Politics & Policy

The Greatest Story Ever Told

(They wish.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the February 13, 2006, issue of National Review.

If only wishing it were so could make it so. If the cosmos worked that way, the sharks of the mainstream media and their remoras in the liberal blogosphere would have uncovered that Dick Cheney did in fact drunkenly shoot that Texas lawyer for threatening to expose the administration’s plan to abolish the Constitution, take over the world, and then drain away all of our vital bodily fluids. They would also have learned that Cheney shot the aged would-be whistleblower Annie Oakley-style, reserving his other hand for an amorous grope of a woman other than his wife in the unforgiving Texas brush. Had justice been served he would have been arrested, shirtless and screaming, at a Motel 6, like one of the perps on Cops. All of these things and so much more would have proven true if only NBC’s David Gregory could click the heels of his ruby slippers together.

#ad#Alas, it was not to be. You have to pity the poor SOBs. Conservatives seem to have a lot more success at wishing the seemingly outlandish into reality. We claimed that Bill Clinton was playing baron-and-the-milkmaid with an intern, and despite months of denials it turned out to be true. Of course, conservatives–at least some of them–also claimed that Bill Clinton was smuggling drugs into Mena airport and had had countless people, including Vince Foster, killed. These fantasies didn’t pan out (and sensible conservatives never indulged them). But all in all, we have a pretty good record of connecting the dots.

The best recent example is, of course, the Greatest Story Ever Told, in which Dan Rather claimed to have proven that George W. Bush had done something or other while in the Texas Air National Guard. The problem was that Rather’s proof lay in a bunch of made-up documents, their inauthenticity demonstrated largely by hordes of right-wing bloggers who took the time to sleuth out the typestyles of 30-year-old government-issue typewriters. Soon, the story fell apart like a road apple in a blender, as Dan Rather himself might say. But instead of admitting his mistake and begging for forgiveness like Henry in the snows of Canossa, Dan Rather, the Dean of Smug Liberal Journalists Who Refuse to Admit They Are Liberal, handcuffed himself to the drowning story and tried to swim to the sunny shores of FakeButAccuratonia. He was last seen on late-night C-SPAN pretending that the story was true because no respectable news outlet had proven it false (a standard which also proves that Dan Rather buggers goats and eats baby hamsters). One is loath to overstate the importance of Memogate, but even four out of five dentists agree this was simply the best thing ever to happen, ever.

Of course, conservatives don’t always put the dots together. Sometimes the dots just fall like manna from heaven. Jayson Blair, Howell Raines, Steve Glass, Sleepy, Snoozy, Bashful et al. on occasion just wander into our line of sight like a Texas lawyer coming up behind the vice president. Like Whittingtons in a barrel, the MSM have made themselves an easy target. And unlike poor Mr. Whittington, they’ve made themselves a deserving one as well. . . .

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Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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