Monday, April 30, 2007

Frank Rich Is Shrill!

George W. Bush and David Broder are to blame:

All the President’s Press - New York Times: SOMEHOW it’s hard to imagine David Halberstam yukking it up with Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz and two discarded “American Idol” contestants at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Before there was a Woodward and Bernstein, there was Halberstam... calling those in power to account.... He did so despite public ridicule from the dean of that era’s Georgetown punditocracy, the now forgotten columnist (and Vietnam War cheerleader) Joseph Alsop.

It was Alsop’s spirit, not Halberstam’s, that could be seen in C-Span’s live broadcast of the correspondents’ dinner last Saturday, two days before Halberstam’s death.... This fete is a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post-9/11 era: it illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows. Such is literally the case at the annual dinner, where journalists serve as a supporting cast, but it has been figuratively true year-round. The press has enabled stunts from the manufactured threat of imminent “mushroom clouds” to “Saving Private Lynch” to “Mission Accomplished,” whose fourth anniversary arrives on Tuesday.... [I]t’s far from clear that the entire profession yet understands why it has lost the public’s faith....

[A]ppalling — and symptomatic of the larger sycophancy — was the press’s insidious role in President Bush’s star turn at the event. It’s the practice on these occasions that the president do his own comic shtick, but this year Mr. Bush made a grand show of abstaining, saying that the killings at Virginia Tech precluded his being a “funny guy.” Any civilian watching on TV could formulate the question left hanging by this pronouncement: Why did the killings in Iraq not preclude his being a “funny guy” at other press banquets we’ve watched on C-Span? At the equivalent Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association gala three years ago, the president contributed an elaborate (and tasteless) comic sketch about his failed search for Saddam’s W.M.D.

But the revelers in the ballroom... served as captive dress extras in a propaganda stunt, lending their credibility to the president’s sanctimonious exploitation of the Virginia Tech tragedy for his own political self-aggrandizement on national television. Meanwhile the war was kept as tightly under wraps as the troops’ coffins....

After last weekend’s correspondents’ dinner, The Times decided to end its participation in such events. But even were the dinner to vanish altogether, it remains but a yearly televised snapshot of the overall syndrome. The current White House, weakened as it is, can still establish story lines as fake as “Mission Accomplished” and get a free pass. To pick just one overarching example: much of the press still takes it as a given that Iraq has a functioning government that might meet political benchmarks (oil law, de-Baathification reform, etc., etc.) that would facilitate an American withdrawal. In reality, the Maliki “government” can’t meet any benchmarks, even if they were enforced, because that government exists only as a fictional White House talking point.

As Gen. Barry McCaffrey said last week, this government doesn’t fully control a single province. Its Parliament, now approaching a scheduled summer recess, has passed no major legislation in months. Iraq’s sole recent democratic achievement is to ban the release of civilian casualty figures, lest they challenge White House happy talk about “progress” in Iraq.

It’s our country’s bitter fortune that while David Halberstam is gone, too many Joe Alsops still hold sway. Take... David Broder, who is leading the charge in ridiculing Harry Reid for saying the obvious — that “this war is lost” (as it is militarily, unless we stay in perpetuity and draft many more troops). In February, Mr. Broder handed down another gem of Beltway conventional wisdom, suggesting that “at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback.”

Some may recall that Stephen Colbert offered the same prediction in his monologue at the correspondents’ dinner a year ago. “I don’t believe this is a low point in this presidency,” he said. “I believe it is just a lull before a comeback.” But the fake pundit, unlike the real one, recognized that this was a joke.

The War on Drugs

A manifest source of shrillness:

Crooks and Liars » Cops Admit To Planting Marijuana on 92 Year Old Woman Killed in Botched Drug Raid: Nicole Belle: Two police officers pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid last fall. A third officer still faces charges.[...] The charges followed a Nov. 21 "no-knock" drug raid on the home of Kathryn Johnston, 92. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her.

Fulton County prosecutor Peter Johnson said that the officers involved in Johnston's death fired 39 shots, striking her five or six times, including a fatal blow to the chest. He said Johnston fired only once through her door and didn't hit any of the officers. That means the officers who were wounded likely were hit by their own colleagues, he said.[...] Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette Sam-Buchanan said Thursday that although the officers found no drugs in Johnston's home, Smith planted three bags of marijuana in the home as part of a cover story. The case raised serious questions about no-knock warrants and whether the officers followed proper procedures.

Impeach Condi Rice. Impeach Her Now

Scott Horton is shrill:

"Condi’s Really Bad Month": Over the past month it has become increasingly clear that Condoleezza Rice does not, ultimately, call the shots on foreign policy and national security questions. The man in charge is named Dick Cheney. This has emerged from a long series of tussles, of which the response to the British-Iranian fracas from the beginning of the month and the question of closing the concentration camp at Guantánamo are the most obvious examples. Condi’s PR offensive has also begun to lag as voices in the press who were quick to credit her with a new diplomatic offensive have had second thoughts. While diplomacy may be defined as the “art of lying in one’s country’s interests,” a skillful diplomat still knows how to do it without being easily caught. Condi put her reputation on the line with a series of high-profile appearances in Europe denying the existence of European blacksites, even while concluding and signing deals concerning the blacksites on the very same trip. “It was rather breathtaking,” one diplomat told me.

Now her past seems again to be catching up with her. She has blown off Congressional inquiries for some time, taking the acutely undiplomatic view that questions from Democrats didn’t require answers. That posture is a difficult one with Democrats in the majority in both houses. Now her dereliction has yielded a Congressional subpoena, and today Rice told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that she has no intention of complying with it....

Rice’s reply to the account George Tenet gave this evening of his July 2001 visit and plea for a preemptive attack against Al Qaeda sites in Afghanistan was even more pathetic than her response to Waxman. In her CNN interview, she absurdly parses the word “imminent” giving it a meaning at odds with the dictionary.... Tenet’s book convincingly portrays Rice as an ineffectual and indecisive national security advisor—as a figure who recognizes that the center of power rests with Dick Cheney and who is unwilling to challenge him even over his most catastrophic delusions. The last three months reveal that Condi’s move to Foggy Bottom has not change those core facts. She continues to be little more than a distracting ornament when it comes to critical foreign policy issues.

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (New York Times Edition)

John Broder and Marjorie Connelly would drive anybody shrill. The headline "Public Remains Split on Response to Warming" simply will not cut it:

Public Remains Split on Response to Warming - New York Times: Americans in large bipartisan numbers say the heating of the earth’s atmosphere is having serious effects on the environment now or will soon and think that it is necessary to take immediate steps to reduce its effects, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds.

Ninety percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said immediate action was required to curb the warming of the atmosphere and deal with its effects on the global climate. Nineteen percent said it was not necessary to act now, and 1 percent said no steps were needed.

Recent international reports have said with near certainty that human activities are the main cause of global warming since 1950. The poll found that 84 percent of Americans see human activity as at least contributing to warming. The poll also found that Americans want the United States to support conservation and to be a global leader in addressing environmental problems and developing alternative energy sources to reduce reliance on fossil fuels like oil and coal.

The Bush Administration: Always Worse than You Imagine

Jim Henley is shrill and writes:

The Story Behind the Story, the Continuing Series § Unqualified Offerings: Christopher Hitchens wrote that he went into journalism because he didn’t want to have to rely on the media to get the news. I’ve felt that way in conversations with an unspecified number of real journalists for an unspecified number of real [mainstream media]... organs recently about this business of the President’s wife being secretly separated from him because, among other things, he is drinking again....

[I]f the man who has the authority to launch nuclear weapons all on his say-so is an alcoholic who has gone back on the sauce because of the pressure of his job, that seems to me to be f------ news! The public has the right to know that. And from what I can tell this seems to be the open secret among journalists... something "everybody knows" but nobody is saying. A president who has claimed absolute power based on a couple of stray clauses in the Constitution and a couple of dodgy recent laws is an addict who has fallen back into his habit.

That seems important.

Many open secrets among journalists aren't true. Some are true.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Paul Begala: David Broder Is a Gasbag

Paul Begala is shrill:

The Blog | Paul Begala: David Broder Is a Gasbag | The Huffington Post: One of the few regrets I have in life is that I allowed Ann Devroy of the Washington Post to talk me into apologizing for calling David Broder "a gasbag" in 1995. My admiration for Devroy trumped my contempt for Broder.... Broder, of course, is a gasbag. The Hindenburg of pundits. But my respect for Ann knew no bounds, and she thought I was being unfair. In retrospect I was being unfair. To gasbags.

Mr. Broder has been foaming at the mouth these days. A man generally given to soporific prose, Broder has been downright venomous lately. And what has put the Benzedrine in Mr. Broder's Ovaltine? Not the fact that President Bush continues to lie about "progress" in the war in Iraq. Or that Dick Cheney continues to lie about pre-invasion links between al Qaeda and Iraq. Or that the Bush Administration has neglected our wounded warriors, ignored the victims of Katrina, potentially obstructed justice by firing US Attorneys who were pursuing GOP wrongdoing. Not even that the Bush Administration lied to the families of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch, cynically using their blood to distract from their own incompetence and dishonesty.

