Anne Applebaum

Tags ››› Anne Applebaum
  • Wash. Post's Applebaum: Oil spill is not Obama's "Katrina"

    Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

    We noted that media conservatives rushed to absurdly compare the Obama administration's response to a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the Bush Administration's botched response after Hurricane Katrina, a hurricane that left more than 1,500 dead. The oil spill is the latest in a long line of events that media figures have called "Obama's Katrina."

    In her Washington Post column today, Anne Applebaum counters this claim, stating, "Other than proximity to the Louisiana coast, this catastrophe has nothing in common with Hurricane Katrina":

    In the Gulf of Mexico, plumes of black oil are gushing into the ocean, coating the wings of seabirds, poisoning shellfish, sending tar balls rolling onto white Florida beaches. It is an ecological disaster. It is a economic nightmare. And there is absolutely nothing that the American president can do about it. Nothing at all.

    Here is the hard truth: The U.S. government does not possess a secret method for capping oil leaks. Even the combined wisdom of the Obama inner circle -- all of those Harvard economists, silver-tongued spin doctors and hardened politicos -- cannot prevent tens of thousands of tons of oil from pouring out of hole a mile beneath the ocean surface. Other than proximity to the Louisiana coast, this catastrophe has nothing in common with Hurricane Katrina: That was an unstoppable natural disaster that turned into a human tragedy because of an inadequate government response. This is just an unstoppable disaster, period. It will be a human tragedy precisely because no government response is possible.

  • The Washington Post Company does not understand disclosure

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Nation's Ari Melber notes that Yuval Levin, formerly an aide in George W. Bush's domestic policy shop, is Newsweek's editor of national affairs, in which position he has written that liberals must "pull back to the center--or suffer the consequences." And warned of "Obama fatigue." And suggested the stimulus package passed earlier this year should have contained a "meaningful tax-cut component." (Melber notes that in fact the stimulus contained $280 billion in tax cuts, which seems pretty meaningful to me.)And in June, Levin co-wrote a column with Bill Kristol, declaring "ObamaCare is wrong. It should and can be defeated."

    In March, a piece Levin wrote for Newsweek identified him as a "Bush veteran." But more his more recent bylines have described him simply as "editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center," so Melber asked Newsweek why Levin's partisan background is no longer disclosed. Here's the response he got from a Newsweek spokesperson:

    Levin's previous article for Newsweek involved the issue of bioethics, his primary focus while at the White House. He disclosed his prior position in the body of that piece. His most recent article was not related to that topic. We believe our readers are aware of Mr. Levin's background, and are able to discern a reported news article from argument, which Levin's recent piece was. (Emphasis added.)

    This is absolute nonsense. There isn't one person in a hundred who knows Yuval Levin worked in the Bush White House. Is there even one person in a thousand? In ten thousand? And how many know he co-authors attacks on "ObamaCare" with Bill Kristol and contributes to National Review Online?

    Newsweek's apparent belief that because they disclosed Levin's background once, long ago, all of their readers have committed his resume to memory reminded me of Anne Applebaum's recent defense of her failure to disclose the fact that her husband is an official in the Polish government who was lobbying for leniency for Roman Polanski while she was writing in support of the same.

    Applebaum, a columnist for Newsweek's sibling publication, the Washington Post, wrote: "For the record, I will note that I mentioned my husband's job in a column as recently as last week, and that when he first entered the Polish government three years ago I wrote a column about that too. I have to assume that the bloggers who have leapt upon this as some kind of secret revelation are simply unfamiliar with my writing."

    As I explained at the time:

    This is nonsense. If a conflict exists, it isn't sufficient to disclose it once. It must be disclosed every time it is relevant. Applebaum seems to assume that Washington Post readers make a mental catalogue of every Post reporter and columnist, their relationships, and their conflicts of interest. That anyone who ever reads anything she writes will take it upon themselves to keep a running tally of her conflicts, so she need disclose them only once. That, obviously, is not going to happen. And it displays a stunning arrogance -- she thinks everyone who reads her column cares enough about her to know where her husband works.

    Finally, she's misstating the nature of what she mocks as the "secret revelation." The criticism wasn't that her husband is an employee of the Polish government. Nobody cares about that. It's that her husband is a Polish government official who is currently lobbying for the very thing Applebaum is arguing in favor of. Surely she understands the difference?

    (For the record, Applebaum had another, much better, defense of her failure to disclose her husband's lobbying for Polanski: she says she didn't know he was doing it.)

    And then there's Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post media critic with the lucrative side-job hosting a television show for CNN. He's promised to disclose his financial relationship with CNN every time he writes about the cable news giant -- but he doesn't do so. Not even close.

    What Kurtz, Levin, and Applebaum have in common -- besides a corporate parent -- is the apparent belief that as long as they disclose potential conflicts of interests once, anyone who ever reads anything they write will be completely aware of their background. That is obviously foolish -- not to mention arrogant. This may be hard for Washington Post Company journalists to believe, but most readers have more important things to do than to memorize the life story of every reporter whose reporting they might encounter.

  • WaPo's Applebaum defends her defense of child rapist

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, Anne Applebaum was one of two -- two! -- Washington Post columnists who argued for leniency for child rapist Roman Polanski. Applebaum's argued that Polanski shouldn't be imprisoned because he has suffered enough -- he's had to pay lawyers' fees, and was unable to pick up an Oscar he won for fear he'd be taken for jail. No, really -- that was Applebaum's argument:

    He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers' fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar.

    That's just dumb. People who commit crimes do not pay their debts to society when they write checks to their lawyers. And saying that someone has paid for the crime of child rape by being unable to receive an Oscar may be the single most clueless thing ever written by a Washington Post columnist.

