The New York Times' ephedra hypocrisy.

The New York Times' ephedra hypocrisy.

The New York Times' ephedra hypocrisy.

A mostly political Weblog.
Feb. 23 2003 11:08 PM

Stimulating Times

Plus: Incoming! Kf spots a Clark boomlet.

"The fourth quarter belongs to us" says NYT Managing Editor Howell Raines, declaring that people like him "who work for fair-minded publications have been too passive in pointing out the agendas" of their critics. Reactions:

1. Does he think he lost the first three quarters? Did I miss the halftime pep talk?

2. Why lash out? Is he in trouble? Luskin thinks so. I'm not so sure. True, the Augusta Spike was humiliating for both Raines and the Times. But Raines' statements are in line with equally self-righteous, ad hominem, blindered declarations of his own saintly objectivity he's made over the years -- most notably when he attacked James Fallows and The Washington Monthly's Charles Peters in the NYT for what Raines said was their argument that reporters should "see themselves as civic stenographers dedicated to promoting worthy policies."  Back then, Raines also claimed that he, by contrast, he was part of a "tradition that calls on reporters to forwswear partisan advocacy ... to be agnostic as to public policy outcomes ...."

3. Did Raines have no "agenda" when he was in charge of his paper's editorial page? Was he "agnostic as to public policy outcomes"? That would have made for pretty dull editorials, and Raines' page wasn't dull. The whole point of an editorial page is to have an agenda! Did Raines then turn off his agenda, and turn on his agnosticism, when he got promoted? Where is that switch?

4. Something's getting to him!  12:02 A.M.

How did The Note miss this quote?

"The country is clearly ambivalent about Iraq. Kerry has been exactly where the country is."

-- Kerry spokesman Chris Lehane.


Well, he's our leader then! ... 3:20 P.M.

How is the NYT like CBS? Who said the New York Times, isn't advertising package tours to the Masters! ... The Times has righteously called on various institutions (CBS, Tiger Woods) to "choose not to support" -- i.e. boycott -- the tournament and the all-male golf club that runs it. But that doesn't mean the paper isn't above making a few bucks letting sell "Masters Golf Packages" (including "Tickets, Hotel, and Private Houses") on the Times Web site. Does Gerald Boyd know about this? ... In the NYT's editorial world view, isn't that a bit like running ads for Woolworth's Greensboro, N.C. lunch counters  in January, 1960 (or the Montgomery Area Transit System in early 1956)?... 11:08 A.M.

Blogs advance the story, I: Antic Muse would appear to have a scooplet in the Bloomberg  L.P. vs. NYU flap. ... 10:52 A.M.

Ginger-greasers: If you're sympathetic to the "nothing new to buy" explanation for our current economic doldrums, it's not crazy to think of this  as a possible solution, rather than simply a case of hypocritical corporate welfare-seeking. ... 2:18 A.M.


Is Slate's Robert Wright a Buddhist? ... 2:02 A.M.

Send Less Chuck Berry?  Was it worth reading  100 inches of Bernard Weinraub's prose just so I could attack the NYT's ongoing front page Remedial Rock and Roll for Menopausal Yuppies series? No! Too high a price to pay for a cheap blog item! ... But I read it anyway. To my horror, I enjoyed it. After reading Weinraub on Hollywood, I can't trust him as my musical guide -- for example, is it true that in the 40s Berry "discovered that the harmony of many popular songs was derived from the chords of George Gershwin's 'I Got Rhythm,' and were known as songs with rhythm changes"? Seems oddly oversimplified. But Weinraub makes it clear that Berry's rock and roll -- i.e., rock and roll -- was multiracial at its inception, with clear white (country and western, "hillbilly") as well as black (Muddy Waters, Nat King Cole) influences. Much more complicated than a simple case of the white man copping the black man's music. ... Was the beat of Berry's first single really "derived from Bill Haley and the Comets"? I'd always just assumed the borrowing went the other way. ... Bonus Bo-Skipper:  Weinraub's first profile, of Bo Diddley, was drearier and more PC. If you saw Diddley open for The Clash in 1979, you don't think it's a mystery why "he has never enjoyed quite the success and recognition" of Chuck Berry or Little Richard." Diddley's set was fifteen seconds of excitement, and then an arrogant, crushingly tedious jam for half an hour. But even the Diddley profile had tidbits: Diddley inventing his famous beat after listening to a song by Gene Autry; Diddley these days spending his time listening "mostly to classical music" and repairing "hearses and vintage cars." ... 1:26 A.M.

