Thursday, March 29, 2007

David S. Broder Commits Yet More Journamalism

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Five years. Five years for the Post at most if it keeps printing the likes of David Broder:

David S. Broder - When the Woodshed Isn't Enough - Reagan... couldn't bring himself to let Stockman go -- after the young budgeteer had committed an egregious breach of loyalty.... Stockman devised the first Reagan budget, with its broad tax cuts and big boosts in military spending, and helped move it through Congress over the objections of skeptical Democrats.... When Greider published an article based on the interviews, called "The Education of David Stockman," in the Atlantic magazine, all hell broke loose.

Stockman told Greider that the Reagan budget was built on false premises, that it employed a "magic asterisk" to conceal the size of its inevitable deficits and that the tax cuts he had championed were really designed to benefit the wealthy. The detailed accounting of the internal battles that produced a budget that would saddle the country with years of debt was a stunning indictment of the very administration in which Stockman was serving...

But, David, Stockman's big problem wasn't that he was disloyal to Ronald Reagan. Stockman's big problem was that he recommended to Reagan--and successfully pushed--policies that were bad for the country. It wasn't his breach of personal loyalty to Reagan that was the most "egregious" thing about him.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Politico Plagued by Rookie Mistakes

Ooof! It is a real rookie mistake to get in bed with Matt Drudge:

Attytood: "Premonition," starring Matt Drudge and The Politico's Mike Allen: Now, the bigshots over at Media Matters are on the case, and they have made an amazing discovery... the Drudge Report had a link waiting for Mike Allen's hit piece on Sen. Barack Obama... one hour before the piece actually appeared online...

And Ron Mills:

Ron Mills- News And Commentary: Rookie mistakes plague The Politico: [W]ith the whole world watching, The Politico, in existence for less than three months, botched the Elizabeth Edwards cancer story and falsely reported -- based on just one anonymous source -- that her husband would be dropping out of the presidential race. Yep, that would be a doozy...

[Y]ou could follow it up with the story -- as so well related by Glenn Greenwald last week -- of how the new Internet site wrongly reported that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would soon resign...

[H] The Politico also apologized for creating a right-wing talking point with the phrase "slow bleed" to describe the Democrats' Iraq strategy.

And on the substance of Mike Allen's hit piece at The Politico:

[W]riters save the best for first, and so here is Allen's lead-in:

Speaking early this month at a church in Selma, Ala., Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said: "I'm in Washington. I see what's going on. I see those powers and principalities have snuck back in there, that they're writing the energy bills and the drug laws." It was a fine populist riff calculated to appeal to Democratic audiences as Obama seeks his party's presidential nomination. But not only did Obama vote for the Senate's big energy bill in 2005, he also put out a press release bragging about its provisions, and his Senate Web site carries a news article about the vote headlined, "Senate energy bill contains goodies for Illinois." The press release said he voted for the bill "reluctantly" because he wanted something "bolder," and his staff says there was nothing inconsistent about the comment in Selma...

That's it?... I'd assume that Obama wants to be president so he could help craft a "bolder" energy policy than the one he reluctantly voted for. That's a rookie mistake?... [T]he tale does illustrate why no sitting U.S. senator has been elected president since 1960, because they're forced to explain their votes for or against murky compromise packages like this one. When I read this, I figured there had to be a lot more mistakes coming to justify the heated headline (and Drudge treatment). But the mistake was mine.... I won't rehash the No. 2 anecdote, which is cribbed (with proper credit) from the Chicago Tribune, and basically says that no one has been able to find a magazine picture from the 1960s -- when he was elementary-school age -- that shaped his views on race. Obama recalled it was in Life and apparently it wasn't, so it may or may not have run somewhere else. As I recall myself, being roughly the same age as Obama, there were a lot of magazines laying around in the 1960s. Well, this is a shame because I thought Obama could be a decent president before I learned that one childhood memory had played a trick on him. Yes, that was sarcasm...

And there's more:

August J. Pollak - Drudge's Politicodependent: The developing MO of the Politico is really starting to bother me.... I don't understand how anyone finds nonsense like this acceptable. The purpose of journalism, especially new publications operating under the guise of being legitimate competitors to places like Salon and TalkingPointsMemo, is to not be Matt Drudge. Instead, not only is the Politico apparently whoring themselves to Drudge for traffic, they're adapting his process of "reporting."... [W]e're rapidly entering Some Guy With a Website territory, and that shouldn't just be negative for the Politico, it should be embarrassing...

Journamalism from Chris Matthews, Norah O'Donnell, Richard Stengel, Gloria Borger, and Patrick Healy

The Carpetbagger Report:

: The Chris Matthews Show devoted four minutes to the prosecutor purge scandal over the weekend, which quickly worked its way onto YouTube. Glenn Greenwald called it "the most revealing" YouTube clip ever. Before watching it, I thought he was probably exaggerating. Then I saw it for myself.... I've included a full transcript below. I think it's worth watching/reading, in part because it offers so much insight into how cliquish, myopic media personalities consider political events, and how their misguided perceptions shape news coverage.

It's a four-minute segment, televised nationally, featuring prominent media figures.... Norah O'Donnell, chief Washington correspondent for MSNBC; Richard Stengel, editor of Time magazine; Gloria Borger, national political correspondent for CBS News and a columnist for U.S. News and World Report; and Patrick Healy, a political reporter for the New York Times. The problem wasn't just that... the panel... ignored the seriousness of the controversy, though it did... [and the panel went] without even a hint of a substantive comment, though it did that, too. The more startling problem was that these five... expressed... contempt... those who deign to believe the administration deserves scrutiny.

Glenn [Greenwald] explained:

Whatever one thinks of how convincing the available evidence is thus far, nobody who has an even basic understanding of how our government functions could dispute that the accusations in this scandal are extremely serious. Presumably, even those incapable of ingesting the danger of having U.S. attorneys fired due to their refusal to launch partisan-motivated prosecutions (or stifle prosecutions for partisan reasons) at least understand that it is highly disturbing and simply intolerable for the Attorney General... to lie repeatedly... including to Congress... with the obvious assent and (at the very least) implicit cooperation of the White House. Even the most vapid media stars should be able to understand that.

And then we watch the four-minute video from The Chris Matthews Show and know better. None of them even wanted to consider whether the controversy matters or whether the allegations surrounding the scandal had merit. The panel and its host appeared outraged... at Democrats who keep asking pesky questions about obstruction of justice.

This comment from Time's Richard Stengel stood out:

"I am so uninterested in the Democrats wanting Karl Rove, because it is so bad for them. Because it shows business as usual, tit for tat, vengeance."

It's rather startling.... What on earth is Stengel talking about? It's "bad for them" to hold the White House accountable for possibly criminal conduct? It's "business as usual" to have White House oversight for the first time in seven years? If this whole matter is about "vengeance"... why are some Republican lawmakers... calling on Gonzales's ouster?...

Here's the transcript I promised....

MATTHEWS: Joe [Biden']s honest. Democrats are frustrated that Rove wasn't indicted in the CIA leak case, but now that he's been implicated in the firing of those US attorneys, it looks to some people as though Democrats are smelling blood. Gloria, are they after Rove?

Ms. BORGER: Sure. You know, he's the cross between Ahab and Darth Vader for them, for the Democrats. And honestly, they would love nothing more than to get him up before a congressional committee.


Ms. BORGER: But they want to change the subject, Chris. They don't want to talk about how they're doing on the war in Iraq or where they're...

MATTHEWS: You're with me on that. They divide over the war and fund-raising, but this makes it simple. It's good for fund-raising.

Ms. BORGER: Right.

MATTHEWS: Guess who's making this case? Chuck Schumer, who's the chief fund-raiser.

Ms. BORGER: Of course.

MATTHEWS: Rick, here's the question. When the dog catches the car, what do they do? They want a confession, like on "Perry Mason," where Rove just says, 'You're right, I'm no good.' Do they want him to show his horns and be really nasty? Or do they want him to get into a perjury rap? What're they after with this guy?

Mr. STENGEL: Well, as Joe Biden implied, it looks like the car would run over the dog in that case. And there are no--there are no "Perry Mason" moments except for "Perry Mason" I am so uninterested in the Democrats wanting Karl Rove, because it is so bad for them. Because it shows business as usual, tit for tat, vengeance.

MATTHEWS: (Unintelligible).

Ms. BORGER: Mm-hmm.

Mr. STENGEL: That's not what voters want to see.

MATTHEWS: So instead of like an issue like the war where you can say it's bigger than all of us, it's more important than politics, this is politics.

Mr. STENGEL: Yes, and it's much less. It's small bore politics.

O'DONNELL: The Democrats have to be very careful that they look like they're not the party of investigation rather than legislation in trying to change things.


O'DONNELL: But yes, they want a public flogging of Karl Rove up on Capitol Hill, to draw him up there when all of the cable networks cover that live, and to just beat the heck of him out there...


O'DONNELL: ...and to put him under fierce questioning. The reason that the White House is resisting is not only on what they believe is grounds of, you know, executive privilege and etc., but also because they believe if they give on this issue, Karl Rove will be up there every other week on Katrina...


