Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Did the BBC fall

Did the BBC fall a bit short on the copyediting in this portion of their brief run-down of John Edwards?

He was born the son of a poor mill owner, and was the first in his family to go to university. He became a successful millionaire trial lawyer who turned to politics after his son, Wade, died in a car-crash.
Maybe the mill was just severely undercapitalized?

I wasnt able to

I wasn't able to catch the CNN coverage of the Edwards pick after, say, mid-late afternoon. But if reader email is any indication, it got pretty bad again after Wolf Blitzer signed on. They've provided more and more examples of the cowed non-ideological press, which becomes worse than ideological, because of its rudderlessness, as it tries to defend itself against sharp and confidently organized complaint. Worse still, when the habit becomes ingrained and chronic, like the battered dog who cowers and shakes when the abuser gives a passing look. Of course, there's the added matter of cosmopolitan and baby-boomer self-loathing, mixed in with the needy and mercurial status anxiety that afflicts the Washington press corps. Ahh, for a novelist's pen.

CNNs afternoon coverage of

CNN's afternoon coverage of the Edwards decision seems better than it was in the morning and early afternoon. Maybe they got an earful from the campaign or just from viewers.

CNNs subservience to the

CNN's subservience to the calls they're getting from the RNC oppo research department this morning is really breathtaking. By contrast, it almost reminds you of when it was really a legitimate news operation. Daryn Kagan seemed to outdo herself, at one point harping on a clip from a Kerry town hall meeting last fall or winter in which Kerry quipped that Edwards might have been in diapers when he, Kerry, was out fighting in Vietnam. Kerry then a few moments later thinks better of comment and says he respects Edwards, etc. Kagan then goes on about how this is an example of Kerry as flip-flopper and then gets Bill Schneider to discuss it.

Of course, they could only go on for so long about that until they needed to run the Bush campaign's phony McCain campaign commercial again.

At the end of the day, the intensity of the GOP response is a measure of their anxiety about Kerry's choice of Edwards.

CNN keeps running this

CNN keeps running this ad that the Bush campaign has up on his website, claiming -- not improbably, who knows? -- that John McCain was Kerry's first choice for VP. Does anyone even remotely imagine that this cuts against the Edwards choice in public opinion? I really doubt that the ad will ever even run on television. Saps.

So Edwards is the

So Edwards is the man.

Great.

Indeed, not only did Kerry manage to make a solid VP pick he was able to take a bit of hide out of the behind of the Murdoch media empire. On the newsstands this morning here in New York City the New York Post's headline boasts their exclusive scoop that Kerry has picked Dick Gephardt.

Oops.

(Actually, I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Post, all ideological difference aside, as their editorial page provided one of my few financial lifelines after I struck out on my own in 2000. I wrote a sort of semi-regular column for them -- a token liberal, or rather non-right-winger -- through 2001 and, I think, for much of 2002.)

Actually, the Post might have done better to look at this post on an aviation bulletin board that a TPM reader -- JB -- sent me last night, perhaps the first real solid news that Edwards was the pick.

Some cynical commentary now running on CNN, aping GOP talking points; but that's to be expected.

More posts on this later. But, on balance, I'd say this is a very solid pick on many counts.

Unfortunately its not available

Unfortunately, it's not available online, at least not for free. But if you have a chance to pick up the paper copy of the current New York Review of Books, don't miss Amos Elon's review essay of two new books on the current state of what we used to call the 'peace process' and might now term the Israeli-Palestinian mutual embrace of butchery. I don't agree with every strand of the argument; a few points I would dissent from strenuously. But the essay struck me as illuminating as it is pessimistic, and much more sensible and candid than most of what I see on this topic in the American press.

A remarkable turn of

A remarkable turn of events.

We know that the chief architects of the war -- at the White House and the Pentagon -- waged a running battle with the CIA for the eighteen months leading up to the war, both on the WMD front and on their too-skeptical take on Iraq's ties to al Qaida. It was the Intelligence Community that was the proverbial stick in the mud holding up the aggressive posture favored by these other forces within the administration.

But it now turns out that while the White House claimed the CIA was too cautious and naive about the dangers emanating from Iraq, in fact, the Agency was hoodwinking the president into believing the worst about Iraq and keeping him and his advisors in the dark about the weakness of their claims.

You might say that it turns out that the CIA was doing to President Bush what many of us were under the impression President Bush and his advisors were doing to the country.

This is the ironic and tragic tale told by James Risen in Tuesday's New York Times.

Somehow I thought that our best reporters had learned a lesson about peddling self-interested government leaks without applying common sense, context or critical, dissenting voices. But apparently not.

While things are spiraling

While things are spiraling down into the memory hole it sometimes makes sense to give them a few quick tugs before they vanish into oblivion altogether.

Along those lines, remember that some time back there was a big splash about the UN oil-for-food program and claims that various international dignitaries -- including the UN official charged with overseeing the program, Benon Sevan -- had taken bribes or kickbacks from Saddam Hussein out of funds generated by the program.

The evidence for these particular charges stemmed entirely from a collection of documents allegedly in the possession of Mr. Ahmed Chalabi, documents Chalabi apparently deemed too important to let anyone outside his circle see.

There were two Iraqi investigations into this alleged wrongdoing.

First, there was one run by Chalabi crony Claude Hankes Drielsma at Chalabi's direction, with assistance from KPMG (one imagines because Arthur Andersen was no longer available).

Another inquiry was established at the behest of Paul Bremer and run by the head of the Iraq's independent Board of Supreme Audit, Ihsan Karim, with assistance from Ernst and Young.

There was, to put it mildly, a pronounced hostility and antagonism between the two investigations. Chalabi wanted to keep the investigation under his control; Bremer's efforts blocked that aspiration.

Each of the investigations, it turns out, has run into difficulties, though of rather different sorts.

As for Claude Hankes Drielsma and his inquiry, the last we heard from him, early in June, he was claiming that all the computer files of his investigation had been destroyed by shadowy hackers on the same day Chalabi's HQ was raided in Baghdad. In a particular coup, the hackers managed to simultaneously destroy his back-ups kept on various hard-drives. "This report would have been even more damning than anticipated," huffed Hankes Drielsma.

KPMG has stopped working on the investigation because they're owed hundreds of thousands of dollars which have gone unpaid.

In the middle of June, Karim's investigation -- the one run through the Board of Supreme Audit -- signed an agreement with the UN investigation headed up by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to cooperate and share information.

Finally some progress.

But then this last Thursday, Karim was killed when a bomb was placed under one of the cars in his convoy.

Chalabi spokesman, Zaab Sethna told Reuters that Karim's outfit hadn't been well-equipped to handle the investigation. And then, with some mix of irony, understatement, and goonishness, he said: "The assassination of Mr Karim is very worrying. Bremer appointed the audit board and left them on their own ... The investigation was the highest profile probe the board was handling. It is impossible to speculate who killed Mr Karim, but the oil-for-food corruption involved very powerful people inside and outside Iraq."

So, with all these tumults and jagged occurrences, let's not forget to ask. Has anyone outside the Chalabi crew yet seen those documents? Given that we know Chalabi actually ran his own forgery shop in Iraqi Kurdistan in the mid-1990s, and his general lack of 100% reliability, it's hardly an idle question.

The person who really needs to see them, of course, is Volcker, who is not only (sad to say it, but true) the only investigator left standing, but the one heading up the only investigation that actually has real credibility.

The last batch of articles on this matter date from mid-June. And, as nearly as I could figure, they implied that Chalabi had still not coughed up the documents.

If anyone knows otherwise, I'd be eager to hear.

LiveWire