Reporting on Politics and Policy.

Aug. 7 2014 11:38 AM

The GOP Whip's Lobbyist Helper Also Hates the Tea Party's "Racists" and "Hucksters"

Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman had a fascinating scoop this week about how the new House GOP whip, Rep. Steve Scalise, had lobbyist John Feehery "sit in on" interviews for job candidates. Feehery, whose biography offers us a classic tale of Washington momentum—from Denny Hastert to lucrative lobbying and punditry—did not deny the report. "I've never advocated for or brought client issues before the office," he explained. And the story did not say that he did, only that "many of his clients have issues that can be affected by the House Republican leadership."

That might not be what irritates conservatives. Scalise, whose victory in the whip race was seen as a win for the party's right, is relying on one of the many establishment figures who loathes the Tea Party. In a January 2013 blog post, under the evocative title "The Tea Party Must Be Crushed," Feehery burst forth with conventional wisdom about how the populist movement was ruining things for Republicans.

It is time to get rid of the Tea Party. They are an embarrassment. Worse, they are collaborating with Democrats to bring down Republicans and make it easier for Democrats to win general elections. ... The Tea Party has been a fifth column within the Republican Party, blowing up bridges, sabotaging supply lines, creating false controversies, wasting valuable party resources, and generally making it easier for Senate Democrats and Barack Obama to stay in power.

Feehery went on, clarifying that he was angry with Tea Party groups that nominated loser candidates or challenged possible winners, and enriched themselves in the process. "When the Tea Party started, it was a national movement of good people who were worried about the future of the country," he wrote. "But today’s Tea Party has morphed into something far different. It has become a collection of wing-nuts, racists, hucksters, extremists, con-men and front-men, who collaborate with Hollywood and left-wing organizations to plot the demise of Republicans in good standing."

It wasn't a one-off blog post. Feehery has written lots of stuff like this; it's just that "GOP establishment figure criticizes Tea Party" is not such a unique story that people paid much attention. In one post he described the origins and figures of the GOP's civil war, branding Mark Levin a "dark, malevolent" figure of talk radio, and reporting that the Chamber of Commerce "has finally had enough of the Tea party non-sense." In another, he branded FreedomWorks a "giant scam."

Nothing unusual here. Lots of D.C. Republicans feel like Feehery. But few of them get to offer advice on whom the House GOP leadership should hire.

Aug. 7 2014 9:52 AM

The Plagiarism Dead-Enders

Perhaps the strangest part of the New York Times' story on Rick Perlstein's "plagiarism" accusers was the reference to a review that had yet to be published. Alexandra Alter had gotten a gander at Sam Tanenhaus' upcoming review of Perlstein's book, The Invisible Bridge. "Lamenting the lack of primary sources," reported Alter, "he wrote that Mr. Perlstein had 'adopted the methodology of the web aggregator.' "

It was a serious accusation, but now that Tanenhaus' review is up, there's very little to it. Tanenhaus makes much of how Perlstein has referred to a "whackadoodle far-right," which is from a 2012 article, not the book; anyway, it's curious that the author of 2009's instantly irrelevant The Death of Conservatism would huff at the idea of bad tendencies on the right. In the essay that inspired Tanenhaus' book, he identified the mid-1970s as the death of "mature conservatism" and the moment when right-wingers became "inverse Marxists" and "revanchists." How is this different than Perlstein's argument? Perlstein just lacks Tanenhaus' pompous fatalism about his subject. 

So the "web aggregator" line looks even worse in the full review.

His first book drew on more than a dozen archival collections. He has since adopted the methodology of the Web aggregator: his preferred sources are digitally accessed news clippings and TV shows. Some might find this intellectually lazy, but Perlstein proudly Googles in the name of grass-roots activism. 

Reading that, you might assume that Perlstein abandoned the archives to write this book. But Perlstein's online notes refer to findings from Michael Deaver's papers at Stanford, Ronald Reagan's papers at his presidential library, Richard Nixon's papers at his library, and half a dozen other primary source archives. Perlstein does use more online sources than he did in his 2001 book. Has anything happened since 2001? Have more sources been placed online? Why, yes, they have.* And the problem with Perlstein consulting those sources is ... what, exactly? There's some snobbery here about using sources that can be linked to, but no argument that the sources are illegitimate. 

