Chapter 1:
A search for bias: Bush and Gore hit the trail

It was early June, 1999, and the Washington press

corps was ready to rumble. Within days, the governor of Texas, George W. Bush, would fly to Iowa, then on to New Hampshire. And everyone knew what would happen next:

When he arrived in the Hawkeye State, Governor Bush was going to enter the 2000 race for the White House.

Other candidates had been stumping since March. But Bush had stayed in Austin, taking part in the Texas legislature’s biennial session. Legislative business concluded in May. Bush announced he’d be heading for Iowa.

Within the nation's political press corps, anticipation began running high as the governor’s launch date drew near.

Few pundits had explicitly said so, but one fact was already clear. The front-runner for the Democratic nomination had taken a series of punishing hits in the early campaign coverage. Vice President Al Gore was odds-on favorite for the Democratic nod; he'd begun informal campaigning in March. Instantly, he'd absorbed a string of nasty attacks from the nation’s reporters and pundits. Gore is a liar, many pundits had said, often comparing him to Bill Clinton. They’d flogged a trio of tortured claims, attempting to “prove” their assertion.

Candidate Gore had been trashed for three months. And now, as Bush’s launch drew near, the press corps began to beat its chest about the tough treatment he too could expect. Bragging and boasting and growling like bears, reporters swore that the fur would be flyin’. As the June 12 launch date approached, journalists postured about the bad whipping they’d soon have to lay on poor Bush.

It began in earnest with a June 7 piece by Howard Kurtz, an influential media reporter for the Washington Post. “Who is George W. Bush?” Kurtz asked. “The media are about to deliver the answer.” And the process wouldn’t be pretty, Kurtz rather plainly implied. “The governor’s problem, like Gov. Bill Clinton’s in 1992, is that the great hunt is on for negative material–and that the scrutiny is coming so early in the game,” he wrote. The Post scribe listed a series of questions Bush would face in “the coming flood of profiles”–questions about his personal history and his past business dealings.

“The inquisition has begun,” Kurtz darkly warned at one point.

Kurtz was hardly alone in his threats. The next day, the Post’s David Von Drehle offered a similar view of the upcoming launch. “The Great Bush Unveiling will take place under the withering gaze of some 200 reporters,” he boasted. “How can any candidate be relaxed when, his very first day out, every step, word and bead of sweat is being studied by scores of writers?” In the Boston Globe, Michael Kranish churned the same message. “The press will try to pin Bush down on everything from farm policy to foreign policy,” he predicted.

Conservative pundits–supporters of Bush–offered similar assessments. In his June 11 Wall Street Journal column, Paul Gigot lauded Bush’s achievements in Texas. But he too warned of “the tidal wave about to hit” the new candidate.

“Every candidate makes mistakes,” Gigot wrote. “But his will be broadcast in tongues.”

Everyone knew it–the press would be tigers. Indeed, even as Bush’s trip proceeded, major pundits kept pushing the theme on the weekend talk shows. On ABC’s This Week, Cokie Roberts delivered the message to Bush himself. (“Obviously, everybody is waiting for you to stumble,” she told the new candidate.) But then, Roberts’ husband, the pundit Steve Roberts, had appeared that same day on CNN’s Late Edition. He too recited the script a glowering press corps had peddled for roughly a week.

"Well, you know, he has a problem, in that 200, 300 reporters are trailing after him," Steve Roberts said. "He is going to make a mistake and everybody is going to write about it and everybody’s going to say, 'What’s wrong with George Bush? Can he handle a campaign?'"

Repeatedly, journalists issued these prognostications, boasting about themselves in the process. But after the Texan touched down in Iowa, something quite different occurred.

On Saturday, June 12, Governor Bush flew from Austin to Cedar Rapids with a planeload of national reporters. He appeared at several Hawkeye State venues, sketching out the basic tenets of his “compassionate conservatism.” And, at long last, he made it official: George W. Bush was going to enter the Republican race for the White House.

On June 13, the reporting began. What follows is the start of Von Drehle’s report in the Washington Post. The report appeared on the paper’s front page, where it could do the most damage:
Looking relaxed and sounding eager, Texas Gov. George W. Bush barnstormed across Iowa today with his heart on his sleeve, hoping to show that he can touch voters as effectively as he has tapped the checkbooks of the Republican elite.

His pitch: a sunny mixture of economic and political conservatism with a neighborly dose of love. Bush drew his greatest cheers when he defended the idea that conservatives can be compassionate, and when he promised to lead from principle, not from the polls.
A sunny mixture? A neighborly dose of love? Von Drehle concocted a similar brew as he described Bush’s outing. After quoting parts of the candidate’s speech, he even praised the brilliant weather and the promising look of the local corn yield. But then, negativity was hard to find at any point in Von Drehle’s report. “Everywhere he went, Bush was greeted by large crowds, and the audiences seemed eager to like him,” he wrote. A retired railroad worker had “exulted” when Bush gave him a hug. But then, the upbeat mood of the eager crowds almost seemed to grip Von Drehle himself, who went on to compare Bush with his father, the former president–quite favorably for the new candidate. And, like many reporters this day, Von Drehle described the good-natured banter as Bush and the press corps flew to Iowa. Bush’s jokes on his plane’s loudspeaker system–and the press corps’ appreciative laughter–formed a part of many reports as the Texan took to the trail.

So it began–the long campaign which would end with with George Bush in the White House.

Was something wrong with Von Drehle’s report? That, of course, is a matter of judgment. But his upbeat tone was especially striking, given the earlier string of threats about the “inquisition” poor Bush would endure. Few reporters matched Von Drehle’s high spirits, which graced the front page of the “liberal” Post. But intriguingly, one part of his cheerful report was echoed in a string of big outlets.

Early in his news report, Von Drehle offered a flattering comparison, likening Bush to a widely respected former war hero/president. “[Bush] may be the most anticipated untested candidate since Dwight D. Eisenhower,” the Post scribe wrote. “For months he has tended the Texas legislature and soared in the polls as other candidates churned out the miles in search of support.”

Bush is like Ike, Von Drehle said, fulfilling a press agent’s wildest dream. But a strange thing happened around the press as reporters and pundits described the Bush launch. A string of other major news outlets somehow came up with this same comparison. The linking of Bush to the famous war hero appeared in a string of major newspapers, and in an NPR news report. Even the Times of London had it! (“Not since Eisenhower in 1952 has a candidate come forward so untested and so beloved.”)

