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The Intellectual Poverty of Frank Rich

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While the competition has been keen at the New York Times to secure the mantle as the most virulent Hillary hater, Frank Rich is in a class by himself. No other columnist now writing for the "Gray Lady" is more intellectually dishonest and lacking in basic integrity than Frank Rich, the bloviating former theater critic turned professional Hillary basher. Maureen Dowd? Alternating between catty and crazy, Dowd's nose is out of joint apparently because Hillary looks better in boots. How about Bob Herbert? You can't fault an African American who wants to give a brother a break and devotes his time to peddling moralizing conventional wisdom and cheer leading like there's no tomorrow for Obama. And William Kristol and David Brooks? They are just neocon party-liners. (Only one among the NY Times line up ever writes anything complimentary about Hillary-Paul Krugman, who has a day job at Princeton as an economist, actually knows something, and let's the chips fall where they may.)

Week after week, Rich slings the mud at Hillary, oblivious to facts. Stunning but not surprising given his track record. He did the same thing to Al Gore-sliming the 2000 Democratic nominee as a liar and fraud. Rich was among the useful idiots of the press corps aiding and abetting the election of George W. Bush. But his attacks on Hillary have the smell of desperation.

Rich, in his comic book style, portrays Hillary as the villain plotting against the adored black superhero. There's nothing evil she hasn't done or won't do. She's responsible for the Iraq war, not George W. Bush. BAM! She's the racist, even though it is Obama who has spent the last 20 years enabling and protecting his racist, anti-Semitic, anti-American pastor and mentor, Jeremiah Wright. ZAP! Yes, after reading Rich, you can draw no other conclusion-Hillary's a low-life who can never measure up to the spotless Obama. KA-BOOM!

This week Rich warmed up by trashing Hillary's precise, thoughtful policy speech on how to deal with Iraq, comparing it unfavorably, of course, to Obama's immortal Gettysburg Address (wherein he lies about having known about Rev. Wright's hate mongering sermons and throws his grandmother under the bus). Here's Rich sliming Hillary and exalting Obama:

Mrs. Clinton needn't have Mr. Obama's poetry or pearly oratorical tones to deliver a game-changing speech. She just needs the audacity of candor. Yet she seems incapable of revisiting her history on Iraq (or much else) with the directness that Mr. Obama brought to his reappraisal of his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Then Rich claims that Hillary is lying about her record on the Iraq war and that she was a liar about voting for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Resolution in 2002 (along with the majority of Democratic senators) because she says that it was in fact what it was: not a declaration of preemptive war.

Of course, Rich conveniently ignores Obama's flip-flops on Iraq, going from opposing the war when he had no vote on the matter to supporting the Bush policy when he arrived in the Senate. And now he's Mr. Anti-war. It is enough to give your average pundit whiplash just trying to chart his varied positions. But not Frank Rich, he sees nothing but Hillary, but never in a favorable light.

And Rich, of course, doesn't ever describe Hillary's actual position at the time, delivered in her floor speech, that she favored letting the United Nations weapons inspectors finish their job and building an international coalition before any invasion. Of course, Rich doesn't want to cite her real stance because it would confound his hysterical posturing. Hillary's approach was against preemptive war -- an approach that Bush did not follow. Bush did not listen to her. It was his war and his war alone.

But Rich's obvious falsehoods and hype aside, left me wondering: Where was this brave visionary in the run up to the war? Let's apply the same standard to Frank Rich that we say should be applied to Hillary. What was Rich writing at the time? Thanks to the archives of the New York Times, now online and easily available, I was surprised to discover that some writer named Frank Rich gave credence to Bush's claims about weapons of mass destruction, attacked the U.N. weapons inspectors, and misrepresented the positions of Democrats, including Hillary's, and questioned their patriotism.

On September 14, 2002, as Bush's marketing campaign for the war raged, just a week after the New York Times published its bogus front page story written by Judith Miller about WMD, Frank Rich wrote:

"That Iraq is 'a grave and gathering danger,' as the president also said, is not in doubt."

On October 12, 2002, the day after the Senate vote on the authorization, Frank Rich wrote:

"But even so, the Democratic leaders never united around a substantive alternative vision to the administration's pre-emptive war against the thug of Baghdad. That isn't patriotism, it's abdication."

Oh? In fact, Hillary and other Democratic senators offered different positions from Bush. But Rich overlooks the facts while he rushes to smear their patriotism.

Finally, on December 7, 2002, in a column called "Pearl Harbor Day," Frank Rich staged a sneak attack on the U.N. and the weapons inspectors. He wrote:

"A savage dictator is delivering a 'full' accounting of his weapons arsenal that only a fool would take for fact, and a president of the United States is pretending (not very hard) to indulge this U.N. rigmarole while he calls up more reserves for the confrontation he seeks."


"U.N. rigmarole?" Who needs that stinking U.N.? Is Frank Rich really John Bolton without a shaggy mustache? Rich lambasted the inspectors, just beginning their job, as a bunch of clowns that no one who take seriously. He wrote:

"In Iraq, there's a team of inspectors out of 'H.M.S. Pinafore,' charged with a mission that is probably impossible and whose results will soon be disregarded by the relevant parties anyway."

The "relevant" party ignoring them was not just Bush. Judith Miller was not the only one in the employ of the New York Times who helped the Bush administration make a public case for war. Frank Rich was an eager cheerleader. Rich also wrote in one of is columns:

"We know Saddam Hussein is a thug and we want him gone."

Hey Frank? Ever heard the aphorism, "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks?" You smeared Al Gore in 2000 and helped elect George W. Bush in 2000. You tarred leading Democrats, like Hillary, who pushed for a diplomatic solution in Iraq, as unpatriotic. You suppress and misrepresent Hillary's real position on the war. You ridiculed the U.N. and the weapons inspectors, who were doing a good job and helped whip up public sentiment to reject the peaceful solution to the Iraq threat. And you shilled like Judith Miller in warning Americans about the existence of Saddam Hussein's WMD.

Face it Frank. You are short on substance. You are careless with facts and historical events. And you are blinded by an irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton. But at least you are consistent -- you were wrong about Iraq and you are wrong about Hillary.