Thursday, September 30, 2004

Debate Redux

If you want snarky, not-terribly insightful, round-by-round analysis, my Keeping Score is now posted at

Likewise, David's Bush the Heavy.

Bush the Multilateralist

Kerry's harping on North Korea and Iran has allowed Bush to make long arguments for working with allies in Asia and Europe.

Also, the course of argument goes too far against the grain for Kerry. If either of these guys is ready to get tough with Iran and/or North Korea, it surely is Bush.

I have never wavered in my life

Bush is ruthlessly on message: Kerry is inconsistent. I do what I say. You can't have a commander in chief who changes his mind and says "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time."

Be interesting to see if that message sticks in polls.

you have to think things through

You have to have perfect information. You have to correct your mistakes. You have to spend more money. You have to address essential needs. So much of Kerry's rhetoric simply means I will do a better job, in fact, a perfect job.

hunt and kill; change positions

Kerry is working this vigorous phrase (two mentions) to make him sound bloodthirsty enough to keep us safe.

Bush is running out of soundbites and all across America--even I'm getting tired of hearing about Kerry's inconsistency--voters are running out for snacks.

I say at least ten

My guess on Vietnam mentions.

John Kerry for Truth

Good policy is based on truth, he says. Lehrer picks up it and asks when Bush lied? Kerry says, well, maybe not "lied," but "less than candid." Kerry's a good debater, but catches like (approx) he said we'd plan carefully or go to war only as a last resort won;t carry his case.

Man, does Bush have a lock on those Kerry quotes!
Okay, let's take bets now: How many times will Kerry bring up Vietnam?
Kerry slags the FBI for the untranslated tapes, but that's disingenuous. The FBI has cleared nearly 700 new linguists since 9/11 and is now prioritizing incoming intelligence. Anything that is al Qaeda-related is translated within 12 hours, so the silver bullet Kerry says the FBI may be missing just isn't true.

Kofi An Answer

Bush seems to have been reading some very fine articles in a certain weekly magazine when he emphasizes that Kerry promises to lead ally countries he now insults.

Right on!

"The best way to defend this homeland is to stay on the offense." Great line.
Bush looks pretty peevish while Kerry's speaking.

tit for tat

"When Iraq is free, America will be more secure." Good one. Bush is speaking about as well and nailing his points as hard as he's ever done.

Kerry's phrasing is excellent; interesting lively details, like armament on humvees in Iraq. He's also speaking not in the conditional, but in simple future tense: I will, I can--as if he's alreayd got the job.

Let the record show that at 9:12 p.m., Kerry made his first Vietnam reference: "as someone who's been in combat. . ."

sarcasm is his strength

"Where do you want me to begin?" asked Kerry sarcastically in response to Lehrer's request for a list of Bush's mistakes.

another 9/11

After a classy note on the struggles of Floridians, Kerry cleanly transitions through a several-part answer on the problems of Bush's leadership. The key's in anwering qurestions with what answers you brung.

Lehrer asks the prez another question immediately after. This seems appropriate, though it focuses the Iraq question in the context of 9/11-just what Kerry shouldn't want.

Let's Get It On!

Okay, I'll just say it: I love Jim Lehrer. But he kind of looks like a muppet.


"Sammy Sosa versus Pedro Martinez." That's how Joe Scarborough characterizes the coming combat seconds before the bell.

The Subservient Chicken

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Go here. Play a game called master and servant. Bring out the gimp, while you're at it.

This is the best thing on the interweb since Terry Tate and the Roswell Rayguns.

Update 4:58 p.m.: I mean, sweet Mercy, he's wearing a garter belt!
Over at TNR Josh Benson is suggesting that John Kerry should break the rules of the debate tonight and directly question George Bush. I would suggest this is suicide.

(1) Jim Lehrer has been a TV anchor for decades. You know what TV anchors do for a living? They manage people on camera. Believe me, Lehrer and his team are prepared for any number of scenarios where either candidate tries to get around the rules. And if Kerry (or Bush) tries to break them, Lehrer will put him in his place. Maybe Kerry could handle Lehrer's rebuke, but even then, it becomes a Kerry-Lehrer fight, not a Kerry-Bush fight.

(2) John Kerry isn't fighting the wimp factor. He doesn't need to be seen as combative. Any move to aggressively disregard ground rules and pull a stunt carries with it a pack of unintended consequences. Maybe Kerry would look good. Or maybe he would look desperate. Or a million other things could happen. This race is too close for a Hail Mary pass.

(3) Like much of the Democratic party, Benson seems to misunderstand the public's view of President Bush. If only the rabble knew what a [prick, dunder-head, evil oil baron, lying crook, etc.] he is, they think to themselves, then they would hate him, too!

Except for some reason, most of the country doesn't seem to hate Bush. John Kerry doesn't need to do a Howard Dean imitation. He needs to either (a) run on domestic affairs and attack Bush's economic record in a coherent and relentless way; (b) run on foreign affairs by somehow convincing America that he will be tougher in the war on terrorism than Bush is; or (c) wait for an intervening event to shake up the race (and be prepared to take advantage of it should it occur).

Benson's advice is the type of thinking which has put Kerry in this hole in the first place.

The Case for the Old Media

Reader S.B. points out this Lawrence Henry piece about the limits of blogs.

No disrespect to Hugh Hewitt or Glenn Reynolds or the other Galley Slaves, but blogging really is several evolutions beneath real journalism. It ignores the craftsmanship of writing as well as the value of reporting. The blogosphere is neither as important nor as aesthetically pleasing as the world of traditional media. And bloggers who miss this point in their own triumphalism are ignoring the bigger picture.

Here's the thing: Are blogs valuable? Absolutely. Do they contribute to the national discourse? You bet. Have they begun to exert a gravitational force on the old media? Yup. Are they going to continue to grow in importance? I see no reason why they shouldn't.

But for every AP story that blogs correct or CBS News scandal that they catch, there are thousands and thousands of good stories being written and reported by the old-media journalists whom bloggers so routinely scorn.

Switch on CNN or Fox News or MSNBC during the day, open up the Washington Post or the New York Times at random--heck, pick any page out of any issue of the New Yorker--and you'll find a fistful of good stories that all the bloggers in America put together missed.

And ask yourself this question: If God came down tomorrow and said He was going to blow up either the blogosphere or the old media, which one would you rather have around? I take the old media. Even with Dan Rather. Even with Jayson Blair. Even with the Columbia Journalism Review. Even with all of its systemic, maddening problems.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The blogosphere is a wonderful tool. But the New York Times is a civilizational advance on the order of magnitude of the Great Library of Alexandria. Anything meaningful that happens anywhere across the globe is chronicled by the Times and the rest of the "old media."

The blogosphere should continue to hold the old media accountable for its mistakes. And in doing so, they'll make the old media better. But it would be nice if bloggers would, from time to time, demonstrate an understanding of perspective. And show a little respect for the professionals who do the hard work of good journalism well.

Nude, Live Blogging, Tonight

Yeah, that's right; I'm sick of the pajamas. We're going al fresco.

Or something. But we will be live-blogging during the debate tonight, so stop by.
There are a number of interesting, political indie movies floating around, and one of the ones I keep hearing buzz about is September Tapes. Has anyone out there seen it yet?
Reading Anthony Lane's fairly rapturous review of The Motorcycle Diaries in the New Yorker last week, I was struck by how completely he sidestepped the central issue: The moral worth of Che Guevara.

Reader E.F. sends along this link to Paul Berman's excellent dissection of Che and The Motorcycle Diaries, which takes a serious look at what Lane declined to explore.
Look! it's like Cold Mountain, but French.
Great Bill Lyon column on Bonds and Ichiro.
Soxblog makes the interesting point that the team of Kerry surrogates isn't exactly a who's who of Democratic stars. Why might that be? I can think of two reasons: (1) Kerry doesn't want bigger stars around him; or (2) The big names don't want to get near Kerry.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

First in War, First in Peace, and Soon to be Last in the National League

I'm excited by the news that D.C. is getting a baseball team again--about time. I had assumed that the right name for the team was the Senators, but reader B.W. points me to Remember the Grays, which makes the case that Major League Baseball should honor Washington's old Negro League team by renaming the Expos the Grays.

Sounds like a fine and fitting idea. Pass it on.
Christopher Caldwell's Islamic Europe? is of a piece with yesterday's news about high-minded European worries.
Out in Oakland police have stopped DUI checkpoints because they were ensnaring too many illegal immigrants. Think about it: A police tactic designed to ensnare one type of law-breaker is abandoned because it's catching too many other types of law-breakers. Only in America.

Now, if only some Latino group could prove that illegal aliens were also being discriminated against by red-light cameras . . .