No, none of this raises Dean Broder's hackles.

He reserves his vitriol for Harry Reid.

Why Reid? Because Reid has been one of the few politicians with the courage to speak the plain, unvarnished truth to power, and the hallmark of Mr. Broder's career has been to suck up to power. Reid calls Bush a liar. Broder can't handle the truth....

But at the end of a career of sucking up to warmongers and Republicans, Mr. Broder has found his true hero in George W. Bush. Where others see a mush-mouthed semi-literate, Broder sees FDR: "As a counterpuncher to criticism and as a doubt-free exponent of his own beliefs, the current president is right up there with the inventor of the New Deal."

While others were shocked at Bush's callous disregard for the lives of his fellow Americans during Hurricane Katrina, Broder wrote Katrina, "opens new opportunities for [Bush] to regain his standing with the public." (Or at least those members of the public who did not drown due to Bush's incompetence and inaction.)

In February of this year, when the Bush collapse was evident for all to see, the visionary Mr. Broder saw something else. "President Bush is poised for a political comeback," he wrote.

When asked recently if Bush was the worst President in history - a view shared by many eminent historians, including Sean Wilentz of Princeton, Broder replied, "I would not venture at this point whether President Bush will leave the country in better or worse shape than he found it. Internationally, the U.S. suffered setbacks during the Carter administration...." Jimmy Carter, of course, started no wars, invaded no countries, and got our hostages out of Iran alive. But this winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is compared to George W. Bush...

James Fallows Gets Shrill on George Tenet

He writes:

James Fallows | Author and Journalist » Blog Archive » About that Presidential Medal of Freedom, Mr. Tenet: Two and a half years ago, after interviewing many, many people involved in shaping Iraq-war policy, I wrote the following in the Atlantic (and then in Blind into Baghdad): "There is no evidence that the President and those closest to him ever talked systematically about the “opportunity costs” and tradeoffs in their decision to invade Iraq. No one has pointed to a meeting, a memo, a full set of discussions, about what America would gain and lose."

The Administration apparently did not consider questions like “If we pursue the war on terror by invading Iraq, might we incite even more terror in the long run?” and “If we commit so many of our troops this way, what possibilities will we be giving up?” Bush “did not think of this, intellectually, as a comparative decision,” I was told by Senator Bob Graham, of Florida, who voted against the war resolution for fear it would hurt the fight against terrorism. “It was a single decision: he saw Saddam Hussein as an evil person who had to be removed.” … A man who participated in high-level planning for both Afghanistan and Iraq—and who is unnamed here because he still works for the government—told me, “There was absolutely no debate in the normal sense.”

Comes now George Tenet. In those days, as CIA director, Tenet was the man who sat so visibly and solemnly behind Colin Powell during Powell’s crucial UN speech presenting “proof” of the WMD threat from Iraq. Tenet’s sober presence suggested how powerful America’s evidence must be. In those days, Tenet was inseparable from President Bush and from the argument that, as the inescapable next step in the “war on terror,” America had to invade Iraq. On December 2, 2004, Tenet was at the White House for perhaps the most cynically dishonorable day in the history of American public service: the day when the freshly reelected President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three men: the one who publicly vouched for a misleading case for invading Iraq (Tenet); the one who beat Saddam’s army but was entirely uninterested in what came next (Gen. Tommy Franks), and the one who helped turned that next stage into a catastrophe (Amb. L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer III).

Now Tenet tells us — according to this story in the New York Times — that the Administration pushed the country toward war without ever conducting a “serious debate” about Iraq’s threat and the possible U.S. responses.

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.

Gee, thanks for telling us now, Mr. Tenet. Now — not when it was happening, and the news might still have changed national policy and spared us a “war of choice.” Now — not before the 2004 election, which as the President has told us was the “accountability moment” for his policy toward Iraq. (How differently the world would view the United States if, at its first chance after the Iraq invasion, the public had rejected rather than ratified the policies that led to war.) Now — when it’s not clear what difference it can make at all. People open to evidence about the war, including the majority of the public, now generally consider it to have been a mistake, which doesn’t make the decision about what to do next any easier. People not open to evidence still control the Executive Branch. One more book won’t change their minds.

If you felt so strongly, why did you wait to say anything until you knew it couldn’t do any good? Of course, saying something earlier would have meant resigning in protest, a step that still is vanishingly rare. And there would not have been that Medal of Freedom. Perhaps you’ll wear it on the book tour? Just a thought.

One reason American journalism has fallen down on the job is that they are embarrassed to tell the truth when the truth is shrill. Fallows adds:

Addendum: Sounding harsh is not attractive, and it’s possible that I’m being unfair to the whole case Tenet makes. I haven’t read the book (which is not yet officially published) and am judging only on the parts quoted in the New York Times. So why this harshness? It’s my frustration about people who tell us now that they had cold feet about what is either the most damaging, or the second-most damaging, decision in American diplomatic history, the other possibility being Vietnam. (I think Iraq will prove to be the worst. Many more Americans died in Vietnam than will in Iraq, and — unless regional war in the Middle East becomes truly catastrophic — the civilian and military deaths of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians will outweigh those in Iraq. But the slow, step-by-step escalation in Vietnam was, sadly, more logical and understandable than the wholly discretionary decision to invade Iraq. The long term damage to America’s interests and reputation will, I think, be greater — but we’ll see.) So I find it hard to be as understanding and tolerant as I would like to be, when someone who might have made a difference but didn’t, at the time, later tells us he was skeptical all along. This is, similarly, why the Iraq years did such damage to Colin Powell.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Chris Roush: CJR’s Audit needs to come clean about past

Chris Roush is shrill:

Talking Biz News » CJR’s Audit needs to come clean about past: columnist Gary Weiss writes that it’s nice that the Columbia Journalism Review blog The Audit has praised the Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series about backdating of stock options. But the blog — under a different writer — needs to admit that it criticized the articles when they first appeared.

Weiss wrote, “Reading the above, you’d never know that the Audit was actually a major voice against the options backdating coverage when it really mattered–when the Journal was sticking its neck out by publishing those stories. It is a low-risk proposition to praise a series that just got a Pulitzer, and gratuitous (and fairly meaningless) to pile on with 20-20 hindsight after the champagne has flowed.

“The Audit’s two articles on the backdating coverage (here and here) were notable in that they were not the slightest bit well-informed. I was sympathetic with the Audit’s view the options coverage was a bit “overblown,” yet the articles seemed naive and ill-informed in the extreme. I chastised the Audit for its coverage (see here and here), as did University of California economics professor Brad DeLong.

“There’s nothing wrong with being off-base now and then. But this was not an isolated event. The Audit, under its former editor, made a series of embarrassing goofs on a number of subjects.”

Read more here.

Posted by Chris Roush

Media Matters is Shrill!

It's the journamalism of Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post:

Media Matters - Reporting bipartisan desire to fix AMT, Wash. Post left out Bush budget's reliance on it: An April 23 Washington Post article by staff writer Lori Montgomery on House Democrats' plan to shift the burden of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) onto wealthier Americans reported that Republicans "also advocate repealing or substantially rewriting the AMT." Yet the article did not mention that President Bush's Fiscal 2008 budget goal of, in Bush's words, "balanc[ing] the budget by 2012 without raising your taxes," relies on revenues raised from not adjusting the AMT after FY 2008. The White House's prediction that the budget will reach balance or surplus by 2012 rests, in part, on the assumption that Congress will stop raising the exemption level of the AMT -- although the Bush administration proposed that Congress increase of the exemption level again for FY 2008. Without a continuation of this temporary fix, the AMT would increase the income taxes of millions of middle-class Americans in the years to come, as Media Matters for America has noted.

Journamalism Watch: David Broder

Lance Mannion writes to David Broder:

Lance Mannion:: Dear Mr Broder,

As a life-long Democrat, please allow me to inform you that I am not the least bit embarrassed by Senator Reid's admission that the war in Iraq is lost. I am never embarrassed when a politician of any party speaks the truth. The war isn't just now lost.  It isn't being lost.  It has always been lost.  It was lost from the moment President Bush decided he could get rid of Saddam Hussein and a completely formed, competent, honest, democratic, non-sectarian Iraqi government, accepted and respected by all the people of Iraq, would magically appear overnight to take charge of the country in Saddam's place. It was lost from the moment the President decided he could have his magic war on the cheap, without committing either the money or the troops necessary to the task. It was lost from the moment he decided that he would get to have his magic war by lying to the American people about why we had to go to war, how long the war would take, how easy it would be, and what little price we would have to pay in money, time, reputation, blood, and grief.

