UPDATE: Reader James V. Somers thinks that Kerry's defenders are losing it:
Things like the revolting Oliphant cartoon you link to, as well as Maureen Dowd's hysterical screed this morning attacking the Swift Vets as, inter alia, "sleazoids", suggest that Kerry's Big Media allies may overplay a mediocre hand in defending him.
Though you sometimes wouldn't know it from listening to those who criticize the Swift Vets, they served in combat too, just like John Kerry, and in many cases for longer periods of time and under even more difficult circumstances (like being a POW for seven years). Flamethrower attacks like Oliphant's will go over well with liberal-leaning journalists and diehard Blue-Staters, because those people take it as received wisdom that the Vietnam War was an immoral excess of American Imperialism, and thus the only soldiers from it who should be admired are those who later opposed it. Such people, as Oliphant's cartoon suggests, view the other Vietnam vets as just a bunch of illiterate drunks - probably from Red States - who spent the war either cleaning latrines or committing war crimes. But such an attitude could backfire badly with average people in battleground states. The Democrats and their allies need to remember that just because George Bush didn't fight in Vietnam, it doesn't mean that Kerry's critics didn't.
posted at 09:34 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THIS PIECE in the Chicago Tribune doesn't seem to add all that much considering how it was being spun. William Rood, who served with Kerry, weighs in strongly on the Silver Star medal debate, in Kerry's favor. But as I've mentioned before, the medals are something of a distraction.
Did Kerry deserve the Silver Star? Ultimately, that's a subjective decision that is unlikely to be resolved 35 years later. If it turns out that Kerry put himself in for the Purple Heart, that will be embarrassing for him, but that's not addressed here. (We'll find out, of course, if Kerry ever releases the records, something that he seems rather reluctant to do). But although putting himself in for a medal would make Kerry look self-serving, it's only an embarrassment. As for the rest, well, it's degenerated into a he-said / he-said argument that suits the spinmeisters.
Meanwhile, Cambodia isn't mentioned -- but of course, the Kerry campaign has already admitted that the Christmas-in-Cambodia story is false. It would provide a bit more perspective, though, if the Tribune noted that he'd been caught out on that one.
UPDATE: This story from tomorrow's Washington Post illustrates the problem with the medals:
The Post's research shows that both accounts contain significant flaws and factual errors. This reconstruction of the climactic day in Kerry's military career is based on more than two dozen interviews with former crewmates and officers who served with him, as well as research in the Naval Historical Center here, where the Swift boat records are preserved. Kerry himself was the only surviving skipper on the river that day who declined a request for an interview.
Things like this aren't readily susceptible of resolution. But it's interesting that these questions are getting much more attention than the Cambodia story, which was susceptible of resolution and which was in fact resolved -- in a fashion that showed that Kerry wasn't telling the truth.
And there's another paragraph from the Post that's worth noting:
Although Kerry campaign officials insist that they have published Kerry's full military records on their Web site (with the exception of medical records shown briefly to reporters earlier this year), they have not permitted independent access to his original Navy records. A Freedom of Information Act request by The Post for Kerry's records produced six pages of information. A spokesman for the Navy Personnel Command, Mike McClellan, said he was not authorized to release the full file, which consists of at least a hundred pages.
Kerry could clear this stuff up by releasing the records, and he ought to. There's also some embarrassment for Douglas Brinkley:
In "Tour of Duty," these thoughts are attributed to a "diary" kept by Kerry. But the endnotes to Brinkley's book say that Kerry "did not keep diaries in these weeks in February and March 1969 when the fighting was most intense." In the acknowledgments to his book, Brinkley suggests that he took at least some of the passages from an unfinished book proposal Kerry prepared sometime after November 1971, more than two years after he had returned home from Vietnam.
In his book, Brinkley writes that a skipper who remains friendly to Kerry, Skip Barker, took part in the March 13 raid. But there is no documentary evidence of Barker's participation. Barker could not be reached for comment.
Brinkley, who is director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, did not reply to messages left with his office, publisher and cell phone. The Kerry campaign has refused to make available Kerry's journals and other writings to The Washington Post, saying the senator remains bound by an exclusivity agreement with Brinkley. A Kerry spokesman, Michael Meehan, said he did not know when Kerry wrote down his reminiscences.
Releasing everything would do a lot to clear this up. (And Hugh Hewitt notes that Kerry promised to release all this stuff months ago, but hasn't.) Refusing to simply fuels suspicion -- logically enough -- that it's being held back for a reason. More comments on the Post story here, noting that it's more supportive of the Swift Boat Vets' story than the headline would suggest.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ed Clark notes that although we're talking about the past, we've actually learned rather a lot about the Kerry of today:
While I'm glad the vets are finally getting their chance to be heard, it's not the Vietnam stories that bother me. It's Kerry's reaction to the books and ads. This is showing his character today, not in the past, and it's not pretty.
For almost a year there have been attack ads against Bush. Bush displayed much more character by not demanding that the books and movies and ads that have been attacking him be banned the way Kerry is trying to do. Bush stood up for the rights of even those who opposed him and lied about him.
Kerry tries to silence any opposition, in much the same way as portrayed in Fahrenheit 451 (the original book). That is frightening!
And to make matters worse, the mainstream media is in collusion with him.
Yes, the notion that the answer to speech is more speech doesn't seem to have found a home at the Kerry campaign. Or, as Mickey Kaus noted, at The New York Times.
More on the Tribune story here, and read this too.
posted at 08:57 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THANKS TO EVERYONE who inquired about the health of the Insta-Mother-in-Law. The Insta-Wife was over there this afternoon and reports that she's doing much better.
Ever since the Democratic Convention in Boston last month, the John-John ticket has been grumbling about having to fend off accusations that would-be president John Kerry previously fudged vivid details of his war record in Vietnam and (most controversially) Cambodia. There is indeed considerable merit to the notion that a nation at war should be focusing on 2004 instead of 1968, but if Kerry's convention performance was any guide, his go-to selling point for taking the reigns of the "war on terror" is the fact that he was piloting swift-boats up the Mekong back when Osama bin Laden was busy trying to grow his first beard. . . .
"How to handle Iraq is the most important question facing the president," wrote a disappointed Matthew Yglesias of the liberal American Prospect magazine, just after Kerry finished, "and he just punted."
But he was in Vietnam!
posted at 04:22 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THIS KERRY SERVICE TIMELINE from the Associated Press in the Boston Globe says Kerry was honorably discharged in 1970, and then joined the anti-war movement:
January 1970: Kerry requests discharge. He is honorably discharged, and later joins Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Kerry volunteered for the United States Navy after college and served from 1966 through 1970 rising to the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade. Afterwards, Kerry continued his military service in the United States Naval Reserves through 1978.
(Same here, too: "John Kerry Enlisted in the U.S. Navy; November 1968 through March 1969, Served in Vietnam; 1970-1978, Served in U.S. Navy Reserves.") In other words, when Kerry was protesting the war and holding private meetings with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong representatives in Paris, he was still a Naval officer in the reserves. The folks at AP and the Globe might not think that matters, but they ought to report this so that people can make up their own minds -- and they ought to get it right. Especially when the correct information is right on the Kerry website, and when their fellow journalists are accusing blogs of sloppiness. . . .
UPDATE: Reader Larry Ferguson emails: "Maybe the official US Navy document on John Kerry's website listing Kerry's service dates in the Navy (including the reserve) does not rise to Tom Oliphant's level of verification for use in journalism."
William Ferris was confined to a bed in a military hospital, his severed sciatic nerve reminding him of the attack on his Navy Swift boat in a Vietnamese river. A shot from a recoilless rifle had pierced the boat's pilothouse and then Ferris's body, leaving him in constant agony.
But it was what appeared on Ferris's television that really pained him. John F. Kerry, a decorated fellow Swift boat driver, was testifying before Congress about atrocities in Vietnam, throwing his medals away, speaking at antiwar rallies. Ferris, who was trying to rehabilitate himself back to active duty, felt betrayed.
"I was livid," Ferris, 57, of Long Island, N.Y., said yesterday, recalling how his dislike for the presidential candidate began in the early 1970s. "I said to myself at the time, this is someone who is using his experience for his own purposes, and this was long before he ever ran for office. I thought he was using, actually manipulating, what he had done in Vietnam. Just like he's doing now." . . .