Update 12:26 p.m.: Alert reader S.D. notes that yesterday Oakland mayor Jerry Brown overturned the ban. Good for him.
Somewhat interesting Post article on how the candidates are playing on voters' fears to get elected. This is a more sensible version of the bogus Post story from a few weeks ago that Cheney had said the US would be attacked if Kerry were elected. Anyway, there's a funny quote in the middle:

"Brooks Jackson of the nonpartisan said a recent Bush ad was 'egregious' in splicing together footage of Kerry remarks to make his 'reasonably consistent stand on Iraq sound like he was all over the lot.'"

Why is the Post so susceptible to the misbegotten notion that criticizing your opponent on what he has said and voted for somehow amounts to an illegitimate method of campaigning? Also, is Brooks Jackson high or something? What is "reasonably consistent" about Kerry's position on Iraq?

Also, in cas you missed it, my piece on the anniversary of the signing of the Contract with America here

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Drunkards of the World, Unite!

Thanks to Frank Kelly Rich of Modern Drunkard Magazine for pointing out that, once again, the folks at Jack Daniel's have lowered the proof of their whiskey from 86 proof to 80 (40 percent alcohol). Keep in mind, the original drink was served at 90 proof. JD's company, the Brown-Forman corporation, sent Rich this email response:

The main reason we lowered the proof is because we’ve noticed in recent years folks tend to prefer lower-proof products, and this includes most of our friends who enjoy our Tennessee Whiskey. This has not hurt sales of Jack Daniel’s.

Fellow "drunkard" Chris Sharp, who brought this proof-lowering scheme to Modern Drunkard's attention, has now launched a petition asking Brown-Forman to return Jack Daniels to its rightful strength. More power to him.

Hofstadter Huff

Linda Colley in the London Guardian employs a wishful analysis of why Bush is leading Kerry in the polls. "As the historian Richard Hofstadter observed, there is a long, disreputable tradition of anti-intellectualism in American politics, and Bush's studiously plain, sometimes stumbling language resonates with this very successfully. Kerry's speaking style, by contrast, is clever enough to alienate, without being so powerful as to compel attention anyway." (via the always interesting Jefferson Morley)

Kerry’s reputation for being the brain in the race is based on nothing. He’s written one book, a total clip job, and while I grant he comes off as thoughtful, it’s such central-casting New England-statesman posturing. Also, Bush may not speak real good, but, boy, does everyone know what he’s saying. Kerry’s cleverness generally amounts to speaking out of both sides of his mouth. It’s not too clever by half; it’s too unclever by half. All tone and gesture; very little analytical thrust; very little in the way of conviction; no great data-crunching going on; one doesn’t find him making lovely historical analogies or literary allusions; rather his shtick is all very autobiographical and self-centered. Next to, say, a guy like Bill Clinton, George Bush might look like the anti-intellectual’s candidate. Not next to Kerry.
If Old Europe ever decides to take a more active role in the war on terrorism, it will be because of this: fear that demographics make it inevitable that Europe is on the path to becoming an Islamic continent.

Whether they understand it or not, Europeans have a real stake in seeing a modern, reformed version of Islam triumph over radical Islamism.
I'm not sure how reliable these sources are (not CNN, the al Qaeda boobs in the documentary), but it's a fine insight into the minds of our enemies.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Jimmy Buffett: The King of Sellouts

When you think of Jimmy Buffett's songs, you think of the islands, tropical breezes, Boat Drinks, and, yes, cheeseburgers in paradise. But now, if you're yearning to escape to Margaritaville, just go down aisle six at your local grocery store. That's right: That son-of-a-son-of-a-sailor is now beyond cafes and t-shirts and has entered the frozen food section, with such offerings as "Island Lime Shrimp," "Jammin' Jerk Shrimp," and "Calypso Coconut Shrimp."

Music snobs often complain about successful musicians "selling out." Remember Neil Young's diatribes against Eric Clapton and Elton John? Sometimes the "sellout" is questionable: When Bruce Springsteen appeared on the cover of Time magazine in the mid-1970s, some fans saw this as a sign of his selling out. The Rolling Stones have largely been branded sellouts since corporations started sponsoring their tours. But could you imagine if a band like U2 were to open up their own restaurant chain? Would they serve Unforgettable Fire Wings with a side of Bullet the Bleu Cheese dressing? How about a dessert called "The Sweetest Thing"? In short, it would just be plain wrong.

Jimmy Buffett never struck me as anticapitalist, but he sure gave the impression that all he really wanted to do is play songs while lazing about on some Caribbean island. I guess owning the island is now part of it. Talk about changes in attitude.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Suck-Up Watch 3

Pretty tough article by Bill Kristol on the conduct of Kerry's advisers this week.

No Pajamas Required

This may come as a surprise to many bloggers, but Jonathan Klein (yes, that Jonathan Klein) has started his own blog. So far TV 2.0 is thoughtful and interesting. Welcome to the blogosphere, Jon.

Good Question

Reader C.T. writes, "Here's a question I haven't seen in print.  Is Osama bin Laden safer than he was on 9/10/01?"

Editing Blues

Sometimes one hungers to write; sometimes to read; sometimes to edit. I’ve been so distracted by the latter two that it seems I haven’t published in about a week, which is practically professional misconduct in these days of graphomania. But the diversion allowed me to finally catch, among other things, Jack Schaefer’s two-week-old diagnosis of the Lewis Lapham problem.

Lapham has, at least in the last few years whenever I’ve picked up the magazine, been on a strange, violent, and increasingly obscure tear against such big obvious targets as Bush and Ashcroft and American popular culture. The occasion for the Slate article was Reason magazine’s recent catching of Lapham writing about the Republican convention in advance of it taking place. The best line in Schaefer’s piece comes at the end: "Lapham's magazine once contained multitudes, and so did he."

Schaefer’s borrowing from the great poet of democracy Walt Whitman, and that line about multitudes makes a fine description of the basic claim of editing. Very presumptuously, you go around telling all kinds of people how to better sound like themselves and how to better write what they’re thinking. You know how to get them, you say, to where they want to go. In the ethereal movie George Washington that came out a few years ago, a strange little boy comes to inhabit a fantasy world after a terrible accident: He puts on a football helmet and a cape and starts directing traffic in the middle of town. In my, albeit limited, experience, editing is rather like that.
Beldar has a long post on whether or not CBS's error was made in "good faith." His conclusion differs from CJR's.

I know Beldar is a lawyer and that he cites actual case-law and that he supports his argument with quotations from CBS, but maybe he should leave this sort of media criticism to the professionals. Silly Beldar. Divination is a very rigorous branch of science, and you can't let facts get in the way.

Iraq is Not Vietnam, It's Guadalcanal

Fantastic piece Lieutenant Colonel Powl Smith about why the correct historical parallel for Iraq isn't Vietnam, but Guadalcanal.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Very interesting post by the Belmont Club on social dynamics and the size-limits of terrorist networks.
If you're the type who likes serious journal reading, the New Atlantis is the best quarterly to come down the pike in a great while. Check out Christine Rosen's fantastic essay in the current issue, Our Cell Phones, Ourselves. It's funny, thoughtful, and well reported--everything I've come to expect from her writing. Plus, it's got this gem:

"In France, cell phone companies were pressured by the public to censor the last four digits of phone numbers appearing on monthly statements, because so many French men and women were using them to confirm that their significant other was having an affair."

Print it out and enjoy.

Klingons for Kerry

This story is the funniest thing you're going to read today, tomorrow, or next week:

The incumbent has staked his campaign on the war on terror. But those who speak the language of the Trek warrior race--known to disdain dishonor, or quvHa'ghach--seem alienated by Iraq and other issues. . . .

"A good war is based on honor, not deception," says K'tok (Earth name: Clyde Lewis), a 40-year-old Klingon from Lair Hill. "The first warrior, President Bush, deceived us all with this war." . . .

"On the home world, if there had been a contested election between Gore and Bush, the honorable thing would be for Gore to kill Bush," explained Khraanik (Earth name: Jason Lewis), a 38-year-old from Southeast Portland. "Or the other way around. And then ascend to the head of the High Council."

It's too early for Kerry to chill the ceremonial bloodwine, but Portland clinging are clearly warming to the cerebral Massachusetts Democrat.

"Kerry has shown his prowess," says 33-year-old Neqha (Earth name: Eric King) of discard. "He saved his fellow warrior under the gun, and has been commended and awarded medals."

Clearly. I mean, clearly.

