Something about Al Gore brings out the worst in people, and nowhere is this truer than in the so-called “liberal media.” Journalists’ “default” position on Gore, Joe Klein notes, is “ridicule. He opens his mouth and is immediately assumed cynical, tactical, self-serving, self-pitying, awkward, embarrassing, unintentionally hilarious, or all of the above.” That Klein is himself a serial offender only strengthens the power of his unadmitted mea culpa.
The intensity of the media’s anti-Gore obsession is a bit bizarre, but even more so, given the strictures of journalistic objectivity, is the lack of compunction they feel about openly demonstrating it. At an early New Hampshire debate between Gore and Bill Bradley, reporters openly booed him, “objectivity” be damned. “The 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out,” Time reported. “Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of fifteen-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.”
Washington Post White House reporter Dana Milbank offers this reasoned, mature explanation: “Gore is sanctimonious, and that’s sort of the worst thing you can be in the eyes of the press. And he has been disliked all along, and it was because he gives a sense that he’s better than us–he’s better than everybody, for that matter, but the sense that he’s better than us as reporters. Whereas President Bush probably is sure that he’s better than us–he’s probably right, but he does not convey that sense. He does not seem to be dripping with contempt when he looks at us, and I think that has something to do with the coverage.”
Bill Keller, who almost became executive editor of the New York Times, was no less scholarly than Milbank, but like any good pundit, multiplied his own resentments by 50 million. “One big reason 50 million voters went instead for an apparent lightweight they didn’t entirely trust was that they didn’t want to have Al Gore in their living rooms for four years,” Keller wrote on the paper’s Op-Ed page. Included in his argument was the behavior of his 3-year-old, who, during the 2000 campaign, “went around chanting the refrain: ‘Al Gore is a snore.'” Imagine where she might have learned to do that!
During the 2000 election, both the Times and the Post assigned reporters to Gore who hated his guts and so repeatedly misled their readers. Katharine Seelye’s and Ceci Connolly’s coverage turned out to be so egregious that the two were singled out by the conservative Financial Times of London as “hostile to the [Gore] campaign,” unable to hide their “contempt for the candidate.” (And don’t get me started on the topic of “Panchito” Bruni’s daily valentines to George W. during this period, carried on page one of the Paper of Record.)