If an inquisition loomed, it would have to wait for this.

As we’ll see in the chapters ahead, the men and women of the late-90s press corps were happiest when they all said the same things. But what was the source of this upbeat comparison? On June 11, the New York Times had provided a clue. The paper cited Ralph Reed, a major Republican strategist, saying that Governor Bush was like Ike. (Later, Reed would become an official Bush strategist.) In other newspapers, three major Republican office-holders had been quoted in recent weeks, making the same comparison. All three had endorsed Bush.

In short, Bush is like Ike was a Bush campaign sound-bite. It had been bruited about by the candidate’s surrogates; it was then repeated by major reporters–in their own voices, or with vague attribution. Was the press corps conducting an “inquisition?” Would Bush’s mistakes be “broadcast in tongues?” Early boasting to the side, there was no sign of any such impulse during the governor’s three-day launch. Even at the allegedly liberal Post, Von Drehle took the sound-bite and restated it, in his own voice, as part of a major front-page report. Only the New York Times cited a Republican source in repeating the Bush-friendly flattery.

Was the press corps looking to clobber Bush? There was little to support that notion this weekend–and some reporters were openly gushing about the GOP's new front-runner. This conduct raised a bit of a question:

For decades, conservatives had aggressively claimed that the mainstream press was driven by a virulent "liberal bias." So far, little such bias was showing. And many reporters almost seemed to be gushing over Candidate Bush.

Whatever had happened to liberal bias? A ballyhooed preference seemed to be AWOL as Candidate Bush made his launch.

Did reporters gush about Candidate Bush? Consider

Time magazine's Eric Pooley, who wrote a profile of the new candidate for the cover of Time’s new edition.

On Monday evening, June 14, Pooley appeared on The News with Brian Williams, a nightly program on CNBC, an NBC cable affiliate. At the time, Williams was widely regarded as his network's anchor-in-waiting. He was biding his time on the cable channel, waiting for the venerable Tom Brokaw to surrender the anchor chair at NBC's Nightly News.

On this particular evening, Williams would stage no inquisition. Adopting the unusual first-name approach many reporters were taking with Bush, the anchor asked Pooley to share his feel for the new Republican candidate.

“George W., what’s he like?” Williams asked. In his response, Pooley went with first names too. And if the scribe was involved in a great hunt for negatives, he did a great job of concealing it:

“Well you know, as everybody who’s ever met George W. will tell you, he’s the most likable guy in the world,” the reporter exclaimed. “There’s a layer of openness and big-hearted Texas vibe that really comes through and that’s why, you know, part of the reason he’s at 81 percent in the polls down in Texas. He’s doing great down there, and he’s rolling out across the country.”

Pooley paused–but his host didn’t speak. And so, he started gushing again, about the Republican candidate
You know, it’s more extraordinary, Brian, when you think about how far this guy has come, the distance he’s traveled. You know, he’s a late bloomer. The outlines of that story are well known, that he quit drinking, that he had a failed business, that he turned his life around in 1986. But what we tried to do at Time is laser in on that year to see how he handled himself and how he turned himself around and what that may portend for a Bush presidency.
Did Bush’s experiences in 1986 “portend” something for a possible presidency? As Pooley had reported the story in Time, it was largely a tale of connection and privilege. At a time when the oil business was on the skids, Bush had been trying to sell Spectrum, his failing Texas oil concern. Texas-based Harken Oil & Gas bought the company at a handsome price, giving Bush “his first real personal wealth.”

Why had Harken paid so dearly, giving Bush a spot on the company’s board? According to Pooley’s report in Time, “mostly they saw the son of the sitting Vice President.” (“That was worth the money they paid him,” Harken’s founder was quoted saying.) But none of this deflating material was mentioned as Pooley chatted with Williams. “I wanted to see how he had handled adversity,” Pooley told Williams as he continued, “and I found out some interesting stuff:”
For example, when his company was bought by Harken Oil, it was another instance where he jumped into cow manure and came out smelling like a rose. But twelve people who worked for him weren’t going to get jobs in that deal. He went out and found jobs for all twelve of them. He’s never talked about it. You know he’s a decent guy.
How had the candidate handled adversity? According to Pooley’s report in Time, friends of his father had bailed him out, proffering “an angelic deal” for his failing company. But none of that was mentioned on-air as Pooley told a tale designed to showcase Bush’s sterling character. Pooley also opined, without being asked, that Bush had never used illegal drugs and that “he hates to ride in a limousine.” This last point was offered as a sign of the candidate’s lack of pretension.

Pooley’s discussion was striking for its subjectivity–and for its lack of professionalism. Referring to Bush on a first-name basis, the reporter quickly pronounced his subject “the most likable guy in the world.” “You know he’s a decent guy,” he opined, after praising the new candidate’s “layer of openness and big-hearted Texas vibe.” He picked-and-chose biographical incidents to stress Bush’s outstanding character.

No inquisition was under way here. But then, for all the earlier threats, it was hard to find a discouraging word during the governor’s three-day launch. A few policy fumbles by Bush were ignored; silly claims were advanced in his favor. By the end of his three-day trip, TV pundits spilled with praise for the Texan’s “incredible debut.”

That Monday night, on the cable show Hardball, Bush was praised as few candidates are. Republicans “may have touched the magic wand here,” the program’s host, Chris Matthews, declared. Bush was praised for his comic timing, which reminded Matthews of Jack Benny. The Texan was praised for his “plain talk” about several inocuous policy matters. (“Amazing stuff!” Matthews exclaimed, after playing tape of Bush defining his “compassionate conservatism.” “That’s Martin Luther stuff! This is for real!”) Matthews aired parts of his own brief interview with Bush–a session he described as “my delightful back and forth with the candidate from Texas.” Eventually, he asked a question:

“Has anybody on Earth, unless the guy lands on the moon, ever gotten this kind of publicity?” (One guest said that Bruce Springsteen had.)

The press corps had sworn it would tear into Bush–that any mistakes would be “broadcast in tongues.” The actual coverage of Bush’s unveiling showed that this had been a mere boast. Indeed, Gigot had given a prescient preview of the coverage in his June 11 column. “We don’t know how [Bush] will react,” the conservative columnist had written, “when the so-far-adoring press pack turns on him.” Remarkably, this assessment graced the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, long a center of conservative complaints about the media’s alleged liberal bias. Even on that contentious page, Gigot noted how friendly Bush’s pre-launch treatment had been. To date, the Texan had received “adoring” coverage, the conservative columnist judged.

