The L.A. Times destroys Doris Kearns Goodwin -- and nobody notices.

The L.A. Times destroys Doris Kearns Goodwin -- and nobody notices.

The L.A. Times destroys Doris Kearns Goodwin -- and nobody notices.

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 12 2002 6:09 AM

Why Isn't Doris Kearns Goodwin Toast?

A recent LAT piece knocked the props out from under her defense ...

Either nobody reads the Los Angeles Times, or it's summer and nobody reads anything, or people are sick of the Doris Kearns Goodwin plagiarism story -- but for some reason attention hasn't been paid to a fairly damning front-page Times piece that knocks one of the remaining props out from under Goodwin's defense.

As I understand the prior state of the controversy,  Goodwin had constructed a defensive perimeter around her 1995 Pulitzer-winning Roosevelt book, No Ordinary Time. Sure, her earlier Kennedy book might have had a "mistake" or two due to a "mechanical breakdown." But it was just "these mechanical problems on this one book." The Roosevelt book was clean. "Under the auspices of the law firm of Ropes & Gray, 'No Ordinary Time' has been reviewed and checked," her attorney, Michael Nussbaum told the New York Times."Everything is fully credited and attributed."

But the L.A. Times looked at the Roosevelt book -- and at a few of its sources -- and found

nearly three dozen instances where phrases and sentences in Goodwin's book resembled the words of other authors.


The LAT's Peter King gives five examples, presumably the best ones. They're all ham-handed paraphrases of the "if I change three words I'll get away with it" variety. In two,Goodwin actually names in her text the person (e.g. "Grace Tullly recalled") she's filching the rest of the paragraph from. Two others are almost defensible. But one bald, paragraph-long crib -- from  Joseph Lash -- isn't. After King's piece, we can still have a debate over how awful this sort of plagiarism is. But it's hard for Goodwin to deny her M.O.. (The wording changes in the borrowed sentences are so uninspired they do raise one question: Did Goodwin herself even do the paraphrasing? Or is she stealing credit from the real thieves -- her assistants, maybe?)

Why hasn't Goodwin been destroyed by King's piece? I blame his editors, who buried their scoop under dozens of inches of calm, fair profiling (and under a stupefyingly tedious headline). If you're Bob Woodward, readers might hunt through your wordy prose looking for the dirt. You can't count on that if your paper is the fourth or fifth read of the East Coast elites.  ... This sort of failure -- blowing the story even when you've got the goods -- has to be demoralizing to LAT reporters. .. [Conflict disclosure: Nussbaum once did me a big favor -- recommending a Virginia lawyer who copped me a great plea on a speeding ticket.] 

Update --Bonus tracks: I hadn't noticed two additional suspicious similarities included in a sidebar to King's text. Of the two, one seems defensible. In the other, Goodwin actually puts a phrase of Lillian Rogers Parks in quotes before ripping off a second, non-banal Parks phrase word-for-word. That's how you throw 'em off the scent! ...  2:45 A.M.

Gretchen Morgenson's revealing glimpse of life at Salomon Smith Barney shows how a newspaper story can be blatantly biased -- her first sentence clearly takes sides -- and still be terrific. What struck me: There's a dispute over whether sacked analyst Kenneth Boss was improperly pressured to boost a Salomon client's stock. (I'm with John Ellis on that.) But everyone seems to accept the need for a peculiar form of P.R.

[S]pring was the busy marketing season, when analysts spend all their time trying to increase their Institutional Investor ranking by visiting clients who are polled by the magazine.


Why is schmoozing clients so important? Isn't "stock analyst" one of those professions where skill can be judged fairly objectively, by how well your recommendations actually do in the market? Shouldn't analysts be spending their time, you know, analyzing? I obviously don't understand Wall Street. ....1:00 A.M.

Cheap Shots Too Good to Pass Up Dept.: An old enemy,Harper's publisher Rick MacArthur, says he feels "bad for the masses of low-wage retail workers, the exhausted types described in Barbara Ehrenreich's book Nickel and Dimed" -- but his biggest beef with the "service economy" seems to be that he got bounced from his reservation at Jean-Luc. MacArthur writes:

With government regulation (not to mention basic civility) on the wane, the relaxation of antitrust laws by Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton has eliminated the last corrective for most bad service—competition.

Jean-Luc has no competition? ... Break him up! ...  12:15 A.M.