Expanding the League

In the midst of tedious committee meetings at the United Nations this week, German foreign minister Joschka Fischer announced that his country along with Brazil, India, and Japan all deserve to be permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. "The Security Council must further reflect the reality within the community of nations in the 21st century," he said (my translation). But would this make America's role in the world easier or more difficult? On the one hand, Germany and Brazil (under president Lula da Silva) would likely veto anything related to the Bush doctrine. On the other hand, India and Japan might offset such future diplomatic hostilities and prove useful allies within the council. Many other critical issues remain: Would China really allow Japan to join? And do new members get to wear the special jackets? Access to the Players' Lounge? Free comps at the Waldorf-Astoria?
George Will hammers the Bush administration, again, this time on Iran. There is no more effective critic of the president. If John Kerry spoke this clearly, Bush would be down 5 points. When will Democrats learn that you don't have to hyperventilate about "quagmires" and "lies" to be persuasive?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

An Aleing Campaign

In the race for Senate in Colorado, it seems the Republicans are struggling to replace Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who is retiring, with the candidate they tapped, beer magnate Pete Coors. Although the battle has been brewing for months, polls consistently show Democrat Ken Salazar ahead. Some analysts are now buzzing about the image problem of Coors, who might not be as well known for his conservative credentials as for those truly obnoxious commercials and those screeching words: "AND I LOVE YOU TOO! HERE'S TO FOOTBALL!!!" (Have you ever been to a tailgate like that?) Coors could also use a little more help from the president. Perhaps he ought to draft the Bush twins to help him out. If not, Salazar may just pull away, bringing another Democrat to the U.S. Senate, while leaving Coors flat.
Patterico notices a funny timeline on CBS's website.

CJR Rushes to Judgment

The good news: Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk has finally engaged on the CBS story in a meaningful way. Good for them.

The bad news: CJR concludes, "There's nothing complicated about any of this. The real story here isn't political bias on the part of CBS or Rather. It's that of big news organizations still in the thrall of a scoop mentality that dates back to the 1920's and Ben Hecht -- and still reluctant to come clean even when a story unravels."

Umm, how do they know this? Remember, on September 14, 2004, CJR explained that the reason they weren't covering the CBS story was because "it's not clear whether CBS has been had by some undercover operative intent on smearing the president, or whether the network itself is the victim of a smear campaign." In other words, they were too scrupulous to go rushing to judgment, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Fair enough.

Now, CJR has decided that they absolutely, positively, totally understand the true nature of CBS's ethical failings even though they know next to nothing about how the CBS story came to pass. What proof does CJR have that there "isn't political bias" from CBS or Rather? None.

And on the other side of the ledger, there's troubling evidence which suggests that CBS's ethical failings might well be rooted in political bias. Take Mary Mapes and the revelation that she reached out to the Kerry campaign to pass on information she had unearthed during her reporting. What does CJR have to say about this? Nothing.

New Jersey Watch

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Bush leading John Kerry by one percentage point among likely voters, 47 percent to 46 percent in a three-way race with Ralph Nader (who garners 2 percent). In a two-way race, Kerry just barely beats Bush, 49 percent to 48 percent. Another poll by WABC in New York actually shows the president ahead by four points. Democrats say they’re not worried. The Bush campaign, which earlier expressed reluctance to make a play here, recently dispatched Laura Bush to rally supporters in the Garden State. If the president took the time for just one visit, he could turn the tide on this increasingly left-leaning state--and earning its coveted 15 electoral votes (more than in Wisconsin or Iowa or Missouri). Then again, if Kerry stumped here alongside the ever-popular governor James McGreevey, Bush may win it in a landslide.

Mapegoat II

CBS's disavowal of Mary Mapes continues in the New York Times: "Several people at the news division, who insisted on anonymity because they had been told not to talk to reporters, said one important line of inquiry in the internal inquiry would be whether Ms. Mapes's zeal clouded her judgment. Some colleagues and associates questioned whether her politics could have interfered."

The most important tidbit in the Times story: "Mapes is accomplished enough that producers for the 60 Minutes Wednesday edition, which is based in New York, let her work from home in Dallas . . ."

See? How could they have known what her partisan zeal was doing to them? I mean, she was down in Dallas--Dan Rather couldn't possibly know what she was doing from 2,000 miles away. Right?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Do the following quotes from this AP report make it sound like CBS is selling Mary Mapes down the river? We report, you decide:

"Mapes, 48, was described by colleagues on Tuesday as a dogged and talented journalist who made no secret of her liberal political beliefs. . . .

"In the 60 Minutes tradition, producers like Mapes wield tremendous influence on the stories and operate with a great deal of independence--a status earned after many years of proving themselves, [60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager] said. . . .

"'It is obviously against CBS News standards and those of every other reputable news organization to be associated with any political agenda,' [CBS spokeswoman Kelli Edwards] said. . . .

"'She's done many, many solid stories in her career,' Fager said. 'How this went so horribly wrong is a mystery to many of us and I look forward to hearing the details.'"

Is this enough to save Rather's career?

USA Today--Unimpeachable!

USA Today has done what CBS should do--detail exactly how they got the fake documents. It's an admirable piece of work on the part of the USA Today editors. Good for them.

What USA Today does is: (1) Tell us everything about how they got the documents from Burkett; (2) Tell us about every other time in the past when they've used Burkett as a source; and (3) Tell us everything they know about where the story stands now.

Along the way, they manage to further damn CBS. Remember that CBS called Burkett an "unimpeachable" source. We now know:

*Burkett does not appear stable: "Burkett's emotions varied widely in the interviews. One session ended when Burkett suffered a violent seizure and collapsed in his chair."

*Burkett's account of how he received the documents does not appear solid: "Burkett said he arranged to get the documents during a trip to Houston for a livestock show in March. But instead of being met at the show by [Lucy] Ramirez, he was approached by a man who asked for Burkett, handed him an envelope and quickly left, Burkett recounted. . . . After he received the documents in Houston, Burkett said, he drove home, stopping on the way at a Kinko's shop in Waco to copy the six memos. In the parking lot outside, he said, he burned the ones he had been given and the envelope they were in."

So even if CBS was acting in good faith when they were taken in by Burkett, it's clear that they were consciously misrepresenting Burkett when they defended their story by describing him as "unimpeachable."

Oh, and don't forget that the biggest scandal in all of this isn't even the fake documents--it's Mary Mapes passing oppo research to the Kerry campaign.

The Trouble with the Left

If you're looking for a tough, intelligent critique of George W. Bush, search no further than this op-ed column. It's this writer's second scathing attack on the Bush administration in as many days and it represents the best case there is to be made against the president.

Here's the problem: It's from George Will.

One wonders why so many Democrats and their partisans get wrapped up in "National Guard" and "blood-for-oil" and "he lied!" idiocy when there really is a valid case to be made against Bush that requires neither exaggeration nor dishonesty.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Is Mary Mapes on the Kerry payroll, or what?

The most stunning thing about tonight's AP report is this passage:

"Lockhart, the second Kerry ally to confirm contact with retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, said he made the call at the suggestion of CBS producer Mary Mapes. 'He had some advice on how to deal with the Vietnam issue and the Swift boat' allegations, Lockhart said, referring to GOP-fueled accusations that Kerry exaggerated his Vietnam War record."

So a CBS producer was calling a Kerry campaign worker, passing along information, making suggestions, and providing them with oppo research contacts?

As I said, earlier, CBS would have been much, much better off stonewalling and looking merely incompetent.

CJR's Bad Medicine

If it's Monday, it must be time to look in on the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk.

If you're an amateur media critic, you might have noticed this little story lurking around today. It seems that 12 days ago CBS News aired a piece attacking the president of the United States--weeks before an election--with documents that looked as though they were forged. As reporters and amateur media critics delved into the story, it turned out that the documents really were forged.

Professional media critics, however, need have higher standards. They don't go rushing off willy-nilly and jumping to conclusions based on incomplete evidence. As Steve Lovelady, the managing editor of CJR's Campaign Desk--and a truer professional there never was--said last week, "We're not in the business of saying, 'You may be a bad boy; drink your medicine.' We're in the business of saying 'You are a bad boy; drink your medicine.' And, as of this moment, despite the flurry of charges and counter-charges, it's not clear whether CBS has been had by some undercover operative intent on smearing the president, or whether the network itself is the victim of a smear campaign."

Well. This morning there was this teensy-tiny development in the CBS News story. Dan Rather came out and admitted that CBS no longer stands by the forged documents and believes that the network has been "misled."

It's medicine time at CJR, baby!

Only not quite. CJR has posted three items so far today. The CBS story is mentioned once. Here is the mention in its entirety: "And Scrappleface seems to be offering his own none-too-subtle advice--to CBS, specifically--in the form of 'breaking news' about RatherGate. Seems Scrapple has the inside line on what Rather will say on air this evening--including that Rather will 'during the broadcast . . . demand his own resignation, along with that of news producer Mary Mapes.' That's one we haven't run across before--"I demand my own resignation!'"

Some medicine, evidently, is stronger than others.

Mind you, Steve Lovelady, professional media critic, hasn't been entirely silent. Last Friday he sent a letter-to-the-editor to another professional media critic website--Jim Romenesko's Media News. It seems that Lovelady doesn't think the CBS story is a very big deal at all. He wrote:

And as for a relative ranking of "big media stories of recent memory"--is the CBS episode of the magnitude of, say, Jayson Blair deceiving the readers of the New York Times not once, but dozens of times, month after month? Or as big as Jack Kelly deceiving the readers of USA Today not once, but apparently hundreds of times for years on end? Or as big as the systemic failure of the mainstream press to question the fatally flawed rationale for war in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq? Or even as big as the press's inexplicable delay before it finally began investigating the veracity, or lack thereof, of the charges leveled at John Kerry by the swift boat veterans? . . .