"I wasn't there at the time that happened," said Tony Gisclair, a veteran from Poplarville, Miss., who signed the letter, referring to Kerry's combat in Vietnam. "But look at what the man said about us when he came back."
Tony Snesko, a veteran in Washington, D.C., said he was "devastated" by Kerry's antiwar efforts, prompting him to sign on to the group's anti-Kerry message.
Kerry's postwar conduct is all a matter of public record, and as Tom Maguire has already noted, the Kerry campaign isn't in a position to fault those who are unhappy with having their military service besmirched. That Kerry was still a Naval officer while doing so only makes the charges more potent, though -- as Maguire also notes -- the press has been slow to pick up on that point.
It’s more of a civil war than a rebellion, and one the government wants to resolve with as little bloodshed as possible. With enough well trained troops, the government could round up a lot of the looted weapons, arrest known Sunni Arab troublemakers and shut the rebellion down. That’s because, unlike the two previous rebellions, the current one involves only a small fraction of the population. Most Shias are not interested in any more fighting, none of the Kurds are, and a majority of the Sunnis are not disposed towards violence either. There are also over a thousand hostile Sunni Arabs coming in from other Arab countries, and some hostile Shia from Iran.
After over a year of fighting this “rebellion,”, U.S. combat deaths are less than 600, Iraqi and other coalition forces have suffered about as many. The rebels have lost over 10,000 dead. The rebellion isn’t over yet because, unlike the earlier ones, the rebels are so outnumbered, they cannot fight battles. In 1920 and 1941, large groups of armed Iraqis would confront British troops, in addition to guerilla attacks by small groups. The current hostilities are a very lopsided civil war, with over 90 percent of the population on one side. The Sunni Arabs fight on partly because they fear war crimes trials for atrocities committed when they served Saddam, and partly because they really believe that Iraq can’t do without them. The foreign terrorists fight because of the non-Moslem foreigners, and later will fight because Iraq will be seen as not Islamic enough because of cooperation with infidels (non-Moslems).
Read the whole thing.
posted at 12:32 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE SLOPPY AND UNSUBSTANTIATED CHARGES THIS POLITICAL SEASON: They're from the New York Times, which writes:
In fairness to Mr. Kerry, his aides were faced with a strategic dilemma that has become distressingly familiar to campaigns in this era when so much unsubstantiated or even false information can reach the public through so many different forums, be it blogs or talk-show radio.
As is usual with such big-media comments about unsubstantiated information on blogs, no examples are given. (Specific examples with hyperlinks to sources are for those evil untrustworthy blogs, not the meticulous Big Media!) As reader Richard Kleiner emails:
A couple of thoughts here:
Could you imagine the NY Times sneering at the blogosphere's coverage of the Trent Lott affair as "unsubstantiated and even false?" As I recall, blogs were hailed as heroic for pointing out something that was public record, but which the Big Media studiously ignored.
It has been widely reported that Kerry was honorably discharged prior to becoming a war protestor. Not So! When Kerry was meeting with the North Vietnamese, accusing his fellow officers of war crimes, and meeting with a group that discussed the assassination of US Senators, he was an officer in the Naval Reserve. This was only acknowledged by the Kerry campaign in May of this year, correcting a phony Harvard Crimson interview from January 1970. Readers of the NY Times, the LA Times, and the Boston Globe are in for a surprise.
More information on that in this earlier post from Maguire, who has been tracking this issue for a while, and with far more dedication than the Big Media outlets mentioned above.
As I've said before, the medals are a distraction, and Kerry's real problems lie elsewhere. So expect the pro-Kerry spin to involve a lot of talking about the medals, as if that were the only issue.
And I made this tonight, complete with fresh roma tomatoes grown by the InstaDaughter. She brought a little tomato plant home from school in a paper cup last spring, and it's producing more tomatoes than we can eat.
posted at 09:13 PM by Glenn Reynolds
SEARED! The blogad to the right is pretty funny. So is this.
posted at 08:59 PM by Glenn Reynolds
EXCERPTS from Douglas Brinkley's forthcoming work.
UPDATE: Several readers mention this story in response to Oliphant's remarks on journalistic standards.
Another reader notes that Oliphant's high journalistic standards probably should have led him to disclose that his daughter works for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. Hmm. Maybe -- though in the world of journalism, I think such connections are assumed, and thus aren't regarded as requiring disclosure.
posted at 04:32 PM by Glenn Reynolds
BUT AT LEAST HE WASN'T A VICTIM OF ETHNIC PROFILING: Ted Kennedy was caught by the no-fly list. Plenty of people are yukking it up at his expense (Julian Sanchez: "As Dangerous in the Air as Behind the Wheel?") but the worrisome part is that it took him three weeks worth of calls to Tom Ridge to get the problem fixed.
How long would it take someone who wasn't a Senator to take care of this problem?
posted at 04:26 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I'VE LONG SINCE STOPPED PAYING ATTENTION TO ALAN KEYES, but TaxProf is looking at his call for reparations.
posted at 04:16 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THERE'S A NEW ANTI-KERRY AD FEATURING FORMER VIETNAM P.O.W.s that the Kerry campaign will find it hard to respond to, since it's built around his 1971 Congressional testimony. It certainly seems to contradict the way he presented his Vietnam service at the Convention. And unlike the Purple Heart issue, there's no dispute here about what happened. (Via Powerline).
And The Mudville Gazette offers background on the former P.O.W.s who appear in the ad. I think it's going to be hard to spin this one away, though of course people will try. Basic problem: "This is devastating. The day after John Kerry complains about having his war service questioned, the new ad underscores how Kerry did far worse to thousands of vets. Kerry built himself up over the years into a brave captain traveling deep into Cambodian waters to run guns, drop off SEALs and CIA men (hatless) etc. He did so after condemning a generation of soldiers and Marines as war criminals."
UPDATE: Roger Simon: "These veterans are furious with Kerry for implying, essentially, that they were all William Calleys. . . . Kerry's words in the ad are extremely harsh. Now I wonder... even more than I previously did... why the Senator chose to base his campaign on his Vietnam service."
THE INSTA-WIFE'S MOM got food poisoning last night and is in the hospital. (Stay away from the cut rate Chinese buffets!) We went out to visit her and take her some things (downside: it's a hospital -- upside: with free valet parking!) and just got back a little while ago. Sorry for the limited blogging. I'll be back later.
posted at 03:33 PM by Glenn Reynolds
SOXBLOG: "I have great respect for all Olympic athletes. Well, maybe not the synchronized swimmers."
The folks at Powerline are showing their respect, too, with a photo tribute to beach volleyball. "I've long been aware of volleyball, but I had no idea what a cerebral sport it is."
posted at 10:21 AM by Glenn Reynolds
DEAN ESMAY: "The Internet has detected the mainstream media as a form of censorship and simply routed around them."
posted at 10:15 AM by Glenn Reynolds
MICKEY KAUS has much more on the SwiftVets story, and reports: "Respectable big-time journalist friends who met with the anti-Kerry vets recently found them a lot more credible than expected."
And he has this to say about the New York Times:
I do know that if freedom of speech means anything it means that a group of citizens can get together to bring up this sort of charge against a presidential candidate, subject to the laws of libel. But read this New York Times editorial. . . . The Times thinks the ad should be stopped because you just shouldn't be able to make such "outlandish" independent charges in a campaign. They're against the speech, not the financing. Like Kerry, they're trying to come up with a "process" reason that avoids the inconveniently messy issue of truth. But their process reason--an attack on "independent" criticism per se--seems particularly dangerous.
Indeed. But that "inconveniently messy issue of truth" is getting harder to avoid.
posted at 07:43 AM by Glenn Reynolds
PATTERICO WRITES on the New York Times SwiftVets piece mentioned below:
I don't think I have ever seen such a partisan hit piece in my life. . . .
The article then spends an incredible amount of space detailing this "web of connections," which boils down to this: John O'Neill, a successful lawyer in Houston, knows some influential Republicans in Texas. He even knows people, including current and former law partners, who know George Bush and Karl Rove. Wow.