If you don't accept any of those moments as the moment when the war was lost, then let me propose another, slightly more recent moment, but still a moment that pre-dates Seantor Reid's remarks by over a year. The war was lost the moment the majority of the American people realized that the President had lied to them, that he and his advisers did not have any idea how to fight let alone win their magic war, and that the President's only definition of "victory" is that he gets to leave office without having to admit that he lied about the war and mismanaged it and in fact lost it. Actually, I'm not sure that it's correct to use words like "victory" and "lost" when talking about a war that was apparently waged for no other reasons than to stroke a childish President's vanity and allow a corrupt Vice-President's friends to plunder another country. There is never any victory to be had in disgracing the United States and we the People cannot be said to have lost the private freebooting adventure of a gang of reckless, dishonest, incompetent men.

So, no, I am not embarrassed by Senator Reid.  As someone who came of political age during Watergate and a one-time admirer of the Washington Post, I am embarrassed to hear that one of the Post's most distinguished journalists is making stuff up about what the American people think, about what Democrats feel, about what Senator Reid has done and said, all in order to protect his own ego and vanity from the truth of the disaster President Bush has made in Iraq, a disaster he was able to perpetrate with the help of his apologists in the Media, such as you, sir. Senator Reid owes no one an apology.  You owe him one, and you owe us one.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Christopher Hitchens Is Shrill!

Bush-enabler Christopher Hitchens joins us by the vernal pools for the evening spring amphibian-metamorph concert here at Miskatonic University, world headquarters of the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill. Strange, how advocating that mendacious, melevolent, incompetent, and disconnected-from-reality people be given power and authorization to attempt important tasks blows up in our--all of our--faces. Let's turn the mike over to the drink-soaked Trotskyist popinjay himself:

Holiday in Iraq: Politics & Power: While I am confessing, I may as well make a clean breast of it. Thanks to the reluctant decision of the first President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, those fresh princes of "realism," the United States and Britain placed an aerial umbrella over Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 and detached it from the death grip of Saddam Hussein. Under the protective canopy of the no-fly zone—actually it was also called the "you-fly-you-die zone"—an embryonic free Iraq had a chance to grow. I was among those who thought and believed and argued that this example could, and should, be extended to the rest of the country; the cause became a consuming thing in my life. To describe the resulting shambles as a disappointment or a failure or even a defeat would be the weakest statement I could possibly make: it feels more like a sick, choking nightmare of betrayal from which there can be no awakening...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

John McCain and David Brooks Drive Ezra Klein Shrill!

Ezra tries to hide it by being polite. But we know what he's thinking:

TAPPED: BROOKS V. BROOKS. [T]his David Brooks column... [is] an elegiac meditation on the strength, resilience, and wisdom that together make-up John McCain's character. It's clearly the product of time spent with the candidate, time that left Brooks profoundly impressed, respectful, and above all sad that McCain's fortunes seem so dim. Brooks clearly arrived at his computer in a quiet mood, determined to write a column that would possess same somber grace he believes McCain lives. And it's a fine, even beautiful, encomium. But towards the end, Brooks says, more in sadness than in anger, that "[McCain] gave a speech at the Virginia Military Institute yesterday that was an extended argument for giving the surge a chance. The problem with his approach is he doesn’t grapple with the psychology and culture of the Iraqis, upon which all else depends."... [I]t's a damning verdict. To suggest that McCain's outlook on the Middle East remains fundamentally uninterested or uninformed by the "psychology and culture" of the Iraqi people accuses McCain of a dangerous myopia.... Does Brooks really believe that a candidate currently evaluating the war in Iraq without sufficiently considering the needs or desires of the Iraqi people is either mature or substantive on the Middle East?... [C]an Brooks really believe that an individual capable of such serious myopia wouldn't absolutely wreck the region? An inattention to Iraqi opinions and decisions... should be disqualifying...

Pinky and the Brain: "And then you can challenge the Klingons for interstellar domination!"

Pinky--or is it the Brain?--is shrill:

Pinky and the Brain: "And then you can challenge the Klingons for interstellar domination!": I know I shouldn't start my day by reading the New York Post, but this column by Amir Taheri almost made me throw up my Kellogs' Crunchy Nut Clusters this morning. Money quote: "Preserving the victory achieved in Iraq means delivering a deathblow to all the Middle East's demons: the pan-Arab chauvinists, the Khomeinists, al Qaeda and other jihadis, Shiite and Sunni sectarians, and reactionary autocrats." Amazing.

Jim Hoagland, After All, Is a Cynical Careerist Who Practices Misleading Readers as an Ancient Washington Post Art Form

Tiny Revolution gets medieval as a response to the journamalism of the *Washington Post's* Jim Hoagland: >A Tiny Revolution: The Thing You Have To Understand About Iranians Is They Have Two Legs: Jim Hoagland has some important insights to share with us about Iranians: >>Iran is after all a place where reality usually comes not in words but in meaningful details that underlie -- and often belie -- the words. Fooling foreigners and adversaries is an ancient Persian art form. Saying exactly what you mean is a crude and dangerous way to talk, or to negotiate. >One thing I've learned in my time on earth is that whenever someone says "What you have to understand about [some group] is that they're [some description]," the description always applies to all humans everywhere. >* What you have to understand about the Persians is that for them fooling foreigners is an ancient art form * What you have to understand about the Danes is that they get really angry when you punch them * What you have to understand about the Koreans is they try to eat food every day * What you have to understand about the Americans is they breathe oxygen

Saturday, April 21, 2007

John Dickerson, Journamalist

When the history of American journamalism at the beginning of the twenty-first century is written, John Dickerson will have a leading place as one who hid what he knew from his readers and was eager to put his thumb in the scales in the interest of the powerful.

Here are Duncan Black, Betty-the-Crow, and Al Franken piling on in their standard shrill fashion:

Duncan Black remembers when John Dickerson tried to convince everybody that it would be illegitimate for Congress to exercise its oversight function:

Eschaton: Great Moments in Modern Punditry: John Dickerson, last May: "Pelosi announced that her new Democratic majority would also launch a series of investigations reaching all the way back into the first months of the Bush administration. Across the country, vulnerable Republican candidates are saying thank you to Pelosi. The GOP congressional majorities may now be secure..."

Betty-the-Crow watches John Dickerson today say that Democrats should not point out Republican insanities:

BTC News » How Move On catapulted John McCain to the presidency: Slate’s John Dickerson is offering a trenchant analysis of a Move On ad targeting John McCain’s Weird Al Jankovic treatment of the Beach Boys classic tune, “Barbara Ann,” in which McCain substituted “Bomb Iran” for the eponymous intro. Move On’s take is that McCain’s little joke bespeaks a potentially reckless president. Dickerson’s take is that the Move On ad “backfired” by driving otherwise skeptical Republicans into McCain’s arms because “a Republican struggling to court conservatives could probably not ask for a better gift than to be attacked by Move On.”

Dickerson’s assumption appears to be that Move On is attempting to dissuade Republican voters from supporting McCain in the GOP primaries. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the organization’s message is aimed at Democrats and independents who may still be suffering from the McCain crush that has its origins in the elegiac coverage the senator enjoyed for years from Dickerson and his colleagues; McCain’s only chance of winning the general election in the exceedingly unlikely event that he survives the primaries is to garner a significant chunk of independent and Democratic voters, and ads like Move On’s are designed to chip away at whatever’s left of the uncritical centrist lust for the erstwhile maverick. In order for the ad to backfire, it would have to subtract money and votes from the Democratic field and deposit them in the McCain camp. Is that going to happen? Nuh uh, even if we weren’t a year out from the primaries.

The subtext of Dickerson’s analysis is that attacks on Republicans inevitably help Republicans, which is the default position of Washington pundits....

The particular issue here isn’t especially significant but it does represent a larger one, which is the tendency of the press to seize upon minor flaps and misinterpret the significance of them while avoiding or ignoring or simply missing larger and more important events or trends because they’ve convinced themselves of things that aren’t true, such as the trope that Democrats lose when they criticize Republicans. People in Dickerson’s position get paid to think about politics and policy, and you’d think that just as a point of pride they’d want to track how well their ideas held up over time and perhaps adjust them when they consistently fail to parallel reality...

And here we have Al Franken roasting John Dickerson alive:

Media Matters - Franken grills Dickerson on Time -Rove scandal: "Why can't you just say they're big liars?": Former Time magazine White House correspondent John Dickerson appeared on the February 8 broadcast of Air America Radio's The Al Franken Show, where host Al Franken asked him about... [why] Dickerson and at least two Time colleagues, White House correspondent Matthew Cooper and Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy, helped to write an October 2003 article that contained statements they knew to be false....