But come on, guys--try to get a grip. It's not Watergate. It's not even Rathergate. So far, it's no more than Fontgate.

Now don't you silly amateurs feel stupid?
Finally, some mob justice. At last night's Emmycast, Michael Imperioli won for Best Supporting Actor and Drea de Matteo for Best Supporting Actress, both in The Sopranos. Imperioli has come a long way since getting shot in the foot in Goodfellas (which, incidentally, I just reviewed for The Daily Standard). And de Matteo shows she really can act, despite her current gig on NBC's Joey.

Amazingly, Helen Hunt did not win a tenth Emmy for Mad About You.

"We have been misled" by an "Unimpeachable source"?

So how does that work? When this entire affair began, it was obvious that CBS was going to end up looking like (a) a dupe; (b) a shill; or (c) a partisan attack outfit. Not for the first time, I'm proven wrong by events.

Here's Dan Rather's new problem: He's admitting the documents are fake. He now has to tell us where he got them.

This line of questioning leads down a dark path for CBS News. The best case scenario is that they were taken in by a high-level political operative. That would mean that they were merely being shills for a political party.

What would be worse, is if it turns out that these documents were given to them by a low-level nut. Combine that with testimony we've heard from the experts CBS consulted who said they couldn't authenticate the documents. And then recall CBS's claim, on September 11, that the documents came from an "unimpeachable source." That would mean that CBS was on a partisan witch-hunt, during which they abandoned every last vestige of journalistic ethics.

By coming clean, CBS has started an unraveling which they can no longer control.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Who would have guessed the words "Rick James" and "natural causes" would appear in the same sentence? But sure enough, the recently released autopsy and toxicology report of the late, great funk singer states that an enlarged heart was what did him in--in addition to the "effects of multiple drugs" such as Valium, Xanax, and Vicodin. Oh, and methamphetamines. And, um, cocaine too. But other than that, he was clean.

What Blogs Have Wrought

My long piece on Dan Rather vs. the Blogs is up over at

Or, if you want to read real writing, you can go to Andy Ferguson's genius review of Kitty Kelley's Bush book. Andy's tops. There is no finer writer working anywhere in America.
Outstanding piece in the New Republic on how Israel won its war on terror--and at what cost. A must read.
Staudt's talking now. If you were curious as to what sort of treatment the other networks would afford CBS, you now have your answer. NBC has contributed absolutely no reporting of any worth to the story. ABC has latched on to it like a rabid, syphalitic pit bull. Good for them!
If you've been reading the papers you know how irresponsible the blogosphere is. Take this retraction from Soxblog. Nope, you can't trust those bloggers--always making up lies for partisan political purposes and sticking to them for weeks on end, no matter what . . .

Quote of the Week

"Resurrection! He's just like Jesus and he's back…"

--Marion Barry supporter as quoted in the Washington Post after the ex-mayor/convict won his ward's Democratic primary for city council last Wednesday.
Soxblog and others have written about Sophia Parlock, the cute little girl who had her Bush-Cheney sign ripped out of her hands.

It's terrible, and you shouldn't do that to little kids, but Captain Ed does a little digging and discovers that her father is strange fellow with a history of taking his children to protest Democratic candidates.

I don't fault little Sophia, and whoever stole her sign shouldn't have done it, but what sort of man uses his kids as political protest props?
Patterico, one of my favorite bloggers, catches the LA Times in a beauty.

Headline: "Long a Republican Bulwark, a Growing Arizona Is in Play."

Inconvenient fact revealed in 18th paragraph: Bush leads AZ by 16 points.

Displaying admirable professional loyalty, Mickey Kaus asks, "Can't they let Kinsley edit the news pages too?"

Who says they aren't? After all, you don't need polls to know that Arizona really is in play. The LA Times's real error was trying to prove a point that didn't need to be proved!

CBS's Plastic "Truth"

The New York Daily News reports that Andy Rooney "Indicated yesterday he believes the controversial documents on President Bush's National Guard service are fake and said it could cost Dan Rather down the road. 'I'm surprised at their reluctance to concede they're wrong,' Rooney said, referring to CBS brass."

What CBS has done is plasticize the truth. You have seen this before.

On August 14, 1998, the New York Times ran a remarkable story by Richard Berke. President Clinton was preparing to be deposed under oath by Ken Starr. The following are excerpts from Berke's story:

President Clinton has had extensive discussions with his inner circle about a strategy of acknowledging to a grand jury on Monday that he had intimate sexual encounters with Monica S. Lewinsky in the White House, senior advisers have said.

Although Mr. Clinton has not settled on this approach, discussions have centered on a plan that would allow him to acknowledge a specific type of sexual behavior while still maintaining he told the truth when he testified in January that he never had "sexual relations" with the former White House intern, the advisers said. . . .

For months Mr. Clinton has publicly denied any sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. So politically, an acknowledgment of some kind of sexual encounter poses considerable risk, particularly if it were linked to a legal argument that rests on a narrow definition of sex.

But Mr. Clinton's advisers have said it poses a greater risk to tell anything less than the truth to a grand jury about sex with Ms. Lewinsky. . . .

The advisers cautioned that preparations for the grand jury appearance were continuing and that the strategy could still change as the President continued to examine the legal and political implications of various courses. . . .

Even as the President's advisers review his options, some have prefaced their remarks by saying it is still possible that Mr. Clinton will say again, as he has publicly, that he never had sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky. . . .

Elsewhere in his report Berke noted that "It could be that some of the President's advisers are discussing his possible approaches with reporters to gauge the political reaction." Which is, of course, exactly what the president's advisers were doing. The notion that, since the president was going to be testifying under oath, he simply had to admit the truth, was totally pushed aside. The issue was what strategy he would pursue, not what the truth was.

I know, I know--it's ridiculous to always come back to Clinton. And it is. But in this case it was Bill Clinton who moved us into this post-modern definition of truth, who taught America that if you're going to lie, you don't even need to pretend to believe your own lie anymore. That's because in modern American politics, there is no truth, there's only strategy.

Dan Rather and CBS News have learned Bill Clinton's lesson and found that today it doesn't just apply to politics--it applies to journalism, too.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Another gem of a pool report today, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune's Rick Pearson:

Most uneventful bus ride which, for the record, took us on I-35W South to I-694 East to I-35E South to I-94 East to U.S. 52 South to Rochester. Only notes of interest along way were the smiling guys waving outside Jake's Exotic Dancers, just outside St. Paul, the sign advertising Elk Meat for Sale in Zumbrota, MN, and the billboard advertising Windsor Canadian Whiskey taking note of Minnesota's state bird: "It's not your blood the mosquitos are after." In Rochester, the top film on the marquee was "Without a paddle." Know the feeling.

"White House Says CBS Documents Part of DNC Plot"

Why in the world would the Repulicans' own "news" service put this headline on this story? It makes Scott McClellan sound mad as a hatter.
As the "fake but true" meme makes the rounds today, it's worth noting that serious people examine and evaluate facts qua facts--regardless of any meta "truths." As Exhibit A, I offer Matt Continetti's analytical defense of John Kerry's disputed purple heart.
Howie Kurtz pulls this quote from Michelle Cottle on his blog: "To be fair, the thought of four more years of The George and Dick Show is enough to terrify anyone outside of John Ashcroft's immediate family. But if anti-Bushies insist on wallowing in their doubts, fears, and premature recriminations, they should do so beyond the earshot of the bloodthirsty political media. Publicized angst just plays into Republicans' message that Dems are a bunch of weak, self-doubting girly men."
Well D.S., I stand by my brief for Richard Cohen. I love writers who surprise me. From today's column: "This is not the place to examine why Bush is so hated by some people, though the war in Iraq surely takes pride of place. But even before that particular war, I heard people denounce the one in Afghanistan, that Taliban-controlled horror that harbored Osama bin Laden. These people are infected with a corrosive doubt about their own country. A recent Pew Research Center poll found, for instance, that 51 percent of Democrats agreed with the proposition that 'U.S. wrongdoing' contributed to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (only 17 percent of Republicans agreed). Those are astounding numbers, an indictment not really of America (for what?) but of those people who compulsively blame their own country for the faults of others. You can believe that U.S. support of Israel and the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, but the term Pew used was 'wrongdoing.' In this respect, these people and Osama bin Laden are in agreement."

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Spain and September 11

Go have a look at this ad from El Pais. It features two pictures of the New York skyline, one with the World Trade Center, one without. The caption: "You can do a lot in a single day. . . . Imagine what you could do in three months."

I'm not quite sure what to say.

Update 9/16/04, 10: 57 a.m.: Here's a better link to Barcepundit, with more information on the ads origins.

