A mostly political Weblog.
Sept. 28 2004 4:36 AM

Oh, Loooooocy!

Plus, Rather's Krazy Glue strategy

Curmudgeaggedon! David Broder sees a  decline of journalistic standards that started

when news organizations -- television particularly, but print as well -- began offering their most prestigious and visible jobs not to people deeply imbued with the culture and values of newsrooms, but to stars imported from the political world.

Who is Broder talking about? Shafer says George Stephanopoulos and Tim Russert. My not-completely-uninformed guess is that it was the S.F. Examiner's1987 hiring of Chris Matthews, fresh from Tip O'Neill's staff, that really got Broder's goat. At the time, Matthews was quite boastful about how he didn't need to go through journalistic boot camp. ... Also WaPo's hiring of Sidney Blumenthal, who hadn't yet gone into politics but who was an open Gary Hart booster. ... P.S.: But doesn't it trouble Broder that none of the "instances of gross malpractice" that he says have so damaged his profession were produced by the Mathewses, the Stephanopoulouses or  the other opinionated, activist intruders from the political arena? The "damaging failures" were the failures of hazed and certified members of the journalistic caste (Rather, Raines, Kelley)--professionals who had come up through the ranks, worked their beats and were in theory "deeply imbued with the culture and values of newsrooms." ... Broder blames bloggers, politicos, good writers--everyone except those who actually did the screwing up. Projection! The obvious possibility he doesn't want to consider is the one Shafer hammers: That the practices of Broder's profession were never that terrific, even in the alleged golden era before Chris and Sid. ... P.P.S.: Broder and Adam Clymer  curmudgeoning away on the consecutive days! Really, we are not good enough to deserve this. ... 1:08 A.M.


The Mystery Pollster calculates the ground the Kerry campaign has regained so far in September: Zero.  ... But he seems to think Bush has only barely enough support to win. ... 12:10 A.M.

Mr. Peace: Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) says it was "totally ridiculous" for the U.S. to put him on a "no fly" list and bar him from entering the country. But if you go to the library and read Jake Tapper's May, 2003 GQ article on Islam, you'll think it's not so ridiculous. ...  To judge by Tapper's report, Islam seems guilty, at least, of glossing too lightly over his previous statements (e.g. , about Salman Rushdie) and contacts with radical Islamists.  If the American government thinks it has "additional information" about Islam that "further raises our concern," I wouldn't dismiss that out of hand. ...P.S.: I couldn't find Tapper's article on the Web. But here's a response from Islam  ("still on the Peace Train"). It's good to see he got over that worry about Islamic strictures against photos that may cultivate sentiments of human worship. ... 12:49 P.M.

Joe Lockhart was supposed to be the Clintonite pro who came in and saved the Kerry campaign. So far he's a) embroiled the campaign in the Dan Rather/Bill Burkett CBS memo fiasco and b) ham-handedly called Iraqi interim P.M. Allawi a "puppet."   But I hear he's a good closer! ... P.S.: I've been all for a Kerry's recent assault on Bush's policy on Iraq and the larger war on terror. That's what the election is about.** But is there any evidence that Kerry's Iraq push is working to change votes? Maybe the ABC/WaPo poll tonight will have some. ... Update: Nope. ...

(** I don't like the way Kerry's gone about it, reacting in slightly hysterical doom-and-gloomish fashion to whatever bad news or minor Bush gaffe is out there each day. But I only authorized Kerry's Iraq attacks. I don't approve of of the way he's used that authority.) 11:38 A.M.


Friday, September 24, 2004

New Republic's Noam Scheiber says the "security mom" phenomenon is bunk, and he's got a convincing set of numbers from public polls. He even gets CBS's Kathy Frankovic to note that Bush's lead among women in her post-convention poll, which fueled the "security mom" craze, was short-lived. ... But what about the private polls of the candidates? They tend to be more expensive and elaborate than public polls--and the Kerry advisers quoted in this NYT piece (even Scheiber's hero, fellow debunker Diane Feldman) don't seem wildly confident that they aren't losing more women than men. ... Update: Scheiber's response. ... More: The AP-Ipsos poll taken last week has a 17 point "gender gap," seemingly validating Scheiber's argument that Kerry's "losing everybody"--but still doing relatively better among women. ... 11:08 A.M.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

kf, the Speechwriter's Friend: Jason DeParle's book on welfare--which turned out to be very good (and you know I wouldn't say that if it weren't true!)--contains at least two passages that can easily be turned into pure gold by political speechwriters:

