What was Teddy thinking?

A mostly political Weblog.
Jan. 31 2005 6:39 AM

What Was Teddy Thinking?

Explaining the Dems' bizarre behavior.

It seems insane for Senator Ted Kennedy to give a high profile speech, three days before the Iraq election, publicly declaring the administration's Iraq policy a "catastrophic failure" and a "disaster."  Even if that's what Kennedy thought, why would he put himself in the position where a successful election could make him look at least temporarily like a fool (as, apparently, it has)? ...It's not as if Kennedy differed all that much from Bush in the way of actual recommendations for the future. (Even his much-publicized "timetable" for withdrawing U.S. troops would be something we'd "negotiate;" his 2006 deadline is only a "goal.") ... And why would John Kerry go on Meet the Press even after the election's success was obvious and offer only the most grudging, complaint-drenched words of praise. ("It is significant that there is a vote in Iraq. But ...) Kerry's pathetic, but is he that pathetic? ...  Fred Barnes offers an explanation for this seemingly bizarre behavior: Democrats think the lesson of Newt Gingrich and Clinton is that you have to ruthlessly criticize an incumbent if you want to win back Congress. Yet, as Barnes notes, this monotonic Democratic opposition is only further alienating the middle-class suburban voters whose support the party needs. Kennedy and (especially) Kerry must know this. It's January 2005, after all. Democrats can afford to jump on the "Yay--Iraqi Elections!" bandwagon now--they'd still have plenty of time to ruthlessly attack Bush in the 22 months before the next U.S. election ... Here's an alternative theory: Money. It used to be that at this stage, opposition party leaders would be making conciliatory noises in an attempt to please voters, and conservative or centrist noises in an attempt to please business lobbyists and PACs. But maybe the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet from Democratic true believers is now more important than PAC money. And if you want to draw a Dean-like share of this Web loot, you have to be ruthless in bashing Bush. Not all the consequences of Internet politics are benign. ...  P.S.: Note that this theory explains Barbara Boxer's behavior too. ... 1:57 A.M.

Marc Cooper thinks newspapers like the LAT should free reporters to say "what they're thinking"  without the need to mechanically balance their pieces with opposing views. I agree. Cooper says, accurately:

[The] Times' reporting ... often reads as if written by acrobats in pain — skilled professionals twisting themselves and their copy into knots as they strain to "balance" what they are actually seeing with the sometimes fantasy-based spin of both Iraqi and U.S. officialdom.

Sunday morning's pre-election report by Alissa Rubin is a classic acrobat-in-pain production. ... But the piece also points up the limits of Cooper's solution: It's not too hard to figure out from Rubin's piece what she's thinking! She agrees with the "skeptics" who think the insurgency's strength will prompt Iraqis to readily trade the rule of law and human rights--"the language of democracy"--for security. She's not alone in this (she has Fareed Zakaria, Lawrence Kaplan and, on alternate Thursdays, Andrew Sullivan on her side). But the deeper problem for the Times may not be unleashing such reporters to say what they think; it's the possibility that what Times reporters think may be wrong.  (Cooper suspects, for example, that they would have told us the election was likely to be a "disappointing farce," the phrase used in a Times editorial last week. He's probably right.) ... The answer isn't to balance each story with quotes from the other side; it's to balance the Times staff with reporters of differing political instincts. ... Caveat: On the other hand, I know very few reporters, Mark Steyn excepted, who've been to Iraq and are privately optimistic about the long-term outcome. It can't just be that they exaggerate the nation's lack of security because they, as Western reporters, find it impossible to get out and about to do their jobs. Yet none--including Rubin and Kaplan-- are especially convincing doomsayers. ... 1:07 A.M.

Sunday January 30, 2005

Non-excitable BoiFromTroy notes the bad news from Iraq:

As voting ended, turnout was estimated at 72%. ... [I]t reflects a 28% decline from voting in Iraq'a last election. Furthermore, the unity that marked Iraq's 2002 election has been dissolved by the Bush Administration's divisive policies. The consensus which marked the last election has fallen apart to the point that one party may not even gain a majority.

4:59 P.M.