O'DONNELL: ...on CIA leak, on a whole number of other things.

Mr. HEALY: And they've also had several years out of power, where they saw, you know, Dick Cheney come swaggering onto the Senate floor and cuss out, you know, Democratic senators, swear in their faces. This is their time for levers of power, and the Democrats say they want to use them.

MATTHEWS: What do they want?

Ms. BORGER: They want the American public to see their public enemy number one. You know, Karl Rove is one of the people, like the guy pulling the strings, the wizard, you know, and...


Ms. BORGER: And the American public doesn't really know Karl Rove, and for some reason they think that it would help the Democrats to get him out there. I'm not so sure.

MATTHEWS: I think we're all on--we're not sure of the Democrat strategy here once again. We put it to the Matthews Meter, 12 of our regular panelists. Will the attorney general Alberto Gonzales keep his job? This one's close. Seven say he'll stick to his job, hold on to it, and five say he's on the way out. Gloria, you say he's toast.

Ms. BORGER: Eventually. Not now.

MATTHEWS: After he testifies?

Ms. BORGER: After he testifies and maybe a little bit while after that. Little bit longer after that.

MATTHEWS: That's what I think. I think they're going to let him skewer for a while.

Ms. BORGER: Yeah.

MATTHEWS: Norah, you say he's not toast.

O'DONNELL: Well, I think that the president wants him to stay on in the job. I think that they realize replacing him would be just as difficult because then he'd have to be confirmed by a Democratic Congress, and I think that there is a degree of loyalty to this man that has worked with the president for a long time.

MATTHEWS: I think there's going to be some sympathy for this guy, he's Latino, he's not a real politician. If those guys trash him up there, it's going--it could backfire.


The Editors on U.S. Attorneys on National Review Online

National Review Is Shrill!

The Editors on U.S. Attorneys on National Review Online: [C]ongressional Democrats... may yet turn up enough evidence to prove that some of the firings were improper violations of political norms. We do not need more evidence, however, to reach a conclusion about the suitability of Alberto Gonzales for the leadership of the Department of Justice.... [W]e have never seen evidence that he has a fine legal mind, good judgment, or managerial ability....

His claim not to have been involved in the firings suggests that he was either deceptive or inexcusably detached from the operations of his own department.... Gonzales's latest tactic has been to concede that improper motives may have played a role in the firings, but to blame his underlings for any misconduct and to pledge to get to the bottom of it.

What little credibility Gonzales had is gone. All that now keeps him in office, save the friendship of the president, is the conviction of many Republicans that removing him would embolden the Democrats. It is an overblown fear. The Democrats will pursue scandals, real or invented, whether or not Gonzales stays. But they have an especially inviting target in Gonzales. He cannot defend the administration and its policies even when they deserve defense...

Matthew Yglesias Is Shrill

He writes:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: I'd heard this study mentioned before, but now here's the link, courtesy of Brian Beutler. It shows that "the offices of the U.S. Attorneys across the nation investigate seven (7) times as many Democratic officials as they investigate Republican officials, a number that exceeds even the racial profiling of African Americans in traffic stops."

To state what I guess isn't clear to much of the national press corps, this is the scandal behind the scandal of the US Attorney firings. The issue isn't merely that a handful of US Attorneys seem to have lost jobs they shouldn't have lost -- they'll be okay all things consider -- but that if a handful of US Attorneys get fired for refusing to mal-administer justice, what does that tell us about the ones who aren't getting fired? The linked study is one strong piece of circumstantial evidence that something very fishy is up, and the firings are a second such piece...

The Swamphusband Is Really Shrill

Chris Lehmann gets medieval on the Bushies--and on Michael Kinsley too:

The Pleasurers of the President: The D.C. pundits are swooning in chorus. Dr. Krauthammer, with much jowly regret, called for Mr. Gonzales to resign over his clumsy handling of the fallout from the controversy, but confidently dubbed the controversy proper a “pseudo scandal.” Time magazine columnist Michael Kinsley recited the standard media line, pronouncing in a sweeping but ignorant flourish of capital insiderism that “there is … nothing illegal about a president firing a U.S. attorney. There is nothing even … wrong with it.” (It’s precisely this sort of razor-sharp skepticism that has evidently earned Mr. Kinsley The Week magazine’s 2006 “Columnist of the Year” award.)...

This kind of louche pundit hubris stems from the see-no-evil thinking Mr. Kinsley cheerfully professes: Without a clearly enumerated violation of a section of the U.S. Code, preferably photocopied and highlighted in yellow by a panel of judges, it has to be perverse partisan grandstanding--and quite probably conspiracy-mongering--to suggest an abuse of power has occurred. Never mind that the various rationales offered by Messrs. Gonzales, Rove and others vanished the moment that Congress began wading through the Justice Department's own archived e-mails, dumped unceremoniously in a single 3,000-page ream two weeks ago (though with 16 days' worth of Justice cyber-exchanges inexplicably missing). The administration's primary line of defense--that the canned lawyers didn't perform to snuff--fell to ground with the Justice-approved request from dismissed New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias for a job reference from Mr. Gonzales. Then the pitiful claim that the lawyers weren't pursuing cases in accord with prime administration policy directives shriveled up and died, with a number of exchanges showing the Young Turks in Justice frantically trying to come up with such directives well after the fact.

Meanwhile, Justice officials are already making it seem like they have plenty to hide. When Mr. Leahy declined President Bush’s request to allow staffers to speak to the committee without swearing oaths and with no transcript, significant players started clamming up.

Yesterday, the attorney for Mr. Gonzales’ senior counselor at Justice, Monica M. Goodling, announced that his client plans to plead the Fifth before the Leahy committee.

Never mind as well that the additional rationales which editorialists such as Mr. Kinsley thoughtfully provided for Messrs. Gonzales, Rove & Co.—that the Clinton administration exercised the same “pleasure of the president” authority in canning all 93 appointed U.S. attorneys as it came to power in 1993—were likewise contradicted in the Justice e-mails, which showed Mr. Gonzales’ recently resigned chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, plainly stipulating that Justice’s lawyer purge could not be measured against the Clinton precedent.

Now, in a grand irony that no one in their number has paused to note, the members of the D.C. pundit corps have spent the entire buildup to this confrontation echoing the very sort of gnat-straining legal justifications they derided throughout the Clinton years. Like Al Gore confronted with the unlovely evidence of his exuberant fund-raising style, they all have insisted that there is no controlling legal authority here.

Except, of course, this case is all about legal authority of the most destructively controlling sort. “You particularly have the legal branch of government trashing the law,” says legal historian Stanley I. Kutler, author of the Nixon-tapes chronicle Abuse of Power. “The rule of law isn’t applying to the rulers any longer.”

Mr. Kutler notes as well that this sort of core tampering with the separation of powers isn’t exactly easy to reel back once it’s been unleashed. “So am I supposed to think that Hillary will instantly bring my habeas corpus back?” Mr. Kutler asks. “For 40 years, I taught legal and constitutional history. I’m glad I’m no longer teaching. If I had to give one of those lectures today, I’d have to tell my students, ‘This is all now bullshit.’”

Veterans of past Justice Departments feel much the same outrage.

“When I joined the Justice Department in 1990,” recalls Jonathan Shapiro, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, “there were still folks around who would tell you the story about how they lined the hallways to give Elliott Richardson a standing ovation when he left,” after the then Attorney General resigned in protest over Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. “When I left the job in 1998, there was still the sense that it was verboten to fuck around the with the U.S. attorneys. No one had the brass to fire them for political motivations—it would look far too craven, partisan and dirty.”

What’s more, Mr. Shapiro, who now teaches at the U.S.C. Law School, suggests that capable prosecutors could indeed identify significant trespasses against the criminal code in the scandal.

“There is a part of the mail-fraud statute that says it shall be mail fraud or wire fraud to deprive the people of honest goods and services. That has often been used to target corrupt government officials, or union officials who have figured out a way to deprive their memberships of fair elections.

“Now it seems to me there’s a strong prima facie case to be made that these narrow political firings are depriving citizens of these attorneys’ districts of the Justice Department’s honest services.”

Rick Stengel Drives Greg Sargent Shriller!

Yes, Rick Stengel has done a horrible thing to the onetime mild-mannered Greg Sargent:

Horses Mouth March 28, 2007 01:53 PM: Does The Guy Who Runs Time Magazine Read Political Polls? Via Atrios, don't miss this Swampland post by Ana Marie Cox, in which she coaxes some eye-opening quotes out of Time managing editor Rick Stengel.

Makes you wonder: Does the guy who happens to run one of America's leading newsweeklies read political polls?

Stengel's been taking a bit of a hammering ever since Glenn Greenwald banished him to the blogospheric dog house over a TV appearance in which he said that it would be "bad" for Democrats if they probed Karl Rove because voters don't want this to happen. Greenwald, and then Cox, quite rightly asked Stengel how he knew this. To which Stengel replied:

In reading your reaction to my comments on Chris Matthews, I realize that I've been caught out speaking as a citizen rather than as editor of Time. Lord knows, the Democrats going after Karl Rove is "interesting" in an objective way for Time and for journalists in general. It's hard to overstate Rove's role in this administration and it would certainly create yards of headlines and good copy if the Democrats manage to get some traction. But as a citizen, I think it's unfortunate and perhaps short-sighted for Democrats to be perceived as focusing on the past rather than the future. If people see the Democrats as obsessively concerned with settling scores, that's not good for the Democrats or the country. And I would make the exact same statement about the Republicans if they were in this situation.

