The Kerry Mystery Challenge.

A mostly political Weblog.
Dec. 2 2002 1:25 AM

Kerry Mystery Contest

Plus: Raines Remains Silent, Day 6!

Another " sophisticated exegesis of a sociological phenomonon" from the NYTAndrew Sullivan has noticed a highly embarrassing New York Times  correction of an Arts section front page piece that (as NEXIS, but not the NYT correction, reveals) was written by TV reporter Bill Carter. The erroneous piece itself has apparently been removed from the Times Web site. (Update:  It hasn't been removed. It's here. Thanks, M.R. and V.R.) ... In the piece, Carter described how David E. Kelley, "himself raised Catholic in Boston," wrote an episode of "The Practice" about the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal. Carter's article was headlined, 

A Catholic Writer Brings His Anger to 'The Practice'

But it turns out Kelley "was brought up Protestant, not Roman Catholic." Oops! ... This error doesn't vitiate the entire piece (though the piece wasn't much to begin with). It does vitiate the angle the NYT's headline and photo caption writers seized on to sell it. ... P.S.: Why did the Times want Carter's flimsy story, which is really a glorified TV Guide entry, in the first place? Could it have been because the Catholic sex abuse scandals are (according to Newsweek) another Howell Raines crusade -- a crusade during which he's determined to "flood the zone" with Church sex abuse articles, even if that means hyping a single episode of a TV show? ... Just a thought! ... Do Raines' crusades turn out to encourage errors the same way "body counts" encouraged errors in Vietnam? ... 2:17 A.M.

Kerry Mystery Challenge: What is it that makes so many people, myself included, intensely dislike Sen. John Kerry? This is the great mystery surrounding his 2004 presidential campaign. I don't think "aloof and arrogant," the traditional Kerry negatives, are exactly it -- he may be aloof and arrogant, but there are plenty of aloof and arrogant people I don't rule out instantly due to their gross characterological deficiency, which is what I do with Kerry. It's not just his "long record of opportunism," though again that's part of it. ... I say we harness the power of the Web to solve the mystery! A copy of Kerry's undoubtedly riveting book, The New War, to the kf reader (or non-kf reader) who most precisely describes the root of Kerry's loathsomeness. ...(References to descriptions of Kerry by others may also qualify for the prize .) ... My own attempt: I think it starts with the phony furrowed brow. Perpetually furrowed and perpetually phony. It's been furrowed for so long I doubt he could unfurrow it now even if his advisers convinced him that would be a good tack to take! ...Then add the sense that Kerry would never ever take a principled or unpopular stand if losing the argument might actually threaten to derail his precious political career. (He apparently made some anti-affirmative-action noises in 1992 and quickly backed down when the obvious groups complained.) Add in relentless, obvious self-promotion to the point of indignity -- sucking up to Gore while jockeying for the vice-presidential nod in 2000, for example (as described by The New Republic's  Ryan Lizza). Plus the way his equally ambitious supporters call him "JFK." It's creepy. The man's an animatronic Lincoln. There's a metal plate in the back of his head -- under all the glued-on "hair"  -- that they open up and stick screwdrivers in when he gets back to his office.... There, that's my best shot. But I'm not sure it's quite there. I know you can do better!. ... P.S.: Here's a small-but-telling example of clumsy self-promotional dissembling: TNR's Michael Crowley  reports that Kerry is not an "unreconstructed liberal in the Kennedy tradition" because Kerry "was a strong supporter of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings balanced-budget act ... 'That was heresy back in Massachusetts,' [Kerry] says." Heresy in Massachusetts? Teddy Kennedy himself supported Gramm-Rudman-Hollings. How heretical could it have been? ...P.P.S.: See  Talking Points on the press' dislike of Kerry. ...12:53 A.M.

Sunday, December 1, 2002

Does the NYT not publish letters to the editor  when they're too effective? (Second item) No wonder there are blogs. ...11:29 P.M.

Raines Staying Silent in Debate on Augusta Crusade, Day 6! Ever since NYT Executive Editor Howell Raines has come under attack for his forced, feverish crusade  regarding the Augusta National Golf Club's men-only membership policy, he has been silent on the issue, apparently hoping the complaints of a few Web writers and the New York Observer will be smothered by public indifference! ... But now comes Newsweek's Seth Mnookin, playing catch-up to Slate's Jack Shafer  and the  Observer's Sridhar Pappu. (Mnookin gives Shafer the required insignificant mention). Mnookin's got internal grumbling from Times staffers, in the form of blind quotes, plus a great closing anecdote. ... He's even got a "comes at a time" paragraph! ... Is Raines "in danger of losing the building," as one staffer tells Mnookin -- the Sulzbergian version of losing the Arab Street? ....The Times has run 32 stories on the Augusta controversy in less than 3 months, Mnookin says. .... The paper appears to be resisting the argument that it should rein in Raines' egomaniacal campaign, instead letting its flack put out the absurd, Fox-like line, "Our coverage judgments are based on news value." ... 5:05 P.M.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Reich Veers Right! Robert Reich's proposed policy ideas for the Democrats  are quite appealing. I'm not joking. I was especially intrigued by this one:

Expand the Earned-Income Tax Credit to become an all-purpose system for financing everything low-income people need, and get rid of all the complicated categorical programs with all their different eligibility criteria and bureaucratic bumbling.

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