The Wounded, Bleeding Rat on WaPo's Kitchen Floor! As argued in Scrutineer:Washington Post'sFred Hiatt says that Maggie Gallagher would have been "fired" for doing remunerative work for the government while writing about the Administration's marriage policy for the Post editorial page. But it's OK for Howie Kurtz to do work for CNN while writing about CNN? Is Time-Warner's corporate money somehow cleaner and less corrupting than the U.S. government's? ... 4:17 P.M.

MinuteMan answers Sullivan's quiz for me--accurately, for which I thank him. ... P.S.: Meanwhile, kf appears to have succeeded in its secret plan to sow discord in the gay conservative blogger bloc. ... 4:01 P.M.

Saturday January 29, 2005

"Sharon Does Davos": (Headline on Drudge.) Great! Maybe he'll meet with Abbas. ... What's that ? ... 4:04 P.M.

A Rock in Turbulent Times: Here's Andrew Sullivan on television a week ago, answering Chris Matthews' question about the Iraq elections:

MATTHEWS: Define success.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Success is 80 percent turnout in--in most of the regions, extremely enthusiastic voting among the Kurds and the Shias, and better than expected among the Sunnis.

Here's Sullivan yesterday on his blog:

Here are my criteria: over 50 percent turnout among the Shia and Kurds, and over 30 percent turnout for the Sunnis. No massive disruption of voting places; no theft of ballots. Fewer than 500 murdered. Any other suggestions for relevant criteria? Am I asking too much? I'm just thinking out loud.

And today:

My revised criteria: 45 percent turnout for Kurds and Shia, 25 percent turnout for the Sunnis, under 200 murdered. No immediate call for U.S. withdrawal. [Emphases added]

His standards are falling faster than the New York Regents'! [But he said it on TV with such certitude--ed Always does.] ... Update:Alert emailer J.N. writes: "Under 200 murdered is a HIGHER standard than under 500 murdered.  Isn't it?" Yes. The point isn't that his standards are going rapidly down, or up, or down and up at the same time. The point is he's faking it. 11:43 A.M.

Friday January 28, 2005

Noonan vs. Wright: Here's why, as a slavish follower of my colleague Robert Wright, I haven't been doing my share in giving Peggy Noonan the Strange New Respect she deserves as a newly-prominent Bush critic: Noonan recoils from Bush's moral preening and mini-megalomania. But she grounds her critique in realism-- the world's an imperfect place and you shouldn't expect too much. ("Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth.") In today's NYT, Wright also recoils from Bush's moral preening and mini-megalomania, but he grounds his critique in teleological optimism. History is moving ineluctably toward freedom and prosperity--Bush's mistake isn't in trying to eradicate tyranny completely but in failing to see just how doomed it is. Wright and Noonan might have similar criticisms of possible future Bush attempts at 'forcing the spring' of freedom. Wright's op-ed is particularly caustic about the Bush reaction to Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions. But whether he admits it or not, Wright (who supported Kerry) is fundamentally more sympathetic to Bush's grandiose thrust than Noonan (who campaigned for Bush) is. Maybe I've been brainwashed by Wright's Nonzero, but I am too. ... 1:46 A.M.

Thursday January 27, 2005

Excitable Andrew Watch: On the Chris Matthews Show that aired last Saturday, Andrew Sullivan was giddily upbeat about the result of the war in Iraq and, in particular, the coming elections:

Mr. SULLIVAN: We are going to have these elections, Chris, and I--the other thing, I think that there's going to be--people are going to be shocked at how successful they are. ...[snip]

MATTHEWS: Define success.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Success is 80 percent turnout in--in most of the regions, extremely enthusiastic voting among the Kurds and the Shias, and better than expected among the Sunnis.

MATTHEWS: [snip] Does they war in Iraq increase or decrease American power in pushing democracy in other countries? Nine of you say Iraq hurts, three say it helps the president's chances of achieving his goals in the world.

Andrew, you say it helps. A bloody war helps us sell...

Mr. SULLIVAN: Of course it helps. When we see, as we will , see ordinary Iraqis voting for the first time to forge their own destiny in the future, it's going to be an extraordinary moment.

[snip]

MATTHEWS: But if you polled Iran, would it be hostile to America?

Mr. KLEIN: They're overwhelming faithful.

Mr. SULLIVAN: No, it would be overwhelmingly positive towards the United States...

