Washington Bitchy: Nico Pitney smacks down Milbank
Mr. Washington Sketchy himself, WaPo king of snark Dana Milbank, takes one to the thorax from HuffPo blog reporter Nico Pitney, who went one-on-three on CNN's Reliable Sources. Milbank got called out for his whingeing over Pitney's Iran question at Barack Obama's recent presser, including getting called out on his past, gushing coverage of George W. Bush. Watch, and learn:
Sometimes, even in this celebrity-over-merit driven society, people who really seem to be the genuine article are rewarded for a job well done. Congratulations to WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson on winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Read Robinson's column for today, in which he takes the president to task for being a bit too cool in Trinidad, here.
Mining the WaPo: Robin Hood and the budget showdown to come
The House got cold feet on mortgage modifications. The key paragraph in the WaPo story:
Under the provision, a bankruptcy judge would be able to cut the principal on a homeowner's mortgage, lower the interest rate and extend the terms, provisions known as "cramdowns." Judges are already allowed to modify mortgages for vacation or second homes but not for a borrower's primary residence.
In other words, bankruptcy will continue to be rich man's relief, at least for now. This time, Democrats tied to the financial services sector also opposed the change.
Meanwhile, the right is howling about President Obama's budget proposal, which gives real world figures for our debt and deficit for the first time. And yes, it's not looking good. But Republicans will have a hard time running away from the record of the president and Congress who got us here. (Spoiler alert: Both of them are Republican.)
From Dan Froomkin, we get the coming GOP narrative: that Obama is playing Robin Hood:
"You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation," Obama said this morning "Today, we have to focus on foundations."
What he didn't mention was that he was also ripping out some of the foundations that were laid by the previous administration.
Obama's budget would dramatically increase taxes on the wealthy, while cutting payments and subsidies to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and defense contractors -- and mandating a system to charge polluters for their carbon emissions.
It would, in short, reverse the redistribution of wealth that took place during the Bush era. This time, the rich will be subsidizing the poor, not the other way around.
The revenue increases -- supplemented by staggering deficit spending -- would pay for tax cuts for non-wealthy Americans and hugely ambitious plans in the areas of energy, health and education that, as Obama insisted on Tuesday night are necessary to assure the country's long-term prosperity.
And the problem with that would be...? I recall that rich people did pretty well under the Clinton tax rates, which is what we're returning to.
Meanwhile, Bill Kristol, trying to reinvent himself at the WaPo, advises Republicans to try and smother the Obama agenda soon:
Obama's aim is not merely to "revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity." Obama outlined much of this new foundation in the most unabashedly liberal and big-government speech a president has delivered to Congress since Lyndon Baines Johnson. Obama intends to use his big three issues -- energy, health care and education -- to transform the role of the federal government as fundamentally as did the New Deal and the Great Society.
Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively? Perhaps -- if they can find reasons to obstruct and delay. They should do their best not to permit Obama to rush his agenda through this year. They can't allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965. Slow down the policy train. Insist on a real and lengthy debate. Conservatives can't win politically right now. But they can raise doubts, they can point out other issues that we can't ignore (especially in national security and foreign policy), they can pick other fights -- and they can try in any way possible to break Obama's momentum. Only if this happens will conservatives be able to get a hearing for their (compelling, in my view) arguments against big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering -- and for their preferred alternatives.
Dana Milbank, who turns out to be one of the snottiest sirens of the ego-centric "mainstream media," is continuing to huff out defenses for his misquote of Barack Obama in a converstion with House reporters that Milbank didn't hear first-hand. Milbank has claimed that both he and fellow Post reporter Jonathan Weisman used the quote accurately, and that subsequent renditions of the quote, which clarified that Obama was saying "it's not about me, I have become a symbol..." were manufactured by Democrats who didn't like the way it looked. Well, here's the update. First, from Media Matters a couple of days ago:
In his July 30 Washington Post column, Milbank wrote: "Inside, according to a witness, [Obama] told the House members, 'This is the moment ... that the world is waiting for,' adding: 'I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.' " Milbank suggested the quote showed Obama's "hubris." He did not cite a source for the quote.