    Anyway, Applebaum's defense of Polanski drew some well-deserved ridicule, here and elsewhere.

    Well, today, Applebaum responded. And, as Paul Campos points out at Lawyers, Guns and Money, she responds by saying, basically, that the Polanski case isn't "straightforward and simple" because Polanski's victim -- a 13-year-old child -- had asked her mother for permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi.

    Applebaum doesn't bother to explain why a 13-year-old child asking her mother for permission to be photographed in a jacuzzi in any way gets a grown man off the hook for subsequently drugging and raping the child. She just assumes we'll understand. But, in any case, Campos points out that Applebaum got it wrong; the victim didn't ask her mother if she could be photographed in a jacuzzi. So Applebaum's defense of Polanski is not only strange and bizarre, it is factually inaccurate as well.

    Applebaum also defends herself from criticism that she should have disclosed the fact that her husband, a Polish government official, is currently lobbying for Polanski's freedom. Applebaum writes that at the time she wrote the original blog post, she "had no idea that the Polish government would or could lobby for Polanski's release, as I am in Budapest and my husband is in Africa."

    I actually find that reasonably compelling. Unfortunately, that isn't Applebaum's only defense of her lack of disclosure. Applebaum:

    For the record, I will note that I mentioned my husband's job in a column as recently as last week, and that when he first entered the Polish government three years ago I wrote a column about that too. I have to assume that the bloggers who have leapt upon this as some kind of secret revelation are simply unfamiliar with my writing.

    This is nonsense. If a conflict exists, it isn't sufficient to disclose it once. It must be disclosed every time it is relevant. Applebaum seems to assume that Washington Post readers make a mental catalogue of every Post reporter and columnist, their relationships, and their conflicts of interest. That anyone who ever reads anything she writes will take it upon themselves to keep a running tally of her conflicts, so she need disclose them only once. That, obviously, is not going to happen. And it displays a stunning arrogance -- she thinks everyone who reads her column cares enough about her to know where her husband works.

    Finally, she's misstating the nature of what she mocks as the "secret revelation." The criticism wasn't that her husband is an employee of the Polish government. Nobody cares about that. It's that her husband is a Polish government official who is currently lobbying for the very thing Applebaum is arguing in favor of. Surely she understands the difference?

    Applebaum concludes:

    The implication, in any case, that I am a spokesman for my husband -- while not quite as offensive as the implication that my daughter should be raped -- is offensive nevertheless.

    That's a pretty poor attempt to play the victim. Does Anne Applebaum expect us to believe that she doesn't think it would be newsworthy if, say, a United States Senator casts a vote that would benefit her spouse's business, without disclosing the interest?

    There's a clear difference between saying someone is incapable of thinking independently and is merely a puppet of their spouse, and saying someone should disclose conflicts of interest that arise from their spouse's work. The former would, indeed, be offensive. The latter is what people were actually saying.

    UPDATE: Applebaum also includes this priceless line:

    Of course, there were some very legitimate disagreements, including two excellent ones from my colleagues Gene Robinson and Richard Cohen, and I take some of their points.

    Note that the only legitimate disagreements Applebaum can bring herself to refer to came from her Washington Post colleagues. Note also that she doesn't actually tell us what those disagreements were. Or which of their "points" she "takes." It's a secret. And, finally, note that neither Robinson nor Cohen actually mention her in any way, and that Cohen agrees with her that Polanski should not be jailed.

  • Two WaPo columnists agree: Go easy on rapist

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    "Liberal" Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen says Roman Polanski shouldn't be imprisoned for rape:

    Time does not minimize the crime, which in its details is creepy, but jail would no longer serve a purpose.

    Actually, Cohen never uses the word "rape." Indeed, at one point, he refers to it as a seduction:

    He seduced -- if that can possibly be the word -- the 13-year-old Samantha Geimer with all the power and authority of a 44-year-old movie director who could make her famous.

    No, Mr. Cohen, "seduced" cannot possibly be the word. Pick another. Give "rape" a try. It fits pretty well.

    At least Cohen's Washington Post colleague, Anne Applebaum, sets him straight. Oh -- wait, I'm sorry; Applebaum agrees Polanski should not be imprisoned:

    He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers' fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar.

    Oh, he wasn't able to receive his Oscar? Well, that changes everything! Clearly, the man has suffered enough! In fact, let's all apologize to him. Applebaum comes close in her conclusion:

    If he weren't famous, I bet no one would bother with him at all.

    Well, nobody would write columns arguing that he's already been punished enough by being kept from displaying an Oscar on his mantle, that's for damn sure.

    (H/t Atrios)

    UPDATE: Conservative blogger Patterico says Anne Applebaum's husband, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, is lobbying the US to drop proceedings against Polanski. That sure seems like something Applebaum should have disclosed, doesn't it?

    UPDATE 2: Applebaum says she's disclosed before, so it's no big deal that she didn't this time:

    "I have disclosed that before, more than once. Also, when I wrote the blog I had no idea that my husband, who is in Africa, would, or could do anything about it, as Polanski is not a Polish citizen. I am not responsible for his decisions and he is not responsible for mine. "

    Applebaum's previous disclosure of who her husband is, of course, has next to nothing to do with the question of whether she should have disclosed that her husband is lobbying the US to go easy one Roman Polanski at the same time she is writing a Washington Post column to that effect.

    But then, maybe she's just adhering to the Howard Kurtz school of intermittent disclosure.

    UPDATE 3: Applebaum's defense of her defense of Polanski has some flaws.