Sunday, February 23, 2003  

"The stimulant ephedra is banned from Olympic sports, college sports and the N.F.L.," wrote George Vecsey in the NYT last week. "It may soon be banned from sale in Suffolk County on Long Island. But it was not banned from the locker of the late Steve Bechler." And, Vecsey might have added, it's not banned from the NYT's web site, which still runs ads for "Ephedra Super Caps: 850 mg. pure ephedra extract."  ... Blogger Kaimi Wenger catches theCrusading Liberal Newspaper in a bit of presumably-inadvertent hypocrisy  -- campaigning against the dangerous dietary supplement in its news space while making money from ephedra in its ad space.  ... The key NYT Web Page of Shame is here. ... The mighty Times will probably cave to lone-blogger Wenger fairly quickly. They can't be making that much money off of these ads. ... P.S.: At least they didn't advertise, you know, something really awful like a trip to The Masters! ... Update: The links seem to be served up by an automated program that keys off the relevant search words. Search for "ephedra" and you get ads for ephedra (and for outfits trolling for ephedra victims). Still, isn't the Times ultimately responsible for what appears on its page? If you search for "cigarette" or "escort service," for example, you don't get cigarette and escort ads. Presumably there's a reason for that. ...  7:35 P.M.

Friday, February 21, 2003  


Gary Hart responds in the N.Y. Sun to the flap over his criticism of "Americans who too often find it hard to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands from their loyalties to America." ... Maybe he wasn't thinking about Israel. Fair enough. But Hart still won't say just what or whom he was thinking about -- he's even backing away from the Irish and Cubans. If a politician makes a statement like that ("We must not let our role in the world be dictated by .. Americans who too often ..." etc) it's not media arrogance to ask him to give a concrete example or two. ... And let's see what Mark Halperin of The Note has to say tomorrow. (He's the one who did the asking.) ... P.S.: Hart writes to the Sun that his statement "could apply to any group in America." Except he told the Forward  it didn't apply ("not at all") to Jews. Jewish Americans alone are immune from conflicting loyalties? ... 12:58 A.M.

Thursday, February 20, 2003  

Kf's delicate Carnivore-like sensors are picking up the beginnings of a small groundswell for General Wesley Clark. Transcripts of Clark's impressive Meet the Press performance from last Sunday are being e-mailed around Democratic modems -- and there's a  Matt Miller column extolling Clark's virtues. Which are? 1) Credible on national security; 2) "Unlike many Democrats," notes Miller, "he's not trying childishly to score points on every Bush misstep." He talks like a leader, not a candidate; 3) His somewhat idiosyncratic Iraq position (e.g. "I don't have any confidence that the inspectors are going to find anything") at least seems to result from a genuine post-9/11 think-through, reflecting "his best judgment, not partisan calculations." ... On the other hand, his ultimate Iraq stand -- we have to go to war now, but a year ago Bush should have "set Iraq aside" and avoided war -- also happens to be a perfect straddle of the issue. If war goes well, he was for it. If it goes badly, he was against it! ... Funny how that works out! What was the complaint against General Clark during the Kosovo crisis again -- that he was too political? Time to break out the Balkan books, including (I'm told) this one. ... Maybe phone up former Defense Secretary William Cohen. ...