1) On pages 74-75, DeParle tries to put his finger on why two of his three main subjects hadn't achieved "conventional success" in the years before welfare reform pushed them firmly into the labor market:

Angie and Jewell offered no theory about what stood between them and conventional success. But one striking part of the story they told is what they left out. They didn't talk of thwarted aspirations, of things they had sought but couldn't achieve. They certainly didn't talk of subjugation; they had no sense of victimhood. The real theme of their early lives was profound alienation--not of hopes discarded but of hopes that never took shape. In an unnoticed line in the first welfare speech of his presidency, Bill Clinton would say, "America's biggest problem today is that too many of our people never got a shot at the American Dream." He might have added that some people never even get the chance to dream it. [Emphasis added]

2) Lillie Harden was the former welfare mother whose example Bill Clinton cited at nearly every welfare reform event he staged--she's the one who said she appreciated the move to work because when her son was asked "What does your mama do for a living" he could now give an answer. On page 325, DeParle reports:

Harden had a stroke in 2002 and wanted me to ferry a message back to Clinton, asking if he could help get her on Medicaid. She had received it on welfare, but had been rejected now, and she couldn't afford her $450 monthly bill for prescription drugs. More sad than bitter, she said of her work: "It didn't pay off in the end."


I'd say #1 could be of use to a speechwriter in either party (just cut the word "alienation"). #2 would work for Republicans if Harden is covered by the Bush prescription drug bill Congress passed last year, but I don't think she is. (The Bush plan steers a disproportionate share of benefits to lower-income seniors. But Harden is not a senior, if news reports of her age are correct.) Harden's example works best for Democrats who want to argue that universal affordable health care is one of the next logical steps in welfare reform--i.e., adults who work hard and get off the dole shouldn't lose their health coverage as a result (even if their children are typically covered under various government plans). ... P.S.: The transcript of a 9/22 Brookings Institution discussion of DeParle's book in which I participated  can be read here. ... 10:10 P.M.

Today's Robert Novak column, if true, offers badly-needed evidence that campaign finance reform might work: Independent campaigns (like Terry McAuliffe's DNC push attacking Bush's National Guard record) often step on the message of the candidate's official campaign. What goes for the DNC goes double for non-party "527s." Soon, big donors to 527s may conclude they've been wasting their money. Nor is a candidate like Kerry likely to feel beholden to the millionaires who finance a media campaign that gets in the way of his comeback. As long as campaigns really can't "coordinate" with independent efforts, some degree of corruption has been eliminated (while preserving the speech rights of anyone who wants to run an independent campaign). ... 6:30 P.M.

Oh, Looooooocy ....:  John Ellis argues, with some powerful evidence, that Dan Rather is pursuing a "Krazy Glue" strategy  as he attempts to save his job. ... Meanwhile, where in the world is "Lucy Ramirez," the alleged source of Rather's bogus Bush docs? She seems hard to find! Doesn't she even have a blog? ... 6:03 P.M.

The knowledgeable Mystery Pollster, who used to send kf highly informative emails, now has a blog. Bad for kf, good for 2004 campaign coverage. In his latest post, MP explains why he's against the momentarily-expedient Dem push for weighting polls by party identification  (to "correct" those pro-Bush polls that allegedly "oversample" Republicans). He also catches left-cocooner Ruy Teixeira in gruesome hypocrisy on this issue. ... P.S.: Do not confuse the Mystery Pollster with kf emailer "Y" (see below). They're two completely different, equally mysterious, pollsters! They both bust Teixeira, though. ... Update: It turns out the identity of the Mystery Pollster is no longer much of a mystery, given his highly informative "About" page. ... 12:27 P.M.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Mayflower Hill, the blogger who scooped Dan Rather's sword-falling, goes all goo-goo and earnest,** but not before delivering the dish from his CBS source about a likely Howard-Mapes toast sandwich. ...**: He says we should talk about "the situation in Falluja," the uninsured, energy prices, etc. Yeah. But this is the blogosphere, where we get to talk about ... what we are interested in talking about! You want duty stories, read David Broder.  ... It's not every day that a new information medium undermines an old info-constricting, caste-like hierarchy either. (Think Protestant Reformation.)  There are enough pixels to discuss both Rather and Zarqawi..  10:58 P.M.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Donkey Cocooning: Given my recent posts linking to polls showing Bush ahead, I should say I think Democrats have been too discouraged by last week's CW that Kerry's finished (as opposed to the previous, even sillier CW that it was Kerry's "race to lose", or this week's coming CW sigh of relief that the campaign is finally about something important, namely Iraq). I also think the Feiler Faster Principle ** means Kerry has plenty of time to win, more than most analysts believe. But I oppose cocooning in all its forms! The "new, cocoon-building liberal analyst meme," poll-savvy kf emailer "Y" writes, is the argument that polls showing Bush ahead are wrong because polls should be weighted by party identification. Ruy Teixeira argues that the "CBS News/New York Times Poll Has It Close to Even"  if you