In a July 29 entry on the Post's The Trail blog, Weisman reported a similar version of the comment, writing that, "according to a witness," the reported remark "suggest[ed]" that Obama "was beginning to believe his own hype." But Weisman later posted an update to his July 29 blog post saying that "House leadership aides pushed back against interpretations of this comment as self-aggrandizing," and reported: "[O]ne leadership aide said the full quote put it into a different context. According to that aide, Obama said, 'It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign -- that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have just become a symbol.' " During his August 8 chat, Weisman wrote, "We ran them [the quotes] exactly how they were e-mailed to me."
Milbank asserted as fact in a July 31 chat that "House Democratic aides got up Thursday morning and decided that the quotes looked bad." And in his August 7 online discussion, Milbank asserted: "Hopefully we needn't go through all of this again, but to make sure everybody's clear: My colleague Jonathan Weisman and I believe the quote was correct as written, and that this supposed 'context' is a recreation, after-the-fact, by Democratic aides who were worried about how the quote looked. Perhaps Obama didn't mean for it to come out that way, but there's every reason to believe it did."
However, when asked about Milbank's August 7 comments in his August 8 online chat, Weisman wrote, "I'm happy to see Dana taking a firm stand. I'm a little more squishy":
New York: Yesterday, in here, Dana Milbank claimed that both he and you believe your controversial quoting of Obama from the House Caucus fully reflected the context in which the statement was made, and that claims otherwise by aides and Congressmen in attendance are in fact lies. Does Milbank in fact speak for you on this?
Jonathan Weisman: I was waiting for this question. I'm happy to see Dana taking a firm stand. I'm a little more squishy. Here's what I can say. The source of the quotes is an unimpeachable voice of House Democrats and a strong Obama supporter. We did not cherry pick quotes. We ran them exactly how they were e-mailed to me. And the "context" that was provided was provided the next morning, after House Democratic aides met to compare notes. I can't say whether the first rendition was more accurate than the second. I can say those providing the second rendition had good reason to supply context that would nullify the first. I can also say I trust the suppliers of both renditions.
Without a tape or transcript, we will never know which was accurate. But I will tell all those who accused of us [sic] willfully cherry-picking quotes or taking them out of context, you are flat dead wrong.
Well, now the Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has admitted that Milbank and Weisman did not even attempt to verify the quote, and worse, that Milbank has responded to the criticism with rank sarcasm:
... That quote came in an e-mail -- I saw it, and it was quoted accurately -- from notes taken by a source trusted by national political reporter Jonathan Weisman, who has long covered Congress, and Washington Sketch columnist Dana Milbank. They thought it made Obama sound full of himself.
Weisman was on a plane, traveling with Obama, and he picked up the e-mail on his Blackberry about 10:30 p.m. and quickly turned the quote into a late online post on The Trail, The Post's political blog. He also e-mailed Milbank with the quote, a common occurrence among Post reporters, because Weisman knew that it would fit into Milbank's column. ...
...There was no tape and no transcript of Obama's talk, but the quote came from someone who told me that the quote didn't reflect arrogance. Here's where it gets tricky for me; I dislike most anonymous quotes, including this one. I figured out who the source probably was and confirmed my suspicion by talking with him, but no journalist should ever reveal another's source except in the gravest of circumstances.
Neither Weisman nor Milbank called the source. Weisman considered the source more or less official and didn't use his name, even though the source didn't ask for anonymity in the e-mail. Weisman said he has "an understanding going back years that he is giving me privileged information from closed meetings; it is by definition on background. With someone you interact with constantly, there just aren't the formalities of sourcing on every conversation and e-mail." Milbank called the source "unimpeachable.
When he gives you a quote you can take it to the bank. You don't need to go around verifying it with others."
The source said he often tells reporters what happens in closed meetings and expects anonymity. He sent an identical e-mail to several other reporters and talked to several more; the others didn't see the quote as damaging.
By the next morning, partisan blogs, Obama fans and House aides were disputing the quotation, and Weisman updated his Trail post online, saying that House leadership aides pushed back against interpretations of this comment as self-aggrandizing, saying that Obama "was actually trying to deflect attention from himself." One aide said the "full quote" was: "It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign -- that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have just become a symbol." But there's no tape to verify that, either, and Post editors refused to publish a correction.