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's replacement-level gossip columnist, reports that Craig Shirley will pursue a lawsuit against Simon & Schuster. As an aside, Bedard adds that "the Atlantic magazine said Perlstein has shown in his latest political history that he is less a researcher-historian than a simple 'web aggregator' who collects publicly available information and stitches it into a book." That's an amusing case of projection from an aggregator who bases stories on press releases in both blog and email form. The standards for accusations in court and accusations on the Internet are quite different, as some people are about to discover.

*This is half-anecdote and half-self-promotion, but my own book about progressive rock has been much, much easier to report because fans and archivists have placed so many out-of-print sources on the Internet.

Aug. 7 2014 8:51 AM

“It’s a Very Unintelligent Way to Vote”

NASHVILLE—It's primary election day here, and the expectation is that "the Tea Party" will lose its last big contest of 2014. State Rep. Joe Carr, one of the capital's reliable conservatives and (as he reminds reporters) the sponsor of tough anti-illegal-immigration bills, is polling behind Sen. Lamar Alexander. The two-term senator, who's been winning elections in Tennessee since the Carter presidency, simply hasn't made the blunders of Eric Cantor or Pat Roberts or Thad Cochran. Carr, who is a more adept politician than Cantor's vanquisher or the guy who gave Roberts a scare, is not generating the same excitement as those candidates. When I trailed Carr yesterday, he had no major rallies, just a few drop-ins to restaurants (one where he picked up the bill for supporters). Come tonight, and come Friday, editors will hit "publish" on the Tea Party obits.

Should they? Ed Kilgore does a nice job #slatepitching the election's storylines.

[Tuesday]’s winner Pat Roberts, who already sported lifetime ratings of 86 percent from both the American Conservative Union and Americans for Prosperity, went far out of his way to propitiate the ideological gods of movement conservatism as he fought for reelection. He voted against an appropriations measure that included a project he had long sought for his alma mater, Kansas State University, and opposed a UN Treaty banning discrimination against people with disabilities over the objections of his revered Kansas Senate predecessors Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum.

I'd add that many incumbents, even as they've won, have put up weak numbers that look nothing like their margins from the past. More Republican incumbents have won renomination with 60 percent of the vote, or less, than I think any time in history. (I'm happy for a commenter to corect me, but I looked at the numbers for the past few decades.) Here are the Tea Party conquerers of 2014. Their victory totals are followed, in parentheses, by their totals from their previous elections (2008 for senators, 2012 for House members).

Mitch McConnell: 60.2 percent (86.1 percent)

Renee Ellmers: 58.7 percent (56 percent)

Lindsey Graham: 56.4 percent (66.8 percent)

Thad Cochran: 51 percent (100 percent)

Pat Roberts: 48 percent (100 percent)

Those are the people that we describe as establishment winners, people who held off the Tea Party thanks to the aggressive work of business groups and party committees. In every case except Ellmers' (a below-the-radar challenge that presaged Cantor's loss), you saw involvement by outfits that did not exist or did not have the same clout in the last elections—the Senate Conservatives Fund, Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth. In David Brat's case, it didn't take any outside involvement for one candidate to make a race against, then humiliate, an incumbent.

And what worries the incumbents is that they don't know when this will stop. Yesterday, at Alexander's final rally in Knoxville, I caught up with Rep. Jimmy Duncan, a libertarian-leaning member first elected in 1988. He replaced his father, John Duncan, who held the seat for the 24 years previous. And despite almost never voting the leadership's way, he had drawn a primary challenger.

"You've got a lot of people who think if you've been there longer than two years, you're bad," said Duncan. "They should look at a person's voting record and the work they've been doing for the people of the state. It's a very unintelligent way to vote, I can tell you that."

Aug. 6 2014 4:30 PM

I Had the Privilege of Spending an Hour With an Inner City Black Man

Mark Walker is the Republican nominee for the North Carolina congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Howard Coble. He could don a tie-dyed kilt and a frappe-stained tank top for the rest of the campaign and still glide into the House of Representatives. But the oppo machine still churns in his race, and it has discovered this 16-month-old Facebook note. (Arrow annotation points to the part that my source thought was noteworthy.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 3.54.13 PM

Now: Is this offensive? My colleague Boer Deng points out that "Amy Chua makes a similar argument in the most recent book about why some groups have 'higher success' in this country than others, that blacks in America have been constantly taught that their culture is not valued and so they stop valuing it." Chua's book arrived only in February 2014, but it's not like the argument is unique to her and her husband/co-author. It's been a Republican doctrine for far longer—it's controversial even when black Republicans, like former Rep. Allen West, express it. A white Republican can't help but sound gormless when he goes there. This is among the reasons that Ben Carson's latest political tome (his second) is chasing Hillary Clinton's in total sales, only 2,000 copies behind as of this week.

