Wanna see the journalistic

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Wanna see the journalistic equivalent of friendly fire? It ain’t pretty. But here goes.

This week Howard Fineman leads his column on Wes Clark with an anecdote about how Clark allegedly tried to get into the Bush administration, got shot down by Karl Rove, and then in spite became a Democrat.

Fineman’s evidence is the say-so of Colorado’s Republican Governor Bill Owens and one of his appointees, Marc Holtzman.

“I would have been a Republican if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls,” they say Clark told him.

Clark told Fineman he had just been kidding around. But Owens and Holtzman assured Fineman that Clark was dead serious.

Now, Owens is a Republican and he’s close to Karl Rove and President Bush. So I don’t think you’ve got to use your imagination too creatively to see what agenda Owens might be advancing — especially since the story doesn’t really add up on several other counts as well.

However that may be, this afternoon The Weekly Standard’s Matthew Continetti chimes in with a quick bit of investigative reporting.

Says Continetti …

Unfortunately for Clark, the White House has logged every incoming phone call since the beginning of the Bush administration in January 2001. At the request of THE DAILY STANDARD, White House staffers went through the logs to check whether Clark had ever called White House political adviser Karl Rove. The general hadn’t. What’s more, Rove says he doesn’t remember ever talking to Clark, either.

Continetti goes on to say that “this isn’t the general’s first whopper [and that] Clark’s latest tale bears little resemblance to reality,” trying, to true to form, to nail down the Clark as fabulist meme — a la Al Gore and every other Democratic presidential candidate.

But wait a second. Do you see the problem here? Right. Clark isn’t the one who’s saying he put in calls to Karl Rove. Owens and Hotzman are saying it.

So to the extent this means anything — and that’s highly debatable — it discredits them, not him.

In other words, the canard floated by one group of Rove’s pals on day one gets shot down by another group of his friends on day two. Like I said, journalistic friendly fire on the right.

To my friends at the Standard I can only say that the next time you put something like this together on the fly you might want to hash it out with a Venn Diagram or a flow chart or something before you go to press.

Meanwhile, Kevin Drum asks an awfully good question about how the White House suddenly became so forthcoming about phone record searches.

And look how they fall in line. Andrew Sullivan’s response to the phone call idiocy …

HOW LOOPY IS CLARK? The answer, I fear, is that he’s Ross Perot without the emotional stability. So now his previous remark that he’d be a Republican if Karl Rove had returned his calls is just a metaphor, or a fabrication, or a dream, or something. Or maybe he called Rove on a cell-phone or an email. Will he respond to these discrepancies?

Ahhh the discrepancies. Someone else needs a flow chart.

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