Milbank's column was undoubtedly a sharp stick in Obama's eye, giving examples of what Milbank thought was Obama acting as if he were already president. Readers had other complaints, including that Milbank had mistakenly said Obama was sharing views on micromanagement with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; the remarks were made to opposition leader David Cameron. That error was the subject of a correction.
Readers were also ticked off that Milbank laughed off complainers during his online chat July 31. He dubbed himself the "Whine Enthusiast," ranking complaints or "whines" from readers. Milbank said he chose to answer some nasty attacks with humor.
Howell claims that the lessons to be learned from this episode are to be spread around:
Lessons for sources: Stand up and be named. Be sure reporters understand the context if they weren't there. Lesson for Milbank's editors: Label his column commentary. Lesson for the Obama campaign: Let the press in when your candidate speaks to a large gathering of elected officials.
I'd say she's missing one: lesson to the Post: print a correction. Milbank can now be found weeknights on Campbell Brown's bottom-rated CNN show (hey, I thought he'd go to Fox...)
Recommended reading: more on this case of seriously sloppy journalism from Consortium News.
And another Consortium pick: how the mainstream media is helping John McCain, and could ultimately help him win.
We're into day two, and still no correction from either Dana Milbank or the WaPo on his "refinement" of Barack Obama's statement to Democrats on Capitol Hill. Dana has moved on, talking in today's "sketch" (which I think can now officially be renamed "Washingotn sketchy -- and yes, I stole that from a commenter on the thread) about Alaska's "Uncle Ted" Stevens.
It's been nearly a full day, and we're still waiting for a correction from Dana Milbank, whose prissy, spurned media diva, spite-filled column calling the other guy (Barack Obama) imperial, has been debunked all over the web, from TIME Magazine to the Atlantic, by people who actually heard Barack Obama's remarks to House Democrats. Tick ... tick ... tick ... so far, Millbank's column remains posted to the WaPo homepage, unchanged. (Curiously, Keith Olbermann gave Milbank a complete pass tonight. I was certain he'd at least make "Worst Persons," instead he didn't even get a mention...)
Milbank has been taking it on the chin pretty much all day today, from all quarters, and his portrayal of Obama as an uppity presidential wanna-be has taken off in winger world, despite its inherent falsehood, but so far Milbank hasn't breathed a word, or more importantly, updated his column online.
What's it gonna take, Dana? Just post the correction already!
Clearly, Milbank is guilty of, at minimum, seriously sloppy reporting for failing to confirm the quote with either the campaign, or a first hand witness. The less charitable take is that he went with a here-say quote, or worse, a deliberate distortion of a quote, in order to advance his theme and sex up his column. He's only making matters worse by disappearing from view and letting the column stand. Compounding his errors are the Post's editors, who are not only not correcting the record, they're continuing to promote the piece on the homepage.
If you're of a mind to complain, here's where you can write the Washington Post:
Ombudsman Deborah Howell: email@example.com or call 202-334-7582
Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.
Along the way, he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president's. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities, which included a fundraiser at the Mayflower where donors paid $10,000 or more to have photos taken with him. His schedule for the day, announced Monday night, would have made Dick Cheney envious:
11:00 a.m.: En route TBA.
12:05 p.m.: En route TBA.
1:45 p.m.: En route TBA.
2:55 p.m.: En route TBA.
5:20 p.m.: En route TBA.
Who knew he was such a Diva? ... and I'm talking about Dana. Next, our intrepid "reporter" delivers the money quote, clipped from that 5:20 p.m. TBA, which Milbank describes as an "adoration session" with Democratic lawmakers in a Capitol Hill chamber that the Secret Service swept beforehand "just like they do for the actual president." Wowee. The quote:
Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," adding: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."
So first, Milbank derides the security sweep that Obama happens to require because of threats to his life that began almost the moment he announced his candidacy (he's black, you know...) Then, throwing all reporter etiquette aside, the snarky Milbank throws out a clipped quote that not only did he not hear first-hand, but which it turns out, is way, way out of context.
MSNBC is on the story right now, and they're talking to an actual witness, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of California, who was in the Canon Caucus Room when Obama made the remarks. More on that as it hits the air.