Aug. 6 2014 1:53 PM

Republican Senate Candidates Are Back on the Stop-Illegal-Immigration Beat

That didn't take long. In Arkansas and New Hampshire, states that modern maps suggest are quite far from the Mexican border, Republican Senate candidates have put up ads that blame the child migrant crisis on incumbent Democrats. Arkansas' Tom Cotton approaches the topic with little subtlety.

Asking "really? really?" in a campaign ad is a tactic that really took too long to graduate from '80s teen movies. Depending on how you look at the question of "safety" on the border—immigrant deaths? Crime waves?—dangers absolutely declined from 2004 to 2011. There's no evidence yet that they've spiked as the migrant crisis spiked, and this may have something to do with the youth of the population currently overloading the system.

Legal New Hampshire immigrant Scott Brown takes a softer approach, in front of, for some reason, a green screen of a TSA checkpoint.

Raising the specter of TSA-style security for illegal immigrants is one way to be tough on them without looking obviously nasty.

Aug. 6 2014 10:32 AM

Watch Rep. Justin Amash Call Out His Opponents and Gloat About Beating Them

In this morning's wrap-up post, I mentioned Rep. Justin Amash's touchdown dance at his election night party. Belatedly, I see that there were several cameras rolling as Amash went brutal on his defeated foe Brian Ellis, and former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who supported Ellis.

The point-scoring continued when Amash talked to local reporters, calling himself a representative "for all Americans," and saying Ellis had "the audacity to call me up and try to make nice."

Bloomberg's team is out with a great story about the total cost of the efforts by the Chamber of Commerce, et al. to clear the decks for their preferred candidates. Had they slept on the campaigns, the GOP might have a tougher Senate race in Mississippi; Kansas' Senate race would at least be marginally embarrassing; a less electable candidate might have made it into the Georgia runoffs. But the chamber's highly touted campaign to beat Amash made a bolder enemy out of someone who is very young and has recently figured out how to get his point across in national media. Not the best investment.

Aug. 6 2014 8:23 AM

Four Lessons from Last Night’s Primaries

1. You come at Justin Amash, you best not miss. Late last year, and with loud fanfare, business groups and some senior colleagues encouraged a run against the libertarian from Michigan. When Brian Ellis—nobody's first-choice candidate—got into the race, they continued bashing Amash. California Rep. Devin Nunes called his colleague "al-Qaida's best friend in Congress." Retiring Rep. Mike Rogers donated to Ellis. Retired Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who used to represent a neighboring district, endorsed Ellis. 

Amash beat them all, after refusing to debate Ellis. When I was in the district last month, Amash's distaste for Ellis, et al. was palpable. And he did not mellow after his victory.

"Brian Ellis, you owe my family and this community an apology," Amash said. "You had the audacity to try to call me today after running a campaign that was called 'the nastiest in the country.'
"I ran for office to stop people like you ... I want to say to lobbyist Pete Hoekstra, you're a disgrace," said Amash, noting the former U.S. representative who appeared in a TV ad for Ellis. "I'm glad we can hand you one more loss before you fade into total obscurity and irrelevance."

Instead of humbling Amash, the forces of business Republicanism made a bitter enemy. Who is 34 years old. In a safe seat. 

2. Reindeer farming is suddenly less respectable than profiting off foreclosure. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio went down early in Michigan, losing by a 2–1 margin to David Trott, a more predictable Republican who had the backing of Mitt Romney. When the accidental congressman lost, Twitter burst forth with jokes about his goofy job as a reindeer farmer and Santa Claus impersonator. Tim Murphy was the only reporter pointing out what Trott did for a living.

