What is that sound? That growing roar arising from the
serried files and columns of the editorial and op-ed pages, from the sundry
sore throats of the talk-radio and
cable-chat-show hosts and guests?
It’s the sound of the media nannies in a tidal wave of TSK! TSK! –ing, a titanic roar of TUT! TUT! –ing.
The nattering nabobs of nannyism are weighing in! The
thundering herd of the niceness cops are in full cry!
TSK! TSK! they’re
saying to Al Gore. Must be nice! Must not try too hard! The American people are
children, you’re threatening to disturb the peace in the nursery! Be nice like
that nice Mr. Nixon.
TUT! TUT! Al Gore.
Don’t make trouble. We need closure .
We don’t want uncertainty .
Uncertainty Bad for children,
certainty Good for children. Nannies
don’t like uncertainty. Nannies don’t
like mild disorder! It’s all just a terrible nightmare ! We feel faint! We feel fragile! Our system can’t stand
the strain! Everything will crumble if we’re forced to endure the horror of … a
somewhat prolonged re-count !
You should have seen
that self-appointed national nanny, Katie Couric, ever so sternly hectoring poor Joe Lieberman on the Nov.
13 Today show to give up and give us
“closure,” as if closure (rather than the truth) were our highest national
So, must be nice, Al Gore. Don’t rock that boat, don’t
threaten our serenity. Be nice so that you can preserve your place in history.
Be nice to preserve your image, be nice to preserve your positioning for the
next election, Gore in ’04.
Be nice so the media will applaud you for your
“graciousness” in withdrawing. Be nice to bring us all together. Be nice so the
media can congratulate you for bringing us together. Be nice so the media can
congratulate itself for bringing us
together, standing firm for stability and certainty above such trivialities as
a fair vote count.
And trotting behind the media nannies are the
self-important, self-appointed Democratic Party nannies like Bill Bradley,
arguing for restraint (i.e., surrender). Jeez, Bill Bradley! A guy who ran the
most passive campaign in history, an entitlement queen who claimed he wanted to
speak for the disenfranchised but was too self-important (or perhaps too
heavily sedated on his heart medicine) to lift a finger, apparently in
expectation of anointment. Put a cork in it, Bill Bradley-nobody cares what you
And trotting behind
them, the idiot-savant “experts” quoted so worshipfully by R.W. Apple in The New York Times on Nov. 12 (“Quick Resolution Benefits the Nation and Both
Candidates, Experts Contend”). I love that “Experts Contend.” As if you can’t
find “experts” to “contend” whatever you want.
I particularly love the dim-bulb “retired professor of
political science” at the University of Wisconsin: “The voters prepared a
script of consultation, cooperation and bipartisanship and asked the
politicians in effect to get on with it,” said this “expert.”
Um, excuse me- sez who ?
This is your timid script, professor;
you’re imputing your nanny values to
the electorate. Who told you what the voters wanted? Maybe they actually wanted
the candidates they voted for to win and wanted the votes they cast to count.
Then this pompous bozo instructs us-straight from the
nursery-”These two people should be settling down, setting that tone right away
and assuring all of us that they got the message.”
Note the nanny code words: “settle down,” “set the tone,”
There is no more terrifying (and silly) spectacle than the
thundering herd of media nannies on the warpath for niceness.
Let’s examine the premises of the niceness offensive. And
recall first that I’m no big fan of Al Gore. Recall that in a pre-election
column, I said Al Gore ran “the most stupid and inept Presidential campaign in
modern history.” I called him a “profoundly shallow” pseud, “ridiculous in his
clownish pretensions” to be an intellect, one who parrots “intellectual
charlatans” of the management-guru stripe in an attempt to disguise his own
“fathomless mediocrity.” And then I turned really
So I didn’t have much
faith in Al Gore, although I did feel-mainly because of the future of the
Supreme Court-that there was an important difference between him and George W.