Milbank's world of snide
Milbank has something of a history of peevishness toward those he perceived as being on the left, including the very standard Democrats.com. And he has gone Medieval on Obama before, having been one of the principle harbingers of Reverend Wright doom during the primary. Hillary Clinton didn't escape his rapier wit, either, and in general, his Washington Sketch columns appear designed more to turn him into the male, WaPo version of Maureen Dowd than to bring forth actual news.
Meanwhile, later in his column, Milbank gets to what I think is the real point of his and his colleagues' disgruntlement:
The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported yesterday that Obama dominated the news media's attention for a seventh straight week. But there are signs that the Obama campaign's arrogance has begun to anger reporters.
In the latest issue of the New Republic, Gabriel Sherman found reporters complaining that Obama's campaign was "acting like the Prom Queen" and being more secretive than Bush. The magazine quoted the New York Times' Adam Nagourney's reaction to the Obama campaign's memo attacking one of his stories: "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others." Then came Obama's overseas trip and the campaign's selection of which news organizations could come aboard. Among those excluded: the New Yorker magazine, which had just published a satirical cover about Obama that offended the campaign.
The Washington press corps fell in love with John McCain in 2000 because he gave them unprecedented access aboard his "Straight Talk Express."
... They later fell in love with George W. Bush because he gave them cute nicknames like "Stretch" (David Gregory) and made them giggle like schoolgirls during his infrequent press conferences. Bill and Hillary they never liked, and during the impeachment fiasco, they showed their displeasure. Now they've got a new pol to hate -- Barack Obama, who clearly doesn't know how important they are. Obama paid for that dispelasure during the Rev. Wright imbroglio, and a new media study shows that the press has been much, much tougher on him than it has on McCain.
Team Obama now has two choices: try to ingratiate themselves with a press corps that is as pampered, arrogant and self-centered as it has been in my lifetime, or continue to stiff arm the Fourth Estate and ride the negative coverage all the way to Election Day.
Awaiting the full transcript or video from the Obama Congressional chat.
"It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It's about America. I have just become a symbol [of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."]
The "is not about me at all, it's about America" part is pretty important to the quote, I'd think. And Ambinder points out other elements of Milbank's sloppy journalism, reiterating one of my points above and catching something I missed:
The Capitol Police and the Secret Service, not the Obama campaign, closed the halls for Obama to pass yesterday. If you're inclined to think Obama presumptuous for this, then John McCain is also on your list; last week in Columbus, the police department there gave him full intersection control during rush hour. Oh, and that was David Cameron to whom Obama "gave some management advice," not to Gordon Brown, although Brown could probably have used it!
So will Milbank post a correction? Enquiring minds...
“His entire point of that riff was that the campaign IS NOT about him. The Post left out the important first half of the sentence, which was something along the lines of: ‘It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol … .”
As of 1:33 p.m., still waiting for the Milbank retraction... |
To the New York Times, where we learn one of the places the Pentagon got their ideas for how to torture prisoners:
The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.
The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Some methods were used against a small number of prisoners at Guantánamo before 2005, when Congress banned the use of coercion by the military. The C.I.A. is still authorized by President Bush to use a number of secret “alternative” interrogation methods.
Look for the right wing crazysphere to begin calling for the heads of the reporter and New York Times editor shortly...
The Times also reports on a factual error in the recent Supreme Court ruling on executions for child rape. And who uncovered the mistake? Why, your friendly neighborhood milblogger:
When the Supreme Court ruled last week that the death penalty for raping a child was unconstitutional, the majority noted that a child rapist could face the ultimate penalty in only six states — not in any of the 30 other states that have the death penalty, and not under the jurisdiction of the federal government either.
This inventory of jurisdictions was a central part of the court’s analysis, the foundation for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s conclusion in his majority opinion that capital punishment for child rape was contrary to the “evolving standards of decency” by which the court judges how the death penalty is applied.
It turns out that Justice Kennedy’s confident assertion about the absence of federal law was wrong.
A military law blog pointed out over the weekend that Congress, in fact, revised the sex crimes section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 2006 to add child rape to the military death penalty. The revisions were in the National Defense Authorization Act that year. President Bush signed that bill into law and then, last September, carried the changes forward by issuing Executive Order 13447, which put the provisions into the 2008 edition of the Manual for Courts-Martial.
