David Brooks and the Bob Dole Fallacy

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 16 2005 3:05 AM

Brooks and the Bob Dole Fallacy

Plus--kf's jejune swoon!

Still the easiest way I can think of to become the richest person in the world: Buy one of the two weak U.S. brand names General Motors is reportedly thinking about killing off--that would be Pontiac or Buick--and start making Pontiacs (or Buicks) in China for sale in North America. ... Update: Malcolm Bricklin has a head start, without the brand name. But he's close--he plans to import a car called the "Chery," which GM is not happy about).[Via Autoblog] ... 10:05 P.M.

Addressing the problem of "what to do with the 11 million illegals who are already here," David Brooks writes:

We're not going to deport 11 million people, many of whom own homes and businesses. But normalizing their status is a question of balance. If we treat them too punitively, we'll just push them further underground. On the other hand, they broke the law, and they have to pay. McCain-Kennedy would lure them into the sunlight with the prospect of normalization, but would make them pay all back taxes and a $2,000 fine to become regularized, and they'd have to get in the back of the line. That's a start, but the penalties will probably have to be a bit tougher to be politically palatable. [Emph. added]

Brooks here seems to assume there is some "balance" to be struck--some Archimedean point between pure amnesty and draconian penalties--that will both lure illegals out from underground and punish them enough to deter more illegals from following in their footsteps. Washingtonians always assume there's some compromise deal that can be cut--the Bob Dole Fallacy. But sometimes there isn't; the relevant preference curves don't intersect (or however you'd express it graphically). And it seems very likely that this is one of those cases--that any penalty a) sufficiently harsh to deter future illegal immigrants (who, after all, get to live and work in the U.S. while those who play by the rules wait their turns) will be way too harsh for b) existing illegals to voluntarily accept. A $2,000 fine ain't going to be enough for (a), and may already be too high for (b). ... The only way to change the preference curves, it seems to me, is to make it more unpleasant to live as an illegal in the U.S.--so that both the penalty due upon surfacing becomes relatively more acceptable and the prospect of becoming an illegal becomes easier to deter. ... 10:49 P.M.

Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, leaders of the 9/11 Commission, say their report ignored the Able Danger program because  it "did not turn out to be historically significant." Well of course it didn't! But maybe it would have turned out to be historically significant if it had been nurtured and not legalistically confined. That's the issue, no? ... There's something circular about Kean and Hamilton's rationale--this data-mining program didn't become a big deal compared with other "policy and intelligence efforts" so we don't have to look at why it didn't become a big deal. But did it fail to become a big deal only because its potential was misguidedly nipped in the bud? In a self-righteous 9/11 inquiry that turned into a festival of second-guessing and what-iffing, why not second-guess this what-if along with all the others? ... P.S.: We now think we know the answer to the Eric Umansky Question--how big was the list of names that Atta's was on? Answer: 60, according to the ubiquitous" former defense intelligence official" who is the source of the report that Able Danger had in fact fingered Atta a year before 9/11. ... 12:22 P.M.

Are you a New York Times writer facing a government subpoena? Hint: Those who don't go with Floyd Abrams as their lawyer tend to stay out of jail!   3:15 P.M.

"Why am I here?" Courtney Love picks up where Admiral Stockdale left off. ...  Tinseltown Spywitness has some details of her depressing Comedy Central appearance that Page Six left out. Good to see you can write that someone "appeared increasingly toasted" in at least one L.A. newspaper. ... 9:17 A.M.

Bruce Reed wisely avoids bloggish obsession  over the fine points of the Able Danger story--

If the Times account is accurate, the Pentagon's failure to act on Able Danger operatives' findings spared FBI operatives the embarrassment of failing to act on those findings. ...

P.S.: Reed has at least one other good, cynical Washington Monthlyesque rim shot ("a Pentagon spokesman says 'it would be irresponsible for us to provide details in a way in which those who wish to do us harm would find beneficial,' but he fails to say whether he's referring to the FBI, the CIA, the White House, or Congress.") ... P.P.S.: For a solid survey of the bloggish obsession, see  Maguire  and his many links. ... P.P.P.S.: Or you could just think about how this A.P. lede from today would have looked, say, in the middle of the 2004 campaign, when the Sept. 11 commission was a major pro-Kerry factor:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Sept. 11 commission knew military intelligence officials had identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as a member of al-Qaida who might be part of U.S.-based terror cell more than a year before the terror attacks but decided not to include that in its final report, a spokesman acknowledged Thursday. 