Gigot had perhaps overstated a bit. But on the third day of Bush’s debut, the columnist earned his first echo.

Gigot was a major conservative voice; Thomas Oliphant plainly was not. But on the Monday of Bush’s launch, the Boston Globe’s well-known liberal columnist seconded Gigot’s assessment. How had Bush’s trip been covered? The press corps “appears to have lost its head, collectively,” Oliphant mordantly said, appearing on C-Span’s Washington Journal. “All reporters have said is, ‘Oh gosh, oh golly!’” Then, Oliphant used the very word Gigot had employed before the launch. Bush’s coverage had been “adoring,” he said. Even more than the early coverage of Ted Kennedy, in 1980.

Whatever one thought of this candidate’s merits, one key fact was quite apparent. Liberal bias was missing in action as Candidate Bush made his launch.

But if Bush was receiving adoring coverage, a second

major contender was not. That candidate was Vice President Gore, front-runner for the Democratic nomination–the likely opponent for Governor Bush in the next year’s general campaign.

In reaction to growing buzz about Bush, Gore had adjusted his own campaign schedule. He announced he would formally launch his own campaign on June 16, four days after Bush’s debut. That morning, Gore flew to his hometown of Carthage, Tennessee. He announced his intentions in a televised speech from the steps of the Smith County courthouse.

But what a difference a few days can make! By June 25, Kurtz, the Washington Post’s media reporter, was describing the sharply negative coverage Gore received at the time of his launch.

"For the moment, the harsh coverage and punditry about Gore threaten to become a self-fulfilling process," Kurtz wrote, near the start of his report in the Post. "Interviewers have pressed him on his view of President Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky. Commentators have ridiculed his shouted oratory." Kurtz specifically noted the press corps’ "theater criticism," in which pundits mocked trivial aspects of Gore’s speaking style while ignoring the substantive themes of his speeches.

Kurtz quoted Jay Severin, a Republican consultant; Severin marveled at what Kurtz called the "stark contrast" in the ways the front-runners were now being covered. "What we've heard about Gore is his lackluster speaking ability, his woodenness, his inability to connect," Severin said. "The general coverage of Bush has been how much money he has, his establishment political support, how big a machine he has, how high expectations are."

Again, a major conservative was publicly noting the friendly treatment extended to Bush. And Severin noted an obvious fact: Candidate Gore was getting pounded by the mainstream press corps.

For the record, a bit of irony attended Kurtz’s report, which would prove to be highly prescient. That involved the ongoing coverage of Gore in Kurtz's own Washington Post.

Kurtz didn’t mention his own newspaper’s work. But the treatment of Gore’s formal launch in the Post constituted a striking case study in the "harsh coverage and punditry" Kurtz now described. Over a two-week period in the middle of June, three long profiles in the paper’s "Style" section had detailed how hopelessly boring Gore was. Was Bush’s coverage truly "adoring?" Gigot had perhaps overstated a tad. But Bush had received no negative treatment by the time of Kurtz’s report. With Gore, a great deal of coverage was openly mocking. This treatment raised the series of questions Kurtz now advanced.

How did George W. Bush reach the White House? In June 1999, Kurtz was already noting one part of the answer. The press corps was pounding Gore, he observed–in "stark contrast" to its treatment of Bush. But then, no newspaper was pounding Gore any harder than Kurtz’s own Washington Post, a long-time symbol of the allegedly liberal mainstream press.

Even as Bush got "adoring" coverage, the Post’s Style section was savaging Gore. In modern politics, no major candidate for the White House has ever been mocked quite this hard.

How throughly did the Washington Post trash Gore

at the time of his launch? The paper’s Style section hit Gore very hard–and it did so repeatedly. This advanced a war which had started in March–a nasty journalistic war which would rage all through this campaign.

No paper would play a larger role in keeping Gore out of the White House.

The Post's pre-launch campaign began June 7, with a lengthy, baldly disparaging profile by reporter Kevin Merida. The piece ran atop the Style section’s front page, and it could hardly have been more derisive. Its tone was expressed in the mocking caption which accompanied a photo of Gore:

"Maybe the nicest thing you can say about the vice president is that he’s remarkably lifelike."

This was not adoring coverage–of that, Post readers could feel quite certain. But then, the profile’s attention-grabbing headline established its tone nicely too. "After Six Years in Suspended Animation," it said, "and With an Election Right Around the Corner, Al Gore Shows No Sign of Stirring From THE BIG SLEEPY."

"THE BIG SLEEPY" appeared in massive type, the better to rouse the soul with. Plainly, this was the type of "harsh coverage and punditry" Kurtz would describe in late June.

It would be hard to overstate the way Gore was mocked in this profile. Merida began with a long definition of "boring"–a definition which covered four paragraphs and ran 113 words. ("To bore is to attack the sense with a fusillade of sameness, to weary the world with blandness," Merida wrote. "Boring is so boring that Webster's devotes little of its precious space to the adjective.") And then, he started his actual profile. ("Which brings us to Al Gore, the highest-ranking boring man in the land…the vanilla pudding of the species.") There followed a 2500-word essay on Candidate Gore’s dismal dullness. This is a taste–just one small taste–of the profile’s hard early slog:
Part of Gore’s reputation as Wooden Man Walking comes from the geek-like enthusiasm with which he embraces subjects such as reinventing government, suburban sprawl and ozone depletion. Add to that his sometimes awkward use of language–"controlling legal authority"–the clipped cadence, the robotic moves onstage, and you’ve got the package.
No neighborly doses of love need apply! Oddly, Merida seemed annoyed by Gore’s immersion in policy matters, including the interest in climate science which would eventually make him an honored world figure–a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. But Merida’s openly mocking tone was quite apparent. The word "boring" or one of its variant forms turned up 41 times in his piece. "Dull" appeared nine times beyond that. And Merida quoted a wide range of "experts," all of whom had been asked to determine what made Gore so preternaturally tiresome. Meanwhile, the scribe wrestled with a philosophical question: Was Candidate Gore really boring? Or was that just something we all believe because we’ve heard it said so often? According to Merida, it made no difference. "Maybe this knock is unfair, maybe it’s dead on," he mused. "Doesn’t matter. Gore can’t change the knock."