MATTHEWS: Would it be?

Mr. SULLIVAN: ...and that's the other point about Iraqi democracy. The signal it will send to Iran, which is our real enemy right now, will be enormously helpful. I'm a--I'm a complete optimist about this. I think it'll--I think it'll work. [Emph. added]

But in today's blog, after reading a pessimistic article  by another former bullying hawk--TNR's Lawrence Kaplan--Sullivan is almost distraught:

The failure is in part a failure to get the U.S. bureaucracy to support liberal institutions and groups; but it is also simply a failure of order and security. Democracy was always going to be hard in Iraq. But democracy amod chaos and violence is close to impossible. And we never sent enough troops or conducted a smart enough post-victory occupation plan to maintain order and defeat a fledgling insurgency while we still could. So we are now left to ask ordinary Iraqis to risk their lives in order to leave their homes and vote. ... [snip]

Our predicament is that you cannot have democracy without order and you cannot have a new order without democracy. Do I want the elections to succeed? Of course I do. Only those blinded by partisanship or cynicism wouldn't. Maybe a democratic miracle can occur. But at this point it would be exactly that: a miracle. So pray, will you? [Emph. added]

Sullivan has many virtues, but steadiness of judgment is not one of them. This isn't a man you want to follow into battle. Unfortunately, many Americans did. ...It's not as if something happened in the past week that made the Iraq situation look darker than it did last Friday. More the opposite so far, I'd say.

P.S.: Kaplan seems to regard a victory by the Sistani slate as a near-disaster, the triumph of "illiberalism." The "elections will showcase a cartoon version of democracy, a process of choosing leaders and not much more." Choosing leaders--gee, is that all? One wonders just how insanely inflated Kaplan's expectations were when he urged the country into the war. ...

P.P.S.: On the Matthews show, Sullivan was about to defend Sistani when he got cut off. Whatever point he was going to make, he'd forgotten it by Thursday evening. I think I would agree with it, though. ...

P.P.P.S.: To show that Iraqi voters have abandoned the idea of a secular state, Kaplan relies on a poll from last August. Is that the best he can do?. There is certainly more recent, and more encouraging, evidence. ... 10:14 P.M.

Reader "W" emails:

What is the mechanism whereby conservative radio hosts and print scribes all say exactly the same thing at the same time? I am a conservative talk show junkie.and I am always amazed at the coordination of message. When something negative to the Administration is written or occurs, almost instantly there is a flood of identical, defensive,debating points afloat. Is there a master script? If  so, who decides what it contains? How is it distributed? E-mail? Web-site?

I think this fabled master script does exist! I have a friend who claims to have seen it. ... 4:27 P.M. 

'The only ones confused were the leakers and the people I leaked to!': Mystery Pollster seemingly catches self-righteous poll-snafu impresario Warren Mitofsky leaking early exit poll results! And those results were way off. ... And the evidence is on acetate! ... P.S: The last-ditch Mitofsky defense is now emerging. 'The 2004 exit polls weren't especially screwed up. I screwed up the earlier polls too!' ...  4:08 P.M.

Not shattered enough: Stephen Glass, who betrayed his TNR colleagues and then tried to capitalize on the notoriety with a bad novel, is scheduled to "step out from behind the scenes to perform fresh, original comedy" at L.A.'s Skirball Cultural Center on Friday. Yecch. ... The Skirball is "dedicated to exploring the connections between four thousand years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals." Is Glass a part of Jewish heritage that needs more exploring? ... Credit: I stole this news from Fisbhowl L.A. ... 3:59 P.M.

Blumenthal's most effective outletDrudge!2:28 P.M.

Bush's most effective critic: "To declare that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, that we are embarking on the greatest crusade in the history of freedom, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation--seemed to me, and seems to me, rhetorical and emotional overreach of the most embarrassing sort. ... [D]on't clobber the world over the head with your moral fabulousness." [Emph. added] 3:37 A.M.