Sunday, August 11, 2002

Poor Uninsured Adults Being Helped -- Another NYT Shocker: The Bush Health and Human Services department has allowed some states to use money from the Children's Health Insurance Program to provide insurance for childless adults, reports Robert Pear. The reason? The states "were short of money and had large numbers of uninsured people."  ...Oh. ... Why is this a front-page NYT scandal? Don't we want to insure low-income childless adults too? Indeed, isn't the laudable, not-so-secret plan of liberals to gradually expand subsidized health insurance from children to adults? ... The NYT's Pear doesn't argue that the states in question haven't insured all their eligible children first. (He argues they should somehow return the money to Washington for redistribution to other states that need it more -- although the law apparently allows states to retain unspent funds for a few years, so the help to other states would not exactly be immediate.) ... Yes, there's a case that the "kids-only" wishes of Congressmen are being disobeyed, maybe even illegally disobeyed (though that's not at all clear). But if HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson were a Democrat using his power to allow states to get around Congressional restrictions and extend government help to insure the uninsured, wouldn't he be hailed as an innovative scrapper? ... If we want to spend more money insuring uninsured children, aren't there better places to get it than from state programs to insure uninsured adults? ... In fact, we need to spend more money insuring everyone. Pear's piece only reinforced the sentimental "kidsism" that works against expanding subsidized insurance to the non-kid citizenry. ... [Maybe the NYT agrees, because Pear's 8/8 story, which I am holding in my hand, is nowhere to be found on the Times Web site, at least by me. If you can find it, please let me know. It's on NEXIS. Update: It's  here. Thanks to J.H.] ..  7:00 P.M.

Useful  Noonanalysisof why Gore's populism is less effective than other populisms:

Mr. Gore never made the old rhetoric new. He never made it something alive and pertinent to the moment. He sounded stale, and merely rhetorical. He was like a bright Ivy League student who had gone to a revival of a Clifford Odets play and thought he'd bring the rhetoric home to upset dad. Mr. Gore's populism seemed cynical, a mere strategy chosen for the maximum gain of the candidate.


But I don't agree that Gore's populism was cynical. It's what Bob Shrum really believes. ... 11:15 A.M.


Friday, August 9, 2002

was enough to scare all but the bravest drivers, particularly when the stability control was disabled.

Meanwhile, Automobile's Mark Gillies strains to find something to praise about the gratingly daring "Bilbao on Wheels" styling of the new Z4. It has "some exceptionally successful details"! Like "nicely integrated front signal lamps"! In the flesh "it looks surprisingly good"! Automobile notes "[t]here is a school of thought ... that says BMW needs to push the aesthetic envelope. ... We just hope the proponents of this way of thinking  ... are correct." ... For those unused to translating the Pravda-like language advertiser-supported car magazines use when reviewing a new model, what the editors are saying here is that the car is a styling disaster! .... (But it would be great-looking if it were a building!)  ... 11:50 P.M.


Thursday, August 8, 2002

Brendan Nyhan has clambered asymptotically toward the truth in the great O.M.B.numbers controversy, and the truth seems to be: 1) Bush's Office of Management and Budget  put out a press release with an incorrect estimate of the effect of the Bush tax cut on the deficit over ten years -- but it was, as Nyhan says, "probably an honest mistake" (a self-serving mistake, to be sure) and not a "lie," as charged by NYT columnist Paul Krugman; 2) Instead of immediately publishing a correction (which would have highlighted its mistake and maybe provoked a new round of stories) the O.M.B. conducted a sort of "silent recall," admitting the error to reporters who called -- that's what O.M.B. is calling a "retraction"  -- and belatedly deleting the erroneous sentence from the Web version of the release after it was criticized by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; 3) O.M.B. has finally, under Nyhan's prodding, put a notice on the Web release  saying that it has been altered .... Where does that leave Krugman? He was still wrong to assume "O.M.B. officials simply lie," wrong not to come out and correct this erroneous charge in the subsequent column  he devoted to the subject -- it would have taken half a sentence -- and right to criticize O.M.B's not-entirely-dissimilar failure to come out and publicly correct its error.... Once again, kf occupies the Solomonic center on an issue of national importance. ...2:09 P.M.

Excellent, juicy "Short Cuts" today. [There you go again.-ed. Whatever else you may think of Lucianne Goldberg -- and I like her, though I often don't agree with her -- you have to admit that she was born for the Web.]  11:57 A.M.

Brad DeLong says there's still time for me to save myself. But I'm afraid it's too late. The Scaife money is too good. And the lifestyle!  The subtly-scented billets-doux from the Heritage Foundation. The wild after-hours parties at Barbara Ledeen's secret hideaway. (You haven't seen anything until you've seen DeLay do his "elephant" trick.)  The "access" to Hollywood's glamorous right-wingers. Both of them!. Maybe there was a time when I could have given it up. But when I looked at my depleted visage in the mirror this morning, I realized I can't. Not any more. I'm in too deep.. ... 11:56 A.M.


Just floating: If GOP candidate Bill Simon were to pull out of the California govneror's race to ... er, tend to his  business difficulties, could the Republicans then nominate someone who'd have a chance of beating Gov. Gray Davis (which at this point means anyone but Bill Simon). Update:A.California official emails to give the answer:

The only way Mr. Simon's name can be removed from the ballot and another candidate nominated is if he dies no later than close of business on August 29.