Merida was certainly right on one score. Gore wasn’t likely to "change the knock" if journalists kept churning out profiles like this one. And sure enough: One week later, the Style section decided to profile Gore’s pluperfect dullness again. This time, correspondent Lloyd Grove did the honors, ostensibly writing about the Gores’ marriage. The piece began with a left-handed compliment: "Tipper Gore offers two anecdotes about her husband as fresh and compelling evidence that he is not a stuffed shirt." A 1900-word profile followed, in which the Gores were permitted to make the case that the candidate really wasn’t that boring. (The entire first section was concerned with one question: Can a guy as dull as Gore really play the harmonica?) Adding insinuation to injury, the profile ran beneath a pair of oddly suggestive headlines. The Gores were "In Love For Their Country," the headline on Style’s front page strangely said. The inside headline was also oddly unflattering: "Al and Tipper; Wedded to Politics." No part of Grove’s profile remotely explained what these suggestive headlines meant. Plainly, though, they echoed a prevailing press theme concerning Bill and Hillary Clinton’s allegedly "political marriage."

On June 23, the Post presented the final installment of its Tedium Triptych. This time, the profile was written by Ceci Connolly, who would serve as the paper’s official Gore reporter all through the 2000 campaign. By August 2000, Britain’s Financial Times would be saying, with perfect accuracy, that Connolly was "hostile to the [Gore] campaign, doing little to hide [her] contempt for the candidate." Indeed, Connolly’s performance throughout the campaign was little short of a journalistic scandal (see chapter 3). This early profile suggested the tone she would take toward Gore throughout.

In this case, Connolly was reporting from Nashville, where the Gores had just conducted their eighth annual "Family Re-Union" symposium, a two-day forum on various issues confronting American families. A few newspapers filed news reports about the actual work of the conference; for example, the Los Angeles Times presented a list of familiar proposals which had originated at earlier "Re-Unions." But Connolly, on page one of Style, stressed how deadly the whole thing had been. The sessions had taken place at Vanderbilt University, she wrote, "in a hall teeming with do-gooders." Her portrait became the third in her newspaper’s series on how cosmically boring Gore was.

As with Merida, so with Connolly: Her profile of Gore was baldly derisive, employing a type of mocking language rarely used by major newspapers in profiles of major candidates.

"For two days here at Vanderbilt University, the man best known for his statue imitation finally appeared to relax in public," Connolly wrote, near the start of her piece. "It was the weight of the conference that seemed to relax Gore," who was, after all, "programmed to the point of seeming robotic" on most other occasions. How relaxed had Gore suddenly seemed? He had "temporarily shed his stiff-guy armor and displayed a long-rumored human side," the Post correspondent said. He "even giggled like a girl" at one point, Connolly sweetly observed. According to Connolly, Gore "was positively wallowing in the sheer density" of the sessions, "while his aides struggled to stay awake;" she described the conference as a "down-in-the weeds policy summit that only a man with a steel-trap brain and a steel rear end would describe as fun." But then, the sardonic tone of Connolly’s piece extended from its start to its finish. Early on, she described Gore responding to citizens’ questions "in his best talk-show-host baritone;" his wife, Tipper Gore, was quickly described as "his blonde co-host." But alas! In her closing paragraphs, Connolly’s fairy tale came to an end. She said the briefly "human" Gore had stiffened again at the end of the conference. "Almost as magically as the relaxed Gore appeared here, though, there were signs the spell was wearing off."

In this, the third of the BIG SLEEPY profiles, Connolly mocked Gore quite openly. It was an especially odd performance, since it came from the person who would be the Post’s "objective reporter" on Gore throughout Campaign 2000. But then, Connolly would often mock Gore’s appearances over the course of that twenty months–often misstating elementary facts as she showcased that "contempt for the candidate." Meanwhile, how obtuse could Connolly be when it came to her own journalistic performance? Midway through her profile, with no hint of irony, she penned a familiar lament. "One week into his presidential campaign, Gore is battling a serious image problem," she wrote. Like Merida before her, Connolly betrayed no sense that this "serious image problem" might be linked to the blatant mockery being peddled in profiles like hers. But so it went in the "liberal" Post in the weeks surrounding Gore’s launch.

Connolly wrote on June 23. Kurtz’s report appeared two days later.

For the record, when the day of Gore’s announcement arrived, it wasn’t just the Washington Post which put the wood to his effort. As Kurtz would note, much of the coverage of Gore’s kick-off speech was stunning for its negativity. Most strikingly, the "theater critics" were out in force, as Kurtz would later describe.

Reviews of Gore’s announcement speech could not be described as adoring. That weekend, on CNN’s Capital Gang, Margaret Carlson called Gore a "flailing, shouting person." Al Hunt and Robert Novak also complained that Gore had "shouted" when he delivered his speech. ("The shouting is terrible," Novak declared.) But then, by time of the weekend shows, pundits were widely complaining about the way Gore allegedly shouted and yelled as he made his announcement–a complaint which is stunningly hard to sustain if a person simply views the tape of the actual speech.

On The McLaughlin Group, a well-known discussion program, the Chicago Tribune’s James Warren called the speech "a little bit screechy, a little bit loud;" he compared this sitting vice president to a "Baptist minister on amphetamines." Two days later, New York Times columnist Gail Collins devoted her entire column to "the new Al Gore," who "yells quite a lot." ("The poor man is all but howling at the moon," she wrote at one point in her column.) In one of her more memorable images, Collins said "We are being forced to watch him go through an enormous effort to look effortless, and it is as discomfiting as looking at the underside of a swan." Meanwhile, in U.S. News & World Report, Roger Simon described, in astounding detail, the way Gore had allegedly perspired as he delivered his speech. "His sweat glands are positively Nixonian," Simon wrote at the end of a long, detailed opening passage.

Bush was like Ike, and Gore was Nixonian, as Campaign 2000 began.