I like JetBlue, but some of the planes seem to be getting a little grotty. Five hours inhaling the rich aroma of seats that have been sat in by thousands of sweaty travelers on the packed flights of an airline that can't afford to deep clean the interior too often--not so pleasant! But JetBlue also has lots of new planes, and I've discovered a secret, near-foolproof way to tell the new ones from the old ones without memorizing tail numbers: They all have a "name" painted on the nose, a name with the word "Blue" in it. The earlier, older planes got the obvious names ("True Blue"). Later planes, of necessity, got more far-fetched names ("Here's Looking at Blue, Kid"). In other words, you can tell how skanky your JetBlue plane is going to be by how stupid its name is. The stupider the better. When I saw that the plane for my return flight was called "Devil with a Blue Dress," my heart soared. Sure enough, it was a grot-free flight. ... Next time I'm hoping for "Me & You & a Plane Named Blue." ... 3:08 A.M.

In 1993, President Clinton made the mistake of going for a huge, controversial health care plan instead of first building public confidence by passing a popular, achievable welfare reform plan. Is President Bush making a similar mistake by pushing for a huge, controversial restructuring of Social Security instead of first building confidence  with a few achievable, and popular, tax changes? The difference is that welfare reform would have won Clinton support because it would have gone against type, reassuring the public that Clinton wasn't a stubbornly dogmatic Democrat. More tax breaks for savings, etc., wouldn't work against the idea Bush is a dogmatic Republican, and wouldn't have the same effect. If Bush went for a few tax increases, though, it would help reestablish his common-sense centrist credentials, which he could then put to use in the larger Social Security fight. Hmmm. ... kf in December, NYT in January: As foreshadowed in this eerily and somewhat accidentally prescient item, the Republicans are trying to strike a Social Security compromise with the Democrats by introducing ... means-testing (cutting the benefits of the affluent). True, it's only a back-door version of means-testing--offering full wage-indexing only to those "at the lowest rungs of the income scale" while more affluent retirees get lower 'price-indexed' benefits. But it's a start. ... If the Republicans want to cover, not just the shortfall in the current pay-as-you-go Social Security system, but also the transition cost of establishing a pay-for-yourself private account system, they will have to do a lot more cutting of the benefits of the affluent, no? ... The result could be a subsidized system so progressive--new benefits for the poor, cuts for the rich-- that no Democrat would have dared introduce it. ...  2:21 A.M. 

The surprise of the graceful memorial service for the late Marjorie Williams was her 9-year old daughter, Alice, singing a clear, simple version of Sting's "Fields of Gold" (backed by Adam Levine of Maroon 5!). Just mature and soulful enough to leave the audience stunned, just child-like enough to break everyone apart again. How she mustered the courage to do it under those circumstances I don't know. ... 1:50 A.M.

Instapundit on Howie Kurtz's glass house. ... It's true that Kurtz kvetches about conflicts of interest in others  while he himself labors under what's probably the most blatant conflict of interest in elite journalism--he covers the media for the Washington Post while he hosts a CNN show that not only pays him lots of money but (more important) gives him a national celebrity that might otherwise be hard to come by. But the issue with Kurtz is a bit different than the issue with Maggie Gallagher. The main problem with what Gallagher did is non-disclosure--she got paid for some PR work on behalf of the Bush "marriage initiative," which arguably could have favorably disposed her toward those policies in her columns, but probably had no effect. She should have disclosed the payment, as she now admits. The issue with Kurtz isn't whether he discloses his conflict with CNN (he usually does, though not always). The issue is whether even disclosure of the conflict cures his problem, or whether the conflict is so great Kurtz can't be trusted on his beat even with disclosure.  ... Clearly, by the conventional MSM standards, Kurtz should be taken off the beat. The Post wouldn't let a reporter who had a lucrative gig with General Motors cover General Motors, as Charles Kaiser has noted. ... The issue was settled, in my mind, when Kurtz went soft on CNN in the Eason Jordan/Saddam atrocity scandal.  He's a great reporter, but you can't trust anything he writes about CNN anymore. They have him by the balls. (That's especially true now, when CNN's whole programming approach is under review. Does Kurtz want to offend Jon Klein, the man who'll decide whether to cancel his show? He sure didn't when he interviewed his paymaster in this January 6 WaPo story.) ... P.S.:Instapundit and I seem to have had this argument before. ... 1:04 A.M.