But, again, Mr. Stengel, the question is, What basis is there for these assertions? As I understand it, Greenwald and Cox were asking for, you know, empirical information -- otherwise known as "evidence." This reply only compounds the question. Why is there any reason to assume that people will be predisposed to see Dems as "focusing on the past" or "obsessively concerned with settling scores" if they impose oversight on the GOP after voters handed them power while saying that government corruption was a key reason for their doing so?

As luck would have it, there is actual info out there about how the public is generally predisposed towards such matters. Here's a poll by Newsweek (the competition!) from after the election saying that solid majorities support investigations into various areas of potential wrongdoing. Meanwhile, here's a CNN poll from just before the election that found that 57% thought it would be "good for the country" if Congressional Dems probed the Bush administration. And here's a Gallup poll cited by Greenwald that found overwhelming public support for the more specific question of whether Congress should investigate the Attorney Purge.

Look, Stengel can say he's speaking as a "citizen," but this citizen is also the managing editor of one of the nation's top newsweeklies, and it's kinda off-putting to learn that someone with such journalistic influence either:

(a) knows what these polls say but is not letting them interfere with his view that the American public is predisposed to see Congressional oversight in such negative terms; or

(b) uninterested in consulting said evidence to learn what folks actually think about such matters before speaking for them with the authority of, yes, Time magazine's managing editor.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Memo to Joe Lieberman: A Good Liar Needs a Better Memory than You Have

TPM Election Central is shrill!

Whoops! Lieberman Inadvertently Reveals His Repeated Dissembling On Iraq | TPMCafe: Lieberman's key quote:

It is clear that for the first time in a long time, there is reason for cautious optimism about Iraq."

But...but...sputter...sputter... If this is the "first time in a long time" that there's been "reason for optimism," does that mean Lieberman didn't mean it all those other times in the recent past when he suggested there was reason for optimism about Iraq? Examples after the jump.

Lieberman speech to the American Enterprise Institute, January 5, 2007 (via Nexis):

My own impression, having been there again most recently, is that it remains winnable. And it remains winnable in the first case for something that should be self-evident, but I hear it from the Iraqis we talk to, I heard it from our own soldiers who interact with the Iraqis...our troops believe they can win, and that's really important. And a colonel followed me out and said, quite emotionally, "Sir, I regret that I did not have a chance to say this in the meeting. I want you to know on behalf of the soldiers in my unit and myself that we understand why we're here. We believe in the mission. We are confident we can win it. And we want to fight it to a victorious finish. We need some more troops to make that happen." And that's what this moment is all about.

Lieberman-Lamont debate, July 6, 2006 (via Nexis):

LIEBERMAN: The situation in Iraq is a lot better, different than it was a year ago. The Iraqis held three elections. They formed a unity government. They are on the way to building a free and independent Iraq. Their military -- two-thirds of their military is now ready, on their own, to lead the fight with some logistical backing from the U.S. or stand up on their own totally. That`s progress.

Also from the Lieberman-Lamont debate:

I am confident that the situation is improving enough on the ground that by the end of this year we will being to draw down significant numbers of American troops and by the end of next year more than half of the troops who are there now will be home.

Op-ed by Lieberman in The Wall Street Journal:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn. Progress is visible and practical.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Roger Ailes, Freedom Fighter (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)

The Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation drives Josh Micah Marshall further into shrillness: >Roger Ailes, Freedom Fighter: The papers are noting that the Nevada Democrats have pulled out of a presidential debate scheduled for Reno because its "co-host" is Fox News. The trigger was a Roger Ailes speech March 8 (the clip in its full splendor is here) in which that propaganda bureau's CEO, with his usual subtlety, cracked this joke: >>And it is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don't know if i's true that President Bush called Musharraf and said: "Why can't we catch this guy?" >Good for Harry Reid for blowing the whistle.... But there's another angle that's escaped the notice it deserves: Ailes delivered himself of this crackerjack moment of rich American mirth as he accepted the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation's First Amendment Leadership Award. >You read this straight. The principal national association of radio and television news directors chose to associate Fox News with "work on behalf of press freedom."... These are America's electronic news deciders and this is the man they honored and this is how they reacted.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Your Right Hand Thief and Brad DeLong Are Shrill!

I see that the New Orleans-based Your Right Hand Thief is very unhappy at an article in the American Enterprise Institute's magazine about his city by Tom "Albert Einstein Was Wrong! Really Wrong!" Bethell. AEI's reputation as the world's preeminent fantasy-based think-tank is so already so strong that it cannot afford more episodes like this.

Here's a piece from my archives, about Tom Bethell:

Conservative Fear of Albert Einstein: I came across a marvelously funny column by... Tom Bethell: "Doubting Dada Physics."... The column's subject is:

...[a] solitary genius [Petr Beckmann]... publish[ing] his own ideas and discoveries at a time of growing intellectual corruption in the academy... [who] undermined Einstein's theory of relativity, and... show[ed] how physics could be returned to the classical foundation from which it was dislodged at the beginning of the twentieth century...

Now three things make [Bethell's] column funny:

  • Relativity was not the most important disruption of "classical" nineteenth-century physics. Quantum mechanics provoked a much bigger and much spookier revision of the classical and common sense world view. From Bethell's perspective--given his ultimate political goal--he is shooting at the wrong target.
  • Special relativity is one of the best-confirmed theories in history. Every time you run an electric motor, every time a cosmic ray particle falls from the sky, every time physicists fire up a particle accelerator, every time you use the Global Positioning System to figure out where you are, you confirm relativity. Theories that "disagree" with relativity do so only around its very edges, by making different predictions about the results of experiments that cannot have been run yet, or that we will never be able to run.
  • Our intuitions about time and space are derived from our own experience, living as we do on a planet and moving at velocities much, much lower than the speed of light. It makes little sense for Bethell to raise these intuitions to the status of "the most basic precepts of science... the alpha and omega of the material world--the irreducible character of time and space": as little sense as it would for someone living on the great plains to deny the existence of oceans.

It is not clear to me from Bethell's column whether Beckmann understands relativity... it is clear that Bethell does not understand... and that he is attacking it because of what he presumes are the moral and political implications of relativity physics. He is... the opposite of Galileo--instead of "And yet it moves," he is closing his eyes to a huge amount of experimental evidence and saying, earnestly if incoherently, "and yet it stands still."

But there are unfunny parts to the column as well.

First, conservatives who dislike Einstein do so for one of two reasons:

  • Because the admission that measurements of time and space depend on the motion of the observer is in their minds' somehow tied up with the erosion of traditional cultural "absolutes," and scientific truth should be sacrificed to cultural order whenever necessary. In Bethell's article is a whiff of the silencing of Galileo Galilei, the burning of Giordano Bruno, or Trofim Lysenko's sending Russian geneticists to the GULAG.... Bethell would be opposed to the teaching of relativity even if he believed it was true.
  • Because Einstein was a Jew: the meme of anti-Einstein thought in modern conservatism is a legacy of anti-semitism.

Opposition to relativity for politico-cultural reasons and opposition to relativity as a legacy of anti-semitism are usually inextricably mixed. Neither is attractive. In Bethell's article, you can see: (i) the hint that Einstein's purpose in proposing his obviously absurd theory was to attack traditional cultural and aesthetic forms; (ii) the hint of a conspiracy of silence among physicists to prop up Einstein's reputation for sinister purposes; (iii) the claim that relativity's attraction to "intellectuals" arises because it is "abstruse... deliciously disrespectful... marvelously baffling to the bourgeoisie." All three of these have roots in anti-semitic visons of the secret conspiracy of over-clever but deceptive Jews--"rootless cosmopolitans" who lack the earthy common sense and grounding in the soil... out to undermine the faith and social order of the simple Christian Volk.

Second, Bethell spends most of his time as a political columnist--and his political judgment is as bad as his scientific.

I've attached the bulk of the column below. Statements that are simply wrong are in red.

UPDATE: Your Right Hand Thief gets even more upset:

Now I understand. James K. Glassman is the editor of The American. Glassman lived in New Orleans during the 70's and started the alt-weekly newspaper Figaro.... He predicted stocks would fall if Clinton were re-elected in 1996. Then, he founded Tech Central Station and wrote a book in 1999 called Dow 36,000. Talking about the book, Glassman said the following in October 1999: "What is dangerous is for Americans not to be in the market. We're going to reach a point where stocks are correctly priced, and we think that's 36,000 ... It's not a bubble. Far from it. The stock market is undervalued." At the end of 1999, Glassman thought it was "dangerous" for Americans not to be in the market. Thus, his current optimism about New Orleans' rebirth does not instill confidence.

