Archive for June, 2005

And on a Personal Note

Posted on June 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

A judge gave two US journalists, Matthew Cooper (R) and Judith Miller, pictured in 2004, one week to reveal their sources to a grand jury probing the leak of a Central Intelligence Agency operative's identity or go to jail.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Shaun Heasley)

I know Matt Cooper (pictured above, along with Judith Miller of the New York Times) a little bit, and he’s one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. In a business with a lot of sharks, he’s just a pleasure—friendly, supportive, warm, generous. And funny, too: Matt has a sideline doing stand-up comedy. (Although somehow I suspect it’s been a while since he took the stage.)

But every time I see Matt now, he looks somber and stressed—not at all as I remember him. For his sake, I’m glad that this silly judicial ordeal is ending soon. I hope he’s retained his ability to laugh at the ridiculous.

Setting the Record Straight

Posted on June 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A few days ago, after I wrote that little item on John Kennedy and Princess Diana below, I got an e-mail from a British journalist named Joanna Walters, a New York-based correspondent for the Daily Express. Though she hadn’t seen the blog, she wanted to interview me regarding the alleged tryst between John and Princess Diana.

I didn’t want to talk to her, for a bunch of reasons. I’m not the appropriate person to give newspaper interviews on the subject, if anyone fits that description. Second, I have no desire to become known as the go-to guy for any interview on John Kennedy; I’m happy to speak about John and George, but otherwise, no. And third, I don’t trust British journalists. If you folks think that American journalists have their ethical issues…

I told Walters that I wouldn’t give an interview, but I had written something relevant on my blog. In fact, if you look down about an inch, you’ll see exactly how I felt.

Now I’ve seen the story, and I deeply regret telling her even that. Because Walters took what was written here and used it as if I had given her an interview. Her story has several quotes crafted to make it look as if she and I spoke about this subject. We did not. Period. Not off the record, not on background, nothing.

Though the quotes are innocuous, I’m livid about this sleazy piece of journalism. In fact, I feel kind of like Jessica Simpson, about half an inch down.

Your Moment of Zen

Posted on June 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Someone’s Going to Get Busted

Posted on June 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

So Time has announced that it will turn over reporter Matthew Cooper’s notes to keep him from being sent to jail in the Valerie Plame matter.

I agree that this is a horrific precedent which will have the effect of discouraging people from talking to reporters; no longer can reporters assure them that their identity will be protected.

On the upside, I can’t wait to find out which White House figure was doing the dirty-dishing….

Was it Scooter Libby? Karl Rove? Guesses, anyone? And what will President Bush do when the identity of someone who’s endangering the security of a CIA agent is exposed?

I love it when chickens come home to roost….

Tucker Carlson’s Awkward Situation

Posted on June 30th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Alessandra Stanley doesn’t think much of Tucker Carlson’s new chat show on MSNBC, “The Situation with Tucker Carlson.”

She says it’s shallow, superficial, sarcastic, and has the effect of making Carlson seem dumber than he is. (In fact, he’s not dumb at all.)

“And he is surprisingly churlish,” Stanley writes. “He interviewed Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain, on whether military women should be allowed to work in combat zones and slapped down her reasoned arguments with schoolyard sarcasm, dismissing her position as, ‘Mutilation is a woman’s right.'”

Two points about this.

I barely know Carlson, but I’m not at all surprised by the churlish part, judging from my one real encounter with him. It was a few years ago, when I was the exec editor at George. Carlson had written a piece for us, I don’t remember what about, but it was fine. (My predecessor had assigned it.) But for some reason, the subject of George came up on Crossfire, and Carlson just trashed the magazine, saying how terrible it was.

A couple days later, I picked up the phone and called him. I said something like, Tucker, why’d you say such harsh things about the magazine? You seemed happy enough to cash our check.

I mentioned the specifics of what he’d said.

Carlson claimed that he hadn’t said that.

I mentioned that I had the transcript of the show in front of me.