Tuesday January 25, 2005

"[Stories that are relevant to your life, told through the eyes of a compelling central character." That was CNN chief Jon Klein's answer to the question "What can we expect to see on CNN in the next few months?" ... Bob Smith, a veteran of the Gulf War, woke up one morning to discover his Social Security check had been means-tested! Hysterical, he made himself an especially strong cup of coffee. ... Actually, of course, if CNN insists on covering stories with a compelling central character then it won't be covering the coming Social Security debate much at all. Instead, we'll get lots of ... weather--a sort of national local news. Here's Klein:

For instance, this weekend, we were doing the big snow storms as just another news story, giving equal weight to all the other things going on in the world. When in fact, the biggest storms of the year affect far more people than most anything else we might cover. We corrected that quickly ...

[Maybe some Social Security recipients got caught in the snowstorm-ed. There you go!] ... When it becomes obvious that CNN is ignoring "all the other things going on in the world," will the goo-goos who applauded Klein for killing Crossfire wake up and realize there are less edifying things than a political argument? ... P.S.: There is a logic to Klein's alleged plan--the logic of Topic A-ism. According to this theory, people want to read about whatever is the hottest story right now, and they want to read a lot of it--they want to wallow in it, get everybody's "take" on it, stay with it and live it until the story's next twist. Topic-Aism has long been a depressing reality of the Web. Traffic flows to whatever site has something up on the JFK Jr. crash, or the last debate, or the election returns, or whatever's hot. If all you cared about was traffic you'd always write about Topic A. And there is always, by definition, a topic A, just as there is always a #1 on Blogdex. ... Klein apparently wants to transport this Web logic to television. If CNN is good on crisis days and falters on normal days, then make every day a crisis day! Focus on the One Big Story and milk it for all it's worth! Simple. CNN could change its mascot to a hedgehog. ... The obvious problems: Sometimes there isn't only one Big Story ... Sometimes the One Big Story lasts only a few hours, time enough for the Web to react but not necessarily for cable TV to react... Sometimes the One Big Story isn't very big. .. Sometimes the One Big Story doesn't have a "compelling central character." ....P.S.: I hate Topic-Aism, in part because it means people expect me to post something on the big story of the day even when I have nothing interesting to say about the big story of the day. ... Plus the "other things going on in the world" are the Topic As of tomorrow. ... Plus the pickin's are easier on Topics B-Z. ... Plus I get really sick of Topic A. ... 8:20 P.M.

Monday January 24, 2005

Marty Lederman surfaces to respond to Heather Mac Donald in their torture debate, which may be asymptotically approaching the truth. ... 12:03 A.M.

Sunday January 23, 2005

The Inner Scream: Sullivan is right about the high journalistic achievement of  this cover. But shouldn't they all have laptops? ... P.S.: The people I've felt most sorry for are the journalists who have to pretend they are excited by the inauguration and Bush's second term. NPR personalities in particular. You can hear the inauthenticity and desperation in their voices. ... As far as I know, none of them have yet tried to cover any Bush festivities from the sanctuary of the FDR memorial--where an All Things Considered correspondent wound up fleeing, on air, during last year's Reagan ceremonies. But the term is young. ... 9:47 P.M.

Saturday January 22, 2005

Eduwonk on how San Diego is a test case for whether teachers' unions and their allies will be able to block the reformist potential of No Child Left Behind.

Superintendent Alan Bersin is poised to reorganize several of the city's chronically underperforming schools. At two of the three schools a majority of teachers have voted to make the schools charter schools to help facilitate this and at all three 60-80 percent of parents voted to do the same. Remember, these are not schools that didn't do well "on a single test" but schools that have not done right by students for years.

Yet the school board member who represents these schools has apparently decided to oppose this and in the process force a vote on buying out the remainder of Bersin's contract because he won't play ball.

Why? Eduwonk has theories. ... No doubt the Democrats are on the right side of this one. ... Right? ... Hello? ... 4:16 P.M.

Friday January 21, 2005

The memorial service for  Marjorie Williams  will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, January 25, at the Washington National Cathedral. 4:02 P.M.

kf Nutrition News: Tremendous unrealized hype-potential (perhaps even justified) in this story. ... But while non-alocholic beer might have cancer-fighting properties, many lobsters may be contaminated with ingredients of plastics. ... 2:53 A.M.