FRANKEN: You were, as White House correspondent for Time magazine, privy to the fact that Matt Cooper had talked to Karl Rove, and that Karl Rove had outed Valerie Plame, not by name but by identity, to Matt Cooper. And tell me if I got this wrong -- that there were in subsequent articles you contributed to in one way or another in Time magazine that wrote about the controversy of Plamegate, there was things like quoting Scott McClellan saying the White House had nothing to do with this, that kind of thing, where you guys knew that he was not telling -- that what he was saying wasn't true. And that you allowed it to stand without saying, "We know this not to be true." Which, I understand why you would do that. But there are some people a little peeved about this.

DICKERSON: Yes, there are some people peeved about that. I think that's right: I think if you look at the articles, you know, when they were written, it was all very, very carefully written. And the reason you can't just come out and say, "They're big liars, they're big liars," is because you end up giving up a source. Now, people who hate Karl Rove and hate the president think, well, "Yes, damn it, you've got to give up your source." But, um, you know...

As Dan Froomkin, columnist for (also published by Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive), explained in addressing the Media Matters item, Dickerson and his Time colleagues had several options that would have neither "give[n] up" their source nor misled their readers...

FRANKEN: Well, wait a minute, wait a minute, why can't you say, "They're big liars, they're big liars," and not show your proof? Because you don't show your proof all the time.

DICKERSON: Well, but you can't, you can't say, in that instance, it's -- if you say, "We're certain we know," there's only one way you could be, or in this case, when you're talking about Karl Rove, there are only ways, you know there's, if you know, you know it's Karl. I mean, you can't.... You have a source, and you make an agreement with that source not to blow their identity. That, you have to keep that agreement. And the reason you do that, even in a situation where some people may, for all those people who may hate Karl Rove and this White House and want them to be outed, you've got to remember that the same protections are the ones that protected the people who came forth about the NSA wiretapping. And people come forward about things all the time knowing their cover isn't going to get blown. Sometimes it's in an instance that people would like, because it uncovers an NSA wiretapping scheme that they don't think is appropriate, and in some cases it protects people that they hate and would like to see run out on a rail. But you can't pick and chose.... Sure, sure, sure. But you can see how you can't, you know, you make a promise, and then you just decide to break the promise, it's.... if one person decides, well, I'm going to break this because in this instance it's compelled, now, of course, I mean, if it's a murder, or some other -- situation, perhaps you have a situation where you're saving lives by breaking a confidence, that's another matter. But in this, but in, in order for the system to stay whole, you have to keep your promises...

One would think that Dickerson would have been smart enough to realize that there are dangers in protecting your sources by lying to your readers. But no.

Mark Kleiman Is Shrill!

It is John McCain's fault:

The Reality-Based Community: Are Iranians subhuman?: John McCain "jokes" about bombing Iran, a country most of whose people have no political power. He then refuses to apologize:

When reporters asked if the joke was insensitive, McCain said: “Insensitive to what? The Iranians?”

This is in some ways more troublesome than the original comment. In McCain's mind, if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an evil lunatic, then it's fine to threaten "Iranians" generically, and absurd to imagine that offending them is a problem. (If you don't think McCain's remarks were a threat, turn it around and imagine a candidate for President of Iran singing a little ditty about bombing America.) That makes sense only if their nationality makes them not fully human.

But there's something more disturbing than McCain's willingness to treat Iranians as untermenschen: the fact that none of his Republican competitors has criticized him. They must think — and presumably they're experts — that this sort of stuff appeals to Republican primary voters. I know it's shrill and uncivil to call the Republican Party a collection of violence-intoxicated lunatics, but under these circumstances what's the alternative?

Friday, April 20, 2007

George Bush Didn't See Gonzales Testify, But Knows He Did Well

Meteor Blades watches the continued descent of the Bush administration:

Daily Kos: At Least Somebody Thought Fredo Did OK Today: From somewhere in the West Wing:

President Bush was pleased with the Attorney General’s testimony today.  After hours of testimony in which he answered all of the Senators’ questions and provided thousands of pages of documents, he again showed that nothing improper occurred. He admitted the matter could have been handled much better, and he apologized for the disruption to the lives of the U.S. Attorneys involved, as well as for the lack of clarity in his initial responses. The Attorney General has the full confidence of the President, and he appreciates the work he is doing at the Department of Justice to help keep our citizens safe from terrorists, our children safe from predators, our government safe from corruption, and our streets free from gang violence.

And White House flack Dana Perino says:

Of course, the President has not seen any of that testimony. As I told you, he's had a busy morning, and now we're on our way to Tipp City, Ohio.

Eve Fairbanks Is Really Shrill

She writes:

Gonzales Disowned By GOP, The New Republic: Republicans, Annoyed By Incompetence, Turn On The Attorney General - CBS News: Throughout the hearing, Gonzales displayed an odd dissociation from his job as head of the Justice Department, often behaving more as though he was a diligent inspector general called in to analyze what had happened rather than someone who had made things happen himself. "The fact that Mr. [David] Iglesias appeared on the [firings] list doesn't surprise me," he told Chairman Patrick Leahy, as though he'd just completed a departmental audit. When Kansan Sam Brownback asked him to explain the rationale behind Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden's dismissal, he said that "it appears there were concerns about the level of energy," like he'd come from some fact-finding staff interviews.

As the clock ticked on, Gonzales' self-transformation from Cabinet member to impartial observer threatened to become a full-blown identity crisis: "I now understand I was involved in a conversation with the president," he said at the end of a spat with Arlen Specter. Reporters glanced around in confusion, perhaps imagining what it was like when the two different I's Gonzales had just referred to talked to each other in the privacy of his own home, one in a low voice, one in a high, squeaky one.

Specter, who — like an exasperated parent — had just finished berating Gonzales for not taking his advice about how to prepare for the hearing, simply leaned back in his seat and shook his head. Boy, the look on his face said. Have I raised a screw-up.

Coming from a Republican, this look was especially bad. While the Democrats on the committee (Chuck Schumer and talented Rhode Island freshman Sheldon Whitehouse, in particular) dutifully and effectively laid into Gonzales — for corruption, politicizing the department, and covering up the scandal — they didn't turn up any smoking guns, so their frustration wasn't his biggest immediate problem. They would (rightly) have opposed him regardless of his performance. Gonzales' real nightmare now was his own party: The Republican senators should have been easy to placate, since they don't believe the firings were politically motivated; their concern was over how the firings' were handled — and over Gonzales' competence — so all the attorney general needed to do was show them he still controlled the Justice Department enough to remain its chief. (Lingering Republican support would have at least allowed the White House to blame Democratic partisans for dissatisfaction with Gonzales.) But, instead of presenting himself as self-assured, Gonzales portrayed a man just beginning to understand the goings-on of his agency. And so Republican senators — the president's weather balloons — began to betray him.

There were three attitudes the committee Republicans could have taken toward Gonzales, a member of the government they confirmed themselves, who now sat below their dais like a child who'd done wrong: They could have played the part of the proud and defensive parent (modeled on that type of father who simply refuses to believe, when confronted by the guidance counselor, that his son could possibly have cherry-bombed the school toilet), the stern parent, or the parent who disowns his child entirely. Senator Orrin Hatch, a steadfast supporter of Gonzales throughout the U.S. attorneys ordeal, took the first tack, lobbing Gonzales softball questions that allowed him to explain why he thought the firings were appropriate. But, aside from Specter (who played the stern parent), Republicans on the committee disowned Gonzales. That bodes worse for the attorney general than the toughest inquisition Schumer could have delivered.

Things started to get bad when Texas's John Cornyn, a staunch defender of the Bush administration if ever there was one, began his round of questioning by saying, "I believe you are a good and decent man, but the way this has been handled is deplorable." Cornyn still tried to give Gonzales a break by suggesting the real problem was a relatively small one — the department's characterization of the firings as "performance-related." But the attorney general couldn't own up even to that: He has too much pride to embrace his former chief of staff's bizarrely successful "I'm a failure" defense. Instead, Gonzales hotly insisted that the performance characterization was fair. So as well as isolating himself from his department's missteps, Gonzales was not even as contrite as he was supposed to be: Cornyn worked his lips in disapproval, a frown furrowing on his high forehead.

They got worse with the next Republican, Alabama's solidly conservative Jeff Sessions, who pressed Gonzales on his claim that he didn't remember a crucial November 27 meeting on the firings that his deputies have said he attended. "This was not that long ago," Sessions said in a dry, slightly bemused voice that is a classic warning sign of impending disownment. Gonzales attempted a Scooter Libby defense — that he has a bad memory — but Sessions just rolled his eyes. He's had enough of that one.

