TARP, baby!

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 1 2008 10:09 PM

TARP, Baby!

Explaining Paulson's plan better than Paulson.

(Continued from Page 6)

"Obviously, the convention has not been our driving force behind the story," Perel says. "The reporting takes however long it takes. It took seven months to go from the December story to the [Beverly Hilton] meeting… . But if it happens to be a happy coincidence — if the story just happens to be breaking around that time, in terms of maximum exposure — " Perel pauses. If the convention wasn't part of the timetable before, it is now.

How long before prominent Democrats begin telling their MSM friends that it really looks like there's something to this Edwards story? ... 8:00 P.M. link

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Ann Coulter on the bizarreness of the moment:

The mainstream media's reaction to the National Enquirer's reports on John Edwards' "love child" scandal has been reminiscent of the Soviet press. Edwards' name has simply been completely whitewashed out of the news. ... I suspect that if I tried to look up coverage of the Democratic primaries in Nexis news archives, Edwards' name will have disappeared from the debates. By next week, Edwards won't have been John Kerry's running mate in 2004.

7:58 P.M.

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Banned-by-Kos Lee Stranahan: John Edwards needs to stop taking the fall for Andrew Young. ... 7:54 P.M.

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MSM: You want photos  ...  Old MSM line: We demand photos! ... New MSM line: We demand high definition photos! ... 11:56 A.M.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Undernews seep: Inquirer's sister paper on Enquirer. "Are we mainstream or not? We're going to get a complex." ... 2:35 A.M.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Why  write about the Edwards scandal? Here's a short clip-'n'-save response to those (including many friends) who argue the Edwards scandal shouldn't be pursued--or at least pursued too vigorously-- even if it is true:**

1. No "private citizen": Edwards was certainly a contender for VP, or a big cabinet post like Attorney General, or even the Supreme Court, before the scandal first erupted in the "undernews" in late 2007. Some reporters say he was still on Obama's VP list until quite recently. If he's now finished as far as those big jobs are concerned, it's in large part because of this scandal, which Obama might never have learned about if everyone had followed the MSM's lead.  Even now, Edwards may not be out of the running for an array of lesser public posts--including cabinet-grade positions--that provide non-trivial power and a platform for future advancement. Important unions back him. Until last week, he'd been traveling the country keeping himself in the public eye in a way well-designed to let him play a big national role in either the Obama administration or the opposition to the McCain administration. It's silly to say "he's just a private citizen"--he's much less of a "private citizen" than, say, William Bennett was in 2003 when Jonathan Alter and Joshua Green  torpedoed Bennett's career by revealing his gambling habits. 

What makes the scandal awful and unpleasant--as opposed to the Bennett scandal, which was delicious--is that Edwards has a very ill wife. But, as Susan Estrich has noted, that's also what makes Edwards' alleged behavior awful and unpleasant--more objectionable than anything Bennett was accused of doing.

2. Hypocrisy: Ah, but Bennett was a hypocrite-- a man whose chief claim to national attention was as a sophisticated moral scold who turned out to have a major gambling jones. Edwards is a hypocrite too, in much the same way. Why, after all, was Edwards ever considered presidential material. Is he a great executive? No. A brilliant policy expert? No. An accomplished diplomat? No. He's  an ex-Senator with one undistinguished term in office who rose in life on the basis of his singular ability to use tearjerking stories to move juries and win large verdicts . His presidential campaign has featured similarly moving anecdotes, such as the famous 10-year old girl "somewhere in America" who goes to bed "praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn't have the coat to keep her warm."

Edwards' most effective anecdote this year, however, was probably the story of his popular wife Elizabeths' struggle against cancer. He made it the emotional center of a TV ad:

And Elizabeth and I decided in the quiet of a hospital room, after 12 hours of tests and after getting very bad news, what we were going to spend our lives doing. For all those that have no voice. We are not going to quietly go away.

During a joint 60 Minutes interview focusing on his wife's illness, Edwards explicitly linked his behavior in that struggle and his fitness for public office:

Katie Couric
Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this.

John Edwards:
Here's what I would say about that.