That seems a little extreme. Merely abandoning his campaign, however, isn't enough to let the GOP replace him under the law. ..   11:55 A.M.


Pro-Bin Laden Islamic fundamentalists are raising money for their "Kashmir Relief" fund via PayPal! ...Update: The above site has suddenly either a) been hacked, b) had a sudden change of heart, or c) was a hoax/sting all along. There really was a serious-looking pro-OBL site there a few minutes ago. Honest. ...More: Looks like a). Here, courtesy of Instapundit and his readers, is what the Islamic News site looked like (complete with genuine PayPal button).before it was hacked. ... Kausfiles appears to have been cruelly and effectively used to draw attention to this hack. Why does this not bother me?... Still more: It now looks more like c) -- a long-term sting, not a hack. ...2:30 P.M.


Tuesday, August 6, 2002

ABG-BNH: The LAT's Ron Brownstein writes:

Gore's populism was aimed largely at working-class voters, but he didn't run as well with those voters in 2000 as Clinton did in 1996, when he entirely avoided populist themes. Meanwhile, Gore ran better than Clinton among voters earning $100,000 a year or more--some of the affluent voters who critics thought were alienated by the populism.

Brownstein says this shows that "Gore's populism didn't have as much of an effect as either its supporters or its opponents believed."

Huh? It bombed with a) working-class voters, but succeeded with b) over-$100,000 voters. Last time I checked there were still a lot more of a) than b). That means Brownstein's own evidence suggests "populism" was a poor tradeoff.... I'm with Saletan on this one. ...

The main reason to oppose Gore's populism, of course, isn't that it's a loser; it's that it's wrong. (See also Joe Klein's critique of contemporary populism's Typhoid Mary, Bob Shrum.) It's wrong as both a description of American life and a prescription for improving it. If all the "powerful" Republican and corporate special interests vanished tomorrow, for example, wouldn't it still be difficult to solve the Social Security and Medicare problems, which will require some combination of tax increases and benefit cuts and perhaps even limits on medical treatment? That's not even mentioning the issues (i.e. education) where the biggest obstacles to reform are Democratic special interests, namely teachers' unions, that Gore exempts from scrutiny ... It would be one thing if Gore's misguided populist rhetoric were married to a leader of proven capability, freed by a rebellious spirit to challenge convention and comfortable consensus. But Gore's a leader of proven deficiencies -- look at his battlefield decisions  during the Florida recount -- that can often be traced precisely to his need to be accepted by "the powerful" and the comfortable (as no less a kf fave than Jeffrey Toobin has argued). The worst of both worlds. ... For the moment, Gore's  recent op-ed piece  would seem to establish the battle-lines of the Dem primary fight. It's certainly had a galvanizing effect on me. A.B.G.! You play Mondale, we'll play Hart.... Or maybe A.B.G.E.K. (Anybody But Gore Except Kerry). ... P.S.: It's also nearly-inconceivable, to me, that Bush might stumble enough to give Gore a shot at the presidency and not stumble enough to also prompt McCain to enter the race. So Gore is not the only viable alternative to Bush.  ....P.P.S.: Plus, Hillary, strangely, is looking better and better. .... More tk ... 11:00 P.M.

Blame Hawk Down: President Clinton recently responded with the following sound bite to Republican attempts to blame him for 9/11:

"These people ran on responsibility, but as soon as you scratch them they go straight to blame. Now, you know, I didn't blame his [President Bush's] father for Somalia when we had that awful day memorialized in 'Black Hawk Down.' I didn't do that."

Today's WSJ argues that this is an example of Clinton's alarming, mendacious self-pity because he's the one who denied the U.S. soldiers heavy armor and AC-130 gunships that might have helped. That's not quite right. As Black Hawk Down author Mark Bowden notes, the armor was never requested by the Ranger task force in question, and the raid was launched months after the gunships were turned down (due to reasonable concerns about the massive civilian casualties they would cause). ... But the sound bite is an example of Clinton's alarming, mendacious self-pity on simpler grounds: There was a sharp shift between Phase 1 of the Somalia mission, the so-called humanitarian phase, which was started at the end of Bush I and ended early in Clinton's presidency, and Phase 2, the so-called nation-building phase, which began and ended entirely under Clinton. America's participation in Phase 2, which degenerated into the disastrous manhunt  for the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aided, was directed by Clinton's choices, trumpeted by Clinton's cabinet secretaries. The U.S. point man during Phase I, Robert Oakley, had returned home and been replaced. It was a Clinton operation, undertaken on Clinton's watch, and whoever was responsible for its failure, it wasn't the first Bush administration. .... Update: Josh Marshall disagrees, arguing that once Bush got us in to Somalia it was hard for Clinton to get out. I don't buy it. a) The idea that there was a big shift between the "humanitarian" (Bush) and "nation-building" (Clinton) Somalia interventions seemed like a "right-wing canard" to me too, until I looked into it. It turns out there was a shift. b) From what I've read, it would have been fairly easy for Clinton to have resisted the grandiose plans of the United Nations diplomats for Phase 2. Instead, the Clintonites embraced them, complete with an anti-Aideed twist. That was their call. You can argue they made the right call, but not that they aren't responsible for it. (A longer and more detailed piece on Somalia is  here.  I recommend Oakley's book, Somalia and Operation Restore Hope, co-written with John L. Hirsch.) ... 6:00 P.M.