But it was Lindsey Graham who finally turned the screw. Graham, with his Beaver Cleaverish gleaming face, apple cheeks, and fine-combed hair, hardly seems the type to play executioner. But, as he pressed Gonzales on alleged lies to Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor (about fired U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins), Graham was all incredulous head shakes, smirks, and frowns. He even shot knowing looks at an unbelievable new ally — Chuck Schumer, who is usually conservative public enemy number one. Schumer slung his arm confidently across the empty chair behind him, and he didn't even try to keep a big grin off his face. "My basic problem here is ... you didn't have any ownership of the process," Graham said. "Is it fair to say that, when you made the final decision, it was made more on trust of your team than it was on knowledge?" "I think that's a fair statement," Gonzales admitted. "Your justification [for the firings] comes down to, 'These are not the right people at the right time,'" Graham went on, referring to Gonzales' claim that his staff just wanted to give other people a chance. Graham leaned forward. "If I applied that standard to you, what would you say?" That's right: Lindsey Graham, in a final repudiation of classic Bush loyalty, suggested that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be summarily canned in the exact same way as the U.S. attorneys he fired. An eye for an eye.

The damage was done. Republican Senator Tom Coburn latched onto Graham's formulation, asking Gonzales in a withering tone, "Why would we not use the same standards to judge your performance as you used to judge these dismissed U.S. attorneys?" Gonzales, by then, was abject: "That's a fair question." Coburn went on, "I believe there are consequences to mistakes. ... I believe you ought to suffer the consequences these [U.S. attorneys] have suffered," he says. And then, right to Gonzales's face: "I believe the best way to put this behind us is your resignation."

Matthew Yglesias Is Shrill!

He writes about the freak show that is American journamalism:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Freak Show: I caught some MSNBC earlier this afternoon, and it was really just pathetic. The topic under discussion was that Harry Reid apparently said the Iraq War was lost. Since Reid's an important legislative leader, this did seem like a good subject for a story. But, of course, instead of using it as an opportunity to bring some knowledgeable people on and discuss whether or not Reid was right about the war, they used it as an opportunity to bring on a "Democratic strategist" and a "Republican strategist" neither of whom seemed like especially prominent strategists, to talk about the political fallout from the statement.

It's not, you know, surprising exactly, but if you go a little while without watching cable news coverage of a political issue it is always a bit shocking to be exposed to just how dumb and uninformative it is. The worst of it is that while I was very unhappy with it, I imagine any serious-minded conservatives out there watching would also have been unhappy. Then the folks in charge probably reach the conclusion that "if liberals and conservatives both complain, we must be doing something right!" Soon enough, they moved on to more Anna Nicole Smith coverage.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More Journamalism! (If It Were Possible to Unsubscribe from Slate, I Would Department)

A correspondent tells me that last Monday Mickey Kaus endorsed fired NASA PR Bushie George Deutsch for Deutsch's insistence that nobody at NASA ever say "Big Bang," but always say "Big Bang theory" instead.

We all remember Deutsch from his forgetting when he wrote his resume that he had not graduated from college, and from:

>Andrew Revkin: George Deutsch... public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected... National Public Radio['s request] to interview Dr. [James] Hansen.... Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. [McCarthy] said... Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority. But, she added: "I'm a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a scientist. That's not our job. That's not our mission. The inference was that Hansen was disloyal."

Normally, Ms. McCarthy would not be free to describe such conversations to the news media, but she agreed to an interview after Mr. Acosta, at NASA headquarters, told The Times that she would not face any retribution.... Mr. Deutsch referred all interview requests to Mr. Acosta. Ms. McCarthy, when told of the response, said: "Why am I going to go out of my way to make this up and back up Jim Hansen? I don't have a dog in this race. And what does Hansen have to gain?" Mr. Acosta said that for the moment he had no way of judging who was telling the truth. Several colleagues of both Ms. McCarthy and Dr. Hansen said Ms. McCarthy's statements were consistent with what she told them when the conversations occurred.

"He's not trying to create a war over this," said Larry D. Travis, an astronomer who is Dr. Hansen's deputy at Goddard, "but really feels very strongly that this is an obligation we have as federal scientists, to inform the public." Dr. Travis said he walked into Ms. McCarthy's office in mid-December at the end of one of the calls from Mr. Deutsch demanding that Dr. Hansen be better controlled...

And Kaus endorsed the management stylings of Rachel Paulose too!

White House Spokesman Tony Fratto Calls George W. Bush a Liar

Ah. A new border has been crossed in shrillness. White House Spokesman Tony Fratto calls George W. Bush a liar for telling Nancy Pelosi "I didn't criticize your trip to Syria": >Washington Wire - Postscript to Pelosi’s Syria Trip: David Rogers reports on a chat between Speaker Pelosi and President Bush. After weeks of scorn from the White House and its political allies, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told colleagues she was surprised to hear from President Bush that he hadn’t personally criticized her trip to Syria earlier this month. The exchange occurred Wednesday in a side conversation between the president and speaker when Pelosi attended a meeting at the White House on the Iraq war funding bill. The California Democrat made no public mention of the matter when she spoke to reporters afterwards, but she has since told other Democrats of the incident and that the president had accepted her offer to brief him on her trip. >“I would rather not go into the details of the conversation,” the speaker said in an interview. But she confirmed that the president apparently drew a distinction between his criticizing her and rebukes delivered by his press office and others in the administration. “He just said, ‘I didn’t criticize your trip to Syria,’” Pelosi said. “In the course of the conversation, he said, ‘I didn’t criticize your trip.’” Asked if she was surprised, Pelosi laughed. “Surprised? I’m beyond surprise.” >White House spokesman Tony Fratto said he couldn’t comment on the president’s side of the conversation, but he confirmed that the Syria trip had been a topic discussed and that Mr. Bush had spoken to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about Ms. Pelosi coming in to repo >Mr. Fratto pointed to a Rose Garden press conference this month shortly after Ms. Pelosi had arrived in Damascus. “Sending delegations hasn’t worked. It’s just simply been counterproductive,” the president said then... >Democrats saw the criticism as personally aimed at Ms. Pelosi, who was just coming off a major House vote challenging the administration’s on its Iraq policy. The president’s spokeswoman Dana Perino issued several public rebukes of the speaker taking her bipartisan delegation to Syria and meeting with Syrian President Basher al-Assad. “We just think it’s a really bad idea,” Ms. Perino said, and Vice President Cheney accused the speaker of “bad behavior”...

Matthew Yglesias Is Shrill!

Really shrill:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: A shocking scoop from David Ignatius. It turns out that northern Iraq is inhabited my members of an ethnic group known as "Kurds." Many of these so-called Kurds also live in the adjacent nation known as "Turkey." Turkey, in turn, is a longstanding strategic partner of the United States. But the Turkish government and these Kurds have a bad relationship! Yes! There's even a Kurdish terrorist and guerilla organization called the PKK that the Turks have been trying to suppress for years. And Iraqi Kurds, it turns out, have a lot of nationalistic sentiments and are pushing for as much autonomy as possible from Iraq. Turkey looks askance at this, fearing it will boost separatism among their own Kurds. And those fears aren't crazy! The Kurdish nationalists in Iraq, being Kurdish nationalists, turn out to be rather sympathetic to the PKK. And now Turkey's mad. And the USA is stuck in the middle.

Trouble, in short, is brewing. And yet, shockingly, all throughout the years of denial about Iraq, respectable mainstream opinion was weirdly loathe to note this gobsmackingly obvious flaw in the elite vision of Iraq. The Kurds are our friends, the Kurds are secular, Kurdistan is quiet and secure, Kurdistan is democratic, we have to invade Iraq for the Kurds, etc., etc., etc., etc. even though it was always perfectly clear that this problem was going to arise. Ignatius doesn't even mention that the Kurds are trying to take over Kirkuk and Mosul and that there will probably be a new fighting front in Iraq once we get closer to the scheduled Kirkuk referendum date.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Brian Beutler Is Driven Shrill by Roberrt Novak

Brain is bemused at Novak's ability to claim with a straight face that Hamas wants peace with the "Zionist Entity" it will not recognize:

Brian Beutler: Huh! again: Robert Novak:

On April 7, ending a seven-day visit to Israel, I finally got an interview I had sought for a year. I sat down in a Palestinian Authority office in Ramallah with a leader of Hamas, the extremist organization that won last year's elections. This leader pushed a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution and deplored suicide bombers. But officials in Washington seem not to want to hear Hamas calling for peace.

No fringe character, this was Naser al-Shaer: education minister and deputy prime minister in the new coalition government. Shaer signaled that the regime recognizes Israel's right to exist and forgoes violence... even if Hamas does not. "We hope that it is going to be a matter of time," Shaer told me. "But there is a big chance now."

Calling for peace with a country whose existence you don't recognize seems to have success written all over it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Scott Horton Is Really Shrill!