Trott doesn't just benefit from foreclosures; his firm has pushed to change state law to make it easier for banks to kick people out of their homes. The Michigan Messenger, a now-defunct investigative reporting site, reported in 2009 that Trott & Trott representatives had worked with Republican legislators to rewrite foreclosure reform legislation in order to narrow the window for residents to appeal their foreclosures... 
In 2011, Trott's law firm sparked a local backlash when it facilitated the eviction of 101-year-old Texana Hollis, whose belongings were unceremoniously deposited in a dumpster. (Hollis' son had fallen behind on property tax payments and ignored repeated warnings from his bank.) Hollis was eventually allowed to stay in her Detroit home of 58 years after a public outcry spurred Detroit Free-Press columnist Mitch Albom to buy the property through a charity. 
So notorious is the Trott brand in southeast Michigan that when activists wanted to protest evictions in 2013, they didn't set up "Hoovervilles," the Depression-era encampments inspired by the president—they created "Trottvilles."

And thanks to the 2011 gerrymander, he will probably be a congressman. Scrooge defeated Santa, and everyone laughed at Santa for being such a loser.

3. The Tea Party really could have taken out Pat Roberts. Has any primary in the country this year given voters a less inspiring choice than Kansas' Republican Senate contest? In the incumbent's corner: Pat Roberts, one of the upper chamber's more forgettable members, known mostly for his all-is-well approach to the NSA when he was Intelligence chairman. In the challenger's corner: Dr. Milton Wolf, a radiologist who turned his genetic inheritance as Barack Obama's second cousin into a modest Tea Party career of speeches and columns and an e-book. Roberts was actually older than Thad Cochran, a Mississippi institution who had to face down a state senator. McDaniel was hurt when a supporter snuck into a nursing home to photograph Cochran's bedridden wife.* Wolf own-goaled himself with a Facebook wall of wacky jokes about the injuries he saw as a radiologist.

And even then, Roberts had to be bailed out. According to Kyle Cheney and James Hohmann, the NRSC swooped into the Kansas City suburbs to prevent a Wolf rout there. It worked, but Roberts won with 48.1 percent of the overall vote, beating Wolf by about 19,200 ballots out of about 260,000 cast, saved by two even fringier candidates. Could an ambitious congressman (Tim Huelskamp!) or state senator or wealthy businessman (of the Ron Johnson mold, not the Jim Oberweis mold) have won? We will never knew—Roberts gets to fill a chair until 2021.

*Who expected to use the phrase "bedridden wife" this often in a campaign year?

4. Sam Brownback put up weak numbers against a pot legalization activist. The governor of Kansas, who won easily in the 2010 Tea Party wave and benefited (it seemed) from a wave of additional conservative wins in 2012 legislative primaries, was nominated for a second term. And by a landslide, technically—he won 63 percent of the vote against challenger Jennifer Winn. That's after winning 82 percent of the vote in his 2010 primary.

And who was Jennifer Winn? An activist for industrial hemp and recreational marijuana legalization, with a libertarian platform and no real campaign budget. From her platform:

Our liberty is under attack. The Fourth Amendment is virtually non-existent and we need state protection from federal intrusion into our private lives. We need to seriously re-evaluate the War on Drugs, while we incarcerate non-violent citizens for drug offenses. Voluntary treatment is far more effective, and far more cost-efficient than incarceration. 

Brownback won basically everywhere, but in some places (like Lyon County) he tied with Winn. Conservatives are fed up with the storyline about Brownback's aggressive supply-side tax plans failing and emboldening moderates to vote with the Democrats and defeat Brownback. But there's something to the story.

Aug. 5 2014 7:51 PM

Election Night Live Thread: Kansas! Michigan! Missouri! Washington!

This again.

8 p.m. Polls close in (most of) Kansas and (most of) Michigan. Yes, both states spill across two time zones. But it doesn't really matter in Michigan, where the key races are in the elitest eastern zone.

MI-03: This was supposed to be 2014's big pinstripes-vs.-tricorner hat tete a tete. The young and affable Rep. Justin Amash had alienated the Chamber of Commerce, and no small number of local businesses, by voting against most of the House Republican agenda. (From the right, obviously.) Brian Ellis, a businessman and minor political figure, jumped into the race after pols with larger bases took a pass. The local Chamber swung behind Ellis, as did the National Chamber (after taking its sweet time), as did the state's Right to Life group. But Amash has consistently led by around 20 points, and a late Ellis effort to convince Democrats to vote against Amash (it's an open primary) made almost zero sense. Few members of Congress are better identified with the issues on which progressives and libertarians cohere. An Amash win would be seen as a victory for NSA critics, and a cherry for the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity, which entered the race before Ellis could establish himself.