Thursday January 20, 2005

I'm scheduled to be on Warren Olney's "Which Way L.A.?" radio show at 7:00 P.M. Pacific time this evening to attack the L.A. Times for its stuffy and disastrous aversion to gossip. (89.9 on your FM radio dial, or you can hear it online.) They have me paired with Times legend Bill Boyarsky--who thinks the same thing I do. The segment (just taped) wasn't a debate. It was non-stop Times-bashing! The Times, pathetically, refused to send someone to defend itself on one of L.A.'s most substantive and intelligent talk shows. ... [You don't usually hype radio appearances--ed. True. But this one's in the can, and it was one-sided!] ... KCRW listeners are exactly the West Side liberals the Times can't afford to lose. ... P.S.: Boyarsky, who after all worked at the paper for many years, says Times editors had trouble with even a semi-gossip column because it was "flip and irreverent." Wouldn't want that! ... How many more millions will the Tribune organization want to lose by backing editors who aren't eager to publish "irreverent" writing? 4:02 P.M.

Mr. Complexity: Andrew Sullivan has lately taken to presenting himself as a nuanced "political hybrid," a "solvent" of "rigidity" and partisanship. He's dismayed at the "bizarre [notion] gaining traction in the blogosphere ... that there can only be two positions on the Iraq war." Alert reader N.S. points to this March 9, 2003 blog entry  as an example of this nuanced, non-rigid, third-position-friendly hybrid thinker empathetically critiquing the New York Times' editorial opposing the Iraq invasion.

The Times has been campaigning for appeasement of Saddam for over a year. The hawkish pirouettes in between were diversions. What this editorial is really about is the first shot in the coming domestic war - to undermine this military campaign once it begins, to bring down this administration, and to advocate the long-term delegation of American power to an internationalist contraption whose record has been to facilitate inaction and tyranny. The Times, in campaigning against war, has actually fired the opening shot in the coming domestic war. Hostilities have begun.

P.S.: Sullivan now claims:

I have never said I don't agree with Bush's decision to go to war with Saddam. I've merely said the obvious - that we now know that, given Saddam's lack of WMD stockpiles, the urgency, with hindsight, was misplaced. Does that mean I have to apologize to Howard Dean? Sure, if Howard Dean had argued that there were no WMDs and that was why we shouldn't go to war, and I had trashed him for it. To Hans Blix? Sure, if he had said the same thing. But they didn't. And I didn't. Almost no one argued against the war on the basis that the WMD stockpiles didn't exist.

Huh? Sullivan must be remembering a different run-up to the Iraq war than I do. The Times editorial he sneeringly dismissed as "appeasement," for example, argued:

[T]he report of [Hans Blix's U.N.] inspectors on Friday was generally devastating to the American position. They not only argued that progress was being made, they also discounted the idea that Iraq was actively attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons. History shows that inspectors can be misled, and that Mr. Hussein can never be trusted to disarm and stay disarmed on his own accord. But a far larger and more aggressive inspection program, backed by a firm and united Security Council, could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program.

If you argue as the Times did that a "more aggressive inspection program ... could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program," doesn't that include the possibility that it could keep a lid on the program because the weapons had not been stockpiled at all? If it turns out there are no weapons, hasn't your argument a fortiori been proven right? What did the Times and Blix have to do to merit a Sullivan apology? Did they have to guess everything correctly--the exact number of canisters in each bunker, maybe? They said Saddam's weapons program wasn't worth going to war over--the "urgency ... was misplaced," as Sullivan delicately puts it. In that they were right, according to Sullivan. A blogger who wanted to be a "solvent of ... rigidity" would swallow his pride and admit as much. ... 3:12 P.M.

Ron Rosenbaum finds the blazing arrow between Jonathan Klein's (and everyone else's) idea of "storytelling" and the Dan Rather/memo scandal:

In a way, it was storytelling that got Mr. Rather in trouble: He and his people were so convinced of the "essential truth" of the Bush National Guard–dodging story that they didn't realize the documents looked too good to be true. Proved their "story" too perfectly.

Fiction is often truer than reality! So who needs reality? ... P.S.: Was it Michael Wolff who made the point that Jayson Blair was prized for his ability to turn out televisable stories too. ... [Link via Sullivan ] 2:33 A.M. 