He hemmed and hawed and backpedaled like mad, and said something about how sometimes on TV you say things you don’t mean.

I’m sure this is true. I’ve been on TV enough to know the pressure you feel to say things that are more pointed, more extreme, and less nuanced than your real beliefs. Still, I found the whole episode pretty unimpressive.

Here’s the second point: Carlson’s style of interrogation—the smarminess, the easy put-down, the sneer, the sarcasm, the glibness, the eye-rolling—has become typical of the vernacular of American conservatives in, say, the last ten years. (If you need any evidence, just look at some of the posters on this site.) Like that line, “mutilation is a woman’s right”—you just want to groan and say, Tucker, why so immature? The woman’s trying to make a point.

Is it just possible that this style is wearing out its welcome?

It’s never been particularly enjoyable, of course. Listening to Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity is like eating at McDonald’s; it can taste good in the act, but afterward, you think, Why did I just do that? Yuch.

But more important, it seems particularly ill-suited to a time of great seriousness in American history. It’s more about scoring cheap debating points than about finding common ground or resolving problems, and it’s certainly not about actually listening to people who hold differing opinions.

During the Clinton administration, that approach led to transforming a stupid sexual piccadilloe into a constitutional crisis.

Now there’s a war on—a war started by conservatives—and the conservative debating style just seems defensive, anxious, and increasingly irrelevant.

Santorum: Losing It

Posted on June 29th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

So Rick Santorum is now blaming priest pedophilia on the fact that many priests…live in Boston. No, for real. You think I’m making this up; you think that surely a United States senator could not be such a horse’s ass; but you can’t make this stuff up.

In an article on the website Catholic Online, Santorum writes about why the priest-child abuse scandal is actually a good thing: “I see in this fall an opportunity for ecclesial rebirth and a new evangelization of America,” he proclaims.

But before he can say why, Santorum has to limit the damage from the scandal. He does so by—what else—blaming liberals.

He writes: “It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning “private” moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”

When the culture is sick, every element of it becomes infected.

Republicans are supposed to be the party of individual responsibility, right? Apparently not. Priests who molest children are just the victim of their “sick” cultural environment. They must be watching too much MTV. The point is, it’s not their fault.

And Boston? Has Rick Santorum ever even been to Boston? If he had, he’d know that it’s socially a profoundly conservative city. Think Irish Catholic, senator. Think Italian and Catholic. Think…well. just think Catholic. I mean, if the culture of Boston is sick, whose fault is that exactly?

(All right, there are some African-Americans—quite religious in Boston—and high WASPs thrown in. Not exactly cultural radicals.)

You know, senator, Philadelphia’s a pretty liberal city too. Hasn’t had a Republican mayor since Reconstruction, probably. Quite a few universities.

Maybe the one thing that saves Philadelphia from having as many priest child molesters as Boston is…hmmmm….because there aren’t as many priests?

Go Away, Condi

Posted on June 28th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Now that Condoleeza Rice has come to New York to say what a great place this would be to host the 2012 Olympics, my enthusiasm for New York doing so has just diminished.

Certainly the Olympics would do many fine things for this city. But there’s no place in New York for the kind of jingoistic, America uber alles attitude of Rice and her compatriots in the Bush administration. The Republicans already came here for their political convention. We were good hosts, I think and hope, but let’s face it: New York City and the Republican party don’t have much in common. We’re tolerant. They’re not. We’re diverse. They’re not. We live comfortably alongside people from other nations. They want to conquer other nations. Especially the ones they know nothing about.

Okay, I’m being hyperbolic. But people on both sides of this line can concede that New York was a very odd place to host the GOP convention.

In fact, the only reason the convention was held here to was to turn Ground Zero and memories of 9/11 into a political advertisement.

That’s exactly what the Republicans would want to do with the Olympics, and that’s why Condoleeza Rice came here.

The people of this city—people from all over the world—are a great reason to have the Olympics in New York. Would the Bush administration really understand anything about that?