Update -- More on Clark: Chris Suellentrop's Clark "Assessment"  emphasizes his Kosovocentric multilateralism as well as his Clintonian legacy-spinning. ... The Washington Monthly published a Clark article last September that argues the war in Afghanistan should have been a NATO operation, and seems to claim that this would have paved the way for stronger allied action against Saddam Hussein -- some sort of strengthened "containment," Clark suggested on Meet the Press (though presumably one that didn't rely on those ineffectual inspections). That may be plausible, though one looks in vain for some indication that Clark understands when his precious Kosovo model (which is to his campaign what the Massachusetts Miracle was to Michael Dukakis) might be inapplicable.  ... Clark's book is savaged by Chris Caldwell and Debra Dickerson here. (Caldwell says Clark made "end-runs around the U.S. Army chain of command" -- which doesn't seem like the worst sin in the world -- but "in military circles ... was considered a showboating egotist and a devious political operator.") ... 6:10 P.M.


Lead or leave? Yesterday, the NYT's  Thomas Friedman criticized the Bush foreign policy team  for thinking that "diplomacy is a phone call."

They don't like to travel. .. It's probably because they spend so much time infighting in Washington over policy, they're each afraid that if they leave town their opponents will change the locks on their office doors.

That seemed like a bit of a cheap shot. But today, WaPo  reports the Secretary of State Powell's defense to the "speed-dial diplomacy" charge -- and it essentialy confirms Friedman's speculation:

 He also is deeply involved in the interagency debate in Washington, making it difficult to leave for lengthy periods of time.


In other words, there is a large hidden cost to relying on the Secretary of State as the one man who can keep Rumsfeld and Cheney in check. ... Does anyone think Rumsfeld and Cheney are scared to leave town? ... 11:43 A.M.

Wednsday, February 19, 2003  

Another Demagogue Unmasked: In a long January American Prospect article, Stanley Hoffmann, the Harvard historian and occasional TNR contributor, identifies "four types with significant clout in the Bush administration" who "have pressed" for an ambitious "exceptionalist" American foreign policy. Here's the fourth type:

And finally there is a loose collection of friends of Israel, who believe in the identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States -- two democracies that, they say, are both surrounded by foes and both forced to rely on military power to survive. These analysts look at foreign policy through the lens of one dominant concern: Is it good or bad for Israel? Since that nation's founding in 1948, these thinkers have never been in very good odor at the State Department, but now they are well ensconced in the Pentagon, around such strategists as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.

If Stanley Hoffmann can say this, why can't Chris Matthews? Or would Lawrence Kaplan accuse Hoffmann of the "socialism of fools" too? (The Matthews quote denounced by Kaplan was actually significantly more diplomatic than Hoffmann's paragraph.) ... 2:22 P.M.

The Antic Muse, which seems to be Suck vet Ana Marie Cox bloggin' from Ballston, mocks The New Republic's relaunch as the Magazine that Dares Support the War and Oppose Bush's Tax Cut. At the Same Time! ... Just like, er, the Washington Post. Only more so! ... Mr. Pappu seems skeptical as well. .... 11:34 A.M.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003  

Don't Rush Me III: Anti-anti-anti-Likudnikism rears its ugly head! The Likudnik Factor must be gaining salience, as TNR's Lawrence Kaplan has been moved to launch a disingenuous and self-refuting WaPo op-ed attack  on those who broach the issue.

a) Kaplan cites (as people who have raised the "toxic" question) Pat Buchanan, Georgie Anne Geyer, Ian Buruma, Jason Vest, Chris Matthews and Robert Novak. But one suspects he's really targeting someone he doesn't name -- Robert Kaiser, who put the Likudnik Worry on the Post's front page.

b) After associating these people with Buchanan's "amen corner" comment before the last Gulf War, Kaplan declares that on the left

the socialism of fools has been enjoying something of a vogue.

The "socialism of fools" is, of course, anti-Semitism. Kaplan promptly cites Vest's statement that the Bush administration's "attack-Iraq chorus" subscribes to "articles of faith that effectively hold there is no difference between U.S. and Israeli national security interests." That's anti-Semitism? I'd thought that saying Perle, Feith, et al"sincerely believe that the interests of America and Israel coincide," as Michael Kinsley recently wrote, was the respectable way of extricating the Likudnik hawks from the charge of dual loyalty, not a way of making the charge.

c) Kaplan then shifts gears, and in his to-be-sure paragraph says the statements he's targeted aren't necessarily bad, because  

How the Bush administration has arrived at the brink of war with Saddam Hussein, and to what extent Israeli influence has brought it there, is a legitimate question about which there is ample room for disagreement. [Emphasis added.]