Was something wrong with the tone of this coverage? In his June 25 report in the Post, Kurtz listed press objections to Gore’s performance which were sometimes stunningly trivial. The cake was taken by Bob Schieffer, long-time host of Face the Nation, the prestigious Sunday morning program broadcast by CBS News. Schieffer had a somewhat peculiar complaint; he groused that Gore gave the same answer to all three networks when he was asked about President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. (Clinton’s impeachment trial had ended in acquittal a full four months earlier.) Gore’s answer about the Lewinsky matter "was, almost to the comma, the very same answer" on all three network shows, Schieffer groused. As a sidebar, Kurtz presented the text of Gore’s statements to the three network programs. Although Gore had given the same general answer each time he was asked about Clinton's affair, Schieffer’s complaint was a bit embellished. It was an exaggeration of the actual facts–an exaggeration by Schieffer, not Gore.

Gore gave everyone the same answer–when he kept getting asked the same question? It’s hard to know just why that conduct should have seemed so disturbing to Schieffer. But all roads led to a Standard Judgment: Gore was robotic–and perhaps insincere. "I don't in the least doubt the vice president's sincerity," Schieffer said on Face the Nation, offering this same complaint and plainly doubting the vice president’s sincerity. "'s almost as if someone sat down and wrote out a little statement and he memorized it."

Press treatment of Bush had leaned toward "adoring," Gigot and Oliphant both had said. Severin also noted the upbeat coverage, as did Kurtz, the Post reporter. But the mainstream press corps battered Gore at the time of his own formal launch.

On his nightly cable news program, Brian Williams read every word from Simon’s report about Gore’s sweat glands–and he went on, and on and on, about the way some hand-held signs blocked camera angles during Gore’s speech. On Hardball, Matthews found a memorable way to characterize Gore’s earlier refusal to call for Clinton’s removal from office. Chatting with his guest, Cokie Roberts, Matthews compared Gore to French collaborators with the Nazis during World War II. In fact, Matthews raised this "very crude comparison" four separate times during their strange discussion.

Gore was Clinton’s "bathtub ring," Matthews told Roberts, using an insulting phrase he would use throughout this White House campaign. Clinton and Gore? They were like "what we used to call Siamese twins," Matthews said. He dwelled at length on this second comparison, discussing a new film about conjoined twins.

Pundits had gushed about "George W." Now, many were openly trashing Gore. This raises a couple of obvious questions. What had become of the press corps' "liberal bias," so ballyhooed for so many years? More specifically, what explained the "harsh coverage"–the open contempt–now being aimed at Al Gore?

For the record, Bush and Gore kicked off their

campaigns at an unusual time in our history. Just six months before, in December 1998, the sitting president of the United States, Bill Clinton, had been impeached by the House of Representatives, accused of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” which can lead to removal from office. Specifically, Clinton was charged with lying to a federal grand jury about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House/Pentagon employee the press corps routinely described as a “21-year-old intern.” Lewinsky was no longer 21, and no longer an intern, during her affair with Clinton. But the description improved the tale. And so, the band played on.

Two months later, in February 1999, Clinton was tried on these charges by the senate. Amid a roiling press corps frenzy, he was acquitted, thus remaining in office.

And so President Clinton remained in the White House as Gore flew off to Tennessee to make his formal launch. But alas! The national press corps remained in an uproar about this exciting sex scandal. In June 1999, as Bush and Gore launched, many of Washington’s major journalists seemed able to focus on little else. Gore was discussing economic progress–but the Clinton/Lewinsky affair remained their principal focus.

Rather plainly, the national press corps had not “moved on” as Bush and Gore announced their intentions. Just consider the nation’s front pages on the weekend before Gore announced.

On Sunday morning, June 13, the New York Times ran a front-page report about Bush’s debut in Iowa. (“His visit and speech appeared to start, in earnest, the 2000 Presidential nomination process.”) But on that same front page, the Times ran a major report about independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who had now been investigating President Clinton, and the first lady, for just a bit less than five years. “Kenneth W. Starr, the Whitewater prosecutor, will not seek indictments of President Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton,” the Times reported this day, “but has tentatively decided to issue a final report about their behavior.” If Starr did issue this final review, it “would discuss the Clintons’ behavior in some detail,” the Times reported. It might be “blistering” in its discussion of the first lady, the paper said.

The Times sourced the claims in this front-page report to “several associates of Starr.” As usual, these “associates” were allowed to offer their threats and unflattering claims while remaining anonymous. Indeed, the Times played a bit of kangaroo court this day, as the paper had often done when reporting the scandals and pseudo-scandals which had come to define the Clinton era. The Times reported that “the prosecutor's office had drafted an indictment of Mrs. Clinton” at some unspecified time in the past. In point of fact, this alleged indictment of the first lady had been abandoned three years before, in 1996, if it had ever existed at all; so a Starr assistant had testified in open court, a few months before. But the Times’ report seemed to imply that this alleged indictment had been drafted more recently–perhaps as recently as “this spring.”

This insinuation was baldly misleading. But it did make a tired tale fresh.

At any rate, Candidate Bush was on the front page–and so was Bill Clinton’s prosecutor. Even as Bush kicked off his campaign, the Times was repeating unflattering claims from Kenneth Starr’s unnamed aides, thus driving renewed speculation about alleged misconduct by both Clintons. For the record, this Times report also appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and a string of other major newspapers. Across the country, readers got their latest scandal fix–and another dose of apparent bad faith in the way the Times covered this story.

But then, Starr seemed to be everywhere this Sunday as the press corps continued stressing alleged Clinton scandals. He appeared that morning on Fox News Sunday, sadly announcing, four months post-impeachment, that he would have to continue his probe of the Clintons. (Strangely, he wasn’t asked about the Times' report, which said he wouldn’t indict either Clinton.) Hours after Starr’s appearance, the AP delivered his thoughts to the world: “Prosecutor Kenneth Starr said Sunday he has no choice but to keep investigating the Clintons, a course that could collide with the 2000 presidential election campaign.”

Needless to say, the White House campaign with which Starr's work might collide was the one which would feature Al Gore.

On Monday, through this AP report, news of Starr’s continuing probes moved to papers all over the country. Two days later, Gore announced. Alleged scandal still filled the air.

Then too, there was the Washington Post, whose front page still rocked with Bill Clinton’s affair in the days just before the Gore launch. On June 13, Von Drehle captured the sunny high spirits of Bush’s first visit to Iowa. But his upbeat report had to share the front page with a new dose of Clinton/Lewinsky.