Defending Hillary

Posted on June 28th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I’ve been so busy that I haven’t really had time to keep up with the brouhaha over Ed Klein’s new book about Hillary, which I’m not going to link to as I wouldn’t want anyone to actually buy it. But reading up on the controversy, I am amazed that anyone published this book. It sounds vile.

David Brock’s organization, Media Matters for America, has compiled a list of the mistakes and inaccuracies in the book that is remarkably damning.

(Brock, by the way, is the author of a slightly dull but surprisingly balanced—surprising given Brock’s politics at the time—biography of Hillary, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham.)

Here’s one line of Klein’s that jumped out at me:

“[Hillary] said she was passionately in love with her husband, but many of her closest friends and aides were lesbians.”

I mean, where to begin?

Here’s another interesting story, by journo Michael Tomasky, about how Klein lifted a quote from a book Tomasky wrote and changed it to make it more sensational.

The Media Matters chart of inaccuracies goes on so long it’s almost overwhelming. Can anything about this book be trusted?

It’s possible that Ed Klein has done what I wouldn’t have thought possible: take Swift Boat sleaze one step further; to take it so far, in fact, that he’s delegitimized it (not that it was every particularly legitimate).

But Klein’s book does point up a larger issue: publishers don’t fact-check. They pay libel lawyers to go over the material for potentially defamatory statements, but otherwise, they don’t much care if a book is accurate. Accuracy, it turns out, usually doesn’t have enough of an impact on sales to justify the expense of paying fact-checkers.

Writers who care about accuracy have to hire their own fact-checkers, which is an expensive proposition when you’re reviewing an entire book. But it’s worthwhile. I hired fact-checkers for both my books, at a cost of a few thousand dollars each time. A few minor mistakes crept by nonetheless; they always do. But no one challenged the fundamental accuracy of either work, which, given how controversial they both were, is something I’m proud of.

Did Ed Klein factcheck The Truth About Hillary? It’s hard to believe he did. It’s like that old journalism saying: some stories are too good to check. Or, in this case, too bad.

A Dozen Years?

Posted on June 27th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

So Donald Rumsfeld thinks that the Iraq insurgency could last for twelve years, despite the fact that it lacks “a Mao or a Ho Chi Minh.”

And yet, in the very same interview, he defends Dick Cheney’s assertion that the insurgency is in its last throes. “If you look at the context of [Cheney's] remarks,” Rumsfeld said yesterday on Fox, “last throes could be a violent last throe, just as well as a placid or calm last throe. Look it up in the dictionary.”

All right. Here’s how my dictionary defines “throe”:

1 A severe pang or spasm of pain, as in childbirth. (See Synonyms at pain.)
2 throes A condition of agonizing struggle or trouble: a country in the throes of economic collapse.

Not much about placidity or calm in those definitions, is there? Just a lot of nasty stuff about pain and agony, spasms and struggles.

It’s increasingly obvious that the macho men in the Bush administration, who so like to project the image of overwhelming competence, simply have no idea how to win this war in Iraq. (Hell, they can’t even buy armored Humvees.)

When they can’t convince us that they know what they’re doing, how can they possibly expect young men and women to volunteer to go to Iraq for the next decade?

I used to think that all those Iraq-is-Vietnam analogies were facile. But when the secretary of defense starts to talk about a decade-long insurgency, and practically invites the rebels to come up with their own Ho Chi Minh….

No, He Didn’t

Posted on June 27th, 2005 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

A new book claims that John Kennedy, my old boss, slept with Princess Diana in a New York hotel room.

I’m hardly an expert on John’s sex life, and it’s not something I wrote about in my own book, American Son.

But about this particular innuendo, trust me—it just ain’t so. It’s just the kind of thing that people say about people who aren’t around any longer to defend themselves. And in this case, it’s a kind of celebrity sex fantasy. Because their lives seemed similar in various surreal elements…and they certainly would have made an attractive couple, wouldn’t they?