But wait – he's already branded the statements anti-Semitic ("the socialism of fools"). Which are they? Vile prejudice or the raising of "a legitimate question"?

d) Kaplan temporarily abandons guilt-by-association and for a single graf actually addresses the substance of the Likudnik Worry. He declares, "The charge that the administration's 'rabid Israel supporters' are behind the drive to war is risible." It is? You mean the administration's Israel supporters aren't behind the drive to war? I guess it's not as if Feith and Wolfowitz have high positions at the Department of Defense … oh wait. Some of Kaplan's arguments are more promising: He notes that many of what he calls Bush's "Jewish neoconservative" officials "have also had profound disagreements with their Israeli counterparts – not the least on the question of whether Iran or Iraq presents a greater threat."

e) But rather than back this argument up, Kaplan shifts ground again and says it's an argument he shouldn't even be having. Why? Because raising "the specter of dual loyalty" is "toxic." It's certainly potentially toxic, because it can easily be wedded to anti-Semitism. In a similar way, talk of the crisis of welfare and family disintegration was also potentially toxic, because it could easily be wedded to racism – yet it was still a discussion that the country needed to have, a discussion that, when repressed, only festered and popped up in a virulent form (e.g., when voters couldn't rely on mainstream pols to discuss welfare, they turned to David Duke).

f) But Kaplan doesn't even really engage in the debate over whether to have a debate on the Likudnik's influence. He simply asserts that broaching the potential for divided loyalties is designed "to quiet criticism and debate." Huh? People are raising the Likudnik Worry precisely as part of their criticism (or skepticism) of the Administration's Iraq policy, a policy that, far from being suppressed, has the loose support of most of the respectable foreign policy commentariat. Meanwhile, Kaplan's charge of toxicity is quite openly designed to stop people from raising the Likudnik issue. Who's trying "to quiet criticism and debate"? It's not as if that debate couldn't be held non-toxically. Kaplan's own brief defense of the Likudniks – when he deigns to offer one – is evidence of that.

I do agree with Kaplan that it's very difficult to "disprove" accusations that decisions have been distorted by conflicting loyalties, especially when it's charged that they're "subconscious" loyalties. (One can't claim to fully know one's subconscious influences, because then they wouldn't be subconscious, would they?) But in democratic debate, proof isn't necessarily required. Evidence will usually do. Kaplan's evidence – that Likudnik officials have "profound disagreements with their Israeli counterparts" – is the sort of thing we need to hear more about. Were they having a "profound disagreement" over what's in Israel's interest or a disagreement over whether the U.S. or Israel's interest should prevail? Remember, it's anti-Semitic to say they see no difference!

P..S.: Kaplan says the charge that "Jewish officials with close ties to Israel" were "driving … policy toward Iraq" could "just as easily have been leveled against the previous administration, whose Iraq policy was the opposite of the current one." Well … um … yes. It's also a charge, that could legitimately be leveled at more leftish pro-Israel groups like Americans for Peace Now, when they had some influence. That's a debate we might have had then. But this is now. And Clinton's pro-Israel officials weren't arguing in favor of launching a war in which many, many people, including many Americans, might be killed.

P.P.S.: Kaplan also says the charge of "Jewish American hysteria" is bogus because it "could just as easily apply to opponents of an invasion." Again, that doesn't make it a non-issue in either case.  And maybe Kaplan should wander down the hall and have a talk with his TNR colleague Leon Wieseltier, whose "Hitler Is Dead" was a formidable critique of Jewish-American "ethnic panic" and "hysteria." Wieseltier notes hysteria on the left as well as the right, but his main targets -- Jews who "think that there cannot be a political solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – are people who are unlikely to be found at the antiwar marches.