MI-11: Here, the "establishment" is favored; Rep. Kerry Bentivolio only won in 2012 because laconic Rep. Thaddeus McCotter concluded his lazy and inexplicable presidential bid by failing to get on the ballot. (It's a long, fun story -- well, fun if you're not McCotter.) Bentivolio, a talkative and fearless right-winger, has lagged in fundraising and endorsements behind rote Republican David Trott.

MI-04, MI-08, MI-12, MI-14: Two Republicans and two Democrats are vacating their safe seats. Three are retiring; Rep. Gary Peters is running for U.S. Senate. It will be amusing, in this year of reported anger toward Congress, when Rep. John Dingell's wife Debbie wins the Democratic nod for his seat. It'll be a little sad if one-term Rep. Hansen Clarke, one of the more honest members of his 2010 class, fails in a comeback bid. (If he beats Southfield, MI Mayor Brenda Lawrence, it'll be the first victory for Emily's List in a little while.)

Michigan Election results will be uploaded here.

KS-Sen: Should Sen. Pat Roberts have been viewed as the softest Tea Party target of 2014? Yes, fine, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran was older, and was as an appropriator in a party that had decided it was against that. But Roberts, a Washington fixture who kind of plunked into Bob Dole’s seat when he retired, had less native support back home. Jonathan Martin, the great destroyer of several politicians this cycle, nailed Roberts with a story about how infrequently he came home and how he listed a friend’s country club digs as his address. Roberts, who is actually older than Cochran, never fully recovered. Luckily, he only had to recover against Dr. Milton Wolf, a radiologist who became a right-wing pundit because 1) the Tea Party movement began and 2) he was distantly related to Barack Obama. Polling has shown Roberts to be pathetically vulnerable, but never behind.

(This is semi-officially becoming known as the "last Tea Party challenge of 2014." I only disagree because I am en route to Tennessee, to cover the actual last Tea Party challenge of 2014.)

KS-04: Kansas’s 2010 Senate race, the one that replaced Senator-turned-unpopular-Governor Sam Brownback, was one of the great forgotten Tea Party tests. Rep. Todd Tiarht, generally seen as the conservative, lost narrowly to Rep. Jerry Moran, generally seen as the dealmaker. Moran now runs the NRSC in a year when you'd have to magically transform every Republican candidate into Todd Akin to lose. Tiarht is back, running (on very short notice) against Rep. Mike Pompeo, the ambitious Republican who wants to be Intel chairman next year. Pompeo has led the polls; Tiarht, sadly, has been attacked as a liberal. The Overton window really shifts in one direction.

The best Kansas results will be here, at Politico’s site.

Oh, and polls will be closing in Missouri. Nothing particularly titillating for the national audience here. Keep refreshing the Kansas and Michigan results. This guy's running in a Democratic primary, if that amuses you.

11 p.m. Polls close in Washington state, where the only drama is -- hold on to your seat -- a jungle primary to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Doc Hastings in the rural, central part of the state. The suspense comes from the nature of the primary, which is so crowded that, theoretically, no Republican could make the November runoff. It's just a little unlikely, and Washington's mail balloting will not finish by the time the east coast goes to bed.

Results will pop up here.

Update 9:08: Well, MI-11 covers part of Oakland County (white flight) and part of Wayne County (those who couldn't fly as far), and both are breaking heavily for Trott over Bentivolio. He was a nice guy, he had a fun two years, but he's done.

Update 10:20: No surprises, unless you count closer-than-the-polls results as surprises. Amash leads Ellis in every county; Pat Roberts leads broadly enough in Kansas to put Wolf away.

Aug. 5 2014 3:54 PM

Here’s Rand Paul’s Response to That Whole Israel Funding Kerfuffle

A bit less than a day after I wrote about Rand Paul's insistence that he never had a "legislative position" in favor of cutting aid to Israel (as part of cutting all foreign aid), Paul's office sent me a two-part explainer. Part one: a long quote from Doug Stafford, Paul's former chief of staff and now key PAC adviser.

Senator Rand Paul has never proposed any legislation that targeted Israel's aid and just last week voted to continue and increase funding to the State of Israel. Sen. Paul is a strong supporter of the Jewish state of Israel. In 2011, Sen. Paul proposed a budget resolution that did not include certain foreign assistance programs in an effort to balance the budget in five years.  
Subsequent budget proposals made by Sen. Paul have included up to $5 billion for foreign assistance to account for U.S.-Israel security interests.
Sen. Paul's position was exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu said to Congress on July 10, 1996 and May 24, 2011 - Israel will be better off when it does not have to count on anyone else for its protection.
Sen. Paul has attempted several times this year to pass the Stand with Israel Act. The bill would cut off the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority if it were allied with Hamas.  Last month, he issued a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requesting committee action on the Stand with Israel Act.