Yikes. J-Pod has the Maximum Conservative Reading. But we do need to know how big the list with Atta's name on it was. ... 12:53 A.M.

Are We Spain? If Peggy Noonan is right that Bush's support depends crucially on the "second bookend"--that

America has not been attacked on its soil again. We have not been airplaned, nuked, bio'd or suitcase bombed

doesn't it mean Al Qaeda could effectively bring down Bush's presidency with one deadly attack, maybe even a fairly simple attack? In other words, we are in the position of Spain on March 10, 2004. Don't tell Zawahiri. ... 12:25 A.M. link

Share Jon Klein's Joy, Part II! Dana Stevens has a thorough grokking of The Situation Room, Jonathan Klein's epochal achievement, the symbol of CNN's "newfound dedication" and as big a jump in terms of aesthetic value systems as there was between an Eve before the fall and an Eve after the fall! ... Today, anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed Bill Clinton. Stevens says:

It was a standard puff-piece interview, somewhere between public-service announcement and campaign stop, which made it all the odder that Blitzer chose to end the encounter by flashing up an old picture of Clinton White House situation room. Describing the picture to the president, Blitzer asked, "You're now in another situation room, at least via satellite. How does it feel?" Clinton seemed confused for a fraction of a second before responding with a laugh, "I liked being in the other situation room, but I like this one better. There's less pressure and more freedom. And I know I can walk out on you—I couldn't walk out on the other situation room." As the show prepared to cut to a commercial, the giant screens showed a suddenly tired-looking Clinton, waiting for an aide to remove his body mic. He seemed eager to get away from the delusional Blitzer and back to his real life. From where I sit right now at 5:15:04 p.m. ET, heading into my third straight hour of real-time data collection, I'm inclined to agree.

Stevens gets in some other good shots. ...  P.S.: She also says it's "a colossal bore." ... P.P.S.: But she likes Cafferty. ...11:04 P.M.

Here's an answer to a question that bugged the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (the mysteriously declining age of menarche) ... 10:17 P.M.

Gutfeld, Gutfeld. You shot and missed!  Anti-SUV activists Laurie David and Arianna Huffington will be happy to denounce private jets. What you need to do is try to get them to renounce private jets! That one would be tougher for them. ... P.S.: According to Gregg Easterbrook, a single Gulfstream G200 flight across the country consumes as much fossil fuel as driving a Hummer for a year. ... [Gutfeld's item's still funny, for "Deepaking" alone. Do you think it has any chance at becoming one of HuffPo's front-page "Featured Posts"?--ed He'll never break through the Wall of Sheehan!  ... To enjoy HuffPo you have to ignore the "Featured Posts." Go straight to "The Blog."  How many times must I tell you! "The Blog" is all Sheehan too--ed. What happened to Judy Miller?] ... P.P.S.: As if the Gutfeld double-secret hidden blog wasn't enough, there's this. ... 5:51 P.M.

Was Stephen Glass right   too soon? 5:23 P.M.

"You're calling me 'jejune'?" James Wolcott shows he's one of the most june guys  in all the blogospheres in  a brilliantly imaginative post that begins by pretending Jeff Jarvis said "clap" instead of "crap"! ... And they say he's lost the magic! ... 5:53 P.M.

Kleinenfreude! Harry Shearer says "The Situation Room," CNN president Jon Klein's afternoon masterpiece, is

watchable only for those devotees of train wrecks who used to love that mid-day talk-show on CNN -- the place Bobbi Batista went to die -- that smooshed together email, phone calls, and live guests in the CNN Center in front of an audience that looked more like hostages.  ... [emphasis added]

The ratings suck too. I say give the dynamic Wolf Blitzer time to find his voice! ... P.S.: But should present trends continue, I am not worried about Klein. His whole strategy--leading with his lip, playing to the respectable media-crit claque by trashing his own people, giving dozens of interviews and speeches in which he makes a grand show of saying nothing--seems designed not to help his network but to make sure that by the time he definitively fails at CNN and has to leave he's enough of a big-deal TV network name that he can get a good job somewhere else! ... P.S.: Don't worry: No doubt Klein employee Howie Kurtz will eviscerate Klein in WaPo! [Once he's safely out the door--ed You said that.] ...  P.P.S.: Isn't Jack Cafferty's loose "Situation Room" sniping  kind of ... good, though? Maybe the Post could hire him too! ... 4:44 P.M.