Robert Reich's Blog: The Other 85 U.S. Attorneys

Robert Reich asks an important question:

Robert Reich's Blog: The Other 85 U.S. Attorneys: The real question isn’t whether the eight U.S. attorneys were fired because they refused to carry out the Republicans’ political agenda. It’s obvious to anyone with a brain capable of processing information that’s exactly why they were fired. The real question concerns the other eighty-five U.S. attorneys who are still there. What kind of political vendettas have they engaged in, in exchange for keeping their jobs? Until all the information is out about the White House’s and the Attorney General’s political operation, a cloud hangs over the entire federal prosecutorial system. Senator Pat Leahy, whom Dick Cheney suggested copulating with himself, and who now runs the Senate Judiciary, should bear this in mind.

Why Is the Weekly Standard So Anti-Israel?

It is certainly true that the policies typically advocated in the pages of magazines like the New Republic and the Weekly Standard are as if calculated to raise the chance of the destruction of Israel--to increase the odds that Tel Aviv will become a radioactive abattoir sometime in the next fifty years. It is rare, however, that one sees as enthusiastic endorsement of those working for the military destruction of Israel and the elimination of Judaism as this Weekly Standard piece by Abby Wisse Schachter:

Friends in Need: Zev Chafets write[s] a book about Jews and evangelicals.... A Match Made in Heaven is his effort to get to know Christian Zionists, understand why they are so supportive of Israel, and educate American Jews that they should reconsider their negative attitude. "Evangelical Christians," Chafets writes, "are, in an unprecedented way, extending a hand of friendship and wartime alliance to Jews; and the ancient tribal instinct to slap that hand away is a dangerous one."...

Most Jews aren't really worried about proselytizing evangelicals, or even Christian Zionists' belief in Armageddon. What Jews hate are Republicans and the conservative agenda.... Dicker, like Alan Dershowitz, and like most American Jews, is more committed to the liberal Democratic political agenda than she is to Israel. Unlike evangelicals, these Jews didn't see Israel's security trumping everything else. They can't bring themselves to make common cause with conservative Zionist Christians because they hate the conservative agenda more than they love Israel.

Chafets has a warning for Dicker, Dershowitz, and the rest: The hand of friendship is being offered in good faith, and for a limited time. "Jews and evangelicals are major stakeholders is opposing parties," he writes. "But the Judeo-Christian bargain doesn't require Jews to become Republicans, much less Christians. It simply requires a change in attitude and tone."

He is putting the case simplistically in order not to offend the very Jews he wants to attract, and that is where his book falters. Jews have a lot more work to do than just changing their tone.

Memo to Israelis and to the friends of Israel:

Christian evangelicals who want to see and pray daily for the military destruction of Israel and the elimination of Judaism are not "offering" "the hand of friendship." They are doing something else.

Matthew Yglesias

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Dual Loyalties: "Jews can't seem to tolerate, let alone embrace, the fastest growing Christian movement in America, a movement that views support for Israel as central to its mission," whines Abby Wisse Schachter in The Weekly Standard.... Christian Zionism's "support" for Israel has become increasingly unhinged. I think... an Israeli military strike on Iran would... be counterproductive to Israeli security interests in several ways. John Hagee goes much further... and actually believes an Israeli attack on Iran will lead to Israel's conquest and utter extinction.... Hagee runs a group called Christians United for Israel and thinks US policy should be aimed at encouraging Israel to launch the war he believes will lead to its conquest and destruction. AIPAC... is Hagee's best pal but most Jewish Americans can smell a rat...

More Journamalism...

Belle Waring watches Jonah Goldberg, one of the past winners of the Stupidest Man Alive prize:

John & Belle Have A Blog: You don't have anything personal against me do you? You bet I've got something personal against you!: Towering intellect:

The Planet Has A Fever [Jonah Goldberg]: It would be so cool if Pringle's did a parody of the Gore testimony about how the planet has a fever for the flavor of a Pringle...

Considering the above, how likely do Goldberg's claims about his delayed book Liberal Fascism sound?

My book isn't like Dinesh's latest book. It isn't like any Ann Coulter book. It isn't what the Amazon description says or what the Economist claims it is. Or what Frank Rich imagines it is. It is a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care...

For example, the Amazon page describes the book like so: "Impeccably researched and persuasively argued, [em. mine] LIBERAL FASCISM will elicit howls of indignation from the liberal establishment–and rousing cheers from the Right." I would imagine Jonah will be wanting to clear that up any time now.

Note that Jonah Goldberg is the person whom Peter Beinart of the New Republic chooses for his web-TV extravaganza. You are judged by the company you keep, Peter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The National Review's Rich Lowry Is Shrill!

Rich Lowry Is Shrill:

The Dallas Morning News | DallasMorningViews Blog E-mail This Entry: Another factor shaping the political environment: the Bush administration’s increasing association with executive dysfunction. The administration’s stumbles have created an implicit “competence primary” in the Republican race.... [T]he incompetence charge has gained such traction that even many Republicans buy it. Some of Bush’s strengths as a political leader, particularly his loyalty and optimism, have proven to have a double edge when it comes to running the government. He has made a few key bad decisions about policy and personnel, compounded them by not reacting quickly enough when things began to go wrong, and failed to create a sense of accountability in his government. He has seemed to have a much stronger sense of ends than means, and neglected the relation between the two.

The upshot is that even Republican primary voters will be looking in 2008 for someone who doesn’t run the government like George W. Bush.

Brad DeLong Calls Shrill Bulls--- on Karen Tumulty

First, Karen Tumulty writes on Time's weblog about how what she is doing in her day job is bulls---:

Swampland - TIME: Political reporters (including me) from virtually every big news outfit were on hand last night to cover a forum at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government that featured handlers for Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. Most of us had also been there two weeks before, for a similar exercise with operatives from the most talked-about Republicans, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. As a conventional political story, it did not disappoint. There were pyrotechnics... pretty good copy...

And she tells us what she thinks she and her peers should be covering: the surprising strength of Connecticut's Chris Dodd:

Meanwhile, what passed unnoted was the fact that, on that very same evening and in that very same city, another candidate--Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee--was raking in a very respectable $250,000. Normally, a guy who could haul in that much at one event would pretty much automatically qualify for what is conventionally assumed to be the top tier of candidates. But I haven't heard anyone in the punditocracy giving Dodd much of a chance...

But she doesn't tell us the reason that Chris Dodd is such a fundraising powerhouse. It is not that lots of people think he would make a very good president (although he is a very good senator) and think he has a reasonable chance of winning the office (although he is a very good politician). It is that he is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and it is hard to think of a rich person who does not contemplate having business that comes before the Senate Banking Committee in the next two years. Chris Dodd's success at fund raising does not mean what Karen Tumulty wants her readers to think that it means.

So beneath the first layer of bulls--- that Karen Tumulty purveys in her day job, there is a second layer of bulls--- that she purveys on Time's weblog.

It doesn't get much better. She continues:

[C]onsider the qualifications of two other Democrats... all but ignored by the national media... Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, who has been the very successful Hispanic Governor of New Mexico. These are hardly fringe candidates.... [W]hat... define[s] the leading contenders in the media narrative... is celebrity. They lead the polls and the fundraising largely because of name recognition.... Public opinion of Hilary Clinton registers well above 40% unfavorable, Barack Obama's record in federal office adds up to a whopping two years... John Edwards wasn't even able to carry his own state...

Tumulty is unfair to all three. To pick one, Barack Obama is not a "celenrity" in the sense of being well-known for his well-known-ness. Barack Obama (a) gives a hell of a speech, (b) had a successful pre-political legal career, (c) has impressed the hell out of everybody I know who has spent significant time with him, and (d) has the solid backing of a cohesive Punahoe and HLS-based faction. There are a few former first ladies, a number of Black politicians, and a huge number of ex-trial lawyers who want to be in politics. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards each bring considerably more to the party. I call a third layer of bulls---.

But that isn't all. Tumulty has one more cow pie to her pasture:

Still... unaddressed... are... substantive differences... on actual issues.... Each of the three campaigns... presented themselves largely along thematic lines...

But there is little daylight between the positions on issues of relatively centrist Democrats. They would all--Dodd, Richardson, Biden, Rodham Clinton, Obama, and Edwards--draw on the same Democratic talent pool for their cabinet and subcabinet appointments, and the issues and dilemmas will not present a different face depending on who becomes president. Which of them would make the best president hinges on their ability to inspire, to mobilize, to organize, and to take good and discard bad advice. The idea that differences in positions on issues are important--this is Tumulty's fourth layer of bulls---.

And is Tumulty any good at telling us anything about which of these six would actually make the best president? No. Not at all.

Michael Kinsley Drives Ana Marie Cox Shrill!

Ana Marie Cox doesn't like the way Michael Kinsley misrepresents her. Her commenters don't like Michael Kinsley either:

More: Re: There Oughta Be a Law - Swampland - TIME: I should be clear: I didn't say if "no one is saying 'that anyone did anything illegal—or even wrong' in these firings," because, obviously, a lot of people are saying just that. What I argued is that the admin has, at the very least, proved its incompetence by managing to piss off veteran Republicans such as Iglesias and Cummins. Best case scenario for the Bushies is that the firings were political, but that's okay.... Even... [then] Gonzales knowingly lied to -- or purposely misled -- Congress when he said he's "never" fire anyone for political reasons. Worst case scenario is that Carol Lam was fired for looking too closely at Duke Cunningham....