On that day, the Post began a three-part serialization of star reporter Robert Woodward’s forthcoming book, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate. Woodward’s book studied the ways a “scandal culture” had affected five American presidents in the decades following Nixon’s disasters. But more than half of Woodward’s book would focus on Clinton, the Post now reported. And sure enough: All three excerpts on the Post’s front page would involve Bill Clinton’s affair.

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday mornings, Clinton/Lewinsky drove the Post’s front page. Gore launched his campaign on Wednesday.

In short, when Bush and Gore announced their intentions, they did so in a news environment which still rocked with the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. Starr’s statements on Fox had been actual news, of course; newspapers were right to report what he said. But the press corps’ conduct made something else clear–this remained a story-of-choice as Bush and Gore launched their campaigns. As Kurtz would note just two weeks later, the press corps heavily focused on Clinton’s affair when Gore delivered his kick-off speech. “The tone of the early interviews is revealing,” Kurtz wrote. He described the way all three networks questioned Gore about Clinton’s misconduct–a subject on which Gore had repeatedly stated his views in the prior nine months.

What did Gore think about Clinton’s behavior? Ten months after Clinton’s confession; six months after Clinton’s impeachment; four months after Clinton’s acquittal, inquiring minds still wanted to know the answer to this question. Indeed, some of the press corps’ most famous such minds wanted to know little else. When Schieffer’s edited interview with Gore was shown on the CBS Evening News, every question the newsman asked concerned the Clinton affair. “But he turned out to be a liar!” Schieffer exclaimed, interrupting Gore’s very first answer. Gore was allowed to say nineteen words before the nation got to hear Schieffer blurt out his own fiery view.

To judge from appearances, Schieffer had just one thing on his mind as Gore announced his White House campaign. At CBS News, that’s the way it was–as we began the fateful campaign which ended with Bush in the White House.

For the record, when reporters asked Gore about Clinton’s affair, they were flogging a widely-flogged story. Over the course of the prior nine months, Gore had endlessly stated his views on this, the corps’ favorite subject. Clinton’s conduct was “indefensible,” Gore had repeatedly said–but he’d also said that the president’s conduct didn’t warrant removal from office. In stating these views, Gore stood in agreement with substantial majorities of the American public. Routinely, polling showed that the bulk of the public didn’t favor Clinton’s removal, though they disapproved of his conduct. But as Gore prepared for his formal announcement, many pundits feigned confusion about his deeply puzzling stance–about the problems he would face in explaining this stance to the public. If Gore disapproved of Clinton’s conduct, why had he opposed removal? By now, an alert third-grader could have explained the logic behind this set of positions–positions his parents may well have shared. But many big scribes remained perplexed by Gore’s deeply puzzling pair of positions–or they were prepared to pretend. They asked about this, their favorite subject, again and again–and again.

Repeatedly, they scratched their heads and tore their hair, befuddled by Gore’s puzzling stance.

And make no mistake–Gore had routinely condemned Clinton’s conduct in the nine months before his announcement. This takes us back to September 1998, after Clinton confessed that he’d had a relationship with Lewinsky which was “not appropriate.”

On September 19, 1998, Ceci Connolly first reported Gore’s views about Clinton's confession. “Acknowledging that President Clinton's behavior in the Monica S. Lewinsky controversy has been ‘indefensible,’ Vice President Gore said today he nevertheless feels sympathy for a suffering friend and does not want Clinton to resign,” she wrote in the Washington Post. Four days later, Connolly reported Gore’s views on the subject again. “In his public appearances, Gore is unwavering in his support of administration policies,” she wrote. “At the same time, Gore has said repeatedly that Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky was ‘indefensible.’”

Clinton’s conduct was “indefensible,” Gore had repeatedly said–but it didn’t warrant removal from office. None of this was confusing or hard to follow, and major news organs kept reporting these views, which jibed with the public’s outlook. On December 14, 1998, for example, the Associated Press reported the vice president’s latest statement on the matter, as the House impeachment vote neared. “Gore said Americans agree that Clinton's actions in the Monica Lewinsky affair were ‘terribly wrong,’” the AP reported. “But he says an ‘overwhelming’ majority don't want Clinton to be impeached and removed from office.”

On December 23, Gore was interviewed on CNN. He repeated his earlier call for Clinton to be censured by the Congress, rather than removed from office. Censure would be "far more appropriate given what the president did, which was clearly wrong,” Gore said.

Gore had repeatedly stated such views–but sometimes, a story’s just too good to drop. Two months later, in February 1999, Connolly reported an odd complaint from Jim Nicholson, the RNC chairman, a man who would play a very large role in the upcoming White House campaign.

Strangely, Nicholson had told reporters that Gore “has not shown the courage or character” to criticize Clinton, “even for his self-admitted behavior.” Gore was “the only politician in America who hasn't done that,” Nicholson had strangely said. Nicholson’s statements were blatantly false; the chairman was misstating bone-simple facts, as he would go on to do all through the course of Campaign 2000. But in her Washington Post report, Connolly raised no questions or concerns about possible problems with Nicholson’s character. She simply ran through a few of Gore’s statements on this tired old subject again.

By now, Connolly had been reporting Gore's views on this topic for more than five months.

Months had passed, and his views were unchanged, but for Gore, the questions kept coming. One month later, on March 27, he made an early trip to New Hampshire, scene of the first presidential primary. In response to a reporter’s question, he stated his views about Clinton again. “When he made a terrible personal mistake and it came out that he actually did, I condemned it, and I condemn it again today,” Gore said, again as quoted by Connolly. “It was indefensible, terribly wrong. He apologized for it and the American people made a judgment that they wanted to move on, and I think that judgment still holds.” But then, Gore had said the same thing a few weeks before, during a high-profile interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer had asked, and Gore had answered again, about the president’s conduct:
Well, Wolf, what the president did was terribly wrong, it was indefensible. He's apologized for it. And you know what the American people want? They want us to move on.
How many times must the cannonball fly? As noted, none of this was even slightly confusing, or hard to follow. According to Gore, Clinton’s conduct had been “terribly wrong”–but it hadn’t been cause for removal. But no matter how often Gore stated these views, reporters asked to hear them again–and many pundits expressed confusion about Gore's perplexing positions. Result? When Gore delivered his kick-off speech, the press corps still rocked to one major rhythm. What did Gore think about Clinton’s conduct? Even now, in the middle of June, little else seemed to count.