Anyone in the federal government — or anywhere else, for that matter — who knew about these developments did not tell the court. Not one of the 10 briefs filed in the case, Kennedy v. Louisiana, mentioned it. The Office of the Solicitor General, which represents the federal government in the Supreme Court, did not even file a brief, evidently having concluded that the federal government had no stake in whether Louisiana’s death penalty for child rape was constitutional.
The provision was the subject of a post over the weekend on the blog run by Dwight Sullivan, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve who now works for the Air Force as a civilian defense lawyer handling death penalty appeals.
Mr. Sullivan was reading the Supreme Court’s decision on a plane and was surprised to see no mention of the military statute. “We’re not talking about ancient history,” he said in an interview. “This happened in 2006.”
Over to the Washington Post, where the top story is the deadly upsurge in U.S. combat deaths, with June being the deadliest month for American troops since the war began in late 2001.
Meanwhile, the Post attempts to do a "gotcha" on Barack Obama, reporting that ... shock of all shocks ...!!! a well-to-do elected official got a great mortgage loan deal! No... NOOOOOOO!!!!!! Memo to the reporterati, most Americans get that borrowers with more money in the bank, better credit, larger down payments, and who are seeking higher loans, get better mortgage deals. The Post reports the Obama discount saved him and his wife a whopping $300 a month. What's that, 1/1000th of the cost of just one out of eight Cindy McCain homes?
One more: the Post also reports on the double-dilemma faced by some SUV owners:
With $4-a-gallon gas coming between drivers and their very large vehicles, consumers are dropping their once-beloved rides, fast. But not fast enough, it seems. As the price of gas has gone up, the value of sport-utility vehicles has gone down.
In the past six months, the price of a used Chevrolet Suburban has dropped as much as $8,000, said Mike Parker, manager of used-car sales at Lustine Toyota/Dodge in Woodbridge.
For those determined to swap their fuel-thirsty behemoths for gas-sipping subcompacts, the glut increasingly means taking a financial hit. In the worst cases, declining SUV values leave owners owing more money to the bank than their vehicle is worth.
The question they face is: Which is worse for the wallet -- the cost of gas or the money lost selling the vehicle?
Over to the left coast, where the L.A. Times' Greg Miller reports that the U.S. is so confident in the Iraqi Army we're training, we spy on them.
WASHINGTON -- Caught off guard by recent Iraqi military operations, the United States is using spy satellites that ordinarily are trained on adversaries to monitor the movements of the American-backed Iraqi army, current and former U.S. officials say.
The stepped-up surveillance reflects breakdowns in trust and coordination between the two forces. Officials said it was part of an expanded intelligence effort launched after American commanders were surprised by the timing of the Iraqi army's violent push into Basra three months ago.
The use of the satellites puts the United States in the unusual position of employing some of its most sophisticated espionage technology to track an allied army that American forces helped create, continue to advise, and often fight alongside.
The satellites are "imaging military installations that the Iraqi army occupies," said a former U.S. military official, who said slides from the images had been used in recent closed briefings at U.S. facilities in the Middle East. "They're imaging training areas that the Iraqi army utilizes. They're imaging roads that Iraqi armored vehicles and large convoys transit."
Military officials and experts said the move showed concern by U.S. commanders about whether their Iraqi counterparts would follow U.S. guidance or keep their coalition partners fully informed.
"It suggests that we don't have complete confidence in their chain of command, or in their willingness to tell us what they're going to do because they may fear that we may try to get them not to do it," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a website about intelligence and military issues.
And in a story that's sure to get a lot of play on cable news today, the LAT has scored video of staffers at ironically named Martin Luther King Hospital literally ignoring a patient to death.:
Edith Isabel Rodriguez writhed for 45 minutes on the floor of the emergency room lobby at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital as staffers walked past and a janitor mopped around her. Her boyfriend called 911 from a pay phone outside the hospital, pleading futilely for help. The infamous incident in May 2007 was captured by a security camera, but the tape was actually seen by very few people. Los Angeles County has insisted for more than a year that the tape is "confidential, official information," refusing to release it to Rodriguez's family or to The Times.
This week, however, excerpts of the grainy video were sent anonymously to the newspaper and are available on The Times' website.