Of Republicans and Banana-Republicans:

Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine) : I have spent a good bit of time in the archives over the last two weeks, reading materials from the first two decades of the Republican Party – the formative conventions, the campaign of John Charles Frémont and then the rise of Abraham Lincoln, the vigorous debate over the country’s stake in slavery and the resolve to stem it that led to civil war. It was a heady period. Much of this is played out in the pages of Harper’s magazine – for while the magazine took no formal posture and published works of Democrats and Republicans alike (including an amazing essay by Stephen A. Douglas), there is little doubt as to the partisan orientation of the publication as a whole. The spirit of the age stood with the Republicans, and so did Harper’s. And while much of the language of the period seems musty and florid, there is a vigor and strength of vision in those years which is truly inspiring. Indeed, the fact and rise of the Republican Party itself is inspiring – one of the decisive turns in the history of the American Republic, and in the end one of the great political parties to emerge in the totality of human history. But reading all of this and then turning to the morning newspapers every day, I can’t suppress the question: how did it come to this? It’s hard to see even a trace of the party of Frémont and Lincoln in the party of Bush and Rove. Indeed, the values that Bush and Rove espouse and the constituencies to which they pander seem very much just what’s in the crosshairs for the Republicans of 1856 and 1860; a check of the electoral map in 2004 and 2006 shows the Republican constituencies of yore are, with very few exceptions, safely in the Democratic column, while Bush builds off a base starting with the old Confederacy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

TeddySanFran on Washington Post "Ombudsman" Deborah Howell

Deborah Howell: truly one of the most extraordinary practitioners of American journamalism in our time:

TeddySanFran: Ombudswho?: Lots shakin' at The Washington Post lately. An alert Ombudsman had plenty to choose from, should she want to act as the Readers' Representative. Here are some examples (from just the last ten days) where readers deserved an ombud or two: —Syndicated columnist Robert Novak got confused about Valerie Plame Wilson's covert status, and blamed his confusion on the CIA Director. — Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt responded to Greg Sargent's question about identifying Liz Cheney as the Veep's daughter, and admitted he'd violated his own policies on identifying opiners. —Opiner Charles Krauthammer got fact-free discussing the reason RGJoe won last fall. —Media critic Howard Kurtz clued us in to Imus' charm. —The Editorial page parroted RNC talking points in criticizing the Speaker's "Pratfall in Damascus." —Richard Cohen declared Fifth-Amendment-taker Monica Goodling "no criminal."

From this embarassment of riches, what choice did Ombudsman Deborah Howell make? In response to ONE reader's complaint, she devoted her entire weekly output to a Masters golf tournament betting pool among five Post sportwriters that totalled $250. Reaching her customarily management-friendly conclusion, Deb opined "The Masters pool is not a grave ethical matter, but The Post should have written rules to guide sports journalists on betting"...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More Journamalism of a Remarkable Order

From Unfogged:

Unfogged: Times Style Section Discovers Fun New Trend: Serial Rape Posted by LizardBreathon 04.15.07: What on earth is a story about a designer who's been accused of rape by a number of models, some underage, doing in the Style Section? Because the women were models, it's a trend piece?

A truly fascinating note is the contrast between the headline on the story: "The Designer Who Liked Models," and the title appearing at the top of the web page: "models-rape-sexual battery-Anand Jon - New York Times." The web-monkey who came up with the latter title appears to live on the same planet I do; I can't say the same for the headline writer.

Frank Rich Has Lost His Mind

Frank Rich writes:

Everybody Hates Don Imus - New York Times: It’s possible that the only people in this whole sorry story who are not hypocrites are the Rutgers teammates and their coach, C. Vivian Stringer. And perhaps even Don Imus himself, who, while talking way too much about black people he has known and ill children he has helped, took full responsibility for his own catastrophic remarks...

Gwen Ifill is not a hypocrite:

Think Progress » Gwen Ifill Calls Out Russert, Brooks For Their Silence On Imus: PBS anchor Gwen Ifill directly called out host Tim Russert and fellow guest David Brooks for failing to speak out against Don Imus’ offensive remarks.

Yow know, it’s interesting to me. This has been an interesting week. The people who have spoken, the people who issued statements and the people who haven’t. There has been radio silence from a lot of people who have done this program who could have spoken up and said, I find this offensive or I didn’t know. These people didn’t speak up. Tim, we didn’t hear from you. David, we didn’t hear from you. What was missing in this debate was someone saying, you know, I understand that this is offensive.

You know, I have a 7-year-old god daughter.... I would like to think that 10 years from now, that Asia isn’t going to be deciding that she wants to get recruited for the college basketball team or be a tennis pro or go to medical school and that she is still vulnerable to those kinds of casual slurs and insults that I got 10 years ago, and that people will say, I didn’t know, or people will say, I wasn’t listening. A lot of people did know and a lot of people were listening and they just decided it was okay.

They decided this culture of meanness was fine — until they got caught. My concern about Mr. Imus and a lot of people and a lot of the debate in this society is not that people are sorry that they say these things, they are sorry that someone catches them. When Don Imus said this about me when I worked here at NBC, when I found out about it, his producer called because Don said he wants to apologize. Well, now he says he never said it. What was he apologizing for? He was apologizing for getting caught, not apologizing for having said it in the first place. And that to me is the debate we need to have, David is right, about the culture of meanness, about the culture of racial complaint, about the internal culture within our community about how we talk to one another. But just this week it was finally saying, enough...

However, Frank Rich is a hypocrite. He himself says that he is a hypocrite:

Among the hypocrites surrounding Imus, I’ll include myself. I’ve been a guest on his show many times since he first invited me in the early 1990s, when I was a theater critic. I’ve almost always considered him among the smarter and more authentic conversationalists I’ve encountered as an interviewee. As a book author, I could always use the publicity. Of course I was aware of many of his obnoxious comments about minority groups, including my own, Jews. Sometimes he aimed invective at me personally. I wasn’t seriously bothered by much of it, even when it was unfunny or made me wince, because I saw him as equally offensive to everyone. The show’s crudest interludes struck me as burlesque.... [A]s a listener and sometime guest, I didn’t judge Imus to be a bigot...

But now Rich says that Imus is a bigot:

[P]erhaps I was kidding myself. What Imus said about the Rutgers team landed differently, not least because his slur was aimed at young women who had no standing in the world of celebrity, and who had done nothing in public except behave as exemplary student athletes. The spectacle of a media star verbally assaulting them, and with a creepy, dismissive laugh, as if the whole thing were merely a disposable joke, was ugly. You couldn’t watch it without feeling that some kind of crime had been committed. That was true even before the world met his victims...

Or maybe Imus isn't. Or maybe he is:

So while I still don’t know whether Imus is a bigot, there was an inhuman contempt in the moment that sounded like hate to me. You can see it and hear it in the video clip in a way that isn’t conveyed by his words alone...

But, Rich says, Imus should keep his TV and radio shows:

Does that mean he should be silenced? The Rutgers team pointedly never asked for that, and I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. First, as a longtime Imus listener rather than someone who tuned in for the first time last week, I heard not only hate in his wisecrack but also honesty in his repeated vows to learn from it. Second, as a free-speech near-absolutist, I don’t believe that even Mel Gibson, to me an unambiguous anti-Semite, should be deprived of his right to say whatever the hell he wants to say. The answer to his free speech is more free speech — mine and yours. Let Bill O’Reilly talk about “wetbacks” or Rush Limbaugh accuse Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s symptoms, and let the rest of us answer back. Liberals are kidding themselves if they think the Imus firing won’t have a potentially chilling effect.... Already in the Imus aftermath, the born-again blogger Tom DeLay has called for the firing of Rosie O’Donnell because of her “hateful” views on Chinese-Americans, conservative Christians and President Bush...

No, Imus shouldn't keep them, says Rich. Not unless the media companies think he attracts an audience their advertisers want to sell to:

That said, corporations, whether television or radio networks or movie studios or commercial sponsors, are free to edit or cancel any content. No one has an inalienable right to be broadcast or published or given a movie or music contract. Whether MSNBC and CBS acted out of genuine principle or economic necessity is a debate already raging...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Tiny Revolution Is Shrill

It is Richard Cohen's fault:

A Tiny Revolution: Hey, What's Going On Inside Richard Cohen's Fantasy World This Week?: INSIDE RICHARD COHEN'S HEAD Richard Cohen, today: "Washington is relentlessly middle class..."


[F]our of the eight wealthiest counties in America are Washington suburbs: Median Household Income (In 2003 Inflation-adjusted Dollars) 1. Somerset County, NJ $89,289 2. Howard County, MD $88,555 3. Prince William County, VA $82,926 4. Morris County, NJ $82,025 5. Fairfax County, VA $80,753 6. Nassau County, NY $80,647 7. Santa Clara County, CA $76,544 8. Montgomery County, MD $76,439

More recently, the Washington Post reported:

The three most prosperous large counties in the United States are in the Washington suburbs, according to census figures released yesterday, which show that the region has the second-highest income and the least poverty of any major metropolitan area in the country.

Of course, you can understand how Richard Cohen could get this wrong, since he has neither internet access nor a subscription to the Washington Post.