Dan Rather Wins

This defense is enough. Dan Rather isn't going anywhere and CBS is not going to admit that the memos are forged. Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not the day after tomorrow, either. The CBS stonewall is permanent.

Why? Several reasons

(1) IF they admit the docs are forged THEN they have to answer two other questions which make matters much, much worse for them. (Question 1: Why didn't you realize these were obvious fakes? Question 2: Where'd you get them?) The answers to those questions are likely to be much more injurious to CBS News than the current perception--that the network simply got snookered.

(2) CBS can't afford to lose their franchise anchor six weeks before a presidential election. If CBS were to admit that the memos were forged, it would be difficult not to require Rather to fall on his sword. CBS needs Rather to cover the election for them; without his presence, their ratings would likely crumble during the crucial election period.

(3) The Law of Diminishing Returns. With every day that passes, CBS spends more and more ethical capital in the defense of the documents. At the same time, the reward for coming clean becomes smaller and smaller. At some point, their defense will have made them look so bad, and a capitulation will look so pathetic, that it would actually hurt them to admit the truth. Some people think that break point is in the near future. I think it came around 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 14.

(4) They now have a working defense. The September 14 Dallas Morning News story about Marian Carr Knox was a tactical defeat for CBS, but a strategic victory. Her testimony allows them to sidestep the issue of forgery. The CBS line in the sand is now: There are experts on both sides. You can't prove they're fake. Killian's secretary says they're true enough.

No, Dan Rather is entrenched and, as an analytical matter, it's difficult to see why CBS would crack now.

Update 11: 30 p.m.: Of course I could be totally wrong: There are two things which could break CBS. (1) Internal revolt. If someone at CBS gets fed up with the situation, they could come out and force Rather and Heyward's hands. (2) Someone discovers and outs the forger.
Well, this interview with Robert Strong doesn't make him sound like the guy who forged the documents. (Actually, he sounds like a really sympathetic gent.)

It also doesn't help CBS. He says: "It was just background is what it was. I can't authenticate the documents; I never attempted to authenticate the documents. They look like they could be real. Based on what they showed me I didn't see anything that said these couldn't be real. I'm not saying these are real. Just, they could be."

The Mystery Expert(s)

The other interesting development from ABC and Kurtz is the emergence of the CBS Mystery Expert. The network told ABC that Will and James "played a peripheral role and deferred to another expert who examined all four of the documents used."

CBS used the same language in their denial to Kurtz. Kurtz asked James if the expert CBS is referring to if Matley: "James said she did not defer to Matley and merely recommended him to CBS." Then Kurtz tells us "The network says it relied on two additional document experts, whose names have not been made public."

So is it one Mystery Expert, or two?

Parsing CBS

Here's the problem CBS now has: At first it looked like they had been duped. Now, in order to defend themselves against that charge, they have to actively try to dupe everyone else. Howie Kurtz's piece this morning has excellent reactions from CBS about the new denials from two of the experts they hired, Emily Will and Linda James.

Kurtz reports: "CBS News Senior Vice President Betsy West said last night: 'As far as I know, Linda James raised no objections. She said she'd have to see more documents to render a judgment.' As for Will's account, West said: 'I'm not aware of any substantive objection she raised. Emily Will did not urge us to hold the story.'"

Note CBS's lawyering here:

Will told ABC that "she sent the CBS producer an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents."

CBS seems to be denying this but isn't: "Emily Will did not urge us to hold the story." [emphasis added]

No, she didn't urge them to hold the story, she urged them not to use the documents.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

This story pretty much does it. Bad day for CBS.

CJR Speaks!

Apparently cowed by a piece earlier today about their absence from the CBS News story, Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk has posted an explanation. Steve Lovelady writes:

The short answer to the question is, we're not in the business of saying, "You may be a bad boy; drink your medicine." We're in the business of saying "You are a bad boy; drink your medicine." And, as of this moment, despite the flurry of charges and counter-charges, it's not clear whether CBS has been had by some undercover operative intent on smearing the president, or whether the network itself is the victim of a smear campaign.

You see, they have no idea what the truth is. CBS might be involved in a hoax. CBS might be the victim of a vicious right-wing smear. The whole thing is--what's the word?--inconclusive! If the people at Campaign Desk are guilty of anything, it's that they're too fair-minded to get caught up in this hasty, rash, ugly business.

I believe them!

And until someone shows me a videotape of the forger sitting at his Dell, typing the documents, hitting print, taking the documents off the laserprinter, Xeroxing them, and handing them to Dan Rather, CJR is going to continue to uphold their standards of fairness and decency!

Of course, it wouldn't hurt to do a little reporting on this stuff, would it? After all, there are actual facts involved in the story which a fair-minded organization might try to chase down. Oh never mind.

One other question for Lovelady: Why did CJR ignore the AP no-boo story last week, too? [Duh . . . Fairness and decency.--ed Right!]

Update 4:59 p.m.: This post is probably too mean. Let me be clear: I really like Campaign Desk. It's part of my daily reading. We kid because we love.


Now that the CBS News documents have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be forgeries, it's time to start wondering where the forgeries came from. This is not an academic exercise--the origin of the forgeries will probably determine whether or not CBS comes clean.

The universe of people who could have created the forgeries is relatively small. Creating them required an intense command of the details of Bush's National Guard service and a familiarity with the known literature and documentation. It required time and patience. Who would have the necessary tools, information, and inclination? Three groups immediately come to mind:

(1) The Democratic National Committee and/or Kerry campaign. The DNC and Kerry campaign have opposition research offices which could have fabricated the documents fairly easily. The Washington Prowler reports that an unnamed CBS producer thinks they might have gotten the documents from the Kerry campaign, but this is hardly definitive. In truth, if would be terribly dangerous for any official Democrat to get involved in forgery. It is difficult to believe that any professional political hand would take such a risk.

(2) An unofficial Democratic hack. The world is full of one-time political operatives--people like Sidney Blumenthal--who aren't bound by official duties, have equal access to documents, and have good access to high-level media Pooh-Bahs. (Note to Lawyers: I'm not suggesting Blumenthal is behind this! I'm just using him to illustrate a class of people.) These people are also, on the whole, more politically rabid than the folks who work directly for the party. Don't forget, it was Susan Estrich was exclaimed, "You have to fight fire with fire, mud with mud, dirt with dirt." That was on September 1, while the CBS story was well in the works (the Post reported this morning that CBS has had the documents "for more than a month").

(3) Someone connected with the Texas Air National Guard. Presumably down in Texas there is a finite number of anti-Bush people who have ties to the Texas Air National Guard---people like Robert W. Strong. (Note to Lawyers: I'm not suggesting Strong is behind this! I'm just using him to illustrate a class of people.) Power Line has an interesting post on Strong, who's role in the CBS story seems unclear, except that he's the last man standing on the question of the documents' veracity. Says CBS: "Robert Strong was an administrative officer for the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam years. He knew Jerry Killian, the man credited with writing the documents. And paper work, like these documents, was Strong's specialty. He is standing by his judgment that the documents are real."

If someone like Strong is behind the forgery, there's a good chance CBS will come clean eventually. CBS has been placed in the position not simply of having been duped, but of continuing to facilitate the fraud. That seems untenable.

Unless, of course, the truth is worse. As things stand, CBS can avoid revealing the source of the documents because they maintain an obligation to confidentiality. But that obligation collapses once you admit the documents are forged. If CBS admits the truth, then they have to reveal the source.

People around the web are expecting Rather to fall any minute. That depends on who would go down with him.
A belated welcome to Duane over at Radio Blogger, good to have you onboard.

Batman Returns

Holy publicity stunts! The scaling of Buckingham Palace by a man dressed as Batman yesterday was apparently done to bring awareness to fathers who demand access rights to their children (presumably after losing a custody battle). Thirty-two-year-old Jason Hatch, a decorator, climbed the ledge of a first-floor balcony at the palace, hung a banner, and kept police at bay for six hours before agreeing to step aboard a cherry-picker truck and face questioning. Of greater concern was Hatch's ability to evade security and pose a potential threat to the royal family, who was not present at that time. His sidekick, David Pyke, dressed as Robin, did not fare as well and was apprehended after a short time. "It was unbelievably easy," Pyke told the Daily Telegraph. "We used a ladder to get on to the roof of a palace building which was just [10m] from the road. The only security was [120cm] fence. I had a bag with me, there could have been anything in there, explosives or anything." Too bad he didn't have a utility belt.

Richard Cohen, Not for Me

Richard Cohen I don’t get (pace JVL, who had a kind word for him last week). The Washington Post columnist seems to judge the credibility of accusations by how repellent they make Bush out to be. It didn’t matter that Bush never justified the war in Iraq by charging the Saddam Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attacks. For Cohen to pummel this strawman in column after column, it was apparently enough that this particular slander made Bush out to be a really unconscionable and over-the-top liar.