Full disclosure time: I feel an ethical obligation to reveal my "web of connections" to Democrats. I share an office with someone whose friend is married to Democrat California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. No kidding. The grandmother of one of my best friends is an ardent Democrat who knows Hillary Clinton. I have good friends, colleagues, and former employers who have contributed thousands to John Kerry. I am married to a Democrat, and her entire family is 100% Democrats. At least one of her family members thinks George W. Bush is one of the most evil men alive.
This is all absolutely true. And I could go on. Why, if I were any good at Photoshopping, I could make you a pretty cool chart with these facts.
Anyway. Apparently, some of the Republicans that O'Neill knows don't like Kerry. Go figure.
Tellingly, he notes that the Cambodia story is buried at the end:
What is both amazing and utterly predictable is that the "Christmas in Cambodia" story is saved for the very end. This is the one accusation made by the Vets where the facts are clear -- and the facts show that Kerry was not truthful, as even the Kerry campaign has had to admit. How does the New York Times characterize the "Christmas in Cambodia" story? Take a deep breath. It says that the story is "the one allegation in the book that Mr. Kerry's campaign has not been able to put to rest."
Not "the allegation that has forced Mr. Kerry's campaign to explain that Mr. Kerry has not been telling the truth." Just the one allegation that they haven't yet "put to rest." . . . If you think that the New York Times would downplay a clear story of Bush unmistakably lying about an event he claimed was a turning point in his life, raise your hand.
They're spinning furiously. Ed Morrissey has much more on this:
Curiously, the story that the Times has yet to cover for its readers is put last on the list: the Cambodian Christmas myth. After impugning the credibility of the Swiftvets for four full sections, the Times finally acknowledges that the Swiftvets were right about the story that Kerry once said was "seared -- seared" into his memory and has used for at least 25 years to explain his political activism.
The Cambodia story is straightforward, and easy to understand, and the Kerry campaign has already admitted that it wasn't true. It makes Kerry look terrible. So naturally it's minimized in favor of complex eye-glazing stuff. Did I call it, or what? On the other hand, here's someone who gets it right:
Not one of Kerry's Swift boat crewmates, even the ones backing his candidacy, recalls being in Cambodia in Christmas 1968 — and anti-Kerry Swift boat veterans cite a host of evidence that he was 50 miles away in Vietnam.
Why does it matter? Because Kerry has said the Cambodia incident — of being sent on a covert mission to "a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops" was "seared" in his mind and changed his view of America.
Team Kerry's excuse is that maybe he accidentally crossed the border or his time frame was fuzzy, but that just won't square with his passionate 1986 claim, on the Senate floor, that the Christmas memory was "seared — seared — in me."
Unlike the conflicts over Kerry's medals, this isn't a he said/he said dispute — Kerry either was or wasn't in Cambodia. Eventually a reporter will ask him point-blank if he still claims he was in Cambodia that Christmas — yes or no. . . .
The other fascinating part of this story is the key role that bloggers on the Internet have played in pointing out the holes in Kerry's story — even as much of the press tries to ignore them.
For instance, when Team Kerry held a press conference featuring his crewmates this week, one was conspicuously missing — David Alston — after the Internet-fueled revelation that he may have only served on Kerry's boat for one week.
It's nice that someone's noticing.
UPDATE: Reader Jim Bender emails: "With all the fuss and charges about coordination between 527 organizations and campaigns, I wondered, given today's article in the New York Times, if they are coordinating with the Kerry Campaign?"
posted at 07:04 AM by Glenn Reynolds
EVERYONE comes to Knoxville eventually. I spent this evening at the Downtown Grill and Brewery with Tim Blair, who's passing through on his way to New York City and the Republican National Convention.
I heard lots of insider stuff -- like how Ken Layne has been bought off by Barbara Streisand via a combination of huge wads of cash and music-industry pull, and some stuff about Margo Kingston's cat -- and we enjoyed numerous adult beverages.
It was a good time. See you tomorrow! Er, today. . . .
posted at 12:52 AM by Glenn Reynolds
August 19, 2004
CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE LIBERATED, in which Iraqi bloggers suggest that we're blowing it with Al Sadr. They think we (and the Allawi government) aren't being tough enough. Iran rears its ugly head, too.
posted at 08:37 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I WAS FEELING GUILTY about spending so much time on politics and not enough on space, until I read this post by spaceblogger Rand Simberg.
NOW HERE'S A PROTEST AIMED AT THE MILITARY that I might be able to get behind.
Or not. I might have to look into things more closely before making up my mind.
posted at 07:27 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I'LL BE ON HUGH HEWITT'S SHOW shortly. Listen live online here.
UPDATE: Something I said there that bears repeating -- the reason why the Christmas-in-Cambodia story is getting the media cold-shoulder, and why what SwiftVet coverage there is focuses on the medals, etc., is that the Christmas-in-Cambodia story is clear, and has already been proven false. It's easy to understand, and that makes it much more devastating for Kerry.
The medal stuff is complex, and can be spun in a way that makes people's eyes glaze over. So that's what we'll mostly get, along with "political" stories that will treat the SwiftVets stuff as partisan hackery in a way that Michael Moore never gets treated by the same outlets.
ANOTHER UPDATE: And here's an example, in the "budget" from the New York Times, advising affiliate papers of what's coming:
ANTI-KERRY-ADS (Undated) - The story of how swift boat veterans with a grievance were found by Republicans looking to tarnish Kerry's image, and soon came to be running ads, writing books and blanketing cable television in a modern day tale of the creation of a political attack machine. But some of the veterans have recanted their stories or made charges that military records prove untrue. A look at how the veterans were organized and what they claim. By Kate Zernike and Jim Rutenberg.
With photos and a graphic.
Editors, will move in both full and abridged forms.
Will it say that the Cambodia story has already panned out? I doubt it.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Paul Shelton emails:
Looks like two weeks after having "fled the scene" of the swiftboat vets story, the big media is finally returning to pull Kerry out of the water. O'Neill was on CNN's Lou Dobbs show and then on Newshour with Jim Lehrer. I guess Kerry's apublic acknowledgement of the story today in front of the firefighters gave the coded signal for the big media to finally return to the scene to save him.
Heh. Anybody know if Lehrer mentioned Cambodia?
And maybe someone should look into the Kerry reminiscences from the crewmembers of the U.S.S. Gridley too. (Note -- I haven't personally verified the authenticity of these, and my lunch hour is over. I suppose that would be easy for bigshot journalists, though -- but according to the page, at least, there have been interviews but not much coverage.)
UPDATE: You know, this is sort of off-topic -- but if I were running things for the Bush Administration, I would have filed an amicus brief on behalf of Grokster. Just look at the lineup of parties here.
And for that matter, I'd have taken a strong position in favor of file-sharing, with an appropriate slogan ("Keep your grubby laws off my computer!"). Instead of Orrin Hatch's dumb INDUCE Act, I'd be supporting user-friendly legislation, short copyright times on motion pictures (10 years? Do I hear 5?), a ban on DVD encryption (or at least an end to DMCA penalties for cracking it) and all sorts of other consumer-friendly measures where digital media are concerned.
Now I support a lot of these measures (not actually the short copyrights) anyway. But here are the advantages for the Bushies:
1. It's cool. Right now, being pro-Bush isn't cool in many sectors. If they'd started this move a couple of years ago, it would have helped a lot.
2. It hurts an industry that hates them and gives a lot of money to the Democrats. And doing that is cost-free to the Republicans.
3. Because it hurts that industry, it would make the anti-Bush stuff from stars and celebrities look self-serving, and let the Administration dismiss it all as the economic self-interest of rich people trying to hold down the little guy.
Why didn't they do this? Beats me. It's not like I haven't pointed this out before. (More than once!) The only explanation I can come up with is that to the Republicans, even a big business that hates them is still a big business worth defending. That's a big mistake, and they're paying for it now, I think.
What happens when an industry mistreats its customers and its suppliers? When 8,999 of 9,000 audits show shoddy accounting practices? When a core business is bungled and the marketplace shrugs and moves on? When scandals and greed lead to massive layoffs and massive disgust?
I'm not talking about Enron. I'm talking about the record industry.
He doesn't mention the political opportunity for the Republicans, but they sure would have had a lot to work with, based on this piece.