The public airing of the tape comes the same week as an eerily similar -- but much clearer -- surveillance tape was released showing a woman collapsing and writhing on the floor of a Brooklyn, N.Y., hospital's waiting room last month. She lay there more than an hour, as patients and security guards looked on.
According to published reports, Esmin Green had been waiting in the psychiatric emergency room of Kings County Hospital for nearly 24 hours when she fell from her seat June 19. An hour and three minutes later, a staffer who had been alerted by someone in the waiting room went up to Green, tapped her with her foot and tried to awaken her.
L ate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.
The Washington Post takes a fascinating look at the economic up-trends and down-trends for two states; Virginia and West Virginia, and plumbs the ramifications for Democrats and Republicans:
... "Democratic areas are sopping up people with BA degrees; Republican areas are sopping up white people without degrees. Church membership is declining in Democratic areas and increasing in red counties," said Bill Bishop, author of "The Big Sort." "There are all these things telling people they should be around people like themselves. And every four years, this has political consequences."
Overall, the most wealthy are still more likely to vote for GOP candidates, particularly in red states, where it is the rich, not the working class, who are most reliably Republican. The split is more evident in education and vocation, with professionals and voters with post-graduate degrees trending Democratic.
But in general, where economic dynamism is concentrated, Democrats are gaining. Bishop found that Gore and Kerry did much better in the 21 metro areas that produced the most new patents than in less tech-oriented cities. Virginia Tech demographer Robert E. Lang found that Kerry did better in the 20 metro areas most linked to the global economy -- based on business networks, shipping and airport activity -- than in metro areas as a whole.
In private, he is surely gaming this out further, George Carlin-style. What would be the optimum timing, from the campaign’s perspective, for this terrorist attack — before or after the convention? Would the attack be most useful if it took place in a red state, blue state or swing state? How much would it “help” if the next assassinated foreign leader had a higher name recognition in American households than Benazir Bhutto?
Rich goes on to critique the "terror = M-c-win" strategery of Karl Rove, saying that should the unthinkable occur:
... voters might take a hard look at the antiterrorism warriors of the McCain campaign (and of a potential McCain administration). This is the band of advisers and surrogates that surfaced to attack Mr. Obama two weeks ago for being “naïve” and “delusional” and guilty of a “Sept. 10th mind-set” after he had the gall to agree with the Supreme Court decision on Gitmo detainees. The McCain team’s track record is hardly sterling. It might make America more vulnerable to terrorist attack, not less, were it in power.
Take — please! — the McCain foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. He was the executive director of the so-called Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, formed in 2002 (with Mr. McCain on board) to gin up the war that diverted American resources from fighting those who attacked us on 9/11 to invading a nation that did not. Thanks to that strategic blunder, a 2008 Qaeda attack could well originate from Pakistan or Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden’s progeny, liberated by our liberation of Iraq, have been regrouping ever since. On Friday the Pentagon declared that the Taliban has once more “coalesced into a resilient insurgency.” Attacks in eastern Afghanistan are up 40 percent from this time last year, according to the American commander of NATO forces in the region.
Another dubious McCain terror expert is the former C.I.A. director James Woolsey. He (like Charles Black) was a cheerleader for Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled Iraqi leader who helped promote phony Iraqi W.M.D. intelligence in 2002 and who is persona non grata to American officials in Iraq today because of his ties to Iran. Mr. Woolsey, who accuses Mr. Obama of harboring “extremely dangerous” views on terrorism, has demonstrated his own expertise by supporting crackpot theories linking Iraq to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On 9/11 and 9/12 he circulated on the three major networks to float the idea that Saddam rather than bin Laden might have ordered the attacks.
Then there is the McCain camp’s star fearmonger, Rudy Giuliani, who has lately taken to railing about Mr. Obama’s supposed failure to learn the lessons of the first twin towers bombing. The lesson America’s Mayor took away from that 1993 attack was to insist that New York City’s emergency command center be located in the World Trade Center. No less an authority than John Lehman, a 9/11 commission member who also serves on the McCain team, has mocked New York’s pre-9/11 emergency plans as “not worthy of the Boy Scouts.”
If there’s another 9/11, it’s hard to argue that this gang could have prevented it.