And now, in Cohen’s eyes, Ted Kennedy is a font of wisdom on the subject of President Bush. This is the same Ted Kennedy who recently said that U.S. soldiers were no better than Saddam’s torturers. And now Kennedy says that "arrogant ideological incompetence" explains, in Cohen’s words, "all that ails both Bush and his administration—everything from a misguided crusade to liberate Iraq (and the Middle East) from despotism to the strut of the president himself."

First off, the phrase is barely English. Ideology, incompetence, and arrogance are not the same thing as "arrogant ideological incompetence." Also, by Cohen’s own account, what the president suffers from is wishful thinking, especially in imagining that Iraqis would get all warm and fuzzy about being liberated. But wishful thinking is hardly an exclusive property of Bushies or neoconservatives or even incompetent people. Part three, Kennedy, last I checked, was a key adviser to the Kerry campaign, and it is as an unabashed Kerry partisan that he is delivering red meat to the hungry left-wingers who are demoralized since the Republican convention. How is that a smarter-than-thou columnist like Cohen lets himself be seen lapping it up?

But let’s get back to the non-warm-and-fuzzy Iraqis. Is it somehow only moral to help nice people? Only cotton-sweater, bank-commercial types should be liberated from the brutal fist of dictatorship? Which kind of people does Cohen believe deserve to be free? Only ones who say thank you?

Watching the Media Watchdogs

My piece on Jim Romenesko, CJR, and the Washington Post is up.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Associated Propaganda

Katherine Mangu-Ward catches the AP at it again:

In order to slant a Saturday (Sept. 11) story against Bush, they use interviews with former National Guardsmen that were conducted before the forgery allegations were well-known.

Katherine talks to the AP's interview subjects, and they're not happy.
This story is a pretty great example of non-CBS bias. At the Big Three of the American university system, the ratio of employee giving to political parties is about 95 to 5 in favor of Democrats. No surprise.

No surprise here, either: Says computer science professor Andrew Appel, "Does it surprise me that smart people should be supporting Kerry? No."

Appel then quickly adds, "I do my best to make class be scholarship and learning, and not influenced by partisan ideas."

I believe him!

The Song Remains The Same

One of the more awkward challenges facing political campaigns is finding the right song for the right candidate. Remember the main theme from Star Wars for John McCain's 2000 presidential bid? How about when "La Bamba" was played as the balloons dropped at the end of the Republican convention in 1992? Or when Hillary Clinton's announcement she would run for the Senate was followed by Billy Joel's one-hander, "Captain Jack"? Sure, there have been some good ones: Clinton/Gore's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" may be the most effective campaign song since "I'm Just Wild About Harry." But for John Kerry, it always seemed ironic that his theme was U2's "Beautiful Day." Despite the title, the actual lyrics stressed the need to be optimistic even though your world is falling apart--an ironic twist while Kerry was cruising through the primaries. But now that the senator finds himself floundering amid the latest polls, it seems the song is quite appropriate. Here are just a few of the lyrics:

…The traffic is stuck
And you’re not moving anywhere…
…You’re on the road
But you’ve got no destination
You’re in the mud…
…You love this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over
And it’s been all over you…
…I know I’m not a hopeless case…

No word as to whether the Kerry camp plans on changing their tune any time soon.

Editor's Note

Speaking of Doublethink: I have to flack the new issue, which is now available online. Okay, it came out over a month ago, but since DT is a quarterly, last month’s issue is still new.

I am always on the lookout for young conservative and libertarian writing talent, and so far it hasn’t been hard to find. One of my "discoveries"—an old friend, actually—just won writer of the year from New Hampshire’s press association. His name’s Judah Pollack. We also have terrific articles from Sean Higgins of Investors Business Daily (on pro-life Dems), Shawn Macomber of American Spectator (on dating services for partisan singles), and Jeremy Lott, another AmSpec guy, (whose piece on Michael Kelly had been spiked, for political reasons apparently, by a well-known national magazine before it fell into my hands,) and much else.

I was particularly flattered by a contribution from Stephen G. Bloom, an actual professor of nonfiction writing at the University of Iowa, who’d caught wind of Doublethink from the Chronicle of Higher Education. This, after the Chronicle did a digest version of an important DT piece, from the Spring issue, on the demise of the short story by Kelly Jane Torrance, for its newsletter.

Skinner on Buckley

My review of Christopher Buckley's latest, Florence of Arabia, was published yesterday. here

Also, coincidentally, I interviewed the author a few months ago for Doublethink.

Asked and Answered, cont.

In response to the earlier answer about PO Box 34567, another reader writes:

The PO Box checks out, indeed. However, if you look at the address, it is for the fighter group (147th Fighter Group) that was the "parent" of the fighter squadron to which Bush was assigned. The alleged documents' return address is for the squadron. Did the squadron have the same post-office box as the group?

In the authentic records (page 3), Bush's squadron is designated "111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron." On the correspondence among the authentic documents, however, the address is "147th Fighter Group." Interesting to note as well that the document (page 6)--official orders, in fact--are headed with "Department of the Air Force/Headquarters 147th Fighter Group (TNG)/Ellington Air Force Base, Texas 77030." Are there any other authenticated correspondence/orders that show the squadron's address as "111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron" or is headed "111th Fighter Squadron"?

Also, the home address for George Bush on the records shown on pages 7 and 11--and dated "1 Dec 69" and "9 Dec 68," respectively--is "5000 Longmont, Apt. 8/Houston, Texas 77027;" the home address shown on page 8 on a document dated 15 September 1971 is "2039 One Half South Blvd/Houston TX 77086." The alleged "memorandum" to George Bush dated 1 May 1972 lists the 1968 address as his home address. Did he move back to the Longmont address between September 1971 and May 1972?

Another good question.
Now this is just awesome.

Asked and Answered

Yesterday alert readers had two questions for CBS. One of them, at least, has been answered. As to the validity of the PO Box 34567, reader C.G. writes:

The address P.O. Box 34567 is, in fact, legitimate. It is also used on documents previously released. Check out 1stLt Bush's two DD44, Record of Military Status of Registrant, dated 9 Dec 68, and 1 Dec 69. You can download these documents from USA Today's website.

C.G. also helpfully includes the link and page numbers (see pages 10, 11, and 19).

The rapidity with which the blogosphere knocks down theories which turn out to be wrong--no matter who it benefits--is pretty impressive, no?

Now, any information about the date convention used in the memos?
It's Monday, September 13, and the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk still hasn't mentioned the CBS News story at all.

Meanwhile, Jim Romenesko makes his second mention of the story this morning by--wonder of wonders!--putting an item about it in his main column. His headline:

"CBS still insists Bush military record memos are authentic"


Sunday, September 12, 2004

R. Scott Rogers with some excellent points about typewriters.

Questions for CBS

Alert reader J.N. writes in: "Um . . . why not check with the postmaster - did PO Box 34567 exist then? Does it now?"

Good question! The blogosphere has been hung up on the technical aspects of these documents, but there are lots of factual aspects which can be checked by real reporters. Like this story, which claims

An order obtained by The Dallas Morning News shows that Col. Walter "Buck" Staudt was honorably discharged March 1, 1972. CBS News reported this week that a memo in which Staudt was described as interfering with officers' negative evaluations of the future president's service was dated Aug. 18, 1973.

Here's a chance for the old media to redeem itself.

UPDATE 11:48 a.m.: Another alert reader notes, "I was an admin troop in 1974-1978,  guess what--we in the military date letters and memos with '1 Aug 73' not '01 August 1973'.  I have been in the Air Force for 27 years and we don't date single digits with zero's or spell out the month.  Look a little closer at military writing instructions from that period." More grist for the blogosphere.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Rather Not

What a pathetic defense CBS made tonight. Their critics are engaging the evidence at a level of forensic detail CBS just isn’t able to match—a disjunction only made greater by the different capacities of television and the Internet. But the prima facie shortcomings of CBS’s defense were elementary.

One, the only expert they trotted out was a signature expert, though the signature was not the focus of criticism. Worse yet, he spoke as much about his own feelings about working on the story as he did about the undisputed signature. Two, CBS established that Times New Roman font existed before 1973, but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was the likelihood of such a font and such kerning being found on a government typewriter in 1973—font and kerning that appear to match identically that of the default settings of Microsoft Word. Three, the superscript they showed as a contemporaneous example found in documents from Bush’s National Guard records was not raised above the other letters, as in the Killian memo, and it had an antique-y little underline, which the superscript in the Kilian memo did not.

Most troubling about this defense was, however, its general, theoretical character. So long as it was anywhere in a seemingly infinite realm of possibility that this document could have been created as reported, they felt no need to go any further to establish its authenticity. How about more on the source of the document?

Rather's Line

I would forgive CBS everything if, during tonight's broadcast, Dan Rather turned to the camera and deadpanned, "Yes, we at CBS News have been pwn3d."


Psst! There's this story about CBS, anyone interested?