Mystery Pollster's analysis of the offical Mitofsky exit poll screw-up report  confirms that, as suspected, the problem was not bloggers, and not some esoteric technical bias it takes an advanced degree to figure out. The problem is that Mitofsky had built a cheesy, dime-store organization that relied crucially on poorly-trained young people at the bottom. MP says:

The report confirms that interviewers were often young mostly inexperienced.  Interviewers were evaluated and hired with a phone call and trained with a 20-minute "training/rehearsal call" and an interviewer manual sent via FedEx. They were often college students -- 35% were age 18-24, half were under 35. Perhaps most important, more than three quarters (77%) had never before worked as exit poll interviewers. Most worked alone on Election Day.

It reminds me a bit of the infamous Iowa caucuses of 1988, when the TV commentators generalized knowingly about exit poll numbers generated by kids looking for extra credit who didn't make it to their assigned caucuses on time and missed the vote. Where are the "multiple layers of checks and balances"? ["Multiple layers" was a  defense of CBS in Memogate, not Mitofskygate--ed. Right. I knew that! The point is that, as with CBS, there was a lot less going on behind the curtain than Mitofsky's arrogant professionalism would lead you to expect.] ... P.S.: Hey, at least he didn't release the report the day before the Inauguration! ... 12:53 A.M.

Wednesday January 19, 2005

Science Brings Us Together! I find it difficult to believe that the sight of John Kerry triggered much activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. ... P.S.: The linked op-ed, by Joshua Freeman, doesn't even make the basic initial case for its goo-goo, op-ed-friendly claim that Americans were attracted to both candidates.  If they were, wouldn't the ventromedial prefrontal cortex ("an area associated with strong instinctive feelings of emotional connection") have lit up when voters viewed either of the two candidates? Instead, Freedman claims, different brain areas lit up for the different men. That suggests polarization, not commonality, no? ... 11:56 P.M.

Why would anyone deny having an affair with Bob Marley? ["No comment" is not a denial--ed. Right. And not a river in Egypt! But the Post has an earlier vague semi-denial.] 7:55 P.M.

David Corn on Marjorie Williams. ... P.S.: Charlotte Allen of the conservative Independent Women's Forum writes:

Williams ... was a Democrat and a doctrinaire feminist, not the sort of woman we usually go for here. But she was always more than that, taking on her own party and her own value system when they hypocritically betrayed her.

I initially gagged on Allen's "value system" comment, but here is a quote from Williams' furious 1998 dissection of feminists who denied the truth about Bill Clinton's misbehavior:

But if political opportunism is the main cause of their current blindness, it's not the only one. You can find in their reasoning a road map to everything that ails liberal feminism today: political self-dealing, class bias, and dedication to a bleak vision of sexual "liberation" that has deprived them of what was once the moral force of their beliefs.

3:48 P.M.

New Gearbox. ... 3:39 P.M.

The official  Mitofsky-Exit-Poll-Screw-Up report is out. MP is  on the case. ... 3:38 P.M.

Scandal at the GlobeMultiple layers of checks and balances missing! On a beat readers actually care about. ... Soxblog has the story (see his item 3). ... 3:15 A.M.

The L.A. Times unveils a new Sunday feature:

An experimental column that the Los Angeles Times maybe shouldn't have started, and from which it would like in this paragraph to distance itself with a ten-foot pole if possible, in which it invites outside critics--we could pull the plug on this thing at any moment, you know--to take their best shot at Southern California's heaviest newspaper.

I may have copied that down a bit wrong. I'll check it in the morning. ... P.S.: I tried to make my contribution to the Times' masochistic project as nasty as I reasonably could, confident the paper wouldn't publish it without putting it through an editorial "toning." Instead, they published it entirely intact, as promised. If it's too weak (as apparently it is!) that's my fault. ... P.P.S.: There's a wee bit of distancing going on in that intro, however. ... P.P.P.S.:  But the Times opinion pages are changing. This week they call Condi Rice "the Bearded Wise Lady" on a mock inaugural circus poster. Where were the anti-controversy police when that came down the chute? ...1:07 A.M.