"The company you keep" will be a theme this year, and not just for Barack Obama... Back at the WaPo, an article that breaks no news, but which states an obvious conclusion that will have major implications for the campaign: a McCain win could push the Supreme Court to the right. Say it isn't so!
The latest poll put Clinton at 36 percent, Obama at 24 percent, Gore at 14 percent and Edwards at 12 percent. None of the other Democrats running received more than 3 percent. With Gore removed from the field, Clinton would gain ground on Obama, leading the Illinois senator 43 percent to 27 percent. Edwards ran third at 14 percent. The poll was completed the night Gore's documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Academy Award.
Clinton's and Obama's support among white voters changed little since December, but the shifts among black Democrats were dramatic. In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator.
African Americans view Clinton even more positively than they see Obama, but in the time since he began his campaign, his favorability rating rose significantly among blacks. In the latest poll, 70 percent of African Americans said they had a favorable impression of Obama, compared with 54 percent in December and January.
Coupled together, the sudden emergence in the polls of Al Gore (who got more Black votes in 2000 than any presidential candidate ever, and the continued sizzle of Barack Obama are bad news for the Clinton campaign. Luckily for her, she has the name ID and the cash to go the distance, and no one else in the race can say that, at least not now. One piece of good news for Hil in the poll:
Her position on the war in Iraq does not appear to be hurting Clinton among Democrats, even though she has faced hostile questioning from some voters about her 2002 vote authorizing President Bush to go to war. Some Democrats have demanded that she apologize for the vote, which she has declined to do.
The Post-ABC News poll found that 52 percent of Democrats said her vote was the right thing to do at the time, while 47 percent said it was a mistake. Of those who called it a mistake, however, 31 percent said she should apologize. Among Democrats who called the war the most important issue in deciding their 2008 candidate preference, Clinton led Obama 40 to 26 percent.
Something to hold onto at Camp Hillary, where they're still smarting from that recent dust-up with Barack.
Do people lie to pollsters? Old, twice-divorced, smoking Mormons sure hope so!
The new AP/WaPo poll is out, and it has some interesting info about people's attitudes regarding the current president, and a future president to be. First, on the future:
21. On another subject: I'm going to read a few attributes that might be found in a candidate for president. Please tell me if each would make you (more likely) to vote for that candidate for president, or (less likely) to vote for that candidate, or if it wouldn't matter.
2/25/07 - Summary Table
a. someone who is a woman More: 14, Less: 13, wouldn't matter: 72 no op: 1 b. someone who is black More: 7 Less: 6 Wouldn't matter: 87 no op: * c. someone who is a Mormon More: 4 Less: 29 Wouldn't matter: 66 no op: 1 d. someone who is over age 72 More: 3 Less: 58 Wouldn't matter: 39 no op:* e. someone who has been divorced twice More: 3 Less: 26 Wouldn't mat: 71 no op:1 f. someone who smokes cigarettes More: 2 Less: 21 no mat: 77 no op: *
The worst news in the poll is for John McCain. It seems the worst thing a candidate can be in the eyes of the voting -- or at least the poll-taking public -- is old. A whopping 58 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is over 72 years of age. McCain is 71, and looks every freaking day of it.
Also on the no-no list for voters: being twice divorced. 26 percent of voters were sour on that. Sorry, Rudy. (Lucky for Rudy, the WaPo didn't ask how voters felt about a candidate who once was married to his cousin ... )
On the female question, poll respondents have become considerably less unlikely to support a woman for president over time. When the question was asked in May of 1988, 25 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who was a woman. Now, it' sdown to 13 percent, with a high 72 percent saying it "wouldn't matter."
On the race question, 27 percent of respondents in May 1988 said they would be less likely to support a candidate who is Black, versus just 6 percent now. It's on this question that the cynic in me is tempted to ask whether people are as willing in 2007, to tell pollsters honestly, that they would have a problem supporting a Black candidate. I'm tempted to believe that the number who would have said trouble is considerably higher than 6 percent...