In fact, speaking of that difference, one of the few things I’m looking forward
to in a possible Bush administration is the spectacle that will ensue when
George W. nominates some anti-civil-liberties, anti-choice, “strict
constructionist” hack to the Supreme Court, and all those bold columnists who
urged a vote for Ralph Nader because electing George W. Bush “wouldn’t make a
difference” will prove their intellectual consistency and line up behind the Bush appointee . After all, they scoffed merrily
at the idea that George W.’s Supreme Court appointments were a reason to vote
I read all those columns in which they said Bush’s nominees
probably wouldn’t overturn Roe v. Wade ,
that RU-486 makes the issue of choice irrelevant (this from Ralph Nader
himself). So please, all you Nader writers, all you Nader intellectuals-you
took the Kool Aid, let’s not hear you whine when W. appoints Supreme Court
justices in the mold of his judicial idol, Antonin Scalia.
Still, as I said, I had little faith in Al Gore, little
faith that Al Gore would stand up to the media nannies. In the immediate
aftermath of election night, I was ready to write another column denouncing Al
Gore, this time for wimping out. After he foolishly raced to concede and
congratulate George W. at 2 a.m. (on the basis of what? On the basis of network
projections -and this after the
network projections had been dramatically, embarrassingly proven wrong a few
hours earlier), I was sure he was craving the approval of the media nannies for
that supreme value of all Nanny Values: graciousness. I was ready to write a
column calling Al Gore “The Premature Congratulator.”
stunningly-he actually began to show a little backbone. He didn’t roll over and
play dead before the Florida count was completed. He actually asked for a fair
count, a re-count and an examination of tens of thousands of ballot
And the media nannies went crazy!
It began Thursday with William Safire’s column in The Times .
Of course, Mr. Safire is a nanny the way the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood”
was a granny. But he was playing
nanny. He was acting concerned for Al
Gore, concerned for his political
future, concerned about his place in
history. Concerned that Gore emulate Richard Nixon.
First of all, can we say
a word about the supposed shining, selfless, public-spirited, self-sacrificing
example of that great statesman? Richard Reeves gave the game away the
following day on the Nixon issue. Mr. Reeves-a writer whose sagacity I’ve
admired all my life-was unfortunately in nanny mode in his op-ed piece. Nixon
was a “patriot,” his exit was “graceful.” But then Mr. Reeves-too conscientious
a historian to ignore the reality-pointed out the real reason Nixon refused to contest the (genuinely dicey) vote
count in Illinois and Texas: “President Dwight D. Eisenhower was angry about
the alleged fraud but finally told Nixon that he could not back him in a
challenge to the results.”
Mr. Reeves also points
out other non-patriotic or ungracious motives for Nixon’s failure to challenge
the result: no provision for re-counts in Texas, probable Republican violations
in Illinois, etc. And new accounts of Nixon’s behavior indicate that
(typically) he surreptitiously did
If he didn’t, it must be said-something neither Mr. Reeves
nor Mr. Safire nor any of the other professed Nixon admirers among the media
nannies is willing to say: Nixon was a fool !
A fool not to contest if he thought he had a case. A fool to listen to Big
Nanny Dwight D. Eisenhower. We’re told that Nixon’s graciousness allowed him to
return and win in 1968, but in fact it was his bitterness over succumbing
“graciously” to Democratic dirty tricks in 1960 that led him directly to the
vastly humiliating self-destruction of his Presidency over his Watergate dirty
tricks-the ones he ordered to pre-empt a repeat of the ones he left unexposed
and unresolved in 1960.
(By the way, does anyone think that George W. wouldn’t have
asked for a re-count and a hand count in a vote so close if the initial machine
recount suggested substantial discrepancies and he thought he’d win with a hand re-count? Get real.)
Now let’s examine another argument the concerned nannies of
the media have been using on Al Gore: withdraw “gracefully,” and you’ll be so much better positioned to run again
in 2004. Everybody will like you so much more for being nice. It will be
so much better for your image.