MORE ON THE MEDIA AND THE ELECTION -- In response to my post below, a journalist whose name you'd probably recognize sends this:
Glenn- I completely agree with your observations about the threat this election presents to the credibility of the Fourth Estate. Too much of my own energy has been spent trying to convince colleagues of the danger -- my point being that if the public loses faith in our capacity for basic objectivity and fairness, the public will find/create other means of collecting information. (My own impression from the inside, by the way, is that the media aren't "liberal" so much as simply partisan. Think of it like a sporting event where folks desperately want one team to win and the other to lose.)
If Walter Cronkite doesn't like the wild west nature of the blogosphere, he ought turn his attention to the mainstream outlets that violate the trust of their readers/viewers and thereby drive many to the Web for their news. The Swift Boat matter provides one clear example. The Post ignored the story, and then addressed it only in the context of seeking to refute it; most of the paper's regular readers probably had no idea that the accusations (from the Swift Boat Vets) existed in the first place. Here's another example that popped out at me today: The NYT has a story on Democrats launching a massive effort to disqualify Nader petitions in the states. Somehow, in reporting this, they could find only one person (a Nader lawyer, at that) to call this effort antidemocratic -- and that was in the second-to-last paragraph. (The last paragraph had an official from the anti-Nader effort disputing this contention.)
Now, of course, invalid signatures on petitions should be disqualified. But are these the same folks who hollered "Count all the votes" in 2000? Who wailed about voters being disenfranchised? Who disdained the Bush campaign for seeking to have ex-cons scratched (as the law requires) from the voter rolls? Are these the same folks who are dispatching lawyers to the states this year in order to ensure that REPUBLICANS don't deny voters their franchise? My point is, there IS something undemocratic (though not entirely unjustifiable...) about seeking to limit the options provided to voters. And using the arbitrary, arcane and sometimes ridiculous state laws to do so is weaselly, to say the least. And Kerry's campaign really condones this? Chutzpah!
If you reprint this, Glenn, please don't use my name.
I think that the team-sports analogy is especially apt.
UPDATE: Reader Lewis Wagner emails:
The comparison of partisan journalists to sports fans in a recent post led me to a partial solution to the problems of mainstream journalism.
When reading the sports section of a local paper, I expect to see a wish for the local team or some favored team to win. I can see this position openly
stated, along with serious critiques of the favored team and honest evaluations of the strengths of opposing teams. Further, I can see detailed statistics on teams and individuals laid out in a reasonable form daily. I can see detailed statistics at a level to satisfy a knowledgeable enthusiast at least periodically.
I've just described a level of professionalism and competence that is the norm for sports sections of even small town newspapers. It is so far above and beyond the level of political journalism at any major paper that writing what such standards of excellence might look like in, for example, the NY Times would seem like a parody.
This suggests a simple and workable solution. Put sports writers in charge of political reporting. Make the political journalists write for the sports section. The sports writers turned loose in the political arena will carry with them the standards of honest and detailed reporting from sports. The political journalists will find themselves in an arena where much higher standards than they are used to will be expected.
One might argue that the sports writers might lack specific expertise in the political arena. However, given that the current political journalists have not
demonstrated they possess expertise, this point is moot. The only serious downside is that sports coverage would suffer.
I think it would be worth it, but some might disagree.
posted at 04:50 PM by Glenn Reynolds
JEFF JARVIS: "The McGreevey story is, of course, getting weirder and weirder; these stories always do."
posted at 03:56 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE ON TOM HARKIN: "One would think that the post-1991 Tom Harkin would know better by now than to assail anyone else's Vietnam record. As for our media colleagues, is it too much to ask that they finally take notice of which party is responsible for keeping Vietnam front and center in our Presidential campaigns?"
OKAY, ENOUGH ABOUT VIETNAM: Let's talk about something more recent. Here's the latest from the Annenberg outfit, FactCheck.org:
A Bush-Cheney '04 ad released Aug. 13 accuses Kerry of being absent for 76% of the Senate Intelligence Committee's public hearings during the time he served there. The Kerry campaign calls the ad "misleading," so we checked, and Bush is right.
Official records show Kerry not present for at least 76% of public hearings held during his eight years on the panel, and possibly 78% (the record of one hearing is ambiguous).
Kerry points out that most meetings of the Intelligence Committee are closed and attendance records of those meetings aren't public, hinting that his attendance might have been better at the non-public proceedings. But Kerry could ask that his attendance records be made public, and hasn't.
Aides also claimed repeatedly that Kerry had been vice chairman of the intelligence committee, but that was Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, not John Kerry. . . .
If anything, the ad understates Kerry's lack of attendance.
Ouch. Maybe that's why he wants to talk about Vietnam. (Here's a link to the ad.)
UPDATE: Reader Hunter McDaniel emails:
The "misleading" aspect of the Bush ad isn't whether the attendance numbers are accurate - they probably are. Rather it is the implicit assumption that the public hearings are a valuable use of a Senator's time and that attendance is a direct measure of a Senator's effectiveness. Maybe, maybe not. In my limited viewing of C-SPAN I see mostly grandstanding and posturing which isn't a very good use of ANYONE's time.
If I were a reporter, I might also ask what the attendance records of other committee members were for comparison. And how are the attendance records kept - what happens when a Senator comes for the first 30 minutes, goes out to a speaking engagement, and comes back for the wrap-up?
Attendance/voting records are a favorite target of negative ads from both parties. I generally blow them off as meaningless.
Hmm. Could be, and the general point is certainly valid. But what makes the commercial effective is this: First, we're at war, and this is the Intelligence Committee that Kerry's been AWOL from, not Agriculture. Second, Kerry's talking about how he'll make intelligence reform a top priority if elected, but this makes it look as if he hasn't made it a priority before. And besides, "grandstanding and posturing" is pretty much a Senator's job description, right? If we can't talk about that, what's left? Vietnam?
UPDATE: Reader Bradly Roger Bettin emails:
The argument ("Public hearings are for posturing") would have more power if Kerry authorized a release of the attendance records from the closed sessions of the Intelligence Committee during his tenure as a member.
If, for example, Kerry's attendance at the closed sessions was 98%, then it'd support the claim that he was there for the important stuff, but just wasn't interested in the posturing which goes on at public hearings.
To date, though, Kerry hasn't authorized release of the attendance records, which suggests he doesn't believe they'd help him. And the hints dropped by those who have reason to know what's in them suggest his attendance at the closed sessions isn't good either.
That Kerry wanted to cut funding for intelligence by draconian amounts suggests he didn't see much use for the intelligence community back then - and it wouldn't be surprised to see that sort of scorn show up in his Intelligence Committee attendance.
As the Annenberg folks note, he could have released these (just as, I'll note, he could release his military records) but he didn't, suggesting that whatever's in them won't help his position.
The jet-pilot arrival, on the other hand, rang false. The whole leader-who-flies-jets thing seems, somehow, Third World to me. People say that it'll make great campaign footage in 2004, but I actually doubt it -- or at least, I think it will backfire if they do too much of this. The President is commander-in-chief, but he's a civilian leader, and Americans want him to be one.
I still think that (even though Jeff Jarvis said I was off base at the time), and even though John Kerry seems to feel otherwise, too.
UPDATE: Reader C. Kanige emails: "The Bush Bashers have a field day (you too) about the Bush carrier landing. What I remember is the joy exhibited by the sailors on the boat at that time. It really seemed worth it all. Take a look at the tape and then disparage it. I don't think you can."
I'm a "Bush Basher" now? Someone tell Oliver Willis!
The collision of Saudi missionary work and suspicions of terrorist financing in San Diego illustrates the perils and provocations of a multibillion-dollar effort by Saudi Arabia to spread its religion around the world. Mohamed worked on the front lines of that effort, a campaign to transform what outsiders call "Wahhabism," once a marginal and puritanical brand of Islam with few followers outside the Arabian Peninsula, into the dominant doctrine in the Islamic world. The campaign has created a vast infrastructure of both government-supported and private charities that at times has been exploited by violent jihadists -- among them Osama bin Laden.