First of all, there's not a single person in America that should vote for me because Elizabeth has cancer. Not a one. ..[snip]

But, I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make. [E.A.]

3. Relevance: If a politician is a great executive, thinker or diplomat who cheats on his brave, ill wife, you figure, "OK, We're not hiring him because of his sterling private behavior." If a politician whose chief appeal is his self-advertised loyalty to his brave, ill wife cheats on his brave ill wife, what's he good for again? And if Edwards' crucial talent as a public official is his ability to move people with tearjerky anecdotes, and those anecdotes (like the tale of his spousal loyalty, or the girl with no coat, or the anecdote that reportedly made John Kerry queasy about him)--turn out to be BS or half BS, that's more than random hypocrisy, It goes to the core of what he does and what he claims to offer. (I'd also argue that an emotional, anecdote-led liberal approach to poverty inevitably tends toward the failed solution of simply sending poor people cash welfare, but that's another argument.)

4. Irresponsibility: How irresponsible was it to seek the party's nomination knowing that this scandal was lurking around, ready to explode? What if he'd won? Are we sure it wouldn't have been discovered by the McCain campaign before November? Rock stars get to behave this badly because they're only rock stars. Worst that happens is the band breaks up. What if Edwards actually got elected--and then the scandal was discovered when he was in office? Did Democrats enjoy the Lewinsky years?

5. The Coverup:If the scandal is true, it almost certainly means that during the campaign Edwards presided over an elaborate coverup involving at least a) having an aide wrongly claim paternity and b) having other aides go out and lie to reporters. It probably also included payments of money to cooperating parties and various familiar slurs on the character of the 'other woman,' Rielle Hunter. All this would obviously be germane to Edwards' fitness to hold any office, including clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Even if Edwards were to forswear all future public employment, there'd be an interest in documenting and publicizing his role in the coverup for the same reason we track down bank robbers 10 years after the crime--to deter others from pulling the same stunt in the future.

The only legitimate reason not to cover this scandal, it seems to me, is simple sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards--and I've gotten enough emails from anguished and angry members of the MSM to conclude, with Estrich, that it's the prime reason for the MSM blackout. True, I also suspect that if Mrs. Edwards were a conservative Republican, or even an unbeloved Democrat, the MSM might somehow find a way to overcome this compassionate sentiment. But that doesn't make it wrong. Reporters don't have to print everything. You could conclude that the need to protect Mrs. Edwards her children is so great, the karma of Enquiring so bad, that all of the obvious, public-interesty reasons for covering the story should be  thrown out the window. And if John Edwards were already so damaged that in practice he'd never get a significant public office even if he wants one, I might agree (even if that meant sacrificing the deterrent effect of full exposure). 

But that's a point that clearly hasn't been reached yet, at least not while most Americans are being kept in the dark about what, exactly, has led to Edwards' mysterious disappearance from the political oddsmakers' charts.  A man arrogant and ambitious enough to think he can run for president posing as a loyal husband while keeping his second family secret, even as he visits his mistress in a famous hotel that is hosting a convention of journalists, will be arrogant and ambitious enough to keep hiding under the shield of his wife's illness until he can attempt a comeback-- if given the chance.

The alternative, it seems to me, is to let affection for Mrs. Edwards suck journalists into a Print-the-Legend world where they must spend their time burnishing--or at least accepting--the story powerful people and institutions want them to tell, the story  of the wonderful Edwards marriage, rather than figuring out and telling readers the truth. If I wanted to be in that business I'd be a publicist.

P.S.: Emily Bazelon may have said all this more economically. See generally the vigorous debate on Slate's XX Factor.

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**--For purposes of this item, I'm assuming we're reaching the next-to-final stage of the natural progression in cases like this: 1) Too horrible and shocking; it can't possibly be true; 2) It's not true; 3) You can't prove it's true; 4) Why are you trying to prove it's true? 5) It's disgusting that you've proved it's true; 6) What's the big deal anyway? ... 10:15 P.M. link

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The LAT is more like Daily Kos than it wants to admit (and vice versa): The Daily Kos has banned longtime blogger  Lee Stranahan for writing calm, clear-headed posts assessing the evidence in the John Edwards scandal--posts saying things like:

Edwards needs to clear this up so we can get on with the business of forgiving him and moving on. As progressives, we need to rise above the false choice between blind judgment and blind apathy. We're the reality based community, remember?  