I hate to say this, but I just don’t care how Al Gore is positioned in 2004. I don’t care
how much people will like Al Gore. I care about a Supreme Court that will be
packed with George W.’s primitive notion of “strict constructionists” by 2004.
A word here to Al Gore: This election is not about your
future, it’s about our future. It’s
not yours to give away. Don’t you dare wimp out now to “position yourself
better” for 2004. I always thought your bellowing vow ” I will fight for you ” was a phony. I thought it was a phony when
you followed your focus groups and bellowed it at the Convention and it seemed
to give you a boost with blue-collar demographics. I was sure it was doubly a
phony when you ditched “I will fight for you” completely to suck up to more
prosperous segments of the middle class who-focus groups told you-didn’t like
“class warfare.” And I thought it was triply
a phony when you revived it in the dying days of your pathetically inept
But whether or not it was a phony, one thing is sure: “I
will fight for you ” doesn’t mean “I
will fight for me , Al Gore.” It
doesn’t mean “I will fight for better positioning for myself in 2004.” It
doesn’t mean “I will fight for an image of graciousness for myself.” It means
“I will fight for the issues you wanted me to fight for, for the votes you cast
Gore is being told that to give in, to cave in to the nanny
posse, will be a sign of selflessness, but in fact it will be a sign of selfishness -doing the nice thing for Al
Gore, not for the people he supposedly represented.
Now let’s examine one final nanny value the media is
bombarding us with: the supposed dire need for “closure.” The supposed
shattering effects on the national psyche if we don’t have the closure (i.e.,
the quiet in the nursery) that the nannies are screeching for.
“Closure” is one of those
unexamined bits of psychobabble from the grief-counseling industry that
has somehow clothed itself with a bogus scientific legitimacy, largely from the
pseudoscience of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
Look at the hysterical language of those who impute to the
nation a craving for “closure”: “nightmare,” “quagmire,” “chaos,” “anarchy,”
“meltdown,” “Constitutional crisis.” What’s really happening is that the media
nannies are projecting their internal
hysteria on the American people. The very same way the media nannies projected
their puritanical sexual rage against Bill Clinton on the electorate, and
couldn’t fathom the failure of the rest of the country to think like proper
Over the past weekend, when the first polls came out showing
the nation not having the nervous breakdown the nannies were predicting-and
suffering-a CNN anchor guy said, evidently in frustration, “Well, it’s early
still.” In other words, they’ll come round to the proper level of hysteria soon
When did the media nominate itself National Nanny? Maybe it
goes back to Dan Rather who, for a brief interval after he took over from
National Daddy Walter Cronkite, began to sign off his newscast by saying ” Courage .” Even though he abandoned that
nanny-like injunction, the culture of Nannyism began to spread throughout
network news as big-shot broadcasters felt it incumbent upon themselves to hold
our hands in times of crisis, to tell us what was good and proper for us. What
we can handle.
It’s fascinating. During the impeachment of President
Clinton, the left was hysterical that impeachment represented a Constitutional
breakdown, but it turned out that the Constitution worked pretty well: Bill
Clinton was impeached, but not convicted.
Now the nannies are joining the right in browbeating Al Gore
for closure, on the grounds that the Constitution can’t stand the strain. We can’t handle the strain. We can’t
handle the truth . Of course,
circumventing a fair count for the sake of closure was the basis for the
corrupt racist bargain of 1876, which resulted in the abandonment of
Reconstruction in the South and nearly a century of cruel and vicious
segregationist state regimes. Why not look at the re-count process not as some
horror to be avoided, but as a healthy investigative exposure of a corrupt
situation. Something the media is supposed to be for .
Perhaps it’s time to question whether closure is the highest value in the hierarchy of
values. Perhaps it’s time to wonder whether there is a higher value than
closure: truth. As in, “the truth shall set you free.” As opposed to the nanny
value of “closure will shut your mouth.”
Don’t let the media
nannies sucker you, Al Gore.