Indeed, during the week of Gore’s formal launch, nit-picking pundits examined each word which fell from the candidate's mouth on the subject. A comic example of this verbal fly-specking occurred on the evening of Gore’s kick-off speech, on a national “news magazine” which millions of voters were watching.

On the evening of June 16, Gore and his wife were interviewed by Diane Sawyer on the ABC show, 20/20. Eventually, after several teases, the questioning turned to Clinton’s misconduct. Gore repeated the judgments he’d always expressed; indeed, he specifically noted the fact that he had endlessly stated such views. (“I’ve said, and I'll say again: What he did was inexcusable. And particularly as a father, I felt that it was terribly wrong.”) But these pre-existing formulations weren’t enough for Sawyer this evening. Acknowledging the things Gore had already said, she posed an additional question: Had Gore been “outraged” by Clinton’s behavior? Soldiering onward, the dutiful candidate tried saying this about that:
I've said previously, and I'll repeat to you: I think that what he did was inexcusable. If you've ever had a friend who disappointed you, and you worked with that person, and you rebuilt the relationship, and moved forward from the disappointment, that's exactly what that was like for me.
Sorry–not enough! “Why do you choose the word ‘disappointed’ instead of ‘horrified?’” Sawyer now asked. Soldiering onward, Gore tried to proceed–but he’d finally run out of language. “Well, I use the word inexcusable, I use the word awful, terrible, horrible,” he said. “I do believe that it should be placed in a larger context, within which it is balanced against the good things he has done as president.” But there were no words the hopeful could say to stop the desire for talk about Clinton. Awful? Horrible? Terribly wrong? None of these words were enough!

Was the press corps too focused on Clinton’s affair? That too is a matter of judgment. Gore had stated his views many times–but reporters of course retained the right to inquire about this historic matter. But some had little else on their minds as Gore attempted to launch his campaign. And a few made truly remarkable statements about this ongoing concern.

Why was Gore getting smacked around so? Why was he constantly being asked about Clinton's affair with Lewinsky? In preparing his later report for the Post, Howard Kurtz had asked some reporters–and he got at least two remarkable answers. In Kurtz’s report, one major scribe gave a startling account of the press corps’ ongoing intentions:
Roger Simon, chief political writer for U.S. News & World Report, defended the focus on Lewinsky: “It’s still the story that has shaped our time. We want to hear him say what a terrible reprobate the president was, while defending his record. We're going to make him jump through the hoops. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.”
This was a truly remarkable statement. In the end, American history was going to turn on these words.

Why was the press corps battering Gore? According to Simon, journalists were “going to make Gore jump through the hoops” until he said what they wanted to hear–that Clinton was “a terrible reprobate.” Reporters still “want to hear him say” that, Simon told Kurtz. (“I don't think there's anything wrong with that,” Simon said. These too were remarkable words.) But then, James Warren, the Chicago Tribune’s Washington bureau chief, had given Kurtz a similar answer when asked to explain the tough treatment of Gore. A frequent guest on cable programs, Warren had ridiculed Gore’s kick-off speech on The McLaughlin Report.

Why was the press corps battering Gore? “We're sort of bored with Clinton,” Kurtz quoted Warren saying. “Many of us think Clinton's a moral scum, and probably subconsciously, at a minimum, we taint Gore by virtue of his association.” In this way, Warren explained his colleagues’ behavior, explaining why they were battering Gore at the time of his launch. Reporters viewed Clinton as “a moral scum,” Warren memorably said. Probably subconsciously, at a minimum, the taint had now rubbed off on Gore.

In these ways, Simon and Warren explained the “harsh coverage and punditry.”

Might we summarize? Regarding the Lewinsky affair, Gore had condemned Clinton’s conduct for the prior nine months. But reigning stars of the mainstream press longed to hear him say it again–and begged him to say it in stronger language. (Simon longed to hear “terrible reprobate;” Sawyer was waiting for “horrified.”) Soon, Schieffer would complain that Gore’s answers to the networks' repetitive questions were “almost to the comma, the very same answer.” The transcripts showed that this was a bit of a stretch–an embellishment by Schieffer, not Gore.

But so things stood at the start of the race which ended with Candidate Bush in the White House. For nine months, reporters kept asking Gore the same question. Now, a network star bitched and moaned when they all got the same reply.

Were journalists unduly consumed with Clinton's

affair as his vice president launched his campaign? Again, a matter of judgment. But the intensity of the press corps’ feelings had been recorded the previous fall, in a deeply important report in the Washington Post. This report described Establishment Washington’s "disgust and outrage" over Clinton’s conduct–an outrage which still seemed to obtain as Bush and Gore launched their campaigns.

Its author was uniquely positioned to describe the press corps' outlook.

The report had been written by Sally Quinn, wife of Ben Bradlee, the legendary Post editor. Without question, Quinn was one of the most “inside” of all D.C. press corps insiders. As a writer, she had been associated with the Post since the 1960s. After her 1978 marriage to Bradlee, she became one of insider Washington’s best-known social arbiters.

On November 2, 1998, Quinn had explained her community’s feelings about Bill Clinton’s affair. According to her lengthy report, she had interviewed “more than 100” members of “Establishment Washington,” seeking their views about Clinton’s conduct. Quinn's report appeared as impeachment loomed. Almost surely, it helps explain the press corps’ behavior the following June, when Clinton’s vice president, and defender against impeachment, launched his own White House campaign.

What did “Establishment Washington” think about Clinton’s affair? Sally Quinn pulled few punches in her 3600-word effort.

“With some exceptions, the Washington Establishment is outraged by the president's behavior in the Monica Lewinsky scandal,” Quinn wrote, at the start of her piece. As she proceeded, she quoted a string of major politicians and journalists who expressed that sense of outrage–though many said it was Clinton’s lying which offended them so, not the sex. “Clinton lies knowing that you know he’s lying,” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews complained. “It’s brutal and it subjugates the person who’s being lied to. I resent deeply being constantly lied to.” Matthews, an aggressive, irresponsible cable news host, thus praised his own vast love for the truth–though he himself would make gross misstatements all through the coming White House campaign. But Quinn also quoted the Washington Post’s David Broder, a mild-mannered man who had long been described as the “the dean of Washington pundits.” Clinton “came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place,” Broder said. David Gergen, editor-at-large of U. S. News & World Report, was quoted saying that Clinton had “fouled the nest.”