Inflammatory! ...Now we know where Tony Pierce can always find a job. ... 1:37 P.M.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Faster Comics--Jay Leno Beats NBC News: Charlotte's WCNC airs a hostile, smart, doomy segment on the "scandal brewing."  Pegged to Edwards "ducking reporters," plus the suggestive birth certificate. ... Leno, Conan jokes featured. Leno's is even funny. ... Resonant clip from campaign "webisode." ... Reporter Stuart Watson says Edwards is in danger of "disappearing from the national stage ... unless he finds a way to squelch this story fast." ... Maybe he did: It would be paranoid to notice that the segment isn't featured on the station's Web site. ... Update: Strangely, I am paranoid! Video is on main WCNC video playlist  and on the  "Investigators" page. ... 12:18 P.M.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mo' MSM: Now on the McClatchy wire. ...  Aaron Barnhart  thinks Edwards' ducking of press questions "pushed this over the edge." ("Not a good way to erase suspicion.") ... 5:38 P.M.

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One option John Edwards must be considering. If anyone could pull it off .... 3:25 A.M.

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Dissent in the MSM: Rebellious nibbling from mid-rank players who are harder to coopt than the New York and Washington elites:

"Facing Questions, Edwards Evades Reporters" ...

On Wednesday, Edwards apparently ducked out a side area used by the kitchen staff in the fourth-floor ballroom of Washington's historic Hotel Monaco. Edwards emerged from a lower-level handicap ramp near the rear of the hotel with two men. When approached by a Charlotte Observer reporter, Edwards said, "Can't do it now, I'm sorry" and quickly walked past.

Asked what he was doing at the Beverly Hilton last week, Edwards said "sorry" and got into a waiting car with the other men.

Update: The News & Observer also reports that the birth certificate for Rielle Hunter's daughter lists no father. The paper's reporters seem skeptical of Hunter's lawyer's explanation. (Birth certificate posted here.)

There are simply a lot of good questions. Edwards already squirmed out of one such query at a press conference, but his political career appears to be over unless he can talk his way out of this one.

So it's time the major media picked up the story. It's not merely the stench of liberal bias that bothers me but the unfortunate reality that we in the MSM are giving up a good story to the internet. And if we in the major media continue to cede such stories to the internet, we won't be major much longer.

So far, there has not been a denial from either Edwards or the woman, who once produced videos for the Edwards presidential campaign, about the alleged escapade in Beverly Hills.

And if it's all a simple misunderstanding, if John Edwards was dropping by a hotel suite at 2 a.m. to say hello to a former campaign worker, then maybe someone should suggest to the politician that he come out and say that. Maybe it was his $500-a-cut hairdresser, for goodness sakes! In which case, money well spent. In any case, it doesn't seem like this is the kind of story that is going to fade into the mists of time.

P.S.--Maybe it's not the coverup: Interestingly, none of these MSM stories is about the alleged "cover up." They're all about what the "cover up" would cover up. ... 2:43 A.M. link

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

They Like to Watch: Rachel Sklar's link-rich summary analysis of the howling void in most of the MSM regarding the Edwards/Hunter controversy seems about right to me: They'll report it when they "have to"--when there are no excuses left. Meanwhile, they will desperately think of reasons to not cover it.** ... P.S.: Not covering it is not the same as not knowing about it. It's a strangely passive, yet cost-effective, attitude:

[T]he Edwards story: Alive and well on the blogs, completely absent from the MSM. Is the MSM unaware of it? Hardly — everyone knows, and they're all waiting for the shoe to drop. Back in December, I asked a veteran MSM-er about the story, and was told that "we're watching it." But watching isn't the same as reporting — and back in December, John Edwards was still a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination. [E.A.]