The epistemological status of Doug Jehl's report--that a Pentagon data-mining progam had fingered Mohammed Attta as Al Qaeda in 2000-- remains unsettled. Maguire has the state of play. A key issue: the "former intelligence official" who has come forward with the story says

he had explicitly mentioned Mr. Atta in the briefing [to the 9/11 commission] as a member of the American terrorist cell.

But those who were briefed don't seem to remember the name, which you'd think they would. ... So does the NYT believe it's own report? Did it have it nailed down when it ran with it? Or are Jehl & Co. asymptotically approaching the truth, bloggy-style, by publicizing an uncertain story and initiating what is in effect a dialogue with those who have additional, clarifying information to offer? ... Not that there's anything wrong with it! ... 3:54 P.M.

"[T]he software put them all together in Brooklyn." The NYT reports on its front page  that over a year before 9/11, "a small, highly classified military intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States." How did the military intelligence unit do it? Readers who made it to the middle of page A-14 of the Times learned the answer: data-mining. ... Does this seemingly stunning proof of data-mining's efficacy mean the NYT will ease its staunch editorial opposition to the technique, which the paper has breathlessly said

could mean that F.B.I. agents will show up at the doors of people who order politically unpopular books on Amazon.com or make phone calls to organizations critical of the government.

P.S.: The most consipicuous battle over data-mining was NYT columnist William Safire's successful crusade against Admiral John Poindexter's "Total Information Awareness" plan, which was a data-mining project. Safire characterized it as an "Orwellian" enterprise in which

every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend. . . . will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database." 

Anti-"privocrat" Heather Mac Donald took on Safire's alarmism in a  2004 City Journal article:

It's okay for Home Depot to buy my digitized credit-card receipts, says the privacy "community," to see whether I would be a soft touch for a riding mower. But if government agents want to see who has purchased explosive-level quantities of fertilizer, they should go store to store, checking credit-card receipts. Data-mining opponents would deny terror investigators a technology in common use in the commercial sector, simply because they think government should be kept inefficient to limit its power ....

Mac Donald also made an astonishing and suddenly eerily resonant claim:

Had a system been in place in 2001 for rapidly accessing commercial and government data, the FBI's intelligence investigators could have located every single one of the 9/11 team once it learned in August 2001 that al-Qaida operatives Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi, two of the 9/11 suicide pilots, were in the country. [Emphasis added]

It's been obvious for a while that if we're going to match the terrorists in the cyberspace race  we'll have to give up some of our privacy. Letting a government supercomputer scan my credit card receipts and Amazon searches seems a relatively inoffensive place to start.** It beats torturing people. ...

** Don't forget my library books! (Do you have an expectation of privacy when you check out a book from ... the government? I don't.)

Backfill: Umansky is skeptical  of the whole story. ... Phil Carter  beat me to the data-mining defense  and has comments from actual government data miners--or their lawyers, anyway. ... [via JustOneMinute3:13 A.M.

I'm baffled by the heavily-advertised decline in Bush's popularity, which began not when the war in Iraq was dicey and bloody but when it seemed to be going well, with the successful elections in January. ... Mystery Pollster helps by pointing to the "amazing Professor Pollkatz graphic." It shows Bush in steady, secular decline, punctuated only by small event-related upticks, since 9/11--suggesting that, like a hitter who regresses to his "natural" career average after a hot streak, Bush is simply returning to the level of popularity he would have had if 9/11 hadn't occurred. It's not Schiavo, or gas prices. It's just Bush's natural approval rating. ... P.S.: Except among Rasmussen's robots. They still like Bush! Bush even rose in the Rasmussen poll in the first half of the year. Mystery Pollster can't completely explain it and neither can I. ... 2:23 A.M.

Hitchens, OBE: Dr. Alaa Tamimi, the Giuliani-admiring mayor of Baghdad lauded by Christopher Hitchens only yesterday, appears to have been deposed via seemingly extra-democratic means by a Shiite group led by the elected president of the city council. Iraq's prime minister seem ready to ratify the ouster by accepting Tamimi's previously-offered resignation. ... Since Tamimi was chosen, as the NYT previously reported, "not by a direct election but by a vote of local leaders who were carefully chosen by the American occupation," this may be less of a setback to democracy than it appears, though it will be lamented by those who doubt the decisive virtue of elections alone if they bring to power strict Islamist parties. (Lee Smith, in the course of expressing those doubts in Slate, found even Tamimi too Islamist. One wonders what he thinks of Tamimi's successors.) ... 1:49 P.M.