Moving on to the Mormon question, there is a sizeable minority of respondents who apparently have closed that door, with 29 percent of respondents less likely to give a Mormon candidate a chance, and a whopping 60 percent of those who said they would be less likely, adding that there is, in fact, "no chance" that they would vote for a Mormon for president. And 29 percent of the "no Mormon" respondents said they feel that way because they are "uncomfortable with, or dislike" Mormonism (6 percent went with the polygamy angle.) Not good news for Mr. Romney, who's internal strategy memo made the BoGlobe today, elucidating the fact that "electorate is not where it needs to be for us to succeed." A salient bite:
The plan, for instance, indicates that Romney will define himself in part by focusing on and highlighting enemies and adversaries, such common political targets as "jihadism," the "Washington establishment," and taxes, but also Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, "European-style socialism," and, specifically, France. Even Massachusetts, where Romney has lived for almost 40 years, is listed as one of those "bogeymen," alongside liberalism and Hollywood values.
Indeed, a page titled "Primal Code for Brand Romney" said that Romney should define himself as a foil to Bay State Democrats such as Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry and former governor Michael Dukakis. Romney should position himself as "the anti-Kerry," the presentation says. But elsewhere in the plan, it's clear that Romney and his aides are aware he's open to the same charge that helped derail Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004: that he is a flip-flopper who has changed positions out of political expediency.
Also interesting in the poll, and this one's for Barack Obama, is the rather sizable percentage of voters who said they could not support a smoker (21 percent).
One good piece of news for Hillary Clinton, I suppose, is that of those respondents who said they would be less likely to support a woman candidate, only 15 percent said it was because they didn't like Mrs. Clinton in particular. Twice that number -- 31 percent -- said it was because they simply don't think a woman can do the job. How nice.
Next, on the ever present subject of President Bush: two thirds of respondents disagree with his decision to surge 21,500 troops into Iraq, including 56 percent who "strongly disagree." And 58 percent support John Murtha's idea of limiting U.S. troop activities in Iraq to training Iraqi troops, plus guaranteeing rest time for the troops who've already served in theater. By 51-46, respondents opposed the idea of limiting funding for the Iraq war. Two thirds support the idea of "reducing U.S. military and financial support for the Iraqi government if the Iraqis fail to make progress toward national unity and restoring civil order," however, and by 53-46 percent, respondents favored setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.
And there's this:
18. Overall, do you feel that you can or cannot trust the Bush administration to honestly and accurately report intelligence about possible threats from other countries?
Can Cannot No opin. 2/25/07 35 63 2
Which is probably why respondents split right down the middle, 47-44 in favor, on the question of whether the Bush administration has the evidence to support their allegations about Iran's meddling in Iraq.
Go figure. For the WaPo's analysis on the poll, click here.
Other polling fun: Watch out mama, here comes Obama ... in the Zogby poll dated February 26, Hil's lead in the Dem primary is now 33-25. Barack was at 14 the last time the poll was done.
The WaPo's Richard Cohen comes to the defense of America's fallen lady, and smacks down the media for continuing to treat her like a punch line:
She is a branded woman, not an adulterer but something even worse -- a girl toy, a trivial thing, a punch line. Yet she did what so many women at that age would do. She seduced (or so she thought) an older man. She fantasized that he would leave his wife for her. Here was her crime: She was a girl besotted. It happens even to Republicans.
But she is now a woman with a master's degree from a prestigious school and is going to be 34 come July. Her clock ticks, her life ebbs. Where is the man for her? Where is the guy brave enough, strong enough, admirable enough to take her as his wife, to suffer the slings and arrows of her outrageous fortune -- to say to the world (for it would be the entire world) that he loves this woman who will always be an asterisk in American history. I hope there is such a guy out there. It would be nice. It would be fair.
It would be nice, too, and fair, also, if Lewinsky were treated by the media as it would treat a man. What's astounding is the level of sexism applied to her, as if the wave of the women's movement broke over a new generation of journalists and not a drop fell on any of them. Where, pray tell, is the man who is remembered just for sex? Where is the guy who is the constant joke for something he did in his sexually wanton youth? Maybe here and there some preacher, but in those cases the real subject matter is not sex but hypocrisy. Other than those, no names come to mind.
This is the year 2007, brand new and full of promise. It would be nice if my colleagues in the media would resolve to treat Monica Lewinsky as a lady, to think of her as they would themselves, to remember their own youth and the things they did and to understand that from this day forward anyone who takes a cheap shot at Lewinsky has a moral and professional obligation to look in the mirror.