**--with some possible exceptions! ... 6:41 P.M. link

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Perel's plan unfolds, the Empire of Undernews expands: The Enquirer has indeed already moved on to the Edwards "coverup." Their latest issue  alleges:

John Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter – the mother of his "love child" – has been secretly receiv­ing $15,000 a month as part of an elaborate cover-up orchestrated by the former presidential contender. ...

The money is being funneled to Hunter by a wealthy colleague who was closely tied to the Edwards' campaign ... [E.A.]

Not clear from the posted summary if the Enquirer got any response from the Edwards camp to this particular charge. (The printed issue is advertised as having "more details.") ... P.S.: It's hard to believe that the name of this alleged "wealthy colleague," described by "a source" as "a super-rich pal--who was closely involved with the campaign finances," will remain a secret for long. ... Here's one place to start searching. ... Or you could just call Tom Edsall. ...[Via Gawker, which takes some precisely targeted shots at the MSM--although it's silly for Gawker to say that the Enquirer's photographs "in and of themselves" would prove "precisely nothing scandalous."  In context, the photos would be powerful evidence. Enquirer editor David Perel apparently doesn't want to win over the MSM by releasing them. He'd rather have the Edwards story all to himself.] ...  3:27 A.M. link

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More Layoffs, Please--Part XVIII: You can read a better analysis of the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal on will.i.am's Dipdive "lifestyle engine" than in the mighty Los Angeles Times. ... Of course, you can't read any analysis of the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal in the mighty Los Angeles Times. But if you could, Dipdive's would probably still be better. ... P.S.: This Bloggasm interview  with LAT omertapparatchikTony Pierce suggests the paper's metro reporters came up empty-handed in their vaunted investigation of the Enquirer's charges:

I asked Pierce if the metro desk had the chance to follow up on the story, and if so, would he send out another post allowing his bloggers to write about it. He said that to his knowledge the LA Times reporters hadn't found any additional information and expressed some skepticism of the National Enquirer story's authenticity.

I guess that's it, then. Nothing more to say about it, really. ... Fox? We know of no "Fox." ... P.P.S.: After all, as Pierce says,

"This isn't something you would normally see in a newspaper more than once. We already wrote the one post quoting the National Enquirer [which slipped out before Pierce's ban--kf] and I don't think you'd see more than that if there were no blogs and this was just a newspaper."

That must be why the LAT has all those blogs: So you won't find out anything more than "if there were no blogs." A clear strategic mission statement for the Web 2.0 era. They rockin'! ... 2:06 A.M.

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If Mike Murphy wants to take over the McCain campaign, shouldn't he stop giving semi-critical quotes to the New York Times? ... 1:08 A.M.

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Politicized hiring-- in Hollywood? Is there a Hollywood blacklist that operates against conservatives?  Andrew Breitbart argues yes. As if to provide him with fresh evidence,  Jeffrey Wells fantasizes about Jon Voight's career trajectory  in the wake of Voight's not-nearly-cracked-enough dogmatic attack  on Obama:

But you'd think an arch conservative working in an overwhelmingly liberal town would think about restraining himself for expediency's sake, if nothing else. ... [snip]

But it's only natural that industry-based Obama supporters will henceforth regard him askance. Honestly? If I were a producer and I had to make a casting decision about hiring Voight or some older actor who hadn't pissed me off with an idiotic Washington Times op-ed piece, I might very well say to myself, "Voight? Let him eat cake."

Wells later denies he's seriously urging Voight's non-hiring, but not before offering this handy and apparently familiar Hollywood rationale for doing just that:

It's been said in this town many times that the right has a debt to pay for the blacklisting of lefties in the '50s, and that in all fairness it's probably going to take a long time to make amends. The fact is that the philosophical grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today's right-wingers ruined the lives of many Hollywood screenwriters in the '50s, and so their descendants now have to suffer and make up for that. Simple. As you sew so shall you reap. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. [E.A.]

I tend to think Hollywood conservatives do face some employment barriers--but if you enter an industry that's inherently about ideas and politics can you really complain if people who disagree with you don't want to work with you? (The same might be said for the Department of Justice, but that's another item.) 