Barbara Ehrenreich once famously remarked that the only institution left that reliably mixes the classes is the DMV. I spent most of today there, and while I did not see David Geffen or any famously rich locals it seemed to be fulfilling its leveling mission. I have since learned that I was a fool--smart Californians never go to the DMV! They can do all their DMV-related bureaucratic chores more efficiently at a local branch of the Auto Club. ... Can special concierge service for busy studio execs be far behind? ... P.S.: I don't think the decline of the DMV as a class-mixer is something for social egalitarians to lament. It hardly provides a boost to civic equality if the only egalitarian experiences average citizens have are tedious and time-wasting. ... Anyway, the real class-mixer in my neighborhood is the 7-11. ... 1:03 A.M.

At this point, if it were revealed that John Roberts was a member of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, liberal legal interest groups would probably still denounce him as an "ultraconservative"  while conservative legal interest groups would say the NAMBLA story was just a "red herring meant to divide the right."  These lobbies want to have a fight and they know the grounds they want to fight on. Don't distract them with quirks! ... P.S.: The truth, as Richard Cohen argues, is that of course conservatives should be troubled by Roberts' pro-bono work on behalf of a gay rights appeal from Colorado. Not because it means he's a closet liberal or a supporter of gay rights. But because it suggests he's susceptible to the respectable social pressures within law firms that prompt partners to spend time working on liberal causes--pressures perhaps not unlike those on the Supreme Court that have pushed conservative judges to the left. At the very least, it indicates that Roberts believes in the lawyer's ideal that everyone deserves counsel and a hearing--an ideal that, when pushed outward, has done a lot of work for liberal legalism in the past half century, much of it highly unfortunate (e.g. elaborate due process rights for fired federal workers that virtually guarantee the government will be inefficient). ...  P.P.S.: If, as the head of Roberts' old law firm's pro bono program declared, the Colorado case was about "equal protection" more than about gay rights--well, isn't that even worse from a conservative viewpoint? Equal protection principles can be broadened very quickly to areas beyond homosexuality. ... P.P.P.S.: Award for Most Unconvincingly Desperate Conservative Spin goes to Grover Norquist!

"The whole case that conservatives have been trying to make is that your personal feelings ought not to count" when you rule from the bench, Norquist said.

So Norquist is conceding that Roberts' "personal feelings" really were on the side of the Colorado gay rights advocates? That should reassure Dr. Dobson! ... Update: The S.F. Chronicle version of the LAT's article bizarrely contains a fuller version of Norquist's quote. He goes on to add:

"There may be people who will say, 'I want (him) to share my world view and try to impose it on his decisions,' " Norquist added. "Those people are not a useful part of the effort."

This leaves open the possibility that Norquist is saying Roberts doesn't believe in homosexual equality but won't let it affect his actions. That won't make Dobson any happier. (Have social conservative voters such as Dobson's followers really not been "useful" to Norquist?) 10:41 P.M.

PDB Day Observed Throughout Nation: TheNYT's Elisabeth Bumiller suggests that the White House has set a relatively full work schedule for President Bush out of a

desire to be in purposeful motion on another anniversary of the now-infamous C.I.A. briefing that Mr. Bush received at the ranch on Aug. 6, 2001. That briefing, which informed the new president that the terrorist network Al Qaeda had maintained an active presence in the United States for years and could be preparing for hijackings here, created a political uproar when its contents were eventually made public. [Emph. added]

Maybe I'm out of touch with the American people, but what I've seen on several recent trips to the 7-11 leads me to doubt that that the anniversary of the August 6, 2001 PDB is on everyone's lips, or anyone's lips, outside of a few diligent anti-Bush bloggers. And even they seem to be on vacation! Is this really a salient memory that that the Bush PR operation needed to counter (as opposed to the general perception that Bush spends an awful lot of time on vacation)? Or is Bumiller so in tune with the fine points of anti-Bush culture that she has mistaken it for reality? ... P.S.: The White House must loathe Bumiller. Obviously, the NYT doesn't want to pull a reporter from a beat just because her subject objects. But it's as painful to read Bumiller trying to pretend to be chummily respectful of the Bushies while sniping passive-aggressively as it is to listen to post-Tomlinson NPR anchors try to fake patriotic sincerity on July 4. ... [Even if the August 6, PDB isn't in the public consciousness, a hostile reporter could still use the anniversary to take a shot at Bush's vacationing--ed. And who might that be!] 12:41 P.M. link