Tuesday January 18, 2005

I'll Be Your Mirror: Howie Kurtz finds an "appearance problem" with the Washington Post giving $100,000 to President Bush's inauguration. But wouldn't it be worse if President Bush gave $100,000 to the Washington Post? ... Or if Time Warner, owner of CNN, gave a similar amount to the WaPo reporter who covers the media. ... Hmmm. ... Kurtz is willing to find "unseemly" appearances everywhere except in the mirror. ... [But we know what CNN is getting when they pay Kurtz to host "Reliable Sources"--ed. We do? How do we know we know? The Post says all it wants to get are inaugural ball tickets--but Kurtz is suspicious.] 11:48 P.M.

Monday January 17, 2005

Jack Shafer explains why Marjorie Williams was the best profiler around. She usually destroyed her subjects (e.g., Richard Darman, Patricia Duff) by finding some deep and true flaw that everybody else missed. Thank God she's not writing about me, you thought. She was a moral force, a modest soul, a wise friend and a brilliant presence. One of my proudest unintentional accomplishments was accidentally introducing her to her husband, my colleague Timothy Noah. (O.K., they would have met anyway. Washington is a small town that way.) They have both been heroes of mine through Marjorie's wildly unfair illness. She died on Sunday, and I suppose she would want us all to be keeping our chins up and eyes dry, but we are failing. ... WaPo editorializes here, Paul Glastris writes about her here, and there is a page of remembrances here. A memorial service will be held Tuesday, January 25th, at 11:00 A.M., at the Washington National Cathedral. ... Update: Marc Fisher, Joel Achenbach, David von Drehle, and Eric Alterman. ... MoreDavid Corn. ... 11:29 P.M.

Kevin Drum notes that Andrew Sullivan has now more or less admitted that his strident, belittling cheerleading for the war in Iraq was wrong. But you have to look carefully! It's buried in a discussion of post-war planning, where Sullivan writes:

I'd say it's obvious that Shinseki was correct [in saying we needed more troops]. Should we have gone to war under the circumstances then prevailing? Probably not. Given the lack of urgency with regard to Saddam's WMDs (yes, this is hindsight, but so is all of this), we obviously should have waited.

Good to see a clear answer. But, as Drum argues, if this is what Sullivan now thinks shouldn't he  apologize to those--not just Hans Blix, but maybe, say, Howard Dean**--who didn't need hindsight to see what he now sees?

**e.g., here's Sullivan on Dean, Oct. 12, 2003: "He would have left Saddam in place and hoped that the nightmare of terrorists with Saddam-provided WMDS wouldn't take place. After 9/11, I consider that an act of gross irresponsibility." [Emph. added] ...

P.S.:Heather Mac Donald replies  to Marty Lederman's critique of her article on torture. She also  responds to Sullivan's exegisis of Lederman's critque of her article. ... And Sullivan responds to Mac Donald's response, prompting Mac Donald to write a further response. ... I tend to think that a) Mac Donald defends the Bush administration's rules on torture more than what actually happened to prisoners in our custody, which was disgusting and disastrous and needs explaining, but b) Sullivan's attempt to find a blazing arrow from the Bush's legal rulings to the abuses is surprisingly incomplete . Here he is in the New York Times:

 [I]t seems unmistakable from these documents that decisions made by the president himself and the secretary of defense contributed to confusion, vagueness and disarray, which, in turn, led directly to abuse and torture ...

That's not an especially blazing arrow, in my book--the President is guilty of "contributing" to "confusion, vagueness and disarray."  Elsewhere in the article, Sullivan writes:

Whether random bad apples had picked up these techniques from hearsay or whether these practices represented methods authorized by commanders grappling with ambiguous directions from Washington is hard to pin down from the official reports. [Emph. added]

Well, if "random bad apples had picked up these techniques from hearsay," that would be a point for Mac Donald's attempt to debunk the  "torture narrative" that pins the blame on Bush and his lawyers, no? ... P.P.S.: Please don't forget that Sullivan was for the Iraq war and Mac Donald was against it. [Are you suggesting that these positions might have influenced their respective views on the prisoner abuse?-ed In Sullivan's case, yes. A basketball fan could label it a "make-up call."] ...  9:30 P.M.

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Links

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

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