all these stories together?

From Al Gore's police reported but media ignored troubles to CNN's big bucks for the trillings of Ms. Pulitzer Parker to the departure of the Washington Post's Weigel and the coverage of Mr. Frum's party -- in one form or another we are seeing different threads in the usual pattern of Establishment media or liberal Establishment media bias.

The good news for conservatives is that this kind of thing no longer makes much difference. The Gore story was sniffed out by the relentless Enquirer, which got the goods on John Edwards as everybody else in the liberal media closed their eyes. The Parker-Spitzer pairing will interest a few times while the public's curiosity about Client Number Nine is sated. But hiring a conservative who makes her bones dissing conservatives will not bring a conservative audience to CNN. Why go for the chopped liver when Fox is steak -- and there is no obvious intention at CNN to ever deliver steak?

Weigel, one assumes, will be replaced at the Post. But by someone who actually respects the conservatives he covers -- or just someone better than Weigel at pretending?

As for Mr. Frum's parties -- once again one is left speechless at the idea of deliberately inviting someone whose intent to savage the guests in the coverage of a simple party honoring someone who deserves to be honored was so utterly predictable.

Taken together, these events are a reminder of the kind of nightmarish media world we left behind with the advent of Rush, and the talk world of Sean, Levin, Beck, Fox and the Internet.

The misdeeds of the Gores of the day were ignored, the Weigels of the day reigned supreme, the Parkers and Frums of the day were tokened.

It was the Establishment and liberal media's version of one of the basics of organized crime:

The protection racket.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.