In the first graf, the words "targeted" and "certain" do the heavy lifting. Paul never targeted foreign aid to Israel, because he proposed cutting certain foreign aid that happened to include military funds to American allies. The aid to Israel simply fell under the umbrella. The hair-splitting's fine, as hair-splitting goes, but it's not enough to alter yesterday's stories.

The final two grafs are are just confusing—they reiterate the argument Paul used to make, when critics were shocked that he would ax aid to Israel. And the second part of the new Paul explainer corroborates the Netanyahu quote and the Stand With Israel facts, which no one disputes, and which have generally been included in the relevant stories. Paul's office is reiterating the logic behind that position while arguing that Paul never held it.

Aug. 5 2014 12:37 PM

Read the Letters at the Center of the New Reagan Book “Plagiarism” Controversy

If you click around Slate, you will find a review of Rick Perlstein's long-awaited 1970s history, The Invisible Bridge, and you'll find a podcast interview with the author. Both of these items were finished before the New York Times published a story about author/political strategist Craig Shirley, who has insisted that Perlstein plagiarized his 2005 book about Ronald Reagan's near-miss presidential primary run against Gerald Ford. 

The Times' story is not quite definitive; it takes a teach-the-controversy, he said/she said approach to the story. "Mr. Shirley said he has since tallied close to 50 instances where his work was used without credit," reports Alexandra Alter, who quotes Perlstein describing the instances as paraphrases. 

But how did it start? Shirley told me yesterday that Perlstein contacted him when he (Shirley) was at a meeting of Reagan scholars, and wanted to run 10 citations by him, stories that had appeared in Shirley's book that he was trying to confirm independently. By the time Shirley got back to him, Perlstein had found the sources. 

"He apologized and asked me if I would review his book," said Shirley. "I asked my research assistant to get a review copy. I get it, I sit down, I start looking, I see my own writing in his book, not cited or credited to me."

It did not matter to Shirley that Perlstein had put citations online, or that at the end of the book Perlstein thanked the conservative for saving him "3.76 months" of research.

"My name is only mentioned in passing, and then almost dismissively," said Shirley. "What does he mean by 3.76 months? I don’t even know what the fuck that means. He didn’t interview Dick Cheney. I did. He didn’t interview Jim Baker. I did."

Shirley's attorney set to work on a letter, which you can read below. "He lifts without attribution entire passages," wrote the attorney, "attempting to conceal his theft by altering words or re-ordering sentences, but in other instances not even bothering to do so."

Three days later, the attorney sent another letter, offering more examples and repeating the demands for redress.

On July 30, Simon & Schuster responded. "Your claim ignores the most basic principle of copyright law," the publisher argued. "Copyright only protects an author's original expression. It is therefore important in any copyright analysis to distinguish between original expression and the unprotected elements of a work." Everything Shirley complained about was a "historical fact." 

One of the examples cited by Simon & Schuster's attorneys gets at the nub of this. One of Shirley's scoops, in the 2005 work, was that Ronald Reagan was goaded unexpectedly into addressing the 1976 Republican National Convention. In his telling, the push onstage was done with the expectation that Reagan would come up short—he had not prepared a speech. "I now know from Craig Shirley that Reagan spoke without notes," writes Fred Barnes in his introduction.

"Not even is there plagiarism, but there are gross errors," Shirley told me yesterday. "He says Reagan’s appearance before the convention wasn’t spontaneous. I can show you copies of the tape, Reagan shaking his head no, he doesn’t want to go down and speak. There were 17,000 people in the arena, and none of them believed Reagan was going to make an appearance. That's just utterly and completely bad history."

But according to S&S, "Perlstein dug deeper." He found a clip from the Atlanta Daily World that included "the more revealing fact that Reagan ceased his laughter when he realized it was showing up on television." In Shirley's version of the story, Reagan was underrated once again; in Perlstein's, he is underrated but calculating. You can understand why Shirley is so upset at the new book; you can understand, too, why there is great interest in stopping Perlstein's history from becoming the official look at Reagan's rise.