P.P.P.S.: I'm not sure Kaplanesque attempts at suppressing the Likudnik Worry will work. Like Jesse Jackson's reflexive charges of racism, reflexive charges of anti-Semitism have been effective in the past – but at some point they become a transparent attempt to avoid "legitimate questions."

Bonus fratricidal anti-anti-anti-anti-Likudnikismism: Gary Hart has demonstrated in about a week and a half why the voters decided he was too weird and unreliable back in 1984. What's the point of complaining about Americans with multiple "loyalties," as Hart recently did, if you then don't have the balls to say what everyone assumes you're talking about, namely Israel?  And if Hart wasn't talking about Israel, and really chose this moment to raise the problem of excessive Irish-American  influence (which is what he told ABC's The Note) that's even weirder, of course. ... Update: Hart has responded. See item above. 7:21 P.M.

Update: Kausfiles gets results! "Roger Ailes"has now forthrightly and graciously apologized  to Jeff Jacoby. ... More evidence that on the Web the truth can "get its boots on" pretty darn quickly -- which is why libel on the Web is a bit less dangerous than libel in a newspaper. There's a law review article in there somewhere! Assigned to: Eugene Volokh! ... Update2: Virginia Postrel emails to say the article has already been written, by Mike Godwin in Reason four years ago. ...P.S.: And boy does Mark A.R. Kleiman look like a fool! ...4:30 P.M.

Not a correction: Blogger Roger Ailes recently attackedBoston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who  has claimed  that there's no evidence John Kerry ever alerted the Boston Globe

"when it mistakenly labeled him Irish, sometimes in front-page stories he couldn't possibly have missed."

Ailes claimed a NEXIS search by one of his readers could only find one such Globe story, and it wasn't on the front page. On this basis, Ailesconcluded "Jacoby is wrong" and started assigning apologies:

Jacoby owes not only Kerry but also the editors of his paper an apology. So does Mickey Kaus, friend to plagiarists everywhere, who reprinted Jacoby's drivel as fact (see Feb. 10).

I was soon bombarded with emails from the blogger left on Jacoby's alleged error. Atriosran a little item subtly headlined "Jeff Jacoby is a liar." I tried my own Nexis search, and couldn't find the Globe cites either, but out of a combination of prudence and sheer laziness waited before posting a correction to see if Jacoby would respond.

Sure enough, he did, with an emailing adducing "7 examples of the Boston Globe identifying Kerry as Irish, four of them from Page 1 stories."  One of them only quotes someone saying Kerry's Irish, but that still leaves six others (including a major front-page profile). ... Advantage: Jacoby! ... Actually more like Game and Set: Jacoby. ... The apology-demanding Ailes has so far mustered only a weaselly, straw-grasping half-retraction, which claims that "Jacoby still has it wrong" because another apparently incomplete search could find stories but not front page stories.  ... Bonus NEXIS Tips for Kerry-bashers: Why didn't Jacoby's cites turn up quickly in my crude NEXIS search? Two of them were from the mid-1980s, and NEXIS doesn't go back that far. Three of the others identify him using his middle name or initial. You have to search for "John w/2 Kerry," and not just "John Kerry." ... 1:03 P.M.

Correction-correction correction: Inside-NYT sources say the "administration official speaking on condition of anonymity," identified in a Times correction  as "not Condoleezza Rice," was in fact not Condoleezza Rice, contrary to kf's suggestion. ... Well, why didn't they just make that clear the first time! ... 11:45 A.M.

Likudnik Backfill: A couple of weeks ago,Time's Joe Klein very, very carefully but forcefully analyzed the way the goal of a "stronger Israel" was "embedded in the rationale for war with Iraq," part of "the  "argument that dare not speak its name, a fantasy quietly cherished by the neoconservative faction in the Bush Administration and by many leaders of the American Jewish community." ...  Meanwhile, in the WSJ, Elliot Cohen cited "anti-semitism, of a type long thought dead in the West," to dismiss "petulant complaints that U.S. policy is controlled by 'neoconservative hawks' whose protégé state, Israel, is the root of al Qaeda terrorism and the ultimate cause of war with Iraq." Cohen was (at least ostensibly) talking about Europe, though, not  Bob Kaiser or Joe Klein. ... 11:01 A.M.