"weight their data to conform  to the 4 point Democratic party ID lead which we have good reason to believe is the underlying distribution in the voting electorate."


I'll let Y lay out the problem with this hot new idea:

What's his reason for thinking "underlying distribution" is 4-point Dem?  He explains, in defending his re-analysis of CBS/NYT data:

"Reweight their data to conform to an underlying Democratic 4 point edge (using the 39D/35R/26I distribution from the 2000 exit poll) and you get a nearly even race, 47 Bush/46 Kerry."

[snip] At MyDD.Com, Greg Bowers says he's only going to trust polls that weight by PID, and will reweight to party ID those polls that don't.  His is a long post, but here's the conclusion:

This provides evidence to support both aspects of my hypothesis. First, polls that weight [by party ID] are more similar to one another than polls that do not weight. Second, polling firms that weight show less movement from poll to poll than polling firms that do not weight.

Well, yeah.  If you weight every poll to the same PID [party identification], you will get the same vote.  How can you not, when about 90% of Dems vote KE and about 90% of Reps vote BC?  Imposing a pre-determined PID weight insures consistency, at the cost of repressing changes in public opinion.  In fact, why do we bother doing poll after poll after poll at all?  PID, and therefore the vote, will be the same as last time, right?

Wrong.  PID changes in the electorate, both because Reps, Dems and Indies have differing levels of motivation to vote, and because sometimes one party or the other is temporarily more appealing or less appealing to people.  That's why PID changes, and why it is a mistake to impose pre-determined PID on a poll. 

For example, according to the world's leading expert on public opinion polling, Ruy Teixiera, "[A]s a campaign progresses, the level of interest among voters tends to change, particularly among those with partisan inclinations whose interest level will rise when their party seems to be mobilized and doing well and fall when it is not. " (emphasis in the original). 

So, on the one hand, Ruy says the Proper Analyst will reweight to a fixed PID [derived from the actual 2000 turnout]. Then he says people in different parties will be more or less likely to want to vote as the campaign progresses--and of course, that means Reps and Dems will have differing turnout....PID will change with turnout. 

Is there a reason to think relative interest levels of Dems and Reps are different now than they were as reflected in the 2000 Exit Poll?  Yes: 

1.  In 2000, Dems were coming off a 1992-1996 winning streak, and Reps were two-time losers.  In 2004, Dems go in feeling like losers, Reps like winners. Isn't that Ruy's point, emphasized in the original--when it feels like your party is going to win, you can't wait to vote. 

As I said, interest in voting (turnout) is not the only reason why RVs and LVs will demonstrate changing PID over time.  The other reason is that in times like these, sometimes one party's or the other's appeal may be rising or declining. 

2.  9/11.  The sudden shift in PID after 9/11 is thoroughly document[ed] in Ipsos and Gallup polls.  Independents started calling themselves Republicans after that.  The pro-Republican advantage in PID had been fading all year, but now appears to be returning in the Rep's favor.  Why?  There is a little evidence now that the 9/11-fest in NYC has created an echo of that original 9/11 change in PID [Emphasis added]

** The Feiler Faster Principle didn't operate in the Democratic primaries. Kerry took a lead and kept it for months without any new plot twists, without voters even learning much old information about him, let alone new information. Why did the FFT fail? I suspect because there were no negative ads and negative campaign themes to drive new information into the race. Blame John Edwards' wussiness and McCain-Feingold's "I approve this ad" requirement. But lack of negative campaigning does not seem to be a problem in the current general election. ... 2:57 A.M.