As for the Patriot Act provisions about Senate confirmations: I am going to have to get back to you though I suspect our commenters will have Googled some data before I have my first martini....

Posted by Cranky Observer March 19, 2007: By the way, lying to Congress is itself a federal felony. And Gonzales pretty clearly lied to Congress in his January testimony.

Posted by Anonymous March 19, 2007: Could you let Old Man Kinsley know that other people besides you can actually see his blog posts? I'm afraid he doesn't realize he's doing this in public....

Posted by Jillian March 19, 2007: What bothers me about Kinsley's points is that he has pretty much bought into the Republican assumptions about the firings. Yes, the Presidency has the federal prosecutor appointment power. However, the appointment power both exists and is tempered by the Constitutional charge and duty of the Executive branch to achieve "faithful execution of the laws". The Congressional approval requirement exists as the mechanism to stop the executive branch precisely from intolerable corruptions. (If Congress goes along with a slew of bad appointments, presumably The People by majority agrees with the diminished standard of justice.)

The temporary appointment power by the courts came from experience.... What's happened to you politically, Michael? I used to think so highly of you, and you used to have such sharp insight....

Posted by pva March 19, 2007: Ana, Thanks for taking Old Man Kinsley to task. It might be worth pointing out to him, though, that lying to Congress is in fact a crime....

Posted by annb March 19, 2007: Ana, bring the SNARK, baby. That's what I am talking 'bout - a healthy sense of skepticism after being lied to ... oh, I don't know ... fifty times. Just like an ole time reporter. Nice job....

Posted by Jake Gittes March 19, 2007: Do you Time people really think that bringing in Old Man Kinsley ("Old Man Kinsley wants to be a dog catcher; First he's got to learn to stand; He's gonna be a clown in a marching band") is going to quiet readers (of this blog, only) calls for a progressive voice for the magazine? You think some self loathing former liberal who has taken the paychecks and steered toward more lucrative waters as a Dick Morris type Democrat basher, is going to fool us into thinking Time is "Fair and Balanced".

Posted by Barry E. March 19, 2007: Really, TIME, what's the strategy here? Are you going for the "Question Hillary" demographic (are you sure Mommy lets them buy magazines?) or do you simply like being an easy punching bag for informed readers. I mean, after the Carney fiasco (and Carney apology), you bring us Carney redux. . . .

Didn't anyone have a sit-down with Kinsley before you sent him into these shark-infested waters to proclaim that the USA firings are a tempest in a teapot? WTF? Get a progressive columnist. No, Ana doesn't cut it, even if she likes teh gays....

Posted by Anonymous March 19, 2007: No one can be as obtuse as Kinsley in his earlier threads unless he is senile, doesn't care about politics, or has been bought off. Each of these possibilities is sufficient reason to terminate his engagement immediately. Tell him its "performance related" -- he likes that rationale.

Posted by Mike March 20, 2007: Currently there are several possible crimes in play and more are likely to come up as docs get dumped... - Gonzo (“I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons.”), McNulty and Sampson lying to Congress about WH involvement is a crime - 18 U.S.C. § 1505 - which makes it illegal not only to lie to Congress but also to impede it's efforts to gain information. - Removing USAGs for the purpose of quieting on-going investigations (as seems the case in SoCal and Guam) is a crime - 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c) which applies to anyone who corruptyly influences an ongoing proceeding. - Members of Congress pressuring USAGs to indict people they weren't certain they wanted to indict, or attempting to affect the timing of indictments is a CRIME - 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c) - Michael Elston, McNulty’s chief of staff, threatening Bud Cummins with retaliation for comments to the press is a crime - 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b) makes it illegal to tamper with Congressional witnesses. How far up the chain these alleged crimes can be wrenched with these lying fools is the only remaining question....

Posted by ib cMarch 20, 2007: Holy Crap! Ana Marie gets it! It's a somewhat complicated story, and here, in one of the more remote corners of the corporate media, there's actually someone who's made an intelligent and informed synopsis of the issue. I know this is a lot to ask, but can you hold a brown-bag lunch for the rest of these guys and explain it to them?

The Horror! The Horror!

Jacob Weisberg does not seem too solidly based in reality. He makes an expedition to the Heart of Darkness that is the American Enterprise Institute, and concludes that the neoconservatives are politically dead within the Bush administration: / Columnists / Jacob Weisberg - Are neo-cons history?: The neo-conservatives... constitute a distinct group around George W. Bush... [who] pushed for the invasion of Iraq and remain identified with hardline positions on Iran, Syria and North Korea... [and are based at] the American Enterprise Institute. The day after vice-president Dick Chene's former aide Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury, AEI held its annual black-tie gala....

All rose to salute the arrival of Mr and Mrs Cheney.... Bernard Lewis... did not revisit his argument that regime change in Iraq could provide the jolt needed to modernise the Middle East. Instead, he spoke about the millennial struggle between Christianity and Islam. Mr Lewis argues that Muslims have adopted migration, along with terror, as the latest strategy in their "cosmic struggle for world domination."...

What did surprise me was Mr Lewis's denunciation of Pope John Paul II's 2000 apology for the crusades as political correctness run amok, which drew clapping. Mr Lewis's view is that the Muslims started the trouble....

Were one to start counting ironies here, where would one stop? Here was a Jewish scholar criticising the Pope for apologising to Muslims for a holy war against Muslims, which was also a massacre of the Jews. Here were the theorists of the invasion of Iraq, many of them also Jewish, applauding the notion that the crusades were not so terrible and embracing a time horizon that makes it impossible to judge their war an error. And here was the clubhouse of the neo-conservatives, throwing itself a lavish party when the biggest question in American politics is how to escape the hole they have dug...

Donald Rumsfeld has been replaced by Robert Gates... an affiliate of the realist school.... Paul Wolfowitz, the architect who wanted to build a new Middle East on Saddam's rubble, has been moved to the World Bank.... Douglas Feith, is under investigation for misrepresenting intelligence.... Condoleezza Rice is returning to her realist roots and now actually seems to direct policy... the less principled, more effective pragmatism of Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser, and James Baker, former secretary of state.

The most important sign of all is the fading influence of Mr Cheney, who for six years dominated foreign policy in a way no previous vice-president ever has. Mr Cheney is discredited, unwell and facing various congressional investigations. He was badly damaged by the Libby trial....

But the larger factor in Mr Cheney's [political] demise is that his neo-conservative hypotheses have been falsified by events. Invading Iraq did not catalyse a new Middle East; isolating North Korea advanced its nuclear programme; high-handed unilateralism has reduced American power....

[I]t is unlikely Mr Cheney and the neo-con crusaders will apologise for what they have wrought.... It will indeed be eons before anyone trusts them again.

I cannot imagine where Weisberg's confidence in Cheney's political demise comes from. I daresay Weisberg's sources hope that it is true. But Cheney still has his private talks with George W. Bush. And George W. Bush is still the "Decider"--the idiot who makes underbriefed decisions and then refuses to revisit them when confronted with evidence.

I can easily imagine scenarios in which neoconservative provocations serve their purpose the U.S. is at war with Iran within six months.

The Clown Show That Is the Washington Post Editorial Board Says "Mistakes Were Made"

After seven years of carrying water and running interference for George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post and his crew of merry pranksters on the editorial board finally say that "mistakes were made." But he still cannot stop lying. Let's give him the mike:

Lessons of War - TOMORROW MARKS the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, as appropriate a moment as any to take stock....

The easy way out is to blame President Bush, Vice President Cheney or former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld: The decision was right, the execution wrong. There's no question that the execution was disastrous. Having rolled the dice on what everyone understood to be an enormous gamble, Mr. Bush and his team followed up with breathtaking and infuriating arrogance, ignorance and insouciance. Read Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran's account of the first year of occupation, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," and weep at the tales of White House operatives sending political hacks to overhaul Baghdad's stock exchange and tinker with its traffic rules as a deadly insurgency gathered strength....

[T]he discussion must never lose sight of the inevitable horrors of war. It must not be left to the generals in the field. And it must assume, based on experience from Germany to Korea to Afghanistan, that a U.S. commitment, once embarked upon, will not soon be over.

We raised such issues in our prewar editorials but with insufficient force. In February 2003, for example, we wrote that "the president [must] finally address, squarely and in public, the question of how Iraq will be secured and governed after a war that removes Saddam Hussein, and what the U.S. commitment to that effort will be.... Who will rule Iraq, and how? Who will provide security? How long will U.S. troops remain?... Many of these questions appear not to have been answered even inside the administration...." They were still unanswered when the war, which we nevertheless supported, began...

The way Fred Hiatt tells it, of all the mistakes that were made, his only mistake was that he wrote his wise and far-seeing editorials with "insufficient force." That is a major lie of omission.

A much better editorial could have been written by a non-liar--a non-liar would, for example, have noted that the stories in Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" are by and large not stories that the Washington Post published during the first year of the occupation.