Friday, February 14, 2003  

Don't Rush Me, II: "The Likudniks are really in charge now."WaPo's Robert Kaiser has tried to raise an issue that Slate's Michael Kinsley attempted to raise a few months ago, namely the influence, among the administration's hawks, of what Kaiser carefully calls people with "loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud."  Kinsley wrote that "the role of Israel in the thinking of [President Bush]  is the "proverbial elephant in the room: Everybody sees it, no one mentions it."

Like the New Yorker's Nicholas Lemann, Kaiser notes without much comment that three top Bush hawks (Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser) were on an 8-person committee that in 1996 proposed to incoming Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

that he abandon the Oslo peace accords negotiated in 1993 and reject the basis for them -- the idea of trading "land for peace." Israel should insist on Arab recognition of its claim to the biblical land of Israel, the 1996 report suggested, and should "focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." [Emphasis added]

As someone trying to make up his mind about the war, am I troubled by the unspoken, widely-acknowledged influence of the Likudniks? Yes! I'm not a Mideast expert. I'm an ordinary citizen with inherently limited and imperfect information. How close is Saddam really to having a bomb? How long would neighboring Arab states tolerate a massive U.S. troop presence to back up inspections? Even "senior government officials" don't know the answers to these questions, but I will never know as much as they do. To some extent, they are asking me – us -- to trust them. Which means it's very relevant to us ordinary citizens what conscious or subconscious motives might be skewing their decision in favor of war.

Am I suggesting these people might have dual loyalties? To paraphrase Leon Wieseltier, why only two? People have multiple loyalties; life is complicated. (If my grandfather had been a singlemindedly loyal citizen of his country, Germany, rather than a Jew with both patriotic and internationalist sympathies, he'd have loyally stayed in Frankfurt with his family when Hitler came to power, and I wouldn't be here.)

That's not to say that Bush's advisers aren't patriots who put what they perceive to be America's interests first in a crunch. (Maybe that 1996 memo was in part an attempt to nudge Israel into doing our bidding on Iraq!)  But, of course, their complicated loyalties might still subconsciously influence what they perceive to be their country's interest. Does any self-reflective person deny that such subconscious influences are at work in all of us?

Isn't it better to discuss this issue out in the open before the war starts? Surely Perle and Feith can defend themselves eloquently (and if they can't, maybe we should hear that too). On the other hand, imagine the potential for conspiratorial anti-Semitic mischief if the war goes badly and sub-rosa Web-fed resentment focuses blame on the unpublicized Likudnik factor.

P.S.: Kinsley, in his extensive "to be sure" paragraph, says that "[the] president's advisors, Jewish and non-Jewish, sincerely believe that the interests of America and Israel coincide. What's more, they are right about that, though they may be wrong about where that shared interest lies." [Emphasis added] But that's a little too neat, isn't it? Sure, ultimately the interests of America and Israel – in a peaceful, prosperous, democratic Middle East – coincide. And, sure, the main argument is about where this shared interest lies.  But in the short to medium run it's entirely possible that two countries national interests will diverge a bit. To pick the most obvious example, even a quick, victorious war with Iraq carries a huge risk to the U.S. of inciting terror strikes by enraged Islamic fundamentalists on the American mainland. Yet it's hard to see how enraged Islamic fundamentalists could inflict any more barbarous terror on Israel than they're already trying to inflict. So the marginal downside of a war for Israel (once the immediate threat of Saddam's Scuds and other weapons is removed) could be a lot smaller than the downside to the U.S..

In other respects, the risks to Israel may be greater than the risks to America. But the point is that the interests, even of two such close allies, can and almost certainly do diverge. ... 1:08 A.M.