Yes, and the Bush Administration's greatest vulnerability is that it hasn't done enough about this.
posted at 12:09 PM by Glenn Reynolds
WHAT'S REALLY INTERESTING about this Kerry cartoon from the Charlotte Observer is that it assumes the reader's knowledge of a story that's gotten, even today, very little coverage from the traditional media (including, based on a site search, the Observer itself). I think this says something significant about how people get news nowadays. (See the update to this post for why I think that's important.)
The "mainstream press" may be in the process of squandering a precious resource that its leaders no longer have the institutional memory to recognize as the source of its legitimacy and its living. In the last few years -- essentially since 9/11 plunged us into a new world, a new agenda, that the press did not understand -- the major organs of civilized journalism, once trusted by the billion most effective people on the planet, have given away their credibility upon a trifle.
Indeed. Read the whole thing.
posted at 09:49 AM by Glenn Reynolds
BUT WHAT ABOUT MY JOB, Mr. Warmonger, sir? Amusing German reactions to the base-closing decision. ("Given Mr. Bsirske’s strident opposition to the Iraq war, the Bush administration and the US military, one would have thought that he and his union would have been overjoyed at the prospect of thousands of 'imperial hegemons' withdrawing from Germany. In fact, the opposite is true.")
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET THE POST LOOKING AT MILITARY RECORDS? A story that's bad for Kerry's critics, I guess. No mention at all of the Cambodia story, though, in which Kerry's critics have been proved right (as even the Kerry campaign has admitted) -- and which the Post has ignored.
Isn't it interesting that in the case of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the "correction" appears on page one above the fold, while the original news was buried on page 19.
Something of a reversal there. There are those who email me to say that focusing on this stuff isn't the best way to get Bush re-elected. Fine, maybe so -- but getting Bush re-elected isn't what I'm about. I like him better than Kerry, true, but he has people paid to get him re-elected, and I'm not one of them. (And given their silence on this issue, maybe talking about it is a bad move for Bush.) But this story seems to me to be absolutely fascinating in that it reveals just how in the tank for the Democrats the mainstream media are, and how little the vaunted Cronkitean claims of objectivity and research and factual accuracy really mean when the chips are down. What's more, lots of people are noticing.
To me, that's a bigger deal than the underlying issue or even, in some ways, the election itself. Elections come and go, politicians come and go, and pretty much all of them turn out to be disappointments one way or another. But the "Fourth Estate" is a big part of the unelected Permanent Government that in many ways does more to run the country than the politicians. And it's unravelling before our very eyes, which I think is the biggest story of the election so far. (More thoughts in the updates here.)
ANOTHER UPDATE: Related thoughts from Robert Clayton Dean here and here.
UPDATE: Interestingly, despite being debunked over a decade ago, Harkin appears to still be peddling the bogus Vietnam story. At least, this CNN report from his endorsement of Howard Dean calls him "A Navy veteran who served in Vietnam." And I didn't realize it, but Harkin's charges against Cheney are actually recycled from 2000.
PINCHED: Now Kerry's war stories are being attacked from the left. I don't think much of these guys, but you can't dismiss them as Republican shills! And presumably, their stuff is subject to outside validation, if anyone bothers. (Sorry -- my lunch hour is over. . . .) [LATER: Does this count? Left and right agree, anyway.]
I MEANT TO LINK to yesterday's New York Times story on charter schools, er, yesterday, but as you may have noticed blogging was somewhat limited. Anyway, now Mickey Kaus has a long post on it. He's not impressed.
TOM HARKIN, FAKE WAR HERO: In an update to an earlier post, I noted some comments by Donald Sensing about Sen. Tom Harkin, most recently seen attacking the patriotism of Dick Cheney. Sensing observed: "Harkin himself claimed to have battled Mig fighters over North Vietnam while a Navy pilot. He was a pilot, but never went to Vietnam."
A reader emailed to say that he didn't think Sensing's sourcing was good enough for a charge of that magnitude. It seemed to me that I remembered some Harkin truth-stretching from back then, and I trust Sensing, but in keeping with Walter Cronkite's warnings about poorly sourced stories on the Internet, I decided to do some research at lunchtime. In a book called Stolen Valor : How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History, I found this passage, which is considerably worse for Harkin than Sensing's short summary. I'm reproducing it as an image for the benefit of doubters.
I also found an article from the Wall Street Journal, entitled "Harkin Presidential Bid Marred by Instances In Which Candidate Appears to Stretch Truth," dated December 26, 1991, p. A12. (Sorry -- I got this via WESTLAW so I can't post a link, but the WESTLAW page number is 1991 WL-WSJ 578809.) [LATER: It's now available for free on the Web, thanks to James Taranto.] It supports the above. Here's an excerpt:
In 1979, Mr. Harkin, then a congressman, participated in a round-table discussion arranged by the Congressional Vietnam Veterans' Caucus. "I spent five years as a Navy pilot, starting in November of 1962," Mr. Harkin said at that meeting, in words that were later quoted in a book, Changing of the Guard, by Washington Post political writer David Broder. "One year was in Vietnam. I was flying F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaisance support missions. I did no bombing."
That clearly is not an accurate picture of his Navy service. Though Mr. Harkin stresses he is proud of his Navy record -- "I put my ass on the line day after day" -- he concedes now he never flew combat air patrols in Vietnam. . . .
Mr. Harkin's Navy record shows his only decoration is the National Defense Service Medal, awarded to everyone on active service during those years. He did not receive either the Vietnam Service medal or the Vietnam Campaign medal, the decorations given to everyone who served in the Southeast Asia theater. "We didn't get them for what we did," Mr. Harkin says. "It's never bothered me."
Two things bother me about this. One is that Harkin seems a rather odd choice for the Democrats as an attack dog. As Sensing notes, what are they thinking?
The other is that I managed to do this research over my lunch hour, but it doesn't seem to be noted in the press treatment of Harkin's charges by the people who get, you know, paid to do this stuff. (Take that, Walter!) And it would seem that when Harkin -- who didn't serve in Vietnam combat but who lied about it, and whose actual military service seems rather similar to Bush's -- calls Dick Cheney a "coward" because he didn't serve in Vietnam, well, it ought to be worth mentioning. Shouldn't it be?
Calling Harkin "a Senator who, like President Bush, flew fighter jets during the Vietnam era without seeing combat but who, unlike President Bush, lied about it," would be more accurate, but it would kind of change the story. Wonder why nobody looked into this? Or, if they knew, bothered to note it?
As with the Kerry Christmas-in-Cambodia story, this is probably more significant for what it tells us about the sorry state of political journalism this campaign season than for what it tells us about the speaker.
UPDATE: Roger Simon has more thoughts on today's political journalism, and Harkin.
The blogosphere has clearly shown the world that there are a whole host of stories that old media doesn't cover out of sheer laziness and that any quick look for actual facts can contradict many stories that, say, political candidates put out and then [are] taken as fact by the media. Newspaper reporters used to know this - and they used to look for those facts. They used to check sources. They used to search for the truth in a way that would make any skeptic proud. But now they just read the press releases and change a word here or there.
It sure seems that way, sometimes, on some stories.
MORE: Reader Greg Swenson emails: "I was infuriated about Harkin's comments because I too did some coffee break Googling and found the same notes regarding the Senator's exaggerations of his service after I recalled the earlier incident. I'm a goddamn salesman and even I (underlined with emphasis) could fact check Harkin's ass. Why can't these blow-dried prima donnas news types do it?" Beats me. Guess they don't want to. "Gulf War Veteran" Bryan Preston has more.
STILL MORE: Well, glory be -- somebody did notice this. Reader Jim Adair emails: "Last night on Brit Hume's Fox News show, Hume mentioned the Harkin attack on Cheney and also mentioned that Harkin had overly expressed his service contribution during a presidential bid. Fair AND balanced!" [LATER: Here's a link to the transcript: scroll to the bottom.]
Michael Drout, journalist-turned-professor, explains why journalists don't want to look for facts anymore:
Based on my experience at J-school, I can generalize a couple things about journalists around my age that could explain some of the problems. First, nearly all of us were in J-school not because we wanted to be reporters, but because we wanted to write. . . . Thus reporters are ripe for the temptation of press-releases: and most press-release-writing flacks are people with journalism degrees who know exactly how to write a release so that the reporter can edit out obvious promotion but still buy the overall spin.
Second, almost all of the J-school program at Stanford was spent trying to get us to think about the implications of journalism, the politics of reporting, the influence of journalists, etc.