Richard Cohen Should Be Put to Work Building Drainage Ditches in Bangladesh

It would be much more useful to the world than what he does. Here is Richard Cohen being proud that he doesn't know anything about the World Bank, or about agricultural policies in Bangladesh:

The Blog | Richard Cohen: Wolfowitz: Mission Accomplished? | The Huffington Post: Take a nation to war for spurious reasons and no one much complains. But arrange a raise for your girlfriend, and you get booed in the atrium of the World Bank and have to visibly sweat in public.... The Wolfowitz Rule, as it shall now be called, was applied to its eponymous creator when he was transferred from the Pentagon... to the World Bank.... I quickly run out of knowledge about the World Bank. It makes loans to the third world counties, or something like that. All I know is that I lived in Washington for 28 years and never once saw an ATM for the World Bank. Go figure.

Anyway, the bank is where you go after you fuck up at the Pentagon....

[T]he world bankers were not thrilled with Wolfie. Truth to tell, they are not thrilled with the Bush administration in general and, to be parochial about it, its hostile view of international organizations, of which the World Bank is one. But the president gets his way....

[A]fter saying (but not actually doing) that he had consulted with ethics officers, Wolfie arranged for his girlfriend to be transferred to the State Department - and to get a raise of more than $60,000 a year.... Ms. Riza is a highly-educated... person... can probably, when plied with enough wine, wax rhapsodic on the appalling agricultural policies of the Bangladeshi government. This is invariably the sort of woman who I sat next to at every dinner party I attended in Washington and to whom you do not dare say, should the moment or the wine seize you, "Your eyes are like deep pools of love."

Second, the money. In any other world capital a raise to $193,590 would hardly be thought scandalous. This is lunch for some hedge fund types, a hour or so on a Net Jet, a little car for the little lady, a bauble for the sec'y or, should the wage earner be a woman, a dress from Betty at Bergdorf's, a fur or, if you are really splurging, arugula at Elie Zabar's emporium on the Upper East Side. But Washington is relentlessly middle class....

At this writing--a phrase I've always wanted to write--Wolfowitz is hanging on by his proverbial thumbs. The world bankers are furious at him and will, if they can, use the present scandal as a way of getting back at Bush--for both being Bush (his greatest mistake) and for inflicting Wolfowitz on them.

As for Wolfowitz himself, you must take pity on the man. He confused war with love and thought if he could do what he wanted with the former he could do what he wanted with the latter. Now, he has learned his lesson.

Mission, as they say, accomplished.

Observe how far from Richard Cohen's consciousness are--indeed, how mockable he thinks are--the ideas that (a) the World Bank has real business to do, and (b) Bangladesh's agricultural policies matter. These aren't things that are of concern to Richard Cohen and his class of fellow foppish journamalists.

And, of course, why are we not surprised to learn that the Bangladeshi government's agricultural policies are not that bad? Perhaps Richard Cohen could provide some help before he next sneers at the country.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Joe Klein Ignorant Journamalism Watch

On Tuesday, George W. Bush says:

President Bush Discusses Iraq War Supplemental, War on Terror: if Congress fails to pass a [war funding] bill I can sign by mid-April, the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on equipment repair... consider curtailing some training for Guard and Reserve units here at home. This... could delay their availability to mobilize for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the... Army will be forced to... consider delaying or curtailing the training of some active duty forces, reducing the availability of those... forces to deploy overseas.... So what does that mean?... Some of our forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended, because other units are not ready to take their places...

On Friday, Joe Klein attacks Duncan Black because Duncan notices what Bush said. Klein writes:

Enter Atrios - Swampland - TIME: wait a second, you mean it works like this: Bush vetoes appropriation, then announces troops will stay longer...because the Democrats won't pay for them? Sorry. Does not scan...

It may not make any sense, but Bush said it. Can't we get Joe Klein to learn what Bush says, rather than remaining in ignorant darkness? I mean, is it that hard to do the basics of your journalistic job?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stupidest Man Alive: Frederick Kagan

Attaturk is shrill:

Rising Hegemon: The Surge is working no matter what: Fred Kagan: March 11, 2007:

There is still violence, as Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda seek to prove that the surge is not working. However, they are striking at more vulnerable targets in the provinces. Violence is down in Baghdad.

April 12, 2007:

We are not simply "squeezing the water balloon." Violence is up in the Baghdad belts because U.S. and Iraqi forces have been aggressively attacking al Qaeda bases in those areas that have been funneling weapons and fighters into Baghdad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ana Marie Cox Snarks at Mark Halperin

She writes:

The Word From Up on High - Swampland - TIME: Apologies for my absence yesterday, I was up in Boston, pretending I know something about politics. Also there: Mark Halperin, late of the Note, who gave a brown bag talk at Harvard's Institute of Politics about the "problems" present in modern political journalism, as observed by him and from his talks with actual campaign professionals.

Shockingly, "absurdly kowtowing to whoever happens to be in power" was not on the list. He did lay into bloggers, who apparently sometimes "taint" their analysis by "engaging in ad hominem attacks." Also, the blogs of "mainstream" publications are not up to Halperin-approved journalistic grade. Did you know, for instance, that the "New York Times regularly puts stories on its website that don't make it into the next day's paper"? Halperin suggested that this disparity stems from the online stories not living up to the printed edition's rigorous standards.

Halperin also told the group that the MSM does a disservice to its readers when they ascribe "only political motives" to politicians. He cited coverage of Bush's border policy as an example, saying "all you hear is that Bush is trying to appeal to Hispanic voters," rather than, for instance, that Bush does care deeply about border protection as a national security issue. Said Halperin, "I guarantee you most of these politicians take these positions because they believe it's for the good of the country."

As for those bloggers, the ones "tainted" by having ideological motives -- unlike our patriotic politicians, mind you -- Halperin generously allowed that "I don't mind if people blog -- but they should apply high standards of journalism," and "they should focus on news organizations when they fail to meet the standards of the profession," i.e., accuracy and objectivity. In fact, he said, "the best solution is for serious consumers of news to write letters to the editor."

Nope. The Stupidest Man Alive Is David S. Broder

Enough to drive anybody shrill:

David S. Broder - Time for A Bargain On the War - In the continuing battle between the Democratic Congress and the Bush administration over policy in Iraq, logic is on the Democrats' side, but the crucial political leverage belongs to the president. It behooves the realists in both camps to recognize what the troops and the country have at stake -- and negotiate a compromise.... Democrats ought to concede one big point... [U.S.] forces will be [in Iraq] as long as George Bush wants them to remain.

Once that point is conceded, Bush should be called upon to pay some attention to the Democrats' demands -- and the public opinion that supports them. At a minimum, he should say he is willing to enforce on our Iraqi allies the requirements everyone knows are necessary steps for a political settlement of the internal conflict: the agreement on distribution of oil revenue, the promised amendments to the constitution, the creation of local and regional governments. Bush should indicate publicly -- for the sake of American public opinion and as a clear signal to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- that without those pledges being met, he cannot justify the sacrifices American troops are making...

Broder's "compromise" consists of (a) Democrats letting George W. Bush drive the train, and (b) George W. Bush not being an idiot. If George W. Bush were capable of not being an idiot, we would not be in this situation.

Oops. Jonah Goldberg Is Not Today's Stupidest Man Alive. Richard Cohen Is

This will drive you really shrill:

Richard Cohen - Candor? Call the Special Prosecutor! - [Monica] Goodling's problem is probably not what she's done but what she might do. If she testifies before Congress... she will produce a record.... If a subsequent witness later on has a different memory of what transpired, then the bloodcurdling cry of "special prosecutor" will once again be heard in the land.... No lawyer is going to be thrilled about letting a client testify in today's political environment....

[O]rdinary politics -- leaking, sniping, lying, cheating, exaggerating and other forms of PG entertainment -- have been so thoroughly criminalized that only a fool would appear before Congress without attempting to bargain for immunity by first invoking the Fifth Amendment. After all, it is a permissible exaggeration to say that in recent years more senior federal officials have had sit-downs with prosecutors than have members of the Gambino family.... [O]nly a fool would accept a juicy federal appointment and not keep the home number of a criminal lawyer on speed dial.

May I suggest that Gonzales quit and go back to Texas where, I'm sure, the pace of executions is lagging without him. May I suggest, further, that he and Karl Rove and, of course, George W. Bush have unforgivably politicized the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys -- and Congress is not only right in looking into this but also has an absolute obligation to do so....

In the end, though, some thought has to be given to why Monica Goodling feels obligated to take the Fifth rather than merely telling Congress what happened in the AG's office. She's no criminal -- but what could happen to her surely is.

It is remarkable: Richard Cohen says Congress has an absolute obligation to investigate, but that it is unfair for it to compel anybody who doesn't want to to testify. This is simply bonkers.