"What exactly did Krugman get wrong?"Kf readers rise as one (in e-mails) to demand that I identify an actual error in Krugman's July 30 column. (Tapped  has weighed in also, and  Brendan Nyhan  has posted on the underlying dispute.) Krugman's error would be charging that an erroneous July 12 Office of Management and Budget statement (on the Bush tax cut's effect on the 10-year deficit) was a "lie" when it really seems to have been a screw-up in a  press release, an error the O.M.B. acknowledges as such. ... Would O.M.B. have acknowledged it if Krugman had called them up -- the way a conventional reporter would -- before making his charge weeks after the fact on July 30? Presumably, since O.M.B. removed the error from the Web version, and an administration official admitted the correct numbers  in testimony before Congress on July 17. But we don't know because Krugman didn't make that call. I can't fault him for that -- I don't make that call either, usually. But the "lie" charge is still wrong. (Even Nyhan says in his email that he thinks "it probably wasn't" an intentional error by the O.M.B..) Krugman should admit this frankly before going on to  lambaste the OMB  for not adequately publicizing its correction. ... I agree this isn't as big a Krugman error as his misreporting of Bush's Texas Rangers deal (see below). But there's a pattern here! The pattern is a) Krugman gets a lot of things wrong; b) Krugman reflexively vilifies his opponents as evil and dishonest; c) Krugman gets a lot of things wrong because he reflexively vilifies his opponents as evil and dishonest; and d) rather than admitting it when he gets it wrong he tends to shift the topic to another, better-supported charge (that even if Bush didn't get a "$12 million gift" as charged he was still a "crony capitalist," that even if O.M.B. didn't "lie" as charged they didn't publicly "retract" either.) ...P.S.: The issue of when it's 'Orwellian' to go back and correct a Web site, rather than publicly issuing a correction, is not new. Separately-published corrections are certainly good, and the O.M.B. should have issued one. But I'd argue you do get some points for simply erasing an error from a Web site. Imagine if O.M.B. had not excised its error -- critics like Krugman would say "A month later the lie is still posted on the Web, ..." etc. 

Minute Man's Assignment Desk:Just One Minute, which seems to be a friend of kf, has a pretty good suggestion for Krugman, who rightly resists writing phony 'balancing' stories  that would make him seem less blindly ... I mean, passionately anti-Bush than he really is. Minute Man's proposed column (on Sen. Corzine's tax returns) would be a non-phony balancing story. ...2:00 P.M.

Steady work: In his latest op-ed, Paul Krugman does not, as hoped, correct the embarrassing error in his column that's  pointed out in this letter to the editor. He corrects -- under cover of renewed accusations --the error in his column that's pointed out in this letter to the editor. ... Maybe Krugman's working backwards through his stack of mistakes. That should be enough to keep him supplied with columns for months, a clever Keynesian makework solution to the perennial columnists' dilemma of maintaining production -- the editorial equivalent of digging holes and filling them up again. ... Also available: the Krugman errors pointed out in this, third, letter to the editor. ...   2:05 A.M.

Remember when the NYT's   Peter Kilborn and Lynette Clemetson looked at data from the 2000 Census and reported gloomily that  "[d]espite the surging economy of the 1990's .... the poor remained entrenched"? The Times' Janny Scott now reports  what was obvious to everyone except Kilborn, Clemetson, and their editors even back then -- the drops in income that they publicized are "traceable in large part to immigration." When poor immigrants move in, that can lower the median income of an area even if those who were already there are making steady gains. ... P.S.: Scott effectively covers for her colleagues by saying in her lede that the median income drop in New York City "puzzled demographers." No -- it puzzled the NYT.  It didn't puzzle the Washington Post, which explained clearly in its initial story two months ago that "[p]overty may have grown in [metropolitan] areas because of high numbers of immigrants from poor countries, experts say ...." Update:  Here's a good, suggestive, NYT piece on how life in one low-income New York neighborhood  improved in the "surging economy of the '90s." But the piece is a) too short and b) buried at the bottom of page A-16. ... No gloom, no room! ... 1:45 A.M.



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" 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. The Liberal Death Star--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's MediaNews--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. 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 -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days.  Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]