I think this is a long-term big problem for Journalism, the profession. It has been eating its seed corn for a decade or more, and so much of its cultural authority is used up. This can be good, in that it reduces the influence of unaccountable institutions, like the big daily papers. But it's also bad, because once everyone stops believing the newspapers, you have a huge problem of vetting and evaluating information.
FINALLY: Reader Dennis Preiser emails:
All of the talk about lazy journalism, etc., etc. is not the "real deal" in Harkin's story or any other story. The point that should be made is that the only stories that are not pursued with zeal by the MSM are the ones that benefit George W. Bush. There is absolutely no other factor of import involved. It's nothing but bias, pure and simple. Period.
Well, they did seem to work a lot harder on the AWOL claims. . . .
DARFUR UPDATE: Dave Kopel, et al., have some thoughts on what's wrong and what to do, along with some more general observations regarding the international community's response to genocide.
Rajan Rishyakaran, by the way, has another link-rich roundup of news relating to Darfur.
posted at 10:07 AM by Glenn Reynolds
HUGH HEWITT WRITES that when Old Media fail to credit the blogosphere it's a form of plagiarism.
To me it's more like the sincerest form of flattery. . . .
UPDATE: In a related post, Virginia Postrel has a request for campaign journalists:
I don't have to spend my time tracking down sources who might be able to shed light on John Kerry's claims about his adventures in Vietnam and Cambodia.
I don't have to do these things because I don't want to and because they are not my job. But there are a lot of fine journalists who do have the job of political reporting, they are not doing it when it comes to Kerry's past, and they are making our whole profession look bad. Come on, folks. If you can't find out any independent sources on Kerry's own story, at least report the "he says-he says" allegations. And help out your audience with some context: Dig up some more-or-less unbiased (or at least nonpartisan) sources to provide some historical context for the bizarre Cambodia story. Never mind John Kerry specifically, what were U.S. operations during that period? Are any of his various accounts plausible and, if so, which ones? Or give readers some background on the procedures for awarding medals during Vietnam. There was a lot of medal inflation and, presumably, some politics in how medals were awarded. What, if anything, does the broader context tell us about Kerry and his critics?
Yes, the Big Media folks, with their alleged reserves of professionalism and research, haven't exactly covered themselves with glory on this story. It's as if they don't want to know the truth.
(Here from Kausfiles? See the update at the bottom.)
THE INSTADAD ON KERRY: My dad's a Kerry supporter, an Iraq war opponent, and a rather devoted Bush critic. But when we were talking the other night, he offered his worries regarding Kerry.
He thinks that Bush will cut and run in Iraq within six months of the election. (I disagree, unless it's via Tehran). But -- though I stress he still supports Kerry -- he says that his big worry about Kerry is that Kerry will be like LBJ, anxious to prove his manhood through greater military involvement rather than risk looking weak by withdrawing.
When we had this conversation a couple of weeks ago, I was skeptical. And I guess I still am. But lately, I've started to wonder if he isn't on to something. (He often is.) People in the pro-war camp worry that Kerry will pull a cut-and-run. And it's true that Kerry has been known for his anti-war sentiments, and actions.
But it's also true that Kerry really wants to be known as one badass mofo. Look at the secret hat. ("He pointed his finger and raised his thumb, creating an imaginary gun. . . . He smiled and aimed his finger: 'Pow.'") The war stories. The combat home movies. The constant photos of Kerry with Harleys, guitars, guns, and soldiers. The military posture of the DNC acceptance speech and salute. If Kerry were a Republican, the bargain-basement Freudians among the punditocracy would be having a field day. (As Joan Vennochi wrote: "Clearly, 'modest hero' will not be his epitaph.")
So what does this mean? Lyndon Baines Johnson was another President with a silver star and a short combat career who seemed to feel that he had a lot to prove. Might Kerry's rather clear desire to be seen as a tough guy make him a surprisingly resilient warrior? Or might it backfire, as it most likely did with LBJ?
I don't know. A tough-guy presidency under Kerry seems unlikely to me, but then so did a major George W. Bush commitment to nation-building four years ago. Should people in the anti-war camp be worrying that a President Kerry won't pull a cut-and-run? I don't really think so, but it's just perverse enough to seem plausible. . . .
UPDATE: Oliver Willis seems to think that the above post means that I think Kerry is "too tough." Er, no. Read it again, Oliver.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Donald Sensing has related thoughts. He also notes: "Harkin himself claimed to have battled Mig fighters over North Vietnam while a Navy pilot. He was a pilot, but never went to Vietnam." Funny, I haven't seen that mentioned anywhere else in relation to Harkin's recent remarks.
I will note, though, that even if Kerry's harshest critics are taken as true, his Silver Star isn't in the LBJ league in terms of bogosity. The CNN narrative is quite interesting, though, and there are parallels in terms of behavior, as opposed to military record, between the two.
There's even a reference to "rare home movies, from a camera Johnson carried on that tour."
So why didn't I just tell Kaus to fix the link? Because judging by his post yesterday he's driving across Utah at the moment. I, on the other hand, am comfortably ensconced in my study. I'd rather be driving across Utah!
posted at 11:21 PM by Glenn Reynolds
OUTSOURCING AND EMPLOYMENT: Daniel Drezner looks at talk of a skills deficit.
The ''band of brothers'' was organized by Kerry, according to this book. It tells of a 2003 telephone call to Adm. Roy Hoffmann, who commanded swift boats in Vietnam, telling him he was running for president. Hoffmann, mistakenly thinking it was former Sen. Bob Kerrey, ''responded enthusiastically.'' Once the admiral realized it was John Kerry, ''he declined to give Kerry his support.''
Apparently, even some people at the Kerry Campaign are having trouble, as they're crediting John Kerry with Bob Kerrey's service as Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Fortunately for everyone, we didn't wind up with a Kerry/Kerrey ticket -- though at least then such confusion would matter less. . . . And hey, if it were a Kerrey/Kerry ticket I might even vote for it.
As I was posting shortly after September 11, there are lots of different flavors of Islam. It's actually playing into the hands of the Ladenites to assume that Wahhabi extremism represents the authentic face of Islam. Islam has many traditions, and Wahhabism is actually a fairly recent one, and it is rather more extreme than it is authentic.
That said, it would be useful if those more moderate Muslims would take a more aggressive role. Some are -- see, for example, the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism -- but we could use more of that, no doubt. But to the extent that these people encounter comments urging that Islam be "banned," they're likely to feel less, rather than more, motivated toward reasonableness.
Eight men arrested in anti-terror raids have been charged with conspiring to commit murder and launch radioactive or chemical attacks.
One of them was also charged with having plans which could have been used as the basis for a terror attack on the New York Stock Exchange, the IMF in Washington and Citigroup in New York.
The men were among 13 arrested on August 3 in a series of raids by the Anti-Terrorist Branch and MI5 in London, Bushey in Hertfordshire, Luton in Bedfordshire, and Blackburn in Lancashire.
I believe this is fruit of the Khan arrest / deception program.
posted at 01:50 PM by Glenn Reynolds
LOTS OF READERS are sending me links to this story on Walter Cronkite, in which he warns of those awful Internet folks who are ruining journalism with their carelessness and willingness to smear the innocent via unfounded accusations.
Cronkite -- as is typical of old journalists when they talk about the prevalence of fact-free smears on the Internet -- doesn't fortify his claim with any actual examples. But let's look at the golden age of journalism at Cronkite's own network, back before this newfangled Internet thing ruined it, as recounted by Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax:
So it goes for a couple of years, gets really popular, then in the early '80s a backlash begins. People are saying that the game encourages devil worship and causes kids to commit suicide. . . .
In many ways I still resent the wretched yellow journalism that was clearly evident in (the media's) treatment of the game -- 60 Minutes in particular. I've never watched that show after Ed Bradley's interview with me because they rearranged my answers. When I sent some copies of letters from mothers of those two children who had committed suicide who said the game had nothing to do with it, they refused to do a retraction or even mention it on air. What bothered me is that I was getting death threats, telephone calls, and letters. I was a little nervous. I had a bodyguard for a while.