Jonah Goldberg: Today's Stupidest Man Alive

If you aren't shrill now, you will be after reading Jonah Goldberg:

The Corner on National Review Online: there is no such thing as a "reasonable" movement to prevent climate change because climate changes by definition. Saying we can prevent climate change is like saying we can prevent tides, tectonic drift, or rain. And no one would say any movement to stop rain is "reasonable."...

Adler, like many, seems determined to portray any deviation from the Gore-line to sound inherently unreasonable. When, in fact, the core assumption driving so much of global warming alarmism -- Stop Climate Change! -- is itself deeply unreasonable, if not outright crazy. I can't speak for anybody over at Planet Gore, but I'd bet that all those guys are all in favor of preventing catastrophes and otherwise mitigating the worse effects of climate change. But the first step toward doing that is to have a reasonable discussion, not scare people out of their pants and call anyone who cries foul "unreasonable."

Monday, April 09, 2007

Duncan Black Is Shrill!

He watches Howard Fineman explain to Don Imus why it used to be OK to call the Rutgers basketball team "nappy-haired hos," but is not OK any more:

Eschaton: Fineman and Imus, a few minutes ago.Fineman: It's a different time Imus. It's diferent than it was even a few years ago, politically. You know, in the environment politically it's changed. And some of the stuff you used to do you just can't do anymore.... You just can't because the times have changed. I mean just looking specifically at the African-American situation. I mean, hello, Barack Obama has gotten twice the number of contributors of anybody else in the race. I mean, you know, things have changed. Some of the kind of humor you used to do you just can't do anymore. So that's just the way it is.

Digby on Howard Fineman. Digby Is Shrill!

Digby writes:

>Hullabaloo: I'm almost speechless at Fineman's comments, though. A rich white man derisively calling black women "nappy headed hoes" has never been acceptable among decent people --- never. Howard Fineman just lowered himself to the level of the most rank, putrid racist by implying that Imus is just a little bit behind the times with his bigoted remarks. I'm surprised he didn't come right out and say that Imus should have used "less inflammatory" language to describe his racist revulsion for the Rutgers University women's basketball team. You just can't say those things, you see. (Maybe he could have given him some pointers on proper racist code like: "those are some rough looking, affirmative action queens.")

Meanwhile, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz publicly derides liberal bloggers as racists for being rude to poor little Michelle Malkin, author of "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" and "In Defense Of Internment." And the NY Times uses its front page to issue a call for blogger ethics. From where I sit as one of those loathesome pseudonymous bloggers, this looks a bit odd. In fact it looks as if the mainstream press is living in an insular little universe populated by rich rightwingers who either lead them around like pied pipers --- or have welcomed them into their ranks. Either way, they continue to fail their readers with this increasingly difficult to sustain disconnect from the world in which the rest of us are living.

Paul Keil Is Shrill!

He writes:

TPMmuckraker April 6, 2007 08:53 AM: Now, as with nearly every Cheney statement, this is about three distortions rolled into one big lie. The three distortions: Zarqawi did not organize operations for Al Qaeda prior to the invasion, in fact, he did not affiliate himself with al Qaeda until 2004; prior to the 2003 invasion, he was in the northern Kurdish portion of Iraq, outside of Saddam Hussein's control, not Baghdad; and there's no evidence of collusion between Zarqawi and Hussein. (A bonus fourth distortion might be the fact that the U.S. reportedly had a prime chance to kill Zarqawi before the invasion, but chose not to -- some say because his presence in Iraq provided justification for the war.) But the big lie is that Iraq and Al Qaeda were allies and co-conspirators.

It just so happens that something else happened yesterday: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) released a declassified version of the Defense Department's Inspector General's report on Doug Feith's intel shop at the Pentagon, the one tasked with finding a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the runup to the war. And the report shows that not only did the Intelligence Community speak with one voice before the war that there was no evidence of a significant relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but they were right.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

If Michael Issikoff Had Written This Story Six Years Ago...

Michael Issikoff writes that Alberto Gonzales is a lying, incompetent buffoon. Now he could have written this story at any time during the past seven years--Alberto Gonzales has not changed. If Michael Issikoff had written this story six, or five, or four years ago, he would have performed a public service.

He didn't.

Gonzales Crams for a Senate Grilling: April 16, 2007 issue - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has virtually wiped his public schedule clean to bone up for his long-awaited April 17 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee--a session widely seen as a crucial test as to whether he will survive the U.S. attorney mess. But even his own closest advisers are nervous about whether he is up to the task.

At a recent "prep" for a prospective Sunday talk-show interview, Gonzales's performance was so poor that top aides scrapped any live appearances. During the March 23 session in the A.G.'s conference room, Gonzales was grilled by a team of top aides and advisers--including former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and former White House lawyer Tim Flanigan--about what he knew about the plan to fire seven U.S. attorneys last fall. But Gonzales kept contradicting himself and "getting his timeline confused," said one participant who asked not to be identified talking about a private meeting.

His advisers finally got "exasperated" with him, the source added. "He's not ready," Tasia Scolinos, Gonzales's public-affairs chief, told the A.G.'s top aides after the session was over, said the source. Asked for comment, Scolinos told NEWSWEEK: "This was the first session of this kind that we'd done."

One problem is that Gonzales is increasingly isolated. Top DOJ lawyers have decreed he can't talk about the U.S. attorney firings with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and his staff, who are key witnesses in an internal Justice inquiry into whether DOJ officials misled Congress. (Any consultation could be viewed as an attempt to "coordinate" their stories.) With his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, forced to resign, Gonzales has no trusted aide who both knows the facts about the firings and has political skills, according to a top DOJ official who asked not to be named talking about internal matters.

Courtney Elwood, a former deputy to Dick Cheney's chief counsel David Addington, who is now working for Gonzales, has taken on a bigger role, shutting down responses to most inquiries from Congress and the news media because she views the firings flap as a purely "legal" issue. "There's nobody quarterbacking this," said another frustrated administration official, who asked not to be identified for the same reasons. "The department is in a state of paralysis."

But Gonzales remains determined to make his case. He is spending hours alone in his office, poring over documents and calling members of Congress; his staff is planning "murder board" sessions later this week where outsiders may be brought in to play the roles of Judiciary chair Sen. Patrick Leahy or Sen. Chuck Schumer. Gonzales is likely to start out next week's hearing with a more expansive mea culpa. "The attorney general definitely regrets how this situation has been handled," said Scolinos. "But he firmly believes that nothing improper was done."

Sifu Tweety Fish Is Shrill!

Over at the Poor Man Institute for Freedom, Democracy, and a Pony:

: The New York Times, master of the form. In today's business section, most of the above-the-fold column inches were supplanted by a massive graphic of, well, money (clever!). The only text to be had at a glance was a column, at first glance perfectly reasonable, on the implosion in the sub-prime lending market. This, as you may have heard, is something of a disaster, with lenders going out of business left and right, foreclosures escalating, and the risk, once believed to be safely pawned off on the little guy, creeping back upwards towards the big, "reputable" lending institutions. Terrible situation. But who's fault? The Times is happy to tell us.... It was Bill Clinton! Through the machinations of shady deputy Henry Cisneros, big Bill single-handedly created the sub-prime industry, and, by extension, the collapse of the housing bubble we're seeing today.... Except, you know, it isn't true.

Just to start things off, every single presidential administration for the past seventy-odd years has made homeownership a priority. Second, HUD has slightly less control over subprime lenders than the Mayor of Spokane. The only piece of the lending industry over which HUD has actual authority over is FHA, which is only now trying to catch up with the private lending industry's more, uh, downmarket offerings. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, quasi-governmental entities, have done their share of mucking about in subprime, but to claim that they would ever listen to a diktat from Henry Cisneros is probably, uh, overstating things. In any case, they were barely involved in non-prime lending until this decade...

Thomas Ricks Drives Matthew Yglesias into Shrill Unholy Madness

Matthew gibbers beneath the dead, sterile, uncaring moon:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: There's good and bad in Thomas Ricks' Washington Post article on the contrast between Iraq-the-place and Iraq-the-issue but the conclusion is absurd:

Yet, with a new approach underway in Baghdad, the Washington debate is largely irrelevant to the concerns of the soldier on the ground, said the Army officer who recently returned from Baghdad. "All the talk about pullouts, votes and budgets really doesn't mean much to that 18-year-old with his body armor driving across Iraq worried about IEDs," he said, referring to roadside bombs. "For him, life consists of trying to survive for 365 days to get back home -- only to know he'll have to come back again."

Now, to be sure, most 18 year-olds don't care about congressional debates and no doubt 18 year-olds serving in a combat zone are even less inclined to become political junkies. But the Washington debate is hardly irrelevant to his concerns. He's "trying to survive for 365 days to get back home -- only to know he'll have to come back again." Whether or not he has to come back again is, however, exactly what's being debated. There's a lot of political posturing going on inside the Beltway, but it's not all posturing -- the actual policies that determine how many people go to Iraq and for how long get made here.