Mr. X emails to point out what was really egregious about CBS's--and Rather's--behavior:

the really appalling thing is not that they got snookered by an anti-bush partisan whose original story-- about the destruction of documents in 97-- couldnt be substantiated. its the after the fact circle the wagons coverrup. look at the string of cbs statements once the docs were challenged-- particularly the Sandy Garelius statement here...http://www.topangaonline.com/wboard/messages/8093.html-- about how they "confident of the chain of custody." How could they be confident of the chain of custody if, as appears, they never even spoke to the apparenlty mythtical person from whom burkett said he got the documents. Leave said getting taken in by a source with an axe to grind. Leave aside the shoddy journalism in not vetting the original source. How could they have kept putting out those public statements -- after the docs were questioned-- assuring everybody that they had done things that they clearly didnt do.

I thought before that this was unlikely to lead to rather's quick, as opposed to eventual, downfall. Now Im not so sure.

The only reason Rather wouldn't be fired is that the network has so much invested in him--that's the source of his power, and why he was able to jerk around the top brass and drag down the network's name in the soap opera of the last ten days. But that's also why it's hard to believe the Danron debacle would have happened if Rather himself hadn't constantly pushing to believe in the anti-Bush story against all reason. Which makes him responsible for the crime as well as the coverup. ... Update: Mr. Z chimes in:

wouldn't you think they need a bigger scapegoat than mary mapes, or even the executive producer of the broadcast, Josh Howard ? from what I could see, it was dan who was most pugnacious about defending the story before today's climb-down. On the other hand, my experience at [name of network omitted] demonstrated that it is usually the on-air "talent" who pay the lowest price in a journalistic disaster.

1:41 A.M.

Blame Mary! So far, Ellis' prediction of second-day anti-Mapes revelations has proved eerily prescient. And Joe Lockhart is in on the Save-Dan-By-Throwing-Mary-Overboard conspiracy! ... P.S.: I don't understand why it would have been wrong for Mapes to ask Lockhart to call Bill Burkett as part of a deal to get the documents.  If the documents hadn't been phony that would have been smart journalism, no? A harmless favor to produce a big scoop. It only looks like partisanship on the part of Mapes if it was not part of an implicit deal to get the story--i.e., if Mapes was just freelancing with her Dem buddies to help bring down Bush. Perversely, by denying a deal the CBS flacks actually make Mapes look gratuitously bad. ... Oh wait, I forgot. According to Ellis they're trying to make Mapes look bad.. ... 1:34 A.M.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Scapegoat-watch: Bushie John Ellis has some savvy, paranoid  advice for Mary Mapes. ... 2:44 P.M.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

A Hatfill of Errors! Nicholas Kristof gets credit for assessing the Swifty charges one by one rather then dismissing them, cocoon-style--but he makes at least one medium-sized error and a huge, presumably unintentional howler. Plus he's guilty of what certainly seems like intentionally sleazy wording (designed to exclude mention of one Kerry subordinate who has trashed him). ... See briefs filed by the firm of Fisk, Fisk, Fisk  & Fisk. ... Still: Between Kristof and Beldar, I'd say we've asymptotically approached the truth enough for there to be not a whole lot of interesting argument left. Two of Kerry's Purple Hearts are shaky and he's guilty of (at least) hype--but he also demonstrated real bravery. His service would be a sure net positive if he hadn't a) overdone it and b) used it as a crutch, a substitute for appealing political substance. ... 11:55 P.M.

Unconfirmed Rumor Dept.: It all depends on what the meaning of "fall on his sword" is, I guess. ...Update:Mayflower Hill's scoop seems confirmed by this NYT story, which looks like a leak designed to pressure Dan Rather into coming off his ludicrous assertions of faith in the almost-certainly-forged Bush Guard documents. Meanwhile, CBS executive producer Josh Howard deflects blame onto producer Mary Mapes, onto the White House--onto anyone but himself and the Queen of the Space Unicorns. But it was Howard who as late as last Tuesday, long after ample evidence of the forgeries had accumulated, told the NYT:

"Everything I've seen makes me completely confident in the documents, in the reporting, in the story, in what we've done." [Emphasis added]

"Everything I've seen"? If that's what he saw, he wasn't looking. What do you have to do to lose your job at CBS?  Tomorrow's NYT follow-up: CBS News officials reveal they now have "grave doubts" about the authenticity of Piltdown Man and Pamela Anderson's breasts. ... 11:14 P.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs 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. Calmer Times--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--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. Overlawyered.com--Daily 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. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk