“I think that a lot of the fundamental principles that Jefferson Davis believed in are very important to people across the country, and they apply to the Republican Party … After the War between the States, a lot of Southerners identified with the Democrat Party because of the radical Republicans we had at that time, particularly in the Senate. The South was wedded to that party for years and years and years. But we have seen the Republican Party become more conservative and more oriented toward the traditional family values, the religious values that we hold dear in the South. And the Democratic party is going in the other direction. As a result, more and more of The South’s sons, Jefferson Davis’ descendants, direct or indirect, are becoming involved with the Republican party. The platform we had in Dallas, the 1984 Republican platform, all the ideas we supported there – from tax policy, to foreign policy; from individual rights, to neighborhood security – are things that Jefferson Davis and his people believed in.” … Trent Lott, Interview in Southern Partisan magazine, IV, 1984.
For weeks I’ve been defending The New York Times from attacks from various quarters, alleging this mistake or that, of fact or interpretation.
Now I’ve found one. And though it’s admittedly in the Times crossword puzzle I still can’t let it pass.
On Saturday December 7th, the clue for 16 across was “Traitorous leader of occupied France in W.W.II.” Now from the length of the word and the others around it, it was pretty clear the answer was ‘Petain,’ as in Marshal Henri Philippe PÃ©tain. (I waited till today for confirmation. And ‘Petain’ it was.)
The only problem is that the clue doesn’t match the answer because Petain wasn’t the leader of occupied France. After France’s defeat, the country was divided in two. There was the occupied zone in the North run by Germany. Then there was the collaborationist Vichy government in the South, which sued for peace and allied itself with the Nazis.
Petain was the head of state in Vichy, not ‘occupied France.’
Now perhaps this is a point of detail (though to people at the time — and since — it was a very important point of detail). But regardless of that, points of detail are the lifeblood of crosswords, no? I could just imagine thousands of non-historical-illiterates searching for what the answer could be on Saturday since they knew it couldn’t be Petain, and now having their confidence in the Times‘ crossword shattered, perhaps never to be recovered.
Maybe the Times really is suffering from some deep internal rot. Could Raines be responsible for this too? Is it some insidious pro-frog bias?
These days close-fought, down-to-the-wire elections are pretty much win-win propositions for Republicans. Either they win, in which case they’re rightly psyched. Or they lose, in which case they get yet another chance to whine about how they got cheated, feel sorry for themselves, and generally indulge that defining emotional characteristic of contemporary conservatism: self-pity.
In the current issue of National Review, Byron York has a cover story — unfortunately not available online — in which he alleges that Senator Tim Johnson won reelection through vote fraud. I’ve wanted to respond to this profoundly problematic story online for a few days. But I haven’t yet been able to make time. However, since Byron is going on Fox this evening to talk about the piece let me just flag one important fact. And I’ll try to put together a thorough run-down of the issue at some later point.
York’s piece is based on about fifty affidavits compiled by a bunch of ‘Republican lawyers’ in the state. One of them was John Lauck, whom TPM readers will remember from this earlier incident. South Dakota’s Republican Attorney General Mark Barnett, according to the Sioux Falls’ Argus Leader, “reviewed the documents for the first time last week [and] said there were no vote-changing revelations.”
If you want the real scoop on this issue, read the piece by David Kranz from Saturday.
Wait a second. I thought John Snow was just another bland non-entity the White House was installing across the street at Treasury. Turns out Snow’s company, CSX, also has some pretty good tax attorneys. In three of the last four years, according to this press release from Citizens for Tax Justice, CSX paid no federal taxes even though it showed a profit in each of those four years.
Profiles in courage from the Washington Post.
Here’s David Broder from yesterday on Meet the Press, commenting on Trent Lott’s endorsement of the platform Strom Thurmond’s pro-segregation, anti-civil-rights 1948 presidential candidacy …
Itâs not the first time that he has had
to explain his association with or references to that kind
of race-focused rhetoric in the South. He was involved a few
years ago speaking to a group that was pretty overtly racist
in the South. Race remains, much as we would like it to be
otherwise, a very, very important factor in our national
life. And it is a decisive factor in Southern politics. Any
Southern politician that you talk to can tell you with
precision exactly what percentage of the white vote he or
she needs to get, because all of them assume that 90 percent
or more of the black vote is going to the Democrats. As long
as that racial divide continues, any kind of comment like
this on Senator Lottâs part is going to be-have all kinds of
Does Broder really need his calls returned by Lott that badly? Is that really the best he can do? A ‘bad resonance’?
Here’s Broder on the shame of President Clinton and how Broder thought he’d besmirched Washington. “He came in here and he trashed the place. And it’s not his place.”
David Broder, the dean of the Washington press corps. Says it all.
Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before the Bush administration realized that it had made a mistake in filling the Treasury Secretary post with a bland, unknown, Ford administration retread, who made his name as the CEO of an Old Economy stalwart. They sure won’t make that mistake again.
Oh wait …
Good for Andrew Sullivan. Andrew and I disagree about a lot. But he’s right on the mark in not only taking exception to Trent Lott’s outrageous comments in favor of racial segregation but giving them the full measure of outrage they deserve. As he says, the real question is why this incident is still being treated as no more than a minor embarrassment or a simple gaffe.
What really strikes me is not only the original comment but Lott’s unwillingness to take it back or even explain it. To the best of my knowledge his only response came in a terse two sentence statement from his flack Ron Bonjean:
Senator Lott’s remarks were intended to pay tribute to a remarkable man who led a remarkable life. To read anything more into these comments is wrong.
That’s the flack’s equivalent of ‘go jump in a lake.’
The fault isn’t with Lott; it’s with evil commentators who are reading too much into what he said. On its face the statement makes no sense, since the simple logic of Lott’s remarks went well beyond this ‘remarkable life’ mumbo jumbo. More to the point, however, there’s a simple — if disingenuous — way of dealing with this sort of thing. Lott or his flack immediately comes forward and says something like this …
I have great respect for my retiring colleague Strom Thurmond. But some of my comments at his Birthday party last week may have been unclear. Everyone should know that I believe segregation was wrong. And as incoming-Majority I’m very proud of the progress our nation has made in guaranteeing civil rights and voting rights of all Americans, regardless of race, creed or color.
Simple. Short. Almost certainly dishonest. But in such situations honesty isn’t always the most important virtue. Trent Lott may not believe in civil rights for blacks. It’s a disaster for the country if he doesn’t. But if he doesn’t, it’s still important — given who he is — that he say he does, that he genuflect publicly to the ideal. It’s important for him to say something like this if for no other reason than to underscore the fact that anyone who doesn’t support racial equality — even in this most general sense — is politically beyond the pale.
The mystery is why he hasn’t even said something like that. He doesn’t even think it’s a big enough deal that he has to address it publicly. An even bigger mystery is why his unwillingness hasn’t generated more controversy or a serious push to make him resign as Majority Leader.
“I’m 100 percent pro-life. As a practicing Catholic, I did not leave my faith as did Mary Landrieu.” … Suzanne Haik Terrell, close-but-no-cigar loser in today’s Louisiana run-off election (52-48, Landrieu), questioning Mary Landrieu’s Catholicism.
Couldn’t have happened to a nicer lady …
Hard-hitting coverage? We report, you decide.
As we noted yesterday, on Thursday incoming-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott seemed to explicitly endorse the pro-segregation, anti-civil rights platform which Strom Thurmond ran for president on in 1948. He even bemoaned all the “problems” the country might have avoided if it had taken the segregation route.
Now, maybe Lott deserved another bite at that apple? Maybe he didn’t quite mean what he said? Maybe he was just trying to be nice to Strom on his birthday? That all sounds like a cop-out to me. But perhaps at a minimum he’d like to apologize or just take it back?
In any case, on Friday CNN’s Jonathan Karl sat down with Lott for a brief interview which ran on Friday afternoon’s Inside Politics. The questions? What Lott thinks about the firings of O’Neill and Lindsey; whether being Majority Leader made him happy and/or stressed; and whether or not he’s going to gloat about the November election wins.
No question about whether having the majority back would up his budget for hair shellac. But more importantly, no question about the segregation comments.
On Inside Politics the John Kerry hair story made the cut, not the Trent Lott segregation story.
I’ve always thought that for all the jokes about age and longevity in office, the one line that really captures how long Strom Thurmond has been around is this: he ran for president against Harry Truman.
Do you really have to say any more than that?
Of course, Thurmond ran as the presidential candidate on the “States-Rights Democrat” or “Dixiecrat” ticket — a candidacy that was based exclusively and explicitly upon the preservation of legalized segregation and opposition to voting rights and civil rights for blacks.
There’s a sort of agreement in Washington these days — with Thurmond’s retirement and hundredth birthday — to sort of forget about all that unpleasantness.
But look at what Trent Lott said about that candidacy yesterday…
I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn’t of had all these problems over all these years, either.
Oh, what could have been!!! Just another example of the hubris now reigning among Capitol Hill Republicans.
“The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace within Stanford University is a public policy research center devoted to advanced study of politics, economics, and political economyâboth domestic and foreignâas well as international affairs.” So says the Hoover website. Now the famed conservative think tank has gotten in on the John Kerry hair cut story. Bill Whalen, a ‘research fellow’ at Hoover who “studies and writes on current events and political trends, with an emphasis on California’s political landscape” has written about the hair cut story in National Review Online. You can find the commentary here.
Up the agitprop food chain we go. When does Irving Kristol chime in? Bob Bork? Milton Friedman?
Today in the Wall Street Journal John Fund complaining about Democrats’ complaints about the press and alleged media bias. Is this something conservatives can complain about? Isn’t whining about not getting a fair shake from the media about 50% of what it means to be a conservative in America?
By the way, John, the Krauthammer comment was about Al Gore, not Tom Daschle. Look at the transcript. WSJ gets Nexis, right?
What is it about the Nixon Center and why are they so defensive? So paranoid? Are they really that Nixonian?
The Washington think tank world was roiled a few weeks ago when Steve Clemons, of The New America Foundation, delivered a paper in France on the way in which corporations and industry trade groups now funnel money into DC think tanks to engage in a covert and entirely unregulated form of lobbying. It’s an equal opportunity game, touching tanks on the left and right.
The speech got attention when it was written up in the Washington Post on November 19th. The thousand word article briefly identified Clemons as “a former Senate staffer who is also a veteran of several Washington think tanks, including the Nixon Center and the Economic Strategy Institute.”
Apparently that brief mention of the Nixon Center in the context of questions about think tank ethics was more than the Nixon Center could bear.
Then he attacked Clemons.
“Notwithstanding his identification as a Nixon Center ‘veteran,'” huffed Saunders, “[Clemons’] tenure at the center was limited to a few months after our founding, and he had no meaningful experience related to the center’s operations or programs.”
Now, I’m no expert on these things but my understanding is that Clemons was actually closely involved in the creation of the Nixon Center and that he was its first Executive Director, a job he held for about a year and a half. In fact, when Clemons was Executive Director, Saunders was his assistant.
This all got my attention because early this year I wrote an article about a fellow named Doug Paal who also had some think tank lobbying type questions swirling around him. And one of the people I interviewed was Nixon Center President Dimitri Simes. And Simes was the only one to rush forward with a fairly embarrassing non-denial denial of his comments to me.
Here is the back and forth in a subsequent letters section of The New Republic …
To the editors:
I was surprised and disappointed to see the references to The Nixon Center and to me personally in Joshua Micah Marshall’s article “Pacific Whim” (March 4 & 11). I was surprised because I had never spoken to anyone identifying himself with tnr about Douglas H. Paal or his Asia Pacific Policy Center (APPC). In fact, Marshall placed several calls to me and to a colleague at The Nixon Center identifying himself with The New York Times Magazine. Was he misleading us? Or did the Times Magazine give Marshall an assignment but reject his product?
I was disappointed because Marshall’s characterization of the discussions between The Nixon Center and Paal is quite different from what I told Marshall. I made clear that I was not aware of any impropriety whatsoever on the part of Paal or the APPC. I also explained that our conversations about a possible merger had not gone far enough for The Nixon Center to have received details of the APPC’s finances or programs. My point to Marshall was that different organizations quite legitimately have different missions and cultures and that it is rare to find a perfect match, particularly when the institutions in question are of roughly the same size. To imply on this basis, as Marshall does, that The Nixon Center “got a sense of what Paal’s real business was” is reckless.
Dimitri K. Simes
The Nixon Center Washington, D.C.
Joshua Micah Marshall replies:
Last December I signed a contract with The New York Times Magazine to write an article about Douglas H. Paal. Thus, in good faith, I told interview subjects I was writing an article for that publication. Later, after an amicable disagreement with the Times Magazine, I withdrew the piece and brought it to TNR. It is hardly incumbent upon a writer to go back and notify every interview subject that the article will appear in another magazine. As to Simes’s second point, part of his error is in assuming that his interview was the only source for my account of Paal’s dealings with The Nixon Center. In interviews with two other Nixon Center sources, I learned that Paal’s negotiations with the Center came to naught because the Center’s staff and board were concerned about commingling Paal’s foreign funding with the Center’s finances, as well as what one Center source termed the “commercial” nature of Paal’s work. Another source did recall that Simes was the biggest advocate of bringing Paal on board and apparently the least concerned about the questions of ethics and propriety surrounding Paal’s work. Nevertheless, Simes confirmed–albeit gingerly–the essence of this account.
The comment about the Times Magazine was a slur Paal’s friends, shall we say, had been peddling about me in anticipation of the article’s publication. So we assumed Simes’ use of it was a sign that he had been put up to writing the letter. In the small world of Washington foreign policy hands, a man like Simes can sometimes find himself in the embarrassing position of needing to distance himself from an article which has raised uncomfortable — and unanswered — questions about another member of the fraternity.
And now we seem to have something similar with Saunders and Clemons.
Now, I know a bit about these things and my understanding is that, as DC think tanks go, the Nixon Center is a reasonably clean operation. My question is, is the Nixon Center so low on the totem pole that they’ve got to carry everyone else’s water? Are they that paranoid? It’s like they’re the goons sent out to do the hits for the big boys. Like I said, why do the folks at the Nixon Center become so Nixonian?
A number of readers have written in saying that by writing so much about this moronic John Kerry hair story I am actually perpetuating the story, much as I accused Judy Woodruff of doing. Perhaps so. But I think it’s worth writing about, even important to write about, because for all the media criticism out there, the media is very unreflective about the ways it allows itself to be manipulated. This Drudge-borne hair story is a good example.
So as frivolous as the story may be I think it’s worth paying attention to as a sort of object lesson in the mainstream press’s general insipidness and openness to manipulation.
Another point. Several folks wrote in to say that I mischaracterized Tony Blankley’s column in the Washington Times. There’s an element of truth to this. Blankley did mock the attention the hair story got. But he also ran with it. And there were so many other denigrating, disingenuous and tawdry comments in it that I thought it well merited inclusion.
Finally, a few whiny ‘wingers have said this is just a joking thing that shouldn’t be taken so seriously. And why am I giving it so much attention? Mockery and ridicule are two of the most effective of political tools. Conservative polemicists understand this very well — and their opponents would do well to take note of it. As I’ve noted earlier, Al Gore is perhaps the best example.
More on how the right-wing trashing machine kicks into gear. The imbecilic Drudge John Kerry haircut story gets picked up undigested in Canada’s National Post, the former flagship sheet of Conrad Black, Canada’s would-be Rupert Murdoch. It also gets picked up and packaged with a lot of other bashing — by turns, ludicrous and hideous — in Tony Blankley’s column in the Washington Times.
Of course, the real issue is the on-its-back insipidness of the mainstream press and how easily it gets pulled in by this stuff. Here’s Judy Woodruff yesterday on CNN’s Inside Politics …
Just two days after moving closer to a presidential race, John Kerry already is in denial mode. His office says the senator does not pay $150 to get his hair cut, as claimed by Matt Drudge on the Internet. “The Boston Herald” quotes a source as saying that Kerry pays more like $75 to get what some have called the best hair in the Senate.
“The Drudge Report,” which we’ve not yet confirmed, says Kerry’s do is the work of a stylist at the chic Cristophe salon. And you may remember Cristophe from the $200 trim that he gave Bill Clinton on board Air Force One while it sat on the tarmac at LAX in Los Angeles. Clinton learned then what Kerry may know now. Even hair can be a cutting issue when you are or want to be president.
The conveyor belt. Watch how it works.
Isn’t there something tasteless and shameful about a psychiatrist — or a no-longer-practicing psychiatrist — lazily questioning a public figure’s mental health because he disagrees with that person’s political views? Here’s Charles Krauthammer from yesterday on Fox News Sunday …
I’m a psychiatrist. I don’t usually practice on camera. But this is the edge of looniness, this idea that there’s a vast conspiracy, it sits in a building, it emanates, it has these tentacles, is really at the edge. He could use a little help …
Is he speaking in jest? Sure. Sort of.
Do lazy columns beget tasteless insults? Or is it a long period of lazy thinking, leading to lazy columns, then leading to tasteless insults? Or is it just a coincidence in this case? Can someone clarify this for me?
Look how quickly the right-wing-agitprop take-down of John Kerry gets underway. It begins with an admittedly sophomoric routine by Matt Drudge about an over-priced haircut, with an assist from an anonymous source at Fox News. But soon enough this will all become a talking point for Matthews, Russert, et.al. Watch how it happens … Which other normally reasonable commentators will get pulled in?
More to come on this soon. And also, the latest embarrassment from Mr. Krauthammer.
Clearly, tonight’s post on John Kerry was just a few paces ahead of a spirited on-going debate on the topic. Now I notice that Mickey Kaus has just written a new post touching on the same point, though perhaps in a rather different way (“Kerry Mystery Contest: Why does everyone (myself included) hate him?”). But let me make an important point of follow-up since my initial point seems to have been easy to misconstrue. I said that the Washington press corps doesn’t much like John Kerry. Some people thought I meant that this was a reason a) not to support Kerry or b) that Kerry can’t win. I’m saying neither. It’s just a reality that is central to his candidacy, and important to take note of.
In the summer of 2000, just as Al Gore was readying his vice-presidential choice, I wrote an article in Salon saying that John Kerry was Gore’s obvious choice. On the same day I published an article about European attitudes toward the death penalty in The New Republic. I didn’t know Mickey Kaus at the time. And after reading my piece in TNR he wrote a glowing post about me in Kausfiles telling everyone with eyes to read that I was some sort of rising star.
Then a couple days later he noticed that rousing endorsement of John Kerry in Salon, and promptly recanted the whole encomium, concluding that I must really be some sort of hack. To get a clearer take on Kerry, he pointed readers to this article which came out about a week later in TNR by Ryan Lizza, which took what one can only call a decidedly more sour view of the Massachusetts Senator.
Up until that time I’d never written anything that got more positive or more negative feedback. I wouldn’t trouble you with this mess of journalistic insiderdom if it weren’t to make a point: this reaction was pretty characteristic of the whole Washington press corps. The negative feedback came overwhelmingly from inside the DC metropolitan area.
As you know, Kerry today made a de facto announcement of his candidacy. For a variety of reasons I think Kerry is one of the very few serious presidential candidates for 2004. And we’ll be talking a lot more about his candidacy. But for now let’s start with just one point: The Washington press corps doesn’t much like John Kerry. And, as we learned with Al Gore, that’s important.
Wait! Wait! Don’t get on the plane for that ClubMed Yemen vacation you were planning! The State Department is telling Americans to “defer travel to Yemen” because of new dangers of terrorist attacks. Who’s going to Yemen? Why are you going? If you’ve got to go to that neighborhood why not go to a more friendly and pro-American country, like Somalia just across the water to the South, or Saudi Arabia just over the border to the North?
On CNN’s Reliable Sources on Saturday Howie Kurtz gets a crack at Rush Limbaugh. Presumably he’ll be asking him about the recent dust ups with Daschle, Gore, et. al. Also, on this question of the media and parts of it which are bought and paid for by the Republican party see Friday’s Krugman column.
I’ve often thought George Will must be a great inspiration to those who want to believe that even if you lack insight, honesty, or wit you might still succeed as long as you dress like you have all three. Eric Alterman comments here about the breathless dishonesty of Will’s column on “Gore’s Revisionism.” I’d repeat the points Eric makes. But I’d just be repeating. So take a look at what he has to say. This Sunday, Will had Mitch Bainwol, Executive Director of Republican Senate campaign committee, walk him through the various reasons why Republican Senate candidates are just going to keep on winning pretty much forever. If you haven’t read it yet definitely read Nick Confessore’s new piece on why Paul Krugman is as important as he is: he’s the only columnist with a big megaphone who consistently and intelligently resists the crutch of false objectivity and discusses the manifest dishonesty and recklessness of White House fiscal policy. Will’s columns are the perfect contrast and counterpoint: backrubs to power, reassurance to the comfortable, satisfaction to the self-satisfied.
If you needed any evidence that the demise of McCainite Conservative Reformism is a bad thing — long-term at least — for the Republican party you need only have looked at the recent Wall Street Journal editorial decrying the fact that the very low-income, those who make well below $20,000 a year, don’t pay enough taxes. If you missed it, E.J. Dionne has a good column on the issue today. The argument the Journal advanced was that by cutting so many low-income earners out of the income tax system altogether you create a whole class of voters who simply can’t relate to the anguished lash of taxation the super-rich have to suffer under. As is often the case in these sorts of arguments, the grinding weight of payroll taxes are more or less entirely ignored. More broadly though it’s just a sign of how much the conservative movement — once the home of some exquisitely sharp thinking — has degraded to the point of being little more than an instrument of politically-organized money.
I was talking to a friend tonight over drinks about Al Gore. I said I’d always liked Gore, thought he’d gotten a viciously bad rap from the press and the conservative hit-machine. But somehow, I said, it just looked to me like there was too much scar tissue to ever make a go of it. All the gas-lighting about his being insincere or wooden or calculating has just pressed him deeper into a shell of equivocation and mannered self-presentation. So, having been accused so many times of being insincere he works as hard as he can to seem sincere and in so doing seems even less sincere. The whole thing is sad to me. But I’m not sure its being sad makes it untrue.
Then I saw this other nugget in the CBS/Times poll. Gore’s favorable rating is only 19%. His unfavorable is 43%. Now let’s toss out the obligatory and quite correct point that this is very early in a potential campaign. And recent events — the election, Bush’s popularity, etc. — have been almost perfectly designed to diminish Gore in the public eye. But how do you get around a 19% approval rating being a devastating verdict?
I can’t see where you do.
This new CBS News/New York Times poll nicely captures the political contours of the next two years. The essence is clear and provides an equivocal message for both parties: the Republican issue agenda isn’t particularly popular; President Bush is.
Just what that means for Democrats trying to retake Congress or the White House I’m not precisely sure. One thing it does point up is the importance of how hard congressional Republicans and the White House try to push an ideological agenda. The temptation to do so will be great. And I suspect it’s one they’ll quickly succumb to.
That could make the White House rue the day they took back unified control of the federal government. Of course, it’s not like everything’s a bowl of cherries for the Democrats as long as President Bush can remain so popular even as his agenda is one most Americans don’t agree with.
The best angle for Democrats would be to pry at the disjuncture between those two numbers rather than to hit the president head-on.
Elected Democrats and Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill really need to set aside a little time this evening to share some quiet, reflective moments with their own idiocy. Today, to great fanfare, President Bush signed the new law which creates the Department of Homeland Security. He got all sorts of great photos and TV coverage preening for the cameras and so forth. And, yet, this was the Dems’ idea. They thought there should be a Department of Homeland Security. They pushed for it. He resisted it. Then he changed his tune and clobbered them with it in the election. How did they let this happen? Time for some quiet time …
A bit more on the conference at Yale mentioned below. I was going to put together my recollections and ideas about what was discussed. But, frankly, Jeff Jarvis has already done it far better than I could. If you’re interested in finding out more about what happened at the conference or if you’re just interested in the blogging phenom, check out Jeff’s run-down.