'Just let it go': Josh Marshall noticed something  about the Novak stalk-off video that I'd missed: When Novak, just before he exits, says "Just let it go," he isn't talking to James Carville, with whom he's ostensibly had a blow up. He's addressing Ed Henry, the anchor who is obviously primed to ask Novak questions about the Plame case. This seems to me a highly persuasive bit of evidence pointing to the real reason Novak bolted. ( KfThursday. Rosen  Friday.) ... P.S.: Mary Ann Akers of Roll Call adds evidence  from Ed Henry confirming  Mystery Pollster's "Who's Who" theory, now rapidly approaching CW status:

Perhaps Robert Novak stormed off the set of "Inside Politics" because CNN's Ed Henry was about to throw the book at him, the gigantic "Who's Who in America," in which the famously outed CIA agent Valerie Plame's name appears. Henry had the book sitting in front of him during Thursday's show and, before Novak's spectacular on-air fit, planned to ask the Prince of Darkness something like: Is this where you got Plame's name? Or did it come from Karl Rove? [Emph added]

That would be the precise "Anne Kornblut question." ... P.P.S.: Novak may have pulled a similar walk-off a day earlier, in clear reaction to Plame questioning. It's like mentioning "Skull & Bones" to him! He has to leave the room. ... 2:34 A.M. link

Waas/NotWaas: Murray Waas reports in The American Prospect  that "Scooter" Libby and NYT reporter Judith Miller did meet "and discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame"  prior to her outing by Robert Novak. If true, Waas story moves the ball several yards downfield, although it appears to be consistent with both the Judy-as-source and Judy-as-leak-recipient theories. But Waas has three odd paragraphs lower down in the piece that seem to suggest that President Bush should order Libby to waive whatever promise of confidentiality he received from Miller:

At least two attorneys representing private clients who are embroiled in the Plame probe also privately questioned whether or not President Bush had encouraged Libby to provide a personalized waiver for Miller in an effort to obtain her cooperation.

In a memorandum distributed to White House staff members shortly after the investigation became known, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, who at the time was White House counsel, wrote, "The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation." Bush himself said: "[I]f there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

Congressman Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, while sidestepping the specifics as to whether Bush should order Libby to provide a personalized waiver for Miller, said in an interview Friday evening: "I would say the president has the power to help us get to the bottom of this matter. And we in Congress want to do this not so much for what has happened but to prevent such a thing from happening again." [Emph. added]

I don't understand. If President Bush ordered or even "encouraged" Libby to provide a "personal" waiver to Miller, wouldn't that waiver be just as "coerced" as the "general" waivers that Miller has rejected as insufficiently voluntary? (The implicit threat: "Give her a waiver or lose your administration job.") In fact, wouldn't a Bush order taint as "coerced" even a private, unsolicited, sotto voce release given personally by Libby to Miller? This seems like a bogus basis for sniping at Bush. ... Maguire makes a similar point.

Meanwhile: Arianna reports that the NYT's Doug Jehl has been assigned to actually find out the truth about Miller. Yikes! ... Is she a source--or a target? ... 2:00 A.M. link

“The governor doesn’t do negotiations.”  Now there's a weak response, from New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine, explaining why his romance with the president of a union that represents 9,000 state workers won't present a troubling conflict of interest. But Corzine's $470,000 gift to his labor-leader ex-girlfriend only helps his case, no? From the voters' point of view, it's better that she owe him than he owe her. ... Too bad they "remain good friends." [Via NewsAlert] 10:55 P.M.

Craig Crawford argues that Bush's allegedly impolitic adoption of the Schiavo cause actually helped pass CAFTA--not by pleasing Bush's base, but simply by distracting the press from Speaker Tom DeLay's ethical troubles at a crucial time. ... Sure, it's self-serving White House spin (as Crawford notes). And it ignores the honorable idealistic motives for intervening. That doesn't mean it's wrong! ... 5:48 P.M.