P.S.: Breitbart's blacklisted father-in-law, Orson Bean, has a nuanced memory of the 50s:

Aside from the inconvenience of having a career ruined, being blacklisted in the '50s was kind of cool. You were doing 'the right thing.' Hot, left-wing girls admired you. You hadn't 'named names.' The New York Times was on your side. And you knew it would pass.

12:02 A.M. link

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NE to MSM--No Pix Fix: Don't expect any photos of the Edwards Hilton Hunt in the next issue of the National Enquirer. Radar's Neel Shah interviews Enquirer editor David Perel, who says the Enquirer "definitely" has photos but

he won't be putting them in tabloid's next issue, or making them accessible online.

"It's a story that we're taking a long view of," Perel told Radar by phone. "We've got a big exclusive coming out this week, and we are on the trail of some stuff that's even hotter." [E.A.]

Perel told me much the same thing when I followed up--that it's "not about the photos but about the rest of the story, and the story is just going to get bigger from here."

This seems like a tragic mistake on Perel's part. Why? Rationally or irrationally**, release of the photos has become the talismanic MSM/bien pensant test for whether the Enquirer can be believed about anything. Release them now and the big dailies and networks will all jump into the Edwards investigation, sources will talk (because they're either emboldened or terrified of looking bad), the whole story will come out in short order. Wikipedia will unlock! And the nation will be able move on.

Delay releasing the pics--in hopes of pursuing a "bigger" story, whatever that is--and you give Edwards time to regroup. You give the Protect Elizabeth lobbyists time to call up their media mogul friends (including the ones who own the Enquirer). You discourage truth-telling sources from sticking their necks out while you encourage ass-covering sources to remain loyal to Team E. We could end up with seven months of seething undernews rebellion, no MSM coverage of either the Rielle scandal or whatever "hotter" story the Enquirer documents***--and, next year, H.H.S. Secretary John Edwards.

It's like the famously parodied scene in a Bond film where instead of just shooting poor Bond the villain tries to stage some more elaborate and prolonged auto da fe, with the result that Bond is able to escape.

And it's hard not to completely suppress the feeling that the Enquirer is milking the story to boost its role (and, not incidentally newsstand sales). After being scorned by the Edwards-defending MSM last fall, Perel may understandably be content with building a separate EnquirerWorld where refugees from the mainstream matrix can go to learn the truth for the next few weeks. But that assumes he can pull off his long-term story plan without some other outfit scooping him three weeks out. Why make Dr. Evil's mistake?

Anyway, weeks and weeks of uncertainty aren't in the national interest.  And they aren't in my interest. (I'd like to go back to obsessing about something else.)

At least Perel has declared he has photos. But unless he releases them there will always be the suspicion that he's bluffing. After all, why did his reporters so quickly file a complaint against hotel security  with the local police? One obvious possible goal was to obtain the security camera tapes. Are those tapes so important because the Enquirer actually doesn't have other photographic evidence? I don't think that's the reason, but I don't know for sure. If Perel released even a little teaser photo--and I'd settle for white knuckles gripping a bathroom door--that would help erase a lingering suspicion that the Enquirer's photogarpher was out of position, or perhaps plagued by the world's only defective camera.

How about that compromise, Mr. Perel? Tease with at least one image. Then you can milk it all you want.

And they say kausfiles isn't solution-oriented!

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**--The answer is "irrationally," because a) the Enquirer has a better track record than that and b) there is substantial non-Enquirer evidence that Edwards was at the hotel-- Fox has interviewed a security guard, and Edwards pointedly hasn't denied it. But the MSM is demanding photos. And the customer is always right. ...

***--"Hotter"? I could see why the (possible) story of the (possible) coverup and any (possible) money transactions as suggested by Shah might be maybe "bigger," or "more significant." But "hotter"?  One part of the potential story involves sex. The other involves checks. Which one are Enquirer readers more interested in?  ... 7:02 P.M. link

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Timing is everything in the TV business. ... [via American Thinker12:11 P.M.

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Monday, July 28, 2008