Correction: Today's entries were written by a Microsoft contractor blogging on condition of anonymity, not by "Mickey Kaus." ... P.S.: Wasn't that NYT correction  saying that the author of a quote was "not Condoleezza Rice" a ... well, a lie. As Today's Papers suggests, it's pretty obvious it was Condoleezza Rice, isn't it? Maybe that was the Times' little joke -- to serve her right for complaining. But it's still a lie. ... Why not do what WaPo once did to one of her predecessors, and run her picture over the caption "an administration official"? ... 12:22 A.M.

Thursday, February 13, 2003  

Ryan Lizza inaugurates his "Campaign Journal" with a solid Kerry column  that effectively captures the shivs-drawn attitude of other campaigns and of the press. ... Kerry's best hope, after what one hopes will be his speedy post-surgery recovery, may be that his many enemies press the obvious "two-faced" charge so early and overzealously that it plays out before too many actual voters are paying attention -- and thus perversely inoculates him against a repetition of the charge when it really counts, next winter. [So people like  Jacoby and Kurtz and Vennochi and Coulter and Beinart and you have been doing him a favor?--ed. Unfortunately. But does he call to thank?] 2:36 A.M.

Dr. Manhattan has one all-too-plausible terror scenario to watch out for. ...2:30 A.M.

Aren't ex-President Clinton's answers to Katie Couric about his Marc Rich pardon newsworthy? They're at least revealing: 1) Clinton claims Bush would have pardoned Marc Rich if he hadn't! 2) He also seems to let it slip that the investigation of the Rich pardon is still going on -- "[H]e wouldn't be being investigated. ... It's been two years now, and the Justice Department has not charged him." [Emphasis added] ... P.S.: The former president also does a suitably Clintonesque job of not answering the question of whether he'd attack Iraq without a second U.N. resolution. [Thanks to valued "Source X"] 1:50 A.M.

Obvious point: If Osama bin Laden were dead and buried under the rubble in Tora Bora, and you were working in the al Qaeda public affairs shop, you might want to fake a few pungent posthumous proclamations before you had him, conveniently, predict his own demise. ... 1:22 A.M.

The mystery of who runs Media Whores Online doesn't seem too important right now, I agree. But there's a big clue on the MWO site right now. ...  I think I know that door! It looks like a Georgetown, D.C. door ... There's even a house number. ... Take it away, Lloyd Grove! ... 1:10 A.M.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003  

Like virtually the entire political press corps, I'm a diligent reader and admirer of ABC's free-on-the-Web "Political Note." It surveys the day's events so thoroughly and smartly that it's often difficult to imagine there could be anything left to say. (This is not just the suck-up set-up before the "but" paragraph.) Like the best novels about campaigning (e.g., Primary Colors) the Note has a knowing admiration for the semi-cynical craft of politics. Here is a passage from its extensive, insidery coverage of Senator Kerry's prostate operation:

Props to Kerry and his media team for their handling of this, right down to the carefully prepared briefing book. Kerry himself walked into the press conference yesterday armed with two of the most key chapters of "Chris Lehane's Great Big Book of Press Management: Chapter 3: "Get All the Facts Out and Completely," and Chapter 4: "Set a Tone of Levity and Lightness."

The problem is, the Note is so knowingly appreciative of the craft of stage-managing campaigns that it may miss a key point about Kerry's campaign, which is precisely that it's entirely too artificial and stage managed. Tha means Kerry's prostate cancer operation "helps" him, in the unsentimental political sense, in a way it might not "help" another candidate -- namely by emphasizing to voters that he's in fact a liviing, breathing human being and not a continually trimmed and positioned semi-holographic self-creation. ... 12:56 P.M.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Crusade = Error? Is the New York Times now admitting it got a bit carried away while flooding the zone on Enron? Dr. Manhattan  is paying attention. ... Not so fast:Slate's "Today's Papers" argues that the Times actually fails to acknowledge its true culpability, shifting the blame to the "many people" who seized on its Ken Lay reporting as "evidence of duplicity." Donald Luskin agrees that the NYT isn't coming clean, and he appears to have the goods. ...12:21 P.M.