Special for kf weekend readers: Secrets of the Huffington Post revealed! Go here. Click on "Author bio." You have now located Maxim UK editor Greg Gutfeld's "double secret hidden blog," which he uses to take clandestine shots at the Hollywood Left types who populate the HuffPo front page. Sample:

christ is it me OR IS THE HUFFPOST GETTING BORINGER? the celebs try to be smart, which is like watching a blind kid ride a bicycle. then the noncelebs try to be witty and cool -- AND THAT'S EVEN FUNNIER!!!! ...[snip]

THE HUFFPO HYPOCRISY: SUVS the unspeakable truth about the anti-SUV crowd.they only hate those vehicles because every one in America can afford them. If SUVs were too expensive for middle class Americans, then only people like laurie david and Arianna would drive them. But since we can afford to drive them, and they are wildly popular and all over town, THERE MUST BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THEM. If we all could afford private jets - then Arianna would want to ban them. But since only she can afford to charter them, she's ok with it. THAT'S THE GIST! ...

Fun, fun fun. But wait ... if what you are concerned about is conserving fossil fuels, etc., then the time to get concerned about SUVs is precisely when middle class Americans can afford them, because that's when they start having a big impact on gas consumption. Gutfeld's issue isn't "hypocrisy" so much as snobbery. It's an interesting question--not unimportant if you care about social equality, or winning elections--whether wealthy libs like Laurie David are snobs. (My default estimate, subject to instantaneous revision, is "no.") But in this case snobbery and sound environmentalism would go hand in hand. The rich can't do too much damage by themselves. ... P.S.: Gutfeld's non-secret   sniping is actually funnier and more effective. But less sincere! ...

Update 8/8: Gutfeld--responding in his "tiny hole in Hell!"--says the worry-about-the-middle-class environmental argument "can be used for just about anything, from airline travel to just about any activity that creates trash or some kind of nasty byproduct ...." Why, yes. It can! ... 3:29 P.M. link

Is Frank Gehry's Bilbaoesque outdoor furniture bombing? Already discounted at Design Within Reach. That doesn't seem like a good sign. ... 11:13 A.M.

David Shaw, Proto-Blogger! E.J. Dionne writes a nice and accurate column about David Shaw. I went after Shaw too often to credibly eulogize him. But I do remember that when the LAT was sold to the Chicago people, the paper took Shaw off his leisurely one-big-piece-every-blue-moon routine and briefly had him cover breaking stories--and the resulting daily articles were great, deeper and more subtle than the competition on the same beat. You wonder what he would have done if he hadn't pioneered big-paper press criticism.... P.S.: The following passage, from Shaw's impactful 1990 critique of press abortion coverage, supports Dionne's point that Shaw was (ironically!) informed by a now-familiar MSM-bashing spirit:

[T]hroughout the media, print and broadcast alike, coverage of abortion tends to be presented--perhaps subconsciously--from the abortion-rights perspective. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Webster case a year ago Tuesday that states could have more latitude in regulating abortion, for example, ABC News termed the decision "a major setback for abortion rights."

Couldn't it also have been called "a major victory for abortion opponents"?

Yes.

But most reporters don't identify with abortion opponents.

If you blogged that today, Instapundit would link to you and add "Indeed." 10:27 A.M. link

Was Novak Running from ... a Book? What was the big reddish-brown book sitting in front of moderator Ed Henry when Robert Novak walked off the set of CNN's Inside Politics? Who's Who in America, of course! ... Mystery Pollster  caught it first. ... Perhaps Henry, who says he told Novak he was going to ask about the Plame case, wanted to clear up the Anne Kornblut question: whether Novak really found out Plame's maiden name from the book. (Highly unlikely, sez kf**). Novak escaped just in time. ... P.S.: Finally, CNN's Jonathan Klein produces some "appointment television"!Lucky for him Inside Politics is a sturdy CNN fixture that will stay on the network's schedule be able to benefit from the ratings boost it's sure to get. ... Oh, wait.