Jim Romenesko isn't the only watchdog journalist non-plussed by the story that CBS News may have been taken in by a hoax. Go to CJR's Campaign Desk and you'll see nary a mention of the biggest journalism story of the year. Get this: Yesterday Campaign Desk published a post called Blog Report which was a roundup of the blogs--and they still didn't mention it.

You'll recall that Campaign Desk also declined to mention last week's AP no-boo story at all.
From Slate: "Game guides are, in essence, travel literature."

Now that's my kind of rationalization!

Jim Romenesko: Idiot, or Hack?

I've never met him, but I'm sure Jim Romenesko is a wonderful guy, a great human being, and a swell dude all-around. But go over to his media news site right now.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

Okay, did you see his coverage of the 60 Minutes story? You missed it? It's there. Go look again.

(Fine you cheater, it's in the skinny left-hand column, beneath the "fold.")

So this is how America's foremost journalism website covers the biggest story in journalism since Jayson Blair. (And it cuts both ways--if it's a forgery, CBS News should be devastated; if the documents are legit, we have a prime example of a peril of the blogosphere: Hello, triumphalism!)

So let's put it to the floor: Is Romenesko a journalistic idiot, or an ideological hack?

PS:What's the Poynter motto? "Everything you need to be a better journalist"!

Dept. of Wishful Thinking

Totally off topic, but watching Tom Brady dismantle the Colts last night added further evidence for my pet theory: that we are living in a golden age of quarterbacks. There are a half-dozen sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterbacks working right now and all but one of them (Favre) are just entering their prime years. Brady seems like the obvious Joe Montana of the group--precise, rock-steady, brilliant under pressure. And Donovan McNabb resembles Montana's biggest rival--John Elway. He's big, mobile, has a rocket arm, and is a great leader.

Philadelphia fans should take comfort in this analogy, because if you remember, Elway didn't become ELWAY until late in his career when he won his two Super Bowls. It was only then that he moved past Montana on many people's all-time lists. So while Brady seems like the best QB in the NFL right now, I have a feeling that when all's said and done, McNabb will be regarded as the better player.

Or at least, that's what we Philadelphia fans will be telling ourselves this winter after the Eagles lose their fourth consecutive NFC championship game.
Wlady P. reports that CBS may have gotten the questionable documents from the Democrats. He's got some sources spilling mild amounts of dirt, and I trust Vlady pretty implicitly--he's a real pro.

Is this what Susan Estrich meant when she said "You have to fight fire with fire, mud with mud, dirt with dirt"?

Another Expert

Hugh Hewitt interviews Farrell Shiver, a document expert who actually has a name!

I don't mean to be a killjoy in all of this, but part of me wants to see CBS exonerated because (1) I find it deeply unsettling that a serious news organization could get hoodwinked so easily; and (2) If they have been duped, it makes me wonder how often this sort of thing has happened before, say, in the last 30 years. The logical answer would be: A lot.

I'd like to cling to my illusions about the superiority of old media for a little while longer, please.
A fantastic piece on the new Army Combat Uniform.
Has Ken Jennings lost Jeopardy? Don't click here if you don't want to know!
My piece on the un-making of Suspect Zero is up. It's not quite a movie review, and should probably be avoided unless you're interested in the sausage-making aspect of Hollywood.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

You'll fall off your chair laughing: An email from 1972 casts doubt on Bush's National Guard service.

The Daily Parody strikes again.

Is It a Hoax?

Steve Hayes has lots of expert testimony about these 60 Minutes documents.

Losing New Jersey?

Could things be going so bad for the Kerry campaign that even New Jersey, considered a Democratic lock in this election cycle, is now up for grabs? According to the latest Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll, John Kerry leads George Bush among likely voters by a slim margin of 43 percent to 41 percent. Among registered voters, the margin is only slightly larger, with Kerry leading Bush 43 percent to 39 percent. Compare this with a month ago, when Kerry led Bush by a whopping 53 percent to 33 percent.

With the Kerry camp now devoting most of its resources to battleground states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and with many New Jerseyans upset with the antics of Democratic governor James McGreevey, it seems the Garden State would be ripe for a Republican upset. But high-level sources in the Bush campaign say they are still reluctant to spend more money and time here, as opposed to, say, Missouri and Wisconsin--although New Jersey has more electoral votes (15) than either of those two states (11 and 10, respectively).

If Bush wins in New Jersey, it will be the first time a Republican has taken the state since his father beat that other Massachusetts liberal back in 1988.

Vote (Bush) or Die

I had more to say on this yesterday, but the fritz was on the blog. Mere hours after the Post reported that Cheney had said a Kerry-Edwards victory would lead to a terrorist attack on the United States, Dana Milbank and Spencer S. Hsu were playing it high in the lede of their front-page story in the morning edition.

Today’s Milbank/Hsu story reports that John Edwards has an answer for Cheney’s Vote-Bush-Or-Else rhetoric: "It is outrageous and shameful . . . It is completely inappropriate and dangerous, for the vice president to in effect threaten the American people, to be part of instilling fear in our country."

A little perspective, please. First, Cheney’s argument—pretty sound as it goes—was that this election is pivotal in determining America’s long-term policy in the war on terror. It follows that, if Kerry-Edwards are elected, you’ll see a very different response to any terrorist attack on the United States than you saw in the aftermath of 9/11. Two, why isn’t it legitimate for Cheney to emphasize differences regarding the most important policy issue around—terror—which is nothing if not a life or death issue?


New, from the good people of MEMRI: A translated video where a Chechen politician claims, "[T]he Chechen and Islam are innocent of this operation, which was planned by intelligence agencies . . . I am surprised at the Russian media and surprised that the Arab media repeats what is said in the Russian media. They always accuse the Arabs and claim there are Arab elements, but as of yet, we have not seen on TV Arab faces who participated in the operation."
Very Big Deal story on Power Line, concerning documents used in 60 Minutes story on Bush’s national guard service, which has been picked up all over the place. If true that documents were forged, more evidence of the hysteria overtaking the media and the left in the wake of the president’s bounce from the convention.
SoxBlog takes apart Joe Biden's Wall Street Journal op-ed. Not suitable for children or those with a weak heart.

Suck-Up Watch

Bill Kristol has a sobering column on Beslan.
Buffy would be more horrified by this story than she was when she found Spike playing poker for kittens.
An anonymous commenter says, "The no-boo story is mentioned in a forum at Campaign Desk called 'Fact Check,' and bears a title 'Booing the AP'."

This commenter is wrong. A quick visit to CJR's Campaign Desk (followed up by an email query to, and response from, the nice folks over there) confirms that they have still not mentioned the AP "no-boo" story at all.

Now I understand why bloggers turn their comments section off. If you're going to post a comment like this in the future, please include a link to buttress your claim.
Mickey Kaus has an on-air conniption fit: "Spirit-crushing foolishness from my candidate, John Kerry. The nation is trying to figure out how to fight global terrorism and he's talking about having 'not just a Department of Health and Human Services, but a Department of Wellness.' How about a Department of F***ing Perspective? If Bush is smart he'll be ridiculing Kerry about this for the rest of the month. ...Thanks, Iowa!"

[You mean "conniption fit" in the best possible way, don't you?--ed Of course! One of the Iron Laws of Politics is that you should almost always dislike the candidate you're voting for more than you dislike the other guy.]
Galley Friend C.S. sends in this John Hollinger piece on the demise of the Lakers: "After that first title, the Lakers put less effort into the regular season every year. It was almost as if they were taunting the poor Timberwolves and Kings of the world--Go ahead, get a better record than us if it makes you feel better. We can be the No. 8 seed and still beat you when it matters."

Hollinger thinks the NBA is worse without the Laker dynasty. I say, good riddance.

UPDATE: ESPN reports that Shaq has taken a shot at Kobe on his new album. Shaq raps: "Even with wings you never as fly as me . . . you remind me of Kobe Bryant trying to be as high as me . . . but you can't . . . even if you get me traded . . . wherever I'm at, I'm Puffy; you Mase and you're still hated."
The Kerry campaign finally gets it: "'You cannot ignore the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the middle of the room--we are involved in a quagmire in Iraq,' said Joe Lockhart, senior adviser to Kerry." Really? You don't say.