As I have said, five years. I give the Washington Post as we know it five years.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ezra Klein is shrill. It's--as it so often is this case--the fault of that mindless puddle of establishment jello that is David Broder:

Ezra Klein: Broder's Choice: Life is comprised of actions and reactions. If you touch a hot stove, for instance, you'll burn your finger. If you listen to Barack Obama speak, you'll want to have a thousand of his babies. And if you start some overly-funded, ill-considered campaign to restore bipartisanship to Washington, you'll get a glowing David Broder column. Action, meet reaction.

The latest poorly conceived bundle of bipartisan virtues to get the Broder treatment is the Bipartisan Policy Center, a heavily-funded, heavily-hyped initiative of Bob Dole, Tom Daschle, George Mitchell, and Howard Baker (all former Senate majority leaders). The BPC, Broder says, is a function of the four aged leader's "alarm at the breakdown in civility and at the fierce partisanship that has infected Congress and blocked action on national priorities." And this time, they will lead by example. "Listening to them," Broder sighed, "it was possible to forget, for the moment, that they all were party leaders as well as Senate leaders. "Common ground," to use Daschle's term, carried more weight than the Republican labels on Baker and Dole or the Democratic brands on Daschle and Mitchell." You can almost see the hearts Broder doodled across the margins of his notes.

The BPC, of course, already has $7 million in the bank and acres of newsprint hyping its prospects. One assumes the lavish funding comes because bipartisanship works so well. After the Baker-Hamilton Commission got the President to draw down the troops and begin talking to Iran and Syria about...oh, wait, sorry. Tripped through a wormhole there. Maybe the same one that Broder went through, actually. See, I remember Bob Dole. I remember what he did to kill the Clinton health care plan and deny any compromise measures. There's this great book called The System which lays out the congressional maneuverings in great detail. A few quotes:

All the co-sponsors of Dole-Packwood were prepared to vote against Dole-Packwood, including Dole and Packwood! I remember Sheila [Burke] saying to Dole in my presence as we were bringing up something with respect to Dole-Packwood and some senator (it may have even been me) saying to Dole, 'I can't vote for that.' Sheila said to Dole, 'And neither can you!"

Chew on that for a second. In order to block a compromise, Bob Dole voted against his own compromise bill..

In the Senate, Bob Dole privately discarded any pretense of seeking a compromise...Bennett was appointed leader of the issue deemed most critical to opponents: employer mandates. He and his team produced a thick briefing book to use in the Senate floor debate. The goal was to frustrate and crush any Democratic bill. Don't let any Democratic measure come to vote.

As Bennett said. "Dole made it very clear: No bill is the strategy."

David Broder is aware of all this. He knows that Dole eschewed bipartisanship when it could have helped the country overcome the health care crisis, and is only now courting the label to secure his legacy. And do you know why I'm so sure Broder is aware of all this? Because he wrote the damn book!

Yet Broder, who's been observing national politics for the better part of the last 300 years, is willing to buy into this absurd think tank of four powerless retirees based solely on the promise of bipartisanship -- even as it's bipartisanship apart from all the forces that makes politicians partisan (electoral concerns, powerful interests, party pressure, future ambitions, etc). It's absurd. And it's profoundly unserious. You can't bipartisan the health care crisis. You can't bipartisan Iraq. You can't bipartisan energy. There are solutions to these issues, and you have to be courageous enough and concerned enough to actually make the hard choices and advocate for the right ones. And maybe, if you're forceful enough, and savvy enough, you can get members of both parties to agree that your solution is the right one. But you don't start with bipartisanship, you end with it.

The BPC, which has no power and no political vulnerability, isn't even taking on such contentious questions -- they're starting with farm policy. And Broder, an eminent Washington Wise Man, one of the few with the standing and platform to adjudicate some of these disputes, is happy to marginalize himself along with them. But they have an excuse: They're retired. They're chasing legacies. What's Broder's?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fire Ben Stein immediately! For some reason, the New York Times prints an article by Ben Stein which ignores the existence of Jimmy Carter (who, whatever else you think of him, did call on Americans to sacrifice as part of his plan to lower our addictive dependence on Middle Eastern oil) and Bill Clinton (who, whatever else you think of him, did not believe in borrow-and-spend as a governing strategy. Here's what Stein writes:

Where Are the Grown-Ups When You Need Them? - New York Times: How quaint. For a good 30 years now, at least since Gerald R. Ford left office, we have had a leadership style that said to the citizens, "You can buy it, go on try it, you "You can have it all and it doesn't cost a thing."

We can lower taxes and get more revenue. We can fight a war with grossly inadequate plans and resources and win anyway. We can trust business to regulate itself because, in our time, businesspeople have become self-regulating unselfish madonnas. We can run deficits of $800 billion a year in foreign trade and there won't be any adverse consequences...

Stein may not like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. But he shouldn't tell lies about them.

More important, perhaps, is what the editors of the New York Times think they are doing. Do they imagine this improves their credibility?

Tim Lambert is shrill:

Deltoid: The macaroni and cheese argument against the Lancet study: Daniel Davies comments on the attempted disproof by incredulity of the Lancet numbers:

I am curious as to why anyone is bothering with this debate any more (in some of the discussion on Dr Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hick's comments, it has got parodic, as people discuss the minutiae of the "informed consent" requirements of the questionnaire). Does anyone think at this late date that they are going to come up with a result that proves that the whole war and occupation has been really good for the Iraqis? Have they not noticed that this debate (and the one on global warming too) is a bit like the Berlin Wall - people are only going from one side to the other in one direction?

This prompted a response by Jane Galt who comes up with the macaroni and cheese argument against the study:

But what I wanted to blog about is a somewhat related phenomenon, which is the systematic human tendency to underestimate how long things take. This was driven home to me rather poignantly when I went up against Spencer Ackerman in Blogging Chefs, and tried to estimate just how much I could do in 90 minutes. Then I tested how long it actually took to, say, cook macaroni and cheese.

Well, the best way to find out how long it takes in the field is to do such surveys. From the story in Nature:

each team split into two pairs, a workload that is doable", says Paul Spiegel, an epidemiologist at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva, who carried out similar surveys in Kosovo and Ethiopia.

I commented at the time:

you'd hope that this finally puts the matter to rest.

Apparently not -- I had not anticipated the macaroni and cheese argument.

Galt also gives us this:

Need I point out that if Davies is right, and Burnham et. al. are right, then we should be seeing massive floods of refugees?

I guess that Galt took so long the make the macaroni and cheese that she didn't notice the thousands of news stories about Iraqi refugees. The UN refugee agency believes that about two million refugees have fled Iraq. On the other hand, macaroni and cheese takes longer than you think to make, so the refugee agency could be wrong.

Jonathan Chait is still shrill:

McCain goes over to the dark side - Los Angeles Times: The new McCain was recently interviewed by National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru and asked if there were any circumstances, including the guarantee of spending cuts, under which he'd consider repealing the tax cuts he denounced and voted against. He replied: "No. None. None. Tax cuts, starting with Kennedy, as we all know, increase revenues."

We all know that? In fact, economists know that this is not true. Conservative economists know this isn't true. Even conservative economists who work in the Bush administration have admitted this isn't true. As former Bush economist Alan Viard, now at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said: "Federal revenue is lower today than it would have been without the tax cuts. There's really no dispute among economists about that."

How does McCain explain his conversion to voodoo economics? He doesn't. He says things like: "I haven't changed. My record is the same on all issues, which is that of a conservative Republican." Which is funny, because a few years ago one of his close advisors -- someone who is now furiously insisting that McCain has always been a staunch conservative -- told me, "Ideologically, we all changed."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Today Michael Barone has finally had enough of the Bushies:

Michael Barone: The emerging scandal surrounding the dismissals of eight former U.S. attorneys should signify to American voters the depth, breadth, and permeation of corruption in the Bush administration. When a U.S. senator (to wit, Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican) feels free to call a prosecutor at home and hang up on him for resisting political pressure in the course of executing his prosecutorial duties, the line between politics and law enforcement has been so thoroughly violated that it no longer exists....

Domenici would not have made that call had either a Democrat or a law-abiding Republican been in the White House. He would not have had the temerity to throw his weight around to such an outrageous extent. What's going on in Washington is not sufficiently removed from the routine doings of a tawdry Third World dictatorship to give any American comfort.

To realize how much of a shift this is, you have to recognize that Michael Barone has as long as I can remember been the hackiest of the Republican hacks--the man who will always defend the Republican office-holder, no matter how incompetent, disconnected from reality, mendacious, or malevolent. Witness this example, a catch by Daniel Gross, chosen at random from the 40 or so in my files:

Michael Barone Takes the Side of that Third-Rate Burglar, Richard Nixon: Daniel Gross: June 11, 2006 - June 17, 2006 Archives: DEFEAT FOR AMERICA?; It wouldn't be a complete week without at least a few lines of shockingly stupid analysis from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the kind of sentence (or sentences) that make you spit your coffee onto the desk and then launch into a paroxysm of sustained laughter. Thank you, Michael Barone, for making my week complete. He writes, in a piece about Vietnam, Watergate and Karl Rove.

