Exit polls and Porsches

A mostly political Weblog.
Dec. 6 2004 3:00 AM

Exit Polls and Porsches

It's all about the storytelling here at kf!

How much does the rest of the country dislike New York's Sen. Chuck Schumer? In today's N.Y. Times Schumer welcomes the appointment of former N.Y.P.D. chief Bernard Kerik  as head of Homeland Security:

New York should always be the focal point of homeland security activities, and Bernie Kerik is a tried and true New Yorker who understands our city, our state, our problems and our needs. We look forward to working with him to bring greater help in terms of dollars and security for New York. [Emphasis added]

Not "a" focal point. "The" focal point. Sorry, D.C.! ...  And forget what Kerik can do for the entire country--he'll bring dollars to New York! . ... P.S.: I remember seeing Schumer on TV shortly after 9/11, when everyone was on New York's side, and his first comment was to insist that it wasn't enough that New York City get the same amount of aid that another part of the country would get in a similar disaster--New York, as a national hub of business, demanded more than other regions would get! ... You get the feeling that if we captured Osama bin Laden, won the Iraq War, and peacefully brought democracy to North Korea Schumer would put out a statement applauding the victories because now more federal dollars could be redirected to Manhattan. ... P.P.S.:  Here's a entertainingly nasty column about Kerik. He may actually be a hero, for all I know--but you wouldn't automatically think that someone whose most recent high-profile assignment was training the Iraqi police force would be first in line for a promotion. ... The Washington Post is skeptical too, featuring a rare vicious first-day blind quote:

A high-ranking business executive who is familiar with Kerik's tenure as police commissioner and as head trainer of Iraqi police recruits expressed shock at his selection, and said Kerik is not an accomplished manager. "Management just simply isn't his strong suit," the executive said.

But hey, if it means more money for New York ... Update: Here's a City Journal article arguing that Kerik turned around New York City's Department of Corrections. ... 12:55 P.M.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

What do lower courts know! A federal District Court judge in Virginia has dismissed Dr. Steven Hatfill's libel suit against the New York Times over Nicholas Kristof's columns on the anthrax mailings of 2001. Kristof crows a bit about the decision on his blog, calling it an "excellent" ruling that is "a victory for the right of journalists to write aggressively about issues of national concern." A Times lawyer declares "This comes out in favor of our right to report accurately on an investigation that is still active, pre-arrest."

Well, of course the Times can report accurately about anything without fear of a libel judgment. Truth is a defense. The problem is that Hatfill alleges that some things Kristof said were "untruths," as the court put it. And the part of the district court decision I don't understand--it seems quite bogus--is the part where the judge throws out Hatfill's libel complaint about these alleged "discrete untruths" (like the one regarding how many polygraph exams Hatfill had taken and what the results were). Sure, Kristof can't be sued simply for reporting on an investigation, and he covered his ass enough in his columns to avoid the conclusion that he was saying Hatfill was the anthrax mailer. But does that mean he can say any old untrue thing about Hatfill along the way? For example, how exactly did the judge conclude that saying Hatfill had "failed 3 successive polygraph examinations" was "not harmful to [Hatfill's] reputation"? Wouldn't that harm anyone's reputation?** ... 

Maybe I'm missing something, but if I were Kristof, I wouldn't crow too loudly. Lower court decisions are made to be reversed. ...

** Boilerplate: I'm not saying that what Kristof wrote is true or is not true. I have no knowledge or opinion about that issue. But to throw Hatfill's complaint out before a trial, the judge had to find that even if what Kristof wrote was untrue, it wasn't defamatory. That's the unpersuasive part. ... 1:50 P.M. link

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