**[Why wouldn't Novak want to say whether he in fact got Plame's name from Who's Who?--ed He might not want to get pinned down on that point, because the truthful answer would be "no." (If it was "yes," wouldn't Novak have written that he'd in fact gotten the name from the book, instead of writing merely that the name "could" be found there?) If the answer is in fact "no," it suggests either a) Novak's source used Plame's maiden name, which might help identify the source, or b) Novak got the name somewhere else and chose to use it himself.  Whichever is true, use of the maiden names seems more career-damaging to Plame since more of Plame's overseas contacts as a CIA agent would have known her by that name). Intentional use of that name, then, could be seen as vindictive--evidence that either Novak's source (a) wanted to punish Plame and/or her husband or Novak himself (b) wanted to punish Plame and/or her husband (perhaps in pursuit of a pro-Bush agenda, perhaps because Novak just thinks Wilson's an "ass---"). None of these seem like lines of speculation Novak would want to encourage.  [See also Marshall.] ...

Update: Jacques Steinberg notes that Novak's "time off" will protect him from having to answer Plame questions anytime soon. CNN's spokesperson may not have been lying when she declared it a "mutual decision."  It almost seems like an outcome Novak might have wanted all along! Hmmm. ... Kabuki Watch: You don't think ... I mean, Novak wasn't especially provoked. ... And he didn't look that mad when he got up. ... More like he was slipping out! ... Update: Josh Marshall is puzzled too, for similar reasons. He seemingly randomly mentions World Wrestling Federation ... or maybe not so randomly. They have fights that feel like this one all the time! [But the WWF is ...-ed More realistic?] ...

Update 8/5: Novak says  Henry's impending Plame questions "had nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing." ... But Marshall interviews James Carville, who is at as big a loss as anyone else to explain how what he said prompted Novak's exit:

"At the time I thought it was like a 2.5 [on the scale on pundit show smackdowns].  But when I heard it again later, I thought, no, it's more like a 1.5."

Carville also told me that he didn't get any sense during the interview or in anything that happened off the air that "something was building" or any other sense that the guy was about to snap.  It was as out of the blue to him as it was to everyone watching.

7:19 P.M. link

Two of Tom Maguire's live Plame leads were new to me (perhaps because I haven't been paying enough attention to the Plame controversy!):

1) Russert's misdirection play? Maguire notes that, on close inspection, the denial NBC put out about Tim Russert's possibly Plame-related conversation with Cheney aide "Scooter" Libby was kind of ... weasely and Clintonian!

Mr. Russert, however, according to the NBC statement, said "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a C.I.A. operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby." Indeed, the statement said, Mr. Russert first learned the information from Mr. Novak's column. --NYT, 7/16/05 [Weasel highlights added]

Under this too-precise denial, Russert might still have told Libby "You know his wife works for the CIA." Not that there would have been anything wrong with that! (I'm assuming Russert didn't know she was an undercover agent, which most CIA employees are not.) Indeed, I don't see how you could not bring this up if you knew it and found yourself talking to Libby about Wilson's CIA-sponsored trip to Niger. It's the logical gossip to mention. But if that's what happened, why would Russert pretend to deny it?  ... Sydney Schanberg has called on Russert to tell the public the truth (after all, there's a big controversy over whether Bush aides like Libby found out about Plame from reporters like Russert or from classified documents). What I hadn't realized is that Russert may have gone beyond simply remaining silent and actually misdirected the public, allowing NBC to suggest, with its Luskinesque denial, that he didn't tell Libby anything about Plame. ...

2) The secret friend: Did you know that, according to Joseph Wilson*, the CIA press operation knew that columnist Robert Novak might "out" Valerie Plame several days before Novak published his column--and possibly even before CIA spokesman Bill Harlow took Novak's call and ineffectually attempted to dissuade him from identifying her? How did the CIA know? Because--in a bizarre Watergate-quality incident inadequately chronicled in the MSM--Wilson's "secret friend" had confronted Novak on the street, found out what Novak knew, and Plame herself subsequently "alerted the CIA press office," according to Maguire. Given this heads up, why didn't the CIA take more "affirmative measures" to protect Plame's cover, if it was such a big deal? Measures like having George Tenet call Novak? Or was Tenet already talking to Novak ...? (Novak's original source has yet to be revealed, remember.)

*--admittedly, not a take-it-to-the-bank character. 11:07 A.M. link

" Bush Supports Rove, Palmeiro" is not a headline that Karl Rove's lawyer, the weasely Robert Luskin, would pick, I suspect. ... 4:19 P.M.