Vietnam and Watergate were... defeats for America--and for millions of freedom-loving people in the world. They ushered in an era when the political opposition and much of the press have sought not just to defeat administrations but to delegitimize them...

Read it again. Barone apparently believes Watergate was a defeat for America--and for millions of freedom-loving people in the world...

That's where Michael Barone is coming from.

So, Michael, our rulers whom you worked so hard to help elect and reelect are now like "a tawdry Third World dictatorship," our president is not "law abiding," and "the line between politics and law enforcement has been so thoroughly violated that it no longer exists." So what do we do about it? Are you just for wringing your hands, Michael, or are you for impeachment?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Joseph C. Wilson is shrill:

What I Didn't Find in Africa: by Joseph C. Wilson 4th

Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.

It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa's suspected link to Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me.

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

After consulting with the State Department's African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.

In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70's and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90's. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there's the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)

Before I left Niger, I briefed the ambassador on my findings, which were consistent with her own. I also shared my conclusions with members of her staff. In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the C.I.A. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.

Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.

I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. (I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion.) In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.

Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn't know that in December, a month before the president's address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.

Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.

The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It's worth remembering that in his March "Meet the Press" appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.") At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.

Joseph C. Wilson 4th, United States ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.

Tim Burke is shrill:

: Whether Lewis Libby is a fall guy or not, whether there%u2019s a grey area in terms of his legal responsibility, whether or not it was actually dangerous to expose a CIA agent's identity, whether or not the Washington press corps' own complicity in the system has been exposed, I think one thing is and has been clear about this episode from the beginning. It was one example of a systematic attempt by the Administration to intimidate its critics within the government. If it hasn't dawned on you yet how costly that attitude has been in terms of the actual execution of the war in Iraq, you're not paying attention. When you regard all criticism as treasonous dissent and play hardball against anyone who isn't "on message", what you get is a slavering corps of yes-men who live in a world of dreams and phantoms. Step outside the moment, particularly if you're a historian, and the pattern is fairly unmistakeable: it has happened time and time again within royal courts and the world of the powerful. Sometimes that just leads to King Midas getting asses' ears while the people go about their business. Sometimes it leads to mass suffering and disaster.

Those who want to excuse Libby on various grounds may be right that the Plame affair is a relatively trivial incident (though I think its gravity far outweighs, oh, say, the Monica Lewinsky case). But just as Watergate was ultimately a small episode that exposed a much larger systematic problem, I think anybody who isn't hopelessly partisan or dispassionately cynical about political process has to see that there are far graver instances of abuse that are visible to sight now. The case of the dismissed United States Attorneys, for one. That isn't just about trying to keep critics of a war silent, it's about the generalized desperation of a party apparatus to insulate itself from the electorate. It is an encouraging sign of the system's overall resilience that even this kind of manipulation couldn't control the electoral results. But trust me as an observer of postcolonial African politics: when you become resigned to something like, "Let's fire the attorneys who won't accelerate indictments of corruption to suit our short-term political needs, and put in our own guys instead", your resignation is an open door to far nastier abuses of power.

Todd Gitlin reads the New York Times and is shrill:

There They Go Again | TPMCafe: The front-page headline is damning: "In %u201905 Investing, Obama Took Same Path as Donors." The story, by Mike McIntire and Christopher Drew, is awfully gosh-darned important. It's on the same front page as the Libby verdict and "Questions About Cheney Remain." This is big.

The story? Well, here's the lede:

Less than two months after ascending to the United States Senate, Barack Obama bought more than $50,000 worth of stock in two speculative companies whose major investors included some of his biggest political donors.

Sounds like they nailed him dead to rights. But hold on for the fourth graf:

A spokesman for Mr. Obama, who is seeking his party's presidential nomination in 2008, said yesterday that the senator did not know that he had invested in either company until fall 2005, when he learned of it and decided to sell the stocks. He sold them at a net loss of $13,000.

The spokesman, Bill Burton, said Mr. Obama's broker bought the stocks without consulting the senator, under the terms of a blind trust that was being set up for the senator at that time but was not finalized until several months after the investments were made.

So let's see if we've got this straight. First graf: "Barack Obama bought...." Fourth graf: "the senator did not know that he had invested...."

If you're feeling nostalgic for the '90s, or if you're of a numerological bent, please note that today's peculiar choice of a front-page story comes fifteen years minus one day after the legendary March 8, 1992, front-pager by Jeff Gerth on Gov. Bill Clinton's Whitewater deal.

So the NYT is off and running to demonstrate that it's even-handed. So today's story about the Congressional testimony of the fired U. S. Attorneys is on page A14: "Prosecutors Describe Contacts From Higher Up."

That chalk-on-blackboard sound you hear is the sound of Bill Keller, facing the most demonstrably and systematically corrupt administration since Warren G. Harding, bending over backward to prove that the Times is even-handed.

It's clearly long past time for Bill Keller to go.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Seth Stevenson of Slate has serious mental problems:

Seth Stevenson - Slate Magazine: [T]his Dove ad is just atrocious... bears a queasy resemblance to amateur pornography--though I'm told that even bargain-basement porn features flashier production values and more compelling actresses.

Dana Milbank is shrill:

Dana Milbank - Two Generals Provide A Contrast in Accountability - Kevin Kiley, the three-star general in charge of all Army medical facilities, seemed stumped as he testified yesterday about his responsibility for the Walter Reed scandal. "I'm trying not to say that I'm not accountable," he told members of the House oversight committee. But try as he might, he couldn't fix blame on himself.

How could he not have known that wounded soldiers were living in squalid conditions across the street from his own home? "I don't do barracks inspections at Walter Reed," he said. Why did he assure Congress in 2005 that the Walter Reed bureaucracy was improving, even though many soldiers were languishing in neglect at the facility? "In my role as the MedCom commander," he said, "Walter Reed was not my only command." What did he do when a government report in 2006 found numerous problems at the now-infamous Building 18? "My staff informed me that the Walter Reed staff was working it."

Lawmakers on the committee, who were visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a field hearing yesterday, quickly tired of the general's I-don't-do-windows routine. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) accused him of spouting "hogwash." Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) called his position "dishonest." "I want you to know that I think this is a massive failure of competence in management and command," said Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), pointing his finger at Kiley. After Hodes's harangue, Kiley replied, "I command by commanding through my commanders and trusting them to execute the mission."

Sitting shoulder to shoulder with Kiley was one such commander, Gen. George Weightman, who last week was fired as chief of Walter Reed after just six months on the job. Weightman and Kiley, who ran Walter Reed from 2002 to 2004, wore matching Army dress uniforms, but their responses could not have been more divergent. While Kiley deflected blame, Weightman freely admitted failure -- even though the victims of Walter Reed's neglect testified, and the House committee members agreed, that he was not to blame. "He was, in my perspective, being punished because he caught the tail end of it," testified Annette McLeod, whose ordeal with her wounded soldier-husband, Dell, was one of those chronicled in a Washington Post series on Walter Reed. "Because somebody had to be the fall guy, he was there."

Glenn Greenwald is really shrill:

Glenn Greenwald - Salon: The "fantastic job" Newsweek's Richard Wolffe claims he is doing: At the National Press Club last night, White House spokesman Tony Snow sat down for a chat with what appeared to be some of his best friends -- our nation's elite "journalists" assigned to the White House -- and they all sat around amicably bemoaning how terribly unfair the criticism is that is directed at them by blogs (h/t Atrios). Apparently, one of the most pressing media problems in America is . . . that bloggers demand too much of the national journalists who are assigned to report on the activities and claims of the Government.

Special attention is warranted for the remarks last night of Newsweek's so-called "Senior White House Correspondent," Richard Wolffe. After Snow asserted that when you "open" a blog, "this wonderful, imaginative hateful stuff [] comes flying out" and that therefore "you probably shouldn't believe your opposition's blogs," he turned to Wolffe and asked: "what do you think, Richard?" Wolffe instinctively replied to Snow: "I totally agree."

Wolffe then proceeded to expound on Snow's attacks on bloggers by complaining that blogs are engaged in a "witch hunt" against the poor, besieged White House correspondents, which is terribly unfair because -- and, honestly, this is really an actual quote from Wolffe: "the press here does a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general." Wolffe then adopted his most sneering and patronizing tone to observe with bewilderment that there are actually these "blogs duly devoted to media criticisms, which is itself kind of interesting given all the things you could comment on."

That is such a great point. Really, what kind of warped and obsessive American would devote themselves to such an unnecessary task as "media criticism," as though our elite national journalists -- who are doing such "a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general" -- need anyone, let alone bloggers, telling them how to do their job.

Besides, Wolffe patiently explained that bloggers who are criticizing journalists have no understanding of the real function of journalism, just as the NYT's Michael Gordon lectured Democracy Now's Amy Goodman when Goodman had the audacity to criticize Gordon's pre-Iraq War "reporting" on Iraq's aluminum tubes. Gordon sniped: "I don't know if you understand how journalism works." Wolffe similarly enlightened the confused, misguided critics of journalists as follows: They want us to play a role that isn't really our role. Our role is to ask questions and get information. It's not a chance for the opposition to take on the government and grill them to a point where they throw their hands up and surrender. See, all journalists are supposed to do is ask questions of their friends -- like that great guy, Tony Snow -- and that is how they "get information." Then, they pass it along. That's it. That's their job (that echoes what Gordon told Goodman: "the way journalism works is you write what you know, and what you know at the time you try to convey as best you can").