Axes of Axles of Evil! The Rolling Stones recently played an anti-global-warming benefit in Los Angeles for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which identifies gas-guzzling automobiles and power plants as the cause of the warming problem. The Stones were introduced by ex-President Clinton and opened their set with the song "Start Me Up" -- which they just happened to have recently licensed to the Ford Motor Company for use in TV spots in which it's used to promote the fuel-thirsty, greenhouse-gas-emitting Ford Explorer SUV. ... Reader Rimshot: Alert reader B.S. writes: "Isn't it hypocritical of them to deny that good things can come from really old fossils."  1:06 A.M.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Don't Rush Him! It's official: "We really haven't made up our minds" on a war with Iraq, says NYT publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., displaying a clarity absent from his paper's murky, question-evading editorials. ... I'm with Pinch. ... 4:39 P.M.

Kerry "Calculation" Meme Achieves Critical Mass: They called kf irresponsible for pointing out Sen. John Kerry's gross characterological deficiencies before Kerry had a chance to display them on the campaign trail. But it didn't take long! It's been barely two months since Kerry declared for president, and he's already 1) zig-zagged opportunistically on the Iraq war issue and 2) zig-zagged opportunistically on the dividend taxation issue. (Kerry called for "ending the double taxation of dividends" in his major December economic speech and then denounced President Bush's plan, which ends the double taxation of dividends, for creating "unaffordable new tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.") Now -- amazingly and all-too-predictably -- Kerry has started rhapsodizing about the Jewish roots he's been ignoring for decades, according to Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby:

''I am so excited,'' he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee during a dinner last week at Congregation B'nai Israel of Palm Beach. ''A light has literally turned on within me -- like an epiphany -- and I am proud to share this special measure of connection with you.''

But didn't Kerry only recently discover his Jewish roots? No! As Jacoby points out, he's known about his Jewish grandmother for 15 years, yet he "rarely spoke about it in public." Nor does he seem to have been especially eager, over the past few decades, to uncover the fact that he has no Irish heritage at all, despite his surname. Kerry never, for example, wrote to correct the Globe when the paper described him as Irish, according to Jacoby (though the paper has run numerous Kerry corrections over the years). ...

Jacoby also takes a stab at winning the fiercely-contested Kerry Mystery Challenge with this one-sentence description of Kerry's fatal flaw:

His reactions are relevant only because they seem to fit his career-long pattern of equivocation and calculation -- trying whenever possible to have it both ways, always maneuvering to leave himself an out.

Not bad! But I think Kerry's problem isn't simple, run-of-the-mill calculating opportunism. It's more comically transparent calculating opportunism, of which his Jewish "epiphany" is a good illustration.  In other words, his opportunistic zig-zagging is so instantaneous and shameless -- changing week-to-week in the case of Iraq -- that it becomes counterproductive, losing Kerry the benefit the opportunism is supposed to gain. Why suddenly turn Jewish just when half the press corps is ready to pounce on any indication of convenient chameleonism? How dumb is that? It's calculation, but also incompetent calculation -- not what you look for in a president. ... Now the press has three recent examples of Kerry flip-flops. And every reporter knows if you have three examples you have a trend. ...

P.S.: I forgot. He tactically zig-zagged on the death penalty too. That's four. ...

P.P.S.: Kerry also ostentatiously agonized about affirmative-action  when that was an attention-getting thing for a thoughtful Democrat to do in 1992, before retreating. Recently he told NPR's Tavis Smiley "I have a vision that says we should have affirmative action in the country." But it's hard to find many other clear, unequivocal recent statements by Kerry of support for affirmative action. (You won't find any on his web site, for example.) Maybe Kerry's still genuinely agonizing, or cynically straddling, or keeping open the option of eventually opposing racial preferences (perhaps while defending some 'original' limited idea of "affirmative action"). Or maybe this flip just hasn't completely flopped back yet (the way it has for erstwhile agonizer Joe "Please Don't End It" Lieberman). ... 2:12 P.M.





Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. Tom populists.  Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.