JAMES LILEKS looks at recent developments in fashion and predicts a recession: "Does this make you want to spend money? No, didn't think so. Sell your Marshall Field's stock. The fools are back in charge."
posted at 08:26 AM by Glenn Reynolds
DAM BREAKS: The L.A. Times has mentioned the Kerry Christmas-in-Cambodia story. On the other hand, according to Times- watcher Patterico, "The article is pro-Kerry spin, pure and simple. The strategy of the article is apparent: before actually setting forth a single detail of the Swift Boat Vets' allegations, the article carefully lays the groundwork to prepare the reader to be skeptical."
He has an extensive critique of the article, which is well worth reading. What's interesting is that this explicitly pro-Kerry oped by Joan Vennochi in the Boston Globe is actually more honest and straightforward in its reporting of the facts:
Kerry's statements about Cambodia do have traction for opponents. He has referred to spending Christmas or Christmas Eve 1968 in Cambodia and coming under fire. At the time Cambodia was neutral and supposedly off-limits to US troops. "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia," Kerry said in 1986 at a Senate committee hearing on US policy toward Central America. "I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there, the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me."
The Kerry campaign now says Kerry's runs into Cambodia came in early 1969. "Swift boat crews regularly operated along the Cambodian border from Ha Tien on the Gulf of Thailand to the rivers of the Mekong south and west of Saigon," Michael Meehan, a Kerry adviser, said in a statement last week. "Many times he was on or near the Cambodian border and on one occasion crossed into Cambodia at the request of members of a special operations group."
Answers like that aren't good enough. Kerry put his Vietnam service before voters as the seminal character issue of his presidential campaign. He should answer every question voters have about it -- and he should answer them himself.
It's an interesting commentary on the state of journalism, when partisan opeds provide less spin -- even on behalf of their own team -- than ostensible "news" stories do.
More thoughts on the L.A. Times coverage here: "Incredibly, the LAT ignores the fact that the Kerry camp has already admitted that Sen. Kerry has 'misremembered' the dates of his alleged forays past the Cambodian border."
It's hard to keep up with your guy's latest spin points in this Internet era. I'm not surprised at the spin myself, but spin is better than a blackout.
The same news media that demanded George W. Bush release his National Guard records — and went over them with a microscope — have shown an appalling lack of interest in John Kerry's military service. And as it turns out, there are far more legitimate questions about the latter than the former. . . .
To those of you who say such questions are unseemly, consider that John Kerry's principal claim on the presidency is that he served four months and 11 days in Vietnam. OK, fine. Let's examine the records — all the records, which, unlike Bush and contrary to popular perception, Kerry has not released — and have a debate. We would be if it were George W. Bush. The media would see to it.
All Kerry has to do is to release the records. Why won't he? And why isn't the press calling him on it.
Okay, I know the answer to both questions, I guess.
How odd for papers to carry opinion pieces relating to controversies that their readers have never read about in those papers, but which the opinion pieces presume they have heard or read about elsewhere.
In fact, the secondary nature of the old media is becoming quite obvious. Reporters, pundits, talking heads etc all know about the magic hat and the now discredited claims of Christmas Eve in Cambodia. . . . Other shoes will drop soon, and the papers are fighting the battle of two weeks ago. Very weird, but very revealing of why the papers are dying and why some of them, like the Los Angeles Times, cannot add market share even with a monopoly position in their markets --they have nothing to sell to anyone not part of their ideological world.
GIVING UP ON NATION-BUILDING: Reader Bob Kingsberry emails:
Bush is bringing our troops home from Germany because he realizes American-style democracy will never succeed there. After freeing the German people from a brutal dictatorship and protecting them from Soviet tyranny for almost fifty years, Bush is finally willing to admit that Germans aren't capable of contributing to the security and prosperity of the world.
I wish I could argue with this. . . . Related thoughts here. And Mickey Kaus thinks Richard Holbrooke needs message control.
This isn't the first time Kerry and Ashcroft have been at odds over civil liberties. In the 1990s, government proposals to restrict encryption inspired a national debate. Then as now, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and electronic privacy groups locked horns with the DOJ and law enforcement agencies. Then as now, Kerry and Ashcroft were on opposite sides.
But there was noteworthy difference in those days. Then it was Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) who argued alongside the ACLU in favor of the individual's right to encrypt messages and export encryption software. Ashcroft "was kind of the go-to guy for all of us on the Republican side of the Senate," recalls David Sobel, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
And in what now seems like a bizarre parallel universe, it was John Kerry who was on the side of the FBI, the National Security Agency, and the DOJ. . . . Responding directly to a column in Wired on encryption that said "trusting the government with your privacy is like having a Peeping Tom install your window blinds," Kerry invoked the Americans killed in 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. "[O]ne would be hard-pressed," he wrote, "to find a single grieving relative of those killed in the bombings of the World Trade Center in New York or the federal building in Oklahoma City who would not have gladly sacrificed a measure of personal privacy if it could have saved a loved one." Change a few words, and the passage could easily fit into Attorney General Ashcroft's infamous speech to the Senate Judiciary Committee in late 2001.
INDUCE is supposed to target copyright infringement via illegal downloads, especially on peer-to-peer (p2p) networks like Kazaa and Grokster. The bill would create a new cause of action against anyone who "induces" such infringement -- with "inducement" to be determined on a case-by-case basis, using an unspecific "reasonable man" standard to evaluate the presence of intent to induce a copyright violation.
The problem is, this concept has no real limits. Suppliers of any technology that allows transmitting, copying, or sharing of material protected by intellectual property law could be accused of "inducement." That list is potentially endless: PC's, broadband service, dial-up service, scanners, printers, mp3 file systems, CD recorders, and so on. INDUCE's subjective standards of proof would have a dramatic chilling effect on the development, marketing, and distribution of new and existing technologies (once an accusation makes it to court, costs start to pile up quickly).
This doesn't count as championing small government, does it?. Plus -- at a crude political level, but one that's apparently not crude enough to be obvious to the Republicans -- this is a subsidy to an industry that consistently opposes Republicans. How stupid is that?
DIGITAL CAMERAS AND LEGAL EDUCATION: Law school starts this week (though I'm on sabbatical this fall) and an incoming student who's also an InstaPundit reader sends this email:
Since you have as a theme on your website the wonders and utilities of digital cameras, I thought you might find this particular use interesting.
I just got out of the morning session of orientation at UTK Law School (so you'll be seeing me soon enough) and we all shuffled upstairs to the bulletin board. While all of my classmates were busy jockeying for position around the assignments, I just pulled out my Canon S400 and took snapshots of the board.
Instead of spending ten or fifteen minutes scribbling furiously, I spent my time outside sipping an ice cold Coke. Ahhh.
It pays to be an early adopter!
UPDATE: And here's a blogging UT 1L, with more digital photography!
It is a good read, thanks to the work of veteran ghostwriter Malcolm McConnell; the early sections on Franks's blue-collar upbringing and Vietnam service are particularly affecting. But it has not made as much of a media splash as some other accounts of the administration, because it is not hostile to George W. Bush.
To the contrary, American Soldier rebuts some criticisms directed against the president. Bush has been accused, for instance, of taking his eye off Afghanistan by ordering the plan for a possible war with Iraq in the fall of 2001. Franks writes that, given the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, this was a sensible request, and that "our mission in Afghanistan never suffered" as a result.
Scores of pundits have accused the administration of lying, or at least distorting the evidence, about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But Franks reveals that the leaders of Egypt and Jordan told him that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons. Though no weapon of mass destruction was ever found, he writes, "I do not regret my role in disarming Iraq and removing its Baathist regime."
Another charge made against the administration is that political appointees failed to give the generals enough troops in either Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, Franks writes, it was his own choice to employ limited forces in order to avoid getting bogged down. Instead of relying on sheer size, he thought surprise and speed were the keys to victory -- a judgment largely vindicated by events.
I hate to buy into a theory as seemingly simplistic and cynical as "if it makes Bush look good, it'll be buried" -- but I can't deny its explanatory power.
I DON'T DO THAT MUCH ECONO-BLOGGING or business-blogging here at InstaPundit. But you can get loads of both at The Carnival of the Capitalists, which is up for this week over at The Frozen North. Check it out!