Kerry missed a golden opportunity this spring and summer. After wrapping up the Democratic nomination, he could have run to the right of Bush on Iraq and the war on terror, putting the president in a difficult position. Instead, he fiddled away his time and tried, desperately, to ignore the "800-pound gorilla." There are only two reasons for Kerry not to have out-flanked Bush on the war when he had the chance: (1) He was worried about the Deaniac base leaving him; or (2) He really does have some immutable principles, and a disbelief in American exceptionalism is one of them.
Reports like this are why George W. Bush should be making a serious effort to bring Russia into the fold: "Col. Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the armed forces chief of staff, asserted the right to launch preemptive attacks on what he termed 'terrorist bases' outside Russia. 'We will take steps to eliminate terrorist bases in any region of the world,' he told journalists."
George Will, devastating. And if you read carefully, not just to Kerry.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Bill Lyon is the finest sports columnist working today (apologies to Tom Boswell), and unless you're from Philly, you've probably never heard of him. His end-of-summer wrap-up is a good introduction for the uninitiated.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Brainwashing 101

Evan Coyne Maloney, of Brain Terminal fame, has just put out a feature-length documentary on political bias at universities. It's called Brainwashing 101 and it's as funny and incisive as his shorts are, but much, much more devastating. For instance, one radical Bucknell economics professor worries that the schools board of trustees is turning fascist: "The chairman of our board of trustees right now . . . has, for example, said at times that we need to make sure that Bucknell has a sufficiently diverse curriculum, and has proposed maybe that we need an American studies major--implicitly meaning 'American studies' should be about celebrating America."

It's good stuff. Go take a gander and think about picking up the DVD. Maloney is going places, fast. He's got the on-screen dexterity of a Michael Moore, only with integrity.

View from the Pool

The New York Times David Sanger filed this afternoon's pool report from Florida, another great bit of writing:

We proceeded to Fort Pierce, about 10 minutes away, to Lawnwood Recreation Area, dominated by a stadium used for local games. The POTUS's motorcade pulled in to an area outside the municipal stadium, where a Dunkin Donuts truck, a truck providing iced lattes (help is on the way), and trucks full of bottled water and other supplies were lined up. "Convoy of Hope,'' a nonprofit described to us as based in Missouri -- check that before you print it -- was running a drive-thru aid operation, and cars were lined up outside the stadium to pick up emergency supplies.

By the time your pool caught up with POTUS, the Bush Brothers -- Jeb in a khaki shirt, his brother in a light blue checked shirt -- were loading water and bags of ice into cars, leaning into the passenger seats to shake hands. Most of the
conversation was out of the earshot of your poolers. But the lineup of cars looked a little like a Saturday afternoon line at Safeway to pickup groceries, with the governor of Florida and the POTUS as the bag-loaders -- only with more
smiles. As a photo-op it was perfect -- the president was signing $2 billion of aid in the morning, then delivering the goods by lunchtime. You'd never know an election was eight weeks away.

"God bless,'' we overheard him say to Vernon and Joyzell Friason, who drove away before we could get any details about their situation. A few cars down was a fellow in dreadlocks -- we never got his name in the crush -- drove up in his battered, mud-covered green Lincoln, the trunk open to receive goods. The President leaned in, shook his hand, dropped some ice in, and said to his brother: "Fine looking car. I used to have one just like it.''

The next driver had a new pickup with a nice liner in the bed -- the president dropped 32 half-liter bottles of water into the back. "Thanks for coming by,'' he said. At some moments, the governor was loading trunks while the President was tossing diapers and ice into the back seats of cars.

Their career as baggers finished, the two brothers went back to their day jobs. . . .

Not to knock Sanger or anything, but if you read him daily in the Times, would you ever have guessed he could be so light on his feet?
Blogger's back up now. That only took all day.
David Brooks on Beslan and the Islamist cult of death.
Christopher Hitchens on the Nation's new love of jihad. Brilliant, as usual.
Orson Scott Card reviews Hugh Hewitt's new book and says, "As a Democrat, I would hope that a solid trouncing of our fanatic-ruled party at the polls this November would serve as a wakeup call and remind Democrats that they only get to do the things that the Democrat Party exists to do if they get enough votes to control the White House and Congress. Which requires that you have serious candidates and embrace serious issues that most Americans, not just tiny pressure groups, care about. And on that day, Democratic moderates can take the party back."

This is a big question. If Bush loses, it's a foregone conclusion that their will be a Republical crack-up. But if Kerry loses, will the Democrats do a serious reassessment of their party and jettison the Deaniac wing they way the GOP pushed out the Buchananites?
Glenn Reynolds says The Sims are good for America's youth. How about the America's 30-year-old adolescent slackers?
Matt Labash has a truly brilliant profile of Stephen Baldwin up. Who knew that the actor I remember most as Fenster's lover and the guy who sang, "Old MacDonald had a farm, ee-i-ee-i-oh; And on his farm he shot some guys, ba-da-bip, ba-da-bing, bang-boom" was a born-again?

Will Vanity Fair go ahead and hire Labash already? He's only the best celebrity profiler working right now.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

WashPost Boner on Cheney Speech

The Washington Post’s report on Dick Cheney’s speech (09/07) in Iowa strikes me as plainly misleading. "Cheney Says ‘Wrong Choice’ Risks Terrorist Attack" is the headline. What should follow is an article showing Cheney saying, in effect, ‘Vote Bush-Cheney or else the United States may suffer another terrorist attack.’ Which, if the vice president said it, is definitely news.

Here’s the paragraph from the Cheney speech:

We made decisions at the end of World War II, at the beginning of the Cold War, when we set up the Department of Defense, and the CIA, and we created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and undertook a bunch of major policy steps that then were in place for the next 40 years, that were key to our ultimate success in the Cold War, that were supported by Democrat and Republican alike -- Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and Gerry Ford and a whole bunch of Presidents, from both parties, supported those policies over a long period of time. We're now at that point where we're making that kind of decision for the next 30 or 40 years, and it's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again. That we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.

What Cheney is clearly saying is that under a Kerry-Edwards administration, if the United States were attacked by terrorists, we would not pursue the same tough strategy we adopted after 9/11. Instead of striking back and continuing with the Bush Doctrine, we would probably tend toward the pinprick reprisals of Clinton and maybe wait for the United Nations to flex its muscles. We’d "fall back into a pre-9/11 mindset."

In sum, a Kerry administration would likely consider a terrorist attack on the United States merely a crime, rather than a casus belli. Whether you buy this argument or not, it’s not an argument that we’ll suffer a new terrorist attack if a plurality of voters supports Kerry-Edwards in November.

Where the WashPost leads, others follow: Just caught the local news version of this same story on channel 9 in Washington with that independent mind Gordon Petersen.

Suck-Up Watch

Bill Kristol has a short piece on Kerry's new line on Iraq: "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Sound familiar? That's because Howard Dean used it during the primaries. You'll never guess who went after Dean, at the time, saying he didn't "have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president." . . .
The key to Mark Steyn's excellent column on the Beslan massacre lies here:

The reality is that the IRA and ETA and the ANC and any number of secessionist and nationalist movements all the way back to the American revolutionaries could have seized schoolhouses and shot all the children.

But they didn't. Because, if they had, there would have been widespread revulsion within the perpetrators' own communities. To put it at its most tactful, that doesn't seem to be an issue here.

This hasn't been lost on some people. Abdulrahman al-Rashed, a prominent Arab television executive, penned a column for Asharq Al-Awsat, headlined, The Painful Truth: All the World Terrorists are Muslims! (I haven't been able to find the original, but this Jerusalem Post summary gives a hint of what seems to be the flavor of the piece.)

At the Republican convention in New York, John McCain, Ron Silver, and Rudy Giuliani (among others) highlighted this truth: That the war on terror is really a war against a virulent strain of Islamism. Is it the whole of Islam? Surely not. But is this branch of Islamism prevalent enough to swamp the healthy Islam practiced by most Muslims? Absolutely. As someone once pointed out, how many Bolsheviks did it take to transform Russia in 1917? If your purpose is sick enough, and your methods brutal enough, you don't need a majority.

The second point which Steyn makes clear is that this is a pivotal moment with regard to Russia. President Bush should do whatever it takes to bring Putin back into the fold, to show the world that America and Russia share a common enemy in the war on terror.

Boo? No Boo!

The Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk, a site I like quite a bit, has also neglected to mention the AP "no-boo" story.
My slightly-too-exuberant-for-its-own-good review of Paul Murray’s nevertheless-fabulous An Evening of Long Goodbyes ran this weekend in the Washington Times. But boy can he write.
You may be tired of AP, but an alert reader notes that while AP has fixed the story at, the URL still reads:

When your advisers upstage you

The Kerry problem in a nutshell is captured in the Washington Post’s online headlines: Third from the top, it says "Surgery Detours Campaign: Clinton hopes to resume an active political schedule by October." Clinton? The guy whose phone call to Kerry was one of the bigger stories over the long weekend. Meanwhile the actual nominee of the Democratic party gets shoehorned in small type under "More Headlines": "Kerry attacks president on Iraq."
Excellent video of a pack of nearly 100 sharks spotted in the Gulf, near the Alabama-Florida state line.
If you haven't gotten to it yet, this Mark Steyn column is a must-read. I'll have more on it later.

Good News

President Clinton apparently made it through surgery like a champ. Good for him and his family.

The AP report says that blockage in several of Clinton's arteries was "well over 90 percent." That's pretty scary, (if you believe the AP!), particularly since these days President Clinton looks better than ever. An excellent lesson for people over 50 to not avoid your physicals just because you're in good shape.

Continued best wishes for the Clintons.