'Did you mean: kornblut and rove and novak and plane?' No, I did not! But thanks for asking:  I agree with Josh Marshall that there was something strange about the estimable Anne Kornblut's NYT article on how Robert Novak might have found out Valerie Wilson's maiden name  (Plame). Just because Novak says, by way of defending himself, that Plame's name could be discovered in "her husband's entry in Who's Who in America'" doesn't mean Novak is trying to hint that the book was in fact his "source" for the name. He's arguing that using the name was no big deal. ... Of course, using her maiden name rather than her married name was at least a little deal, since it made it easier for people in foreign countries to put two and two together and realize they'd been dealing with a CIA agent, with possible dire consequences for those who cooperated with her ...  P.S.: Why was Kornblut's story printed? Theories: 1) It fulfills the NYT'sgoal of writing about Rove/Plame every damn day in an attempt to keep the scandal in the public mind (perhaps on the highly questionable assumption that this somehow helps the NYT reporter who is in jail, as opposed to increasing the pressure on her to talk);  2) It makes an incremental contribution on the teeny-tiny question of whether to read much evidentiary value into Novak's use of Plame's maiden name. In other words, it's a blog item! But in a real blog item you don't have to pretend that the little point you're obsessively gnawing at--such as the point I'm trying to make in this very sentence!--is worth a New York Times story. And you can, you know, just come out and make your point. ... Update: See also Somerby. ...3:27 P.M. link

Arianna  and Karl, Together Again! Arianna Huffington continues to push the theory  that jailed New York Times reporter Judy Miller may have been one of the people who told Bush aides about Valerie Plame's CIA connection, rather than the other way around. This, of course, also happens to be a major potential defense of Bush aides Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby from the charge that they illegally leaked secret information "outing" Plame. Indeed, through their lawyers or other anonymous spinners, they already  seem to have adopted a we-were-only-passing-on-what-journalists-told-us defense. (If they learned about Plame's CIA job from a reporter--as opposed, to, say, a  classified State department memorandum--that would make it harder to show they knew Plame was "covert" etc., as required to successfully prosecute them under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act.) ... Do the Rove-bashers who populate the Huffingsphere  realize that their leader is objectively aiding Rove by popularizing the leading theory that exculpates him? ... Hollywood libs always worried she'd go back to the other side! ...

P.S.: The real explanation, I suspect, is that Huffington's staying near Sag Harbor and the Judy-as-source theory--even though it seems less simple and straightforward than the competing 'Libby-leaked' scenario--is in fact what vacationing media types are buzzing about, as  Huffington herself reports. She gets points for being guided by what solid schmoozalism and old-fashioned sandal leather tells her the story is as opposed to what Democratic frog-marching fantasies (or bloggish deskwork) says the story should be. ...

P.P.S.: She also buries a big potential lede--

But what worries my Times sources the most is that it smells like the straw that could break the Gray Lady's back. A lot hinges on how much of what Judy knows Bill Keller and Arthur Sulzberger also know.

I'm not convinced of the Judy Theory myself, which means I think Keller's in less trouble and Rove's in more trouble than Arianna does. But I'm not in Sag Harbor! ...

Update: Surprisingly, Arianna does not graciously accept the mantle of nonpartisan truthseeker!  Instead, she keeps her left base in line with a cake-and-eat-it-too response that holds out the prospect of nailing both Rove and Judy Miller--because Rove must surely have had "multiple sources" on Plame's CIA status. I don't actually doubt that's Arianna's preferred outcome. But there is a reason why Rove and Libby seem to be promoting the idea that they heard about Plame from reporters. That's because it helps their case--i.e., helps keep them from being indicted, which is pretty much the whole ballgame at this point. Even if they had multiple sources, it's much harder for a prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt they got the information from Source A (classified memos that should have alerted them to Plame's covert status!) if they can argue they got it from Source B (a journalist like Miller). Matthew Yglesias  at least recognizes that at this point the left faces a wish-fulfillment choice between nailing Miller and nailing Rove. ...  2:15 A.M. link

Bachelors heard: Everyone's saying that welfare causes terrorism! Does polygamy cause terrorismtoo? ... P.S.: William Tucker  writes:

Today polygamy is not practiced widely in Islamic countries, and only accounts for about ten percent of all marriages. The country where the distribution of wives is most unequal—Saudi Arabia—seems to be the best at producing roving jihadists who roam the world in search of conflict.

But if polygamy isn't widely practiced in Islamic countries, can it really be so important that violent jihad is "unlikely to disappear until it is eliminated"? ... 12:40 A.M. link

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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. Keller's 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's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. 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. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]