The Kerry campaign has needlessly distorted the stem cell issue -- there is no "far-reaching ban on stem cell research" as this official campaign press release claims. Private companies are free to conduct whatever research they wish using stem cells, just not with federal funds. Still, the bottom line political lesson here is that Americans strongly support medical research that they believe could someday help them or their loved ones. After November, Bush and his supporters may have plenty of time to reflect on this fact.
I tend to doubt that stem cells will swing the election. On the other hand, the Democrats seem to feel otherwise.
"BAND OF BROTHERS" UPDATE: Reports that David Alston, who stood up with Kerry at the DNC, never served with Kerry are not true, according to Byron York: the two served together for at least seven days, and perhaps as long as two weeks.
As I learned in college, you can form a very intense relationship in that time.
There is a real story in the personal and family tragedy surrounding James McGreevey's decision to resign as New Jersey's governor on Thursday. There's also a story in the difficulties of someone being gay and holding high public office. But the bigger story here isn't about Mr. McGreevey. It's about how the elites of a major state, one with the nation's second-highest per capita income and one of its most educated and skilled work forces, have allowed it to be so poorly governed by both parties over a span of decades.
Last Wednesday Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan sent me a statement saying that "During John Kerry's service in Vietnam, many times he was on or near the Cambodian border and on one occasion crossed into Cambodia. . . . On December 24, 1968 Lieutenant John Kerry and his crew were on patrol in the watery borders between Vietnam and Cambodia deep in enemy territory." I asked for clarification as to whether the "one occasion" was Christmas Eve 1968. "No," was the reply.
"Watery borders" is something of an evasion, intended to imply that Mr. Kerry's "seared" memory might have been easily confused. But according to both the maps and the testimony of swift vets, the Mekong doesn't run along the Cambodian border but bisects it, such that the coincidence between the two is obvious. In any case, Mr. Kerry's own journal, as cited in Douglas Brinkley's biography, records him being 50-some miles from the border at Sa Dec on that day contemplating visions of "sugar plums."
Does this matter? Well, if President Bush was found to be using tall tales from his National Guard days to justify his policies in the war on terror it would certainly attract some attention. So the would-be commander in chief can hardly complain of being subject to scrutiny, especially since he's joined in criticism of Mr. Bush's war record and made his own a campaign centerpiece. Never mind the anti-Kerry swiftees. So far the veteran whose testimony is doing John Kerry the most damage is . . . John Kerry.
Jim Wooten has more thoughts, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
UPDATE: Comparisons of how the media treated the Bush/AWOL claims with the non-coverage of the Cambodia story -- even after the Kerry campaign has admitted its falsity -- can be found here and here. The double standard is pretty amazing.
posted at 08:30 AM by Glenn Reynolds
LESSONS FROM GOOGLE'S IPO TROUBLES: "The experience of Google shows that investors are keeping their eyes on metrics like earnings, revenue, margins and market share."
D'oh! How am I going to get rich off the InstaPundit IPO if they persist in looking at things like those? If only it were still 1999. . . .
Two taboos are about to fall in the coming days. The first is the protective mantle conferred by one of the holiest Shrines in Islam upon those within. The second is the guaranteed access of the Western press to the battlefield.
Read the whole thing.
posted at 07:45 AM by Glenn Reynolds
ANOTHER FAILURE for campaign finance law. I'm surprised that this one has gotten so little attention, though.
posted at 06:59 AM by Glenn Reynolds
August 15, 2004
MICKEY KAUS: "It's Kerry's race to lose! ... P.S.: He's right, of course--ordinary Americans pay $250 bucks to go windsurfing all the time." Well, yeah.
UPDATE: Exit polls show Chavez losing badly. The big question is whether we can trust the official count, and whether Chavez will go even if he loses.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Chavez is claiming victory; opponents are charging election fraud.
posted at 10:27 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HERE'S A ROUNDUP of news stories mentioning the Kerry-Christmas-Cambodia story this weekend. It seems to be taking off.
posted at 10:26 PM by Glenn Reynolds
BAD NEWS for Germany. And this oped from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution seems right to me:
I wouldn't dare predict the outcome of the presidential election in November, but there is one prediction I will make. Regardless of who wins, George W. Bush or John Kerry, an idealistic, interventionist foreign policy for the United States is over. In international affairs, our country will turn not to multilateralism but to isolationism. Partnership with Europe will be history.
Yes, as I've noted over the past couple of years, European politicians really don't understand the extent of the damage they have done.
It's a cloudy Saturday in August. What's a woman to do?
Yesterday, the answer for 45 women was: Leave the men at home, head for the hills of Loudoun County and learn to shoot. . . .
That's a typical story, organizers said. Women, they said, are increasingly interested in shooting sports and hunting, and they prefer to learn without men around. Since the federation began offering memberships to its Women in the Outdoors program in 1998, the number of workshops offered annually has grown from 18 to 480 last year. Nearly 50,000 women are members of the program.
If Kerry is dogged and haunted by the accusation of wanting everything twice over, he has come by the charge honestly. In Vietnam, he was either a member of a ''band of brothers'' or of a gang of war criminals, and has testified with great emotion to both convictions. In the Senate, he has either voted for armament and vigilance or he has not, and either regrets his antiwar vote on the Kuwait war, or his initial pro-war stance on the Iraq war, or his negative vote on the financing of the latter, or has not. The Boston Globe writers capture a moment of sheer, abject incoherence, at a Democratic candidates' debate in Baltimore last September:
''If we hadn't voted the way we voted, we would not have been able to have a chance of going to the United Nations and stopping the president, in effect, who already had the votes and who was obviously asking serious questions about whether or not the Congress was going to be there to enforce the effort to create a threat.''
And all smart people know how to laugh at President Bush for having problems with articulation. . . .
He still gives, to me at any rate, the impression of someone who sincerely wishes that this were not a time of war. When critical votes on the question come up, Kerry always looks like a dog being washed.
Probably the most negative assessment of Kerry we'll read in the New York Times, though one consigned to the Book Review section.
The still waters just south of Centre Island were transformed yesterday morning into Cape Canaveral North, as a Canadian entry in the $10 million (U.S.) Ansari X Prize competition carried out a splashdown test of its crew cabin. It looked like something from the early days of NASA, except the cabin was unmanned. (Oh yes. And the U.S. navy wasn't there.)
Nonetheless, the test takes Canadian Arrow one small step closer to making its first manned suborbital flight before the end of the year, and to eventually carrying passengers who'll pay good coin to kiss the cheek of space.
"This is kind of like that last of six tests before you put human beings on board the vehicle," said the team's leader, Geoff Sheerin.
BURNING COAL IS BAD: A reader sends this abstract of a recent study, born of last year's blackout:
THE MASSIVE NORTHEAST BLACKOUT of a year ago not only shut off
electricity for 50 million people in the US and Canada, but also shut off the pollution coming from fossil-fired turbogenerators in the Ohio Valley. In effect, the power outage was an inadvertent experiment for gauging atmospheric repose with the grid gone for the better part of the day. And the results were impressive. On 15 August 2003, only 24 hours after the blackout, air was cleaner by this amount: SO2 was down 90%, O3 down 50%, and light-scattering particles down 70% over "normal" conditions in the same area. The haze reductions were made by University of Maryland scientists scooping air samples with a light aircraft. The observed pollutant reductions exceeded expectations, causing the authors to suggest that the spectacular overnight improvements in air quality "may result from underestimation of emission from power plants, inaccurate representation of power plant effluent in emission models or unaccounted-for atomospheric chemical reactions." (Marufu et al., Geophysical Research Letters, vol 31, L13106, 2004.)
I can't vouch for the accuracy of the research, but I've always felt -- as many people who live in TVA country do -- that burning coal to generate power is an absolutely filthy and destructive habit.
posted at 04:03 PM by Glenn Reynolds
BUSY WITH FAMILY STUFF this weekend. Back later. In the meantime here's a call to the blogosphere for a worthy cause. And there's lots of interesting stuff, including some very interesting photo-weatherblogging (weather-photoblogging?) here.
And the Kerry/Cambodia story is now getting straight news coverage in the Seattle Times and a number of other papers, though there's still no coverage at the New York Times or the Washington Post. Is that because they're busy investigating this story thoroughly, or are they just spinning their wheels? We'll find out, I guess.