Rep. Tim Griffin, political black ops professional first out of the gate
So the first words out of Arkansas congressman (and Karl Rove protege) Tim Griffin's mouth, just minutes after the shooting incident at the Capitol, was this repulsive drivel:
Griffin is a professional GOP political hit man from way back. He knows from violent rhetoric. This is from the 2000 campaign when he was a major player in the black oppo research team for George W. Bush:
And so - on the night of the first debate - we see a pumped-up Tim Griffin (deputy head of RNC Research) barking orders to his large team of "oppos." Lehrer tosses Gore the question about him having cast doubt on whether Bush has sufficient experience to lead. Gore demurs and parses his response. Griffin leaps into loud action. Within minutes his team have tracked down an obscure Gore quote buried within the transcript of a lengthy speech. Gotcha! "It directly contradicts what he just said in the debate! He just lied!" crows Griffin. Seconds later Griffin has fed the contradiction to the Associated Press. This is beyond post-debate spin. This is play-by-play impeachment. And incredibly effective.
Moments later the topic is the Balkans. Gore speaks of how the First World War started there and says "my uncle was a victim of poison gas there." The RNC oppo staff giggles at this and Griffin bellows: "This family stuff is killing me... let's check his uncle! Let's see if it's Witt Lafont. He's under investigation for drug-trafficking..." There is a flurry of activity and history books being consulted - and then palpable disappointment that Gore's uncle really was a gas victim. "OK so that is not a lie..." Griffin grimaces and phones the bad news to a waiting colleague: "Hey... we confirmed the uncle tear-gas story...."
But when Gore makes what turns out to be his misstatement about visiting Texan fire sites with James Lee Witt (Director of FEMA) - Griffin senses blood. "Have Jeanette take a look at that!" he cries. And his hunch is right. Gore has transposed dates or people. And that gives Griffin another opportunity.
The BBC cameras catch him on the phone exulting to a colleague: "You know what this would be perfect for is... Get one of these AP reporters or somebody on it for the next few days and then we get a lie out of it... and roll a few days with a new lie!"
And "LIE" was what they got. The New York Post trumpets LIAR LIAR on its front page - and the post-debate spin cycle becomes about Gore's perceived chronic character flaw. And so it has gone every week since the debates. The image is enshrined.
Was the fact that Gore DID visit Texan firesites - but on that occasion with another FEMA executive relevant? Did it matter that he had made other visits to Texas with James Lee Witt? Were Gore's words a misstatement or a lie? What would have been the benefit in intentionally lying about such a trivial fact? Was it important either way?
To Griffin it is all very simple:
"If there's something really good that we can attack on then we will... Research is a fundamental point. We think of ourselves as the creators of the ammunition in a war. Research digs up the ammunition.. We make the bullets."
Update: Griffin has now explained that he was tweeting "out of emotion":
Arkansas Congressman Tim Griffin, a Republican, said he had “tweeted out of emotion” on Thursday after appearing to blame Democrats for a shooting on Capitol Hill.
“The victims and their families are in my thoughts and prayers,” Griffin said in a text message to BuzzFeed. “The shooting today is a terrible and inexcusable tragedy and an act of terrorism. No one but the shooter is to blame.”
“We are still processing information about this shooting, but as I have been saying for days, we all need to choose our words wisely because violent rhetoric only coarsens our culture, creates an atmosphere of incivility and is not helpful. I tweeted out of emotion but agree that the timing was not helpful,” Griffin said.
Yes, he's the picture of civility.
Update II: Weigel caught this as well:
Once a hack, always a hack.