Meanwhile, Quinn reported her community’s general high regard for Kenneth Starr. “Starr is a Washington insider, too,” she wrote. “He has many friends in both parties. Their wives are friendly with one another and their children go to the same schools." Some lawyers "have questioned some of Starr’s most aggressive tactics," Quinn wrote. But in general, he was "seen as someone who is operating under a legal statute, with a mandate from the attorney general and a three-judge panel."

In what must be called an historic report, Quinn recorded the feelings of her powerful community–feelings which were being voiced by some of Washington’s most powerful journalists. “Certainly Clinton is not the first president to lie,” she correctly observed in her piece. “But the scope and circumstances of his lying enrage Establishment Washington."

Was “liberal bias” in charge of this press corps? A few months later, would this press corps be looking for ways to help Candidate Gore? In her profoundly revealing report, Quinn left little doubt about the depth of her cohort’s animus toward President Clinton. But she also stressed a second key point–these inside players were more hostile to Clinton than the public was as a whole. After describing the outrage of Establishment Washington, Quinn correctly reported “the disconnect” between her community and the wider electorate. “The polls show that a majority of Americans do not share that outrage,” she wrote. “Around the nation, people are disgusted but want to move on; in Washington...people want some formal acknowledgment that the president's behavior has been unacceptable.” Later, Quinn described the way her community now appeared to much of the public. “For reasons they cannot understand, Washington insiders come across to the public as judgmental puritans, shocked and horrified by the president's sexual misconduct,” she wrote.

At any rate, Quinn quoted stars of the press elite explaining the strength of their community’s feeling–and asserting their community's high-minded values. “The judgment is harsher in Washington,” Broder declared. “We don’t like being lied to.”

In all candor, the dean of pundits may have been dreaming in making this high-minded claim. In all candor, his cohort often seemed to love being lied to, once Campaign 2000 started. In February 1999, for example, no one criticized Nicholson, the RNC chairman, for his absurd misstatements about Gore. (Gore had not “shown the courage or character” to criticize Clinton, Nicholson said, thus lying in Establishment Washington’s faces.) To the contrary: By the time of Gore’s formal launch, many pundits were themselves making this baldly inaccurate claim, directly saying or implying that Gore had never criticized Clinton until the very week of his launch. Amazingly, Ceci Connolly even seemed to join this parade, writing in the Washington Post. By now, Connolly had been reporting Gore’s criticisms of Clinton's behavior for nine solid months. No matter! In three news reports in the Post, she strongly suggested that slippery Gore had just now invented this stand.

In November 1998, Quinn described her community’s sense of outrage as Clinton moved toward impeachment. Almost surely, her report helps explain the “harsh coverage and punditry” aimed at Gore some seven months later, at the time of his formal launch. Rightly or wrongly, for whatever reasons, ranking members of “Establishment Washington” said they were outraged by Clinton’s conduct. Even as late as the following June, journalists seemed to have little intention of letting the matter drop.

And so Clinton/Lewinsky still drove the press as Gore attempted to launch his campaign. It was “still the story that has shaped our time,” Roger Simon told Kurtz, explaining the welts being handed to Gore. On ABC, Diane Sawyer asked Gore to state his “outrage” about Clinton's conduct. In this exchange, Sawyer chose the very word Quinn had stressed the previous fall.

Would Clinton/Lewinsky ever die? A few hours after Gore’s kick-off speech, two major pundits predicted it wouldn’t. “The press corps will keep it alive,” Time magazine’s Margaret Carlson laughingly said, appearing on CNN’s Inside Politics. “Amen!” shouted Tucker Carlson (no relation), endorsing his colleague’s prediction. Margaret Carlson also described the press corps’ upbeat treatment of Candidate Bush. “You know, George W. has had a great three days, and we're now in place where George W. Bush could stumble madly and it still wouldn't count,” she said. “We're beyond the point now where a stumble hurts George W.”

Like so many of her colleagues, Carlson used first names with Bush.

So things stood as Bush and Gore delivered their high-profile speeches that June. Two major scribes–one liberal, one conservative–called the Texan’s coverage “adoring.” By way of contrast, Gore was Clinton’s “bathtub ring,” Chris Matthews repeatedly said. He was "the bathtub yuck."

Why did Gore receive so much "harsh coverage"

at the time of his formal launch? Why did Kurtz observe a “stark contrast” with the treatment being handed to Bush? Motives are famously hard to establish, especially when the conduct in question involves a large number of journalists. Simon and Warren expressed startling views about the reasons for this harsh coverage. But, in fairness, they couldn't be taken to speak for the press as a whole.

That said, one thing is abundantly clear as we review this part of Campaign 2000. Plainly, the mainstream press corps was not in the grip of that famous old demon, “liberal bias.” Whatever was driving the Washington press corps, it plainly wasn’t the type of bias which favors liberal policy views–and Democratic candidates.

An obvious bias did seem to be there. But it seemed to be aimed right at Gore.

Indeed, things were much worse for Gore by this time than has so far been described. He had begun informal campaigning in March, with trips to New Hampshire and Iowa. But the press corps had savaged Gore then too, in ways which would prove to be much more significant than any complaint they would later devise about his steel rear end, his Nixonian glands or his resemblance to a swan's underpinning. By the time the press corps' "theater critics" linked arms to mock Gore’s kick-off speech, a much more serious assault on his character had already locked into place.

Simply put, the mainstream press was already at war against Gore.

The attack on Gore’s character started in March, three months before he and Bush gave those speeches. Gore is a liar, the press corps had said. Repeatedly, scribes attempted to prove this claim with a trio of fact-challenged tales about things Gore had supposedly said. The claims were tortured, but were widely proclaimed. One example: Al Gore had said he invented the Internet! Or so many pundits declared.

By the spring of 2006, Gore would be a major world figure, heralded for his insight and judgment. In 2007, he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change.

But in March 1999, when he started campaigning, the establishment press was enraged by Bill Clinton. Three months later, Roger Simon would tell Howard Kurtz that his colleagues would make Gore “jump through the hoops” until he denounced Clinton strongly enough–till he called him a “terrible reprobate.”

Back in March, the press corps had possibly shown the design which underlay Simon's remarkable statement. Gore is a liar, the press corps had said.

That framework would come to define this campaign–and George Bush would get to the White House.

To continue:

Chapter 2. Inventing a liar: In love with Love Story
(Coming January 26)