restricted access Dick Morris: Off With Their Heads
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Onceagain,DickMorrisisattemptingtorainonBilland Hillary Clin­ ton’s parade. The tabloid revelations about Morris’s dalliance with a forty-something prostitute helped dampen the mood of the 1996 Democraticconventionand,sinceClintonleftofficeandHillaryjoined the Senate, Morris has been giving them raspberries, under the guise of doing commentary, at FOX News. Now, he has rushed in to print a cantankerous volume to coincide with the publication of Hillary Clinton’s memoir, so they could share thesamestage,oratleastbeinthenewsduringthesamemonth,hawking their wares. Morris’s book is made for the burgeoning market of readers developed over the last two decades, and harvested by authors of many anti-Clinton and anti-“liberal media” books, such as those by Ann Coulter, Bill Gertz, and Bernard Goldberg, among others. Rush Limbaugh was one of this expanding readership’s early cultivators, and now Dick Morris hopes to reap its rewards. The phrase, “off with their heads,” of course, comes from Lewis Car­roll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, spoken often by the Queen ofHearts;Morris’svolumeis“Dick’sAdventuresinWashingtonland,” and he is, and always will be, like the Queen of Hearts, something of a comic figure himself. Dick Morris: Off With Their Heads 159 160 Morris has the good, or bad, luck to begin his book with an attack upon the New York Times. The public might be a bit sated, given all the print that has been spilled recently about the Jayson Blair imbroglio. None of that is in the book, but Morris does take after the “liberal” HowellRaines,theTimes’sexecutiveeditor,whorecentlyresigned.But most of Morris’s critique involves something he does know a lot about, the polling practices of the New York Times and CBS. His argument is thatthepollsareriggedtosupportthe Times’sliberalviewoftheworld. Thesepagesreadlikeanarticleonemightfindinthe ColumbiaJournalism Review, and I’m sure Morris’s contentions will be argued over for some time to come, since they turn on rarefied technical points. But the fair-and-balanced debate at the heart of Morris’s charges, similar to other conservative press critics, is the straw-man argument that newspapers are “objective.” In England, no one keeps up the charade that newspapers don’t reflect the politics of their owners. Liberal or conservative bias is not hidden there: it is proclaimed. Yet, the history of American journalism is littered with instances of news being twistedtoreflecttheviewsoftheowners.Timemagazine,underHenry Luce, is one case study. But Morris keeps acting shocked, shocked, that the Times favors a liberal point-of-view. Outright fakery, ignoring verifiable facts, still leads, we see, to resignations. The book’s next section, an attack on Bill Clinton’s presidency, and Clinton’s lack of response to the threat of terrorism throughout the nineties, is more compelling, since Morris was an insider toward the end of Clinton’s first term, coming back on board after the Democrats lost the House in the disastrous ’94 midterm elections. Bill Clinton did span the culture like no other president. He had one foot in a trailer park and another in Oxford yard. But, the only place Clinton found no comfort was with the military, and Morris correctly points out this defect. “Bill Clinton could have confronted al 161 Qaeda more forcefully,” Morris writes. “He could have thrown down the gauntlet at North Korea. . . . But all these actions would have compromised his grip on the presidency. . . . Each might possibly have led to war and casualties, which terrified him in view of his absence of military service.” Clinton took more risks in his private life than in his public life, and the nation paid a price for that. Morris then lights out for other easy-pickin’ targets, those whom he calls “The Hollywood Apologists.” It isn’t strange that Hollywood stars have become spokespersons for left-ish views in the country. Morris doesn’t seem to understand that “celebrity” alone gives their comments authority. He complains, “And who are these actors and actresses that we should listen to them? On stage, they are human parrots, regurgitating what others have written for them. Off stage, why would we think that they had any wisdom?” The left doesn’t have many celebrity intellectuals, because it doesn’t have the same system of manufacturing that the right has employed. Many have pointed out there is no left version of Rush Limbaugh. In the vacuum that exists, Hollywood stars, or other entertainment figures, substitute. And they remain rather fat targets. Unliketheright,whichpromotesitswriters,publicfigures,former political consultants turned journalists, the left does not. The few that exist have come through the same star-making machinery as Dick Morris...


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