Those who think they should actually do more than that -- as embodied by the demand of bloggers that they actually be adversarial and skeptical about the information-gathering process, and that they actually investigate and scrutinize what the Government tells them, rather than mindlessly pass it along -- is all just a lamentable by-product of how unpleasantly political and angry bloggers are. Wolffe explained what we fail to understand: It's not a political exercise, it's a journalistic exercise. And I think often the blogs are looking for us to be political advocates more than journalistic ones. The reality, of course, is that most media-criticizing bloggers do not want journalists to be "political advocates." They want them to do what journalists are supposed to do -- which is not, contrary to Wolffe's belief, sit around with their good, trustworthy, nice-guy friends in the White House and simply "ask questions" and "get information," but instead to scrutinize that information, treat it with doubt, investigate it before passing it along to determine whether it's true.

And the reason bloggers want them to do that, the reason that bloggers demand more of journalists like Wolffe, is not because bloggers are enraged, confused, unreasonable partisans. It's because bloggers are American citizens who are deeply concerned about what has happened to their country over the last six years and criticize the press and demand more of it because Wolffe's overly-friendly relationships with Bush officials like Tony Snow, and Wolffe's simplistic and lazy conception of what a reporter does, produces extremely destructive and shoddy "journalism" like this:

By Richard Wolffe -- Financial Times -- August 1, 2002 (via Lexis) Iraq's military poses a substantial threat to US forces if the Bush administration orders an attack to overthrow President Saddam Hussein, military and Iraqi experts warned yesterday.

However, without US intervention, Iraq is likely to develop nuclear weapons within two years, as part of an intensive and covert weapons programme, a Senate committee heard.

The expert warnings to the Senate foreign relations committee reinforce similar concerns by senior administration officials that renewed weapons inspections by the United Nations are unlikely to detect the full extent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. By Richard Wolffe -- Financial Times, September 14, 2002 The Pentagon believes that Iraq is developing missiles with a range of up to 1,500km that could be operational within the next three years. . . .

The Pentagon sought to reinforce those warnings yesterday by detailing both Iraq's links with terrorist groups and its development of chemical and biological weapons. In recent days the White House has distanced itself from the suggestion that Iraq was linked to the hijackers responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks last year. But the administration insists that there is a serious threat to world security posed by the overlap between terrorists and rogue states developing weapons of mass destruction.

A senior Pentagon official said yesterday that there was evidence of continued development of chemical and biological weapons. "We continue to see suspicious activities at sites that we believe are related to their CW (chemical weapons) and BW (biological weapons) programmes," the official said. By Richard Wolffe - Newsweek -- December 11, 2002 "In '62 you could have Adlai Stevenson producing pictures of missile sites being constructed in Cuba," said one senior administration official in the Roosevelt Room, with more than a hint of disappointment. "In the last 40 years, countries like Iraq have become practiced in denying us the ability to collect these types of information and have invested great resources in that type of objective."

So if you're waiting for a smoking gun at the U.N., don't hold your breath. This is not your father's missile crisis. By Richard Wolffe and Michael Hirsh -- February 3, 2003 -- Newsweek cover story While the French argued that U.N. inspectors had "frozen" Iraq's weapons programs, Powell was blunt and dismissive. "Inspections," he told reporters categorically last week, "will not work."

One senior State Department official explains Powell's change of heart as a gradual awakening: "People ask why Powell is becoming increasingly hard-line. It's because every day, when we wake up in the morning, the facts are clear that Iraq has gone back to its old ways and is refusing to disarm, and trying to prevent the inspectors from disarming them. It's a big decision, especially for a former general who knows what this is all about." By Richard Wolffe - Newsweek, February 5, 2003 All this came after Powell made a compelling presentation--not just against Iraq, but against the inspections process itself. Playing tantalizing intercepts of conversations between Iraqi military officers, Powell made what seemed to be a cast-iron case of Iraq's concerted efforts to hide its weapons from the U.N. inspectors.

Satellite pictures showed convoys of trucks outside what Powell called chemical-weapons plants. Warheads were being hidden in groves of palm trees. Biological materials were being produced in rail cars and cargo trucks. If Iraq is hiding so much, how could the inspectors ever lay their hands on Iraq's illegal weapons? By Richard Wolffe - Newsweek - February 17, 2003 As Powell cranked up the pressure to go to war, America's threat barometer was moving in the same direction. At the end of the week, the administration raised its official threat level to Code Orange--the second highest security alert--based on fresh warnings of Qaeda attacks on American targets. Intelligence sources say the planned attacks appear to be timed to take place between the end of the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, in mid-February, and the start of war in Iraq.

"Our reporting strongly suggests that Al Qaeda has completed preparations for multiple attacks with spectaculars set for the United States and probably Saudi Arabia, and is delaying them until just before or just after a war begins with Iraq," says a classified FBI bulletin obtained by NEWSWEEK. "In that situation, Al Qaeda attacks will be described as an effort to defend Iraqi Muslims against the attack of the U.S.-led Crusaders."

NEWSWEEK has learned that one of the administration's most immediate concerns is the possibility of multiple attacks on American Jewish groups and businesses. Late last week FBI field offices across the country began contacting Jewish leaders and rabbis and urging them to enhance security. Other threats include reports of an attack using chemical, biological or radiological materials. "We had much more information on chem-bio stuff," says one senior law-enforcement official. "That really unnerved me."

That is the absolutely "fantastic job" which Wolffe did -- all by "asking questions" of his administration friends, "get[ting] information," and then dutifully passing it along -- and doing little else.

And, as Wolffe explained last night -- with the narrow, slothful, and self-defensive mentality of a low-level bureaucrat -- that is his only job. They're not supposed "to take on the government and grill them" -- that would be terribly impolite, very "political," and beyond his job description. Bloggers who think that Wolffe should have done more than regurgitate what he was told by a war-hungry administration are the real problem here -- not Wolffe and his gullible journalistic colleagues who are doing a "fantastic job," nor the administration officials who fed them these falsehoods.

And just for good measure, this is one "fantastic" paragraph which Wolffe told his readers in September, 2002:

The constitution gives the president the right to declare war but it gives Congress ways to counter that power. In 1973, Congress passed the war powers act in response to public alarm that unchecked presidential prerogative during the Vietnam war had led to an unacceptable toll on American lives. Maybe his good friends in the White House told him that the power to declare war lies with the President, and nobody has grounds to complain about Wolffe's reporting because he just passed along what he was told, and that is his job.

Reporters like Wolffe develop such close affection for the people that they are covering that they see themselves as part of the Government -- which is what they become -- rather than watchdogs over them. As Eric Alterman recounted when reviewing a documentary by Alexandra Pelosi:

If you want your mystery summed up in a single sentence, it would be hard to outdo Wolffe: "The Gore press corps is about how they didn't like Gore, didn't trust him.... Over here, we were writing only about the trivial stuff because [Bush] charmed the pants off us."

It is truly astonishing that the people who enabled the administration to spew one falsehood after the next -- and who aided and abetted the worst strategic disaster in our country's history by mindlessly passing those falsehoods along to their readers, completely failing to investigate any of it, but instead obediently validating it all with journalistic approval -- now want to sit around in the most self-satisfied way and pronounce that they are doing an absolutely "fantastic job" and complain about the vulgar masses who disrupt their tranquility by criticizing them for being insufficiently vigilant.

And to those American citizens who remain rather angry about the complete failure of the press to scrutinize the war-justifying claims made by their friends in the government -- and who wake up every day and devote themselves to trying to prod the press into performing its intended adversarial watchdog role so that our Government has at least some checks on what it can say and do -- people like Richard Wolffe have nothing to say other than to agree with Tony Snow that they are vulgar and hateful and to lecture them -- in his snidest and most condescending tone -- that they are just ignorant, confused, and unreasonably demanding.

Truly, the spectacle of watching our country's leading White House journalists sitting there next to Tony Snow -- all of them oozing pomposity and self-satisfaction -- while Snow engineers the entire discussion and treats them like the friendly puppets that they are (Snow: "What do you think, Richard?" Richard: "Yeah, uh, well . . . I totally agree."), is quite difficult to endure, but is nonetheless truly revealing. How can someone who authored the above-excerpted articles, in which they disseminated to the world patent falsehoods that helped to unleash a grotesquely unnecessary and grotesquely brutal war, all on false pretenses, now parade around in public touting what a great job they have done and attack bloggers for criticizing them?

With rare exception, could our national press corps be any more self-regarding, empty, corrupt and worthless? Given that our national media is composed of "journalists" like Richard Wolffe (and Michael Gordon) -- who look at their behavior and conclude that they are doing a "fantastic job" and that the real problem lies with the ignorant, dirty barbarians who dare to criticize them -- is it really any wonder that our political discourse and our political institutions are as fundamentally degraded and as broken as they are?