The heart of the matter ...

Amazing. Bob Novak on Scott McClellan, here:

On July 14, 2003, one day before McClellan took a press secretary's job for which many colleagues felt he was unqualified, I wrote a column asserting that while at the CIA Plame had suggested her Democratic partisan husband, retired diplomat Joseph Wilson, for a sensitive intelligence mission. That story would make McClellan's three years at the briefing room podium a misery, leading to his dismissal and now his bitter retort. In claiming he was misled about the Plame affair, McClellan mentions Armitage only twice. Armitage being the leaker undermines the Democratic theory, now accepted by McClellan, that Bush, Vice President Cheney and political adviser Karl Rove aimed to delegitimize Wilson as a war critic.

Rather than fulminate per usual about this man's shameful presence in The Washington Post, let's just note the following.

1) Novak's point is patently false. Just because Richard Armitage was one of his sources does not mean that Rove was not doing the same thing simultaneously for his own reasons. And just because he was not indicted does not mean he was not guilty. And just because he did not do it directly with Novak -- but used a cutout -- does not mean that this was the intended use of what David Stockman so memorably called “the Bob Novak Bulletin Board.”

2) From Why We're Liberals:

[Novak] was alone among the at least six professional journalists approached by Bush officials to prove willing to reveal Plame's identity and CIA status. Bill Harlow, the agency's spokesperson at the time, later testified to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald that at least three days before Novak's column was published, he warned Novak, in the strongest possible terms, that Plame's name should not be made public. Novak ignored him and published anyway.


Robert Novak retained his esteemed positions on the Washington Post editorial page and the allegedly liberal CNN, until he lost his composure on the latter and uttered profanities before walking off the set while the show was still on the air. (He was quickly picked up by Fox News.) The most influential members of the punditocracy attempted to shrug off both the actions of the guilty men and their implications. Pundit “dean” David Broder called it “a tempest in a teapot.” When “all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great,” suggested Bob Woodward. Novak himself complained that the controversy was based on “little elitist issues that don't bother most of the people.” Any fair examination of the case reveals the fact that it wasn't “elitism” that motivated those in the CIA and elsewhere to demand the truth in the Plame investigation, but patriotism.

George Zornick writes:

The public editor of the Chicago Tribune, Timothy McNulty, has penned an odd defense of the Kathleen Parker column we noted in this space recently -- the column is about her desire for a “full-blooded American” as president. She wrote about the evils of multiculturalism and “heritage ... being swept under the carpet,” while saying that what's important “blood equity, heritage,” “bloodlines,” and “roots.”

McNulty acknowledges that “to write about bloodlines and claim it's not about race or ethnicity is nonsense. Those are code words. I suspect most readers understand that.” So why publish the piece in the Chicago Tribune? McNulty says:

[A]s ridiculous and repugnant as that full-blooded sentiment is to many, if not most, Americans, I would rather see it on the op-ed page so that people can hold it to the light and repudiate the notion rather than deal with it as a whispering campaign.

McNulty's belief in burning the village of civil discourse in order to save it would, of course, open the door to printing and thus legitimating every scurrilous, crazy right-wing rant out there in the name of “holding it to the light.” And as far as that goes, there was no specific response to Parker printed by the Tribune -- the only light being shined seems to be from angry readers in the letters to the editor. Even McNulty himself, while acknowledging “many, if not most” Americans probably view Parker's column as repugnant, doesn't explicitly repudiate it, nor deal with the racist arguments it contains.

To see a public editor doing a good job challenging unfounded and offensive facts and assumptions in an op-ed, however, see Clark Hoyt in yesterday's New York Times, writing about a recent op-ed by Edward Luttwak that asserted Barack Obama was an apostate Muslim who would be reviled by Muslims across the globe:

The Times Op-Ed page, quite properly, is home to a lot of provocative opinions. But all are supposed to be grounded on the bedrock of fact. Op-Ed writers are entitled to emphasize facts that support their arguments and minimize others that don't. But they are not entitled to get the facts wrong or to so mangle them that they present a false picture....I interviewed five Islamic scholars, at five American universities, recommended by a variety of sources as experts in the field. All of them said that Luttwak's interpretation of Islamic law was wrong.

Had McNulty spent his column breaking down Parker's assumptions, perhaps by consulting historians or experts in racial politics, I don't think they would even have been as charitable as to say the column was “wrong.”

McCain Suck-up Watch, health care edition: “The Associated Press' Liz Sidoti reported without challenge several attacks Sen. John McCain recently made against Sen. Barack Obama, including what Sidoti referred to as his 'ready response' that a 'significant difference between myself and Senator Obama' is that 'I am not going to dictate that the government decide what your health care is going to be.' In fact, Obama's plan does not allow for government control of health care; rather, it calls for individuals to choose their own insurance.” More here.

Quote of the Day:

“I must announce that the Zionist regime (Israel), with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene,” he said.

“Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.”

Since taking the presidency in August 2005, Ahmadinejad has repeatedly provoked international outrage by predicting Israel is doomed to disappear.

“I tell you that with the unity and awareness of all the Islamic countries all the satanic powers will soon be destroyed[.]”

-- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, here.

From TomDispatch:

“Kill! Kill! Kill!” This was the sort of thing that the evil enemy villain was likely to urge on his followers in the movies of Tom Engelhardt's 1950s childhood. Such villains were not just fanatical, but usually at the very edge of madness as well. He was brought back with a start to just such evil-doers of his American screen childhood last week by a memoir from a once-upon-a-time insider of the Bush presidency. No, not former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's tell-some book, but that of former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. He got next to no attention for a 2004 presidential outburst he recorded in his memoir, Wiser in Battle, so bloodthirsty and over the top that it should have caught the attention of the nation -- and so eerily in character, given the last years of presidential behavior, that you know it has to be on the money.

On the eve of the first battle of Fallujah in Iraq in a video teleconference, here is how, in part, George W. Bush exhorted his closest top civilian and military advisers in what Sanchez calls “a kind of confused pep talk” : “Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!”

Based on this unsettling passage, Engelhardt first returns to a moment when, in the Vietnam years, a desperate President Richard Nixon was consciously preparing to take on the public role of nation-incinerating (or even world-incinerating) madman as a diplomatic “strategy.” Then, he reviews Bush's years, almost four decades later, acting out his cartoonish version of the role of the century as “wartime” commander in chief (and, while he was at it, privately channeling one of the evil villains of his movie childhood).

In fact, the president has often seemed like little more than an overgrown boy plunged into his own war movie and war-play memories. Engelhardt considers the “scorecard” of top Al Qaeda figures to be taken out that he kept in his Oval Office desk, his urge for military dress up -- those G.I. Joe action figure-style military jackets he wore while addressing hooah-ing crowds of troops that had “George W. Bush, Commander In Chief” stitched across the breast -- his love of Saddam Hussein's captured pistol, his bluster ( “Bring 'em on!” ), the way he visibly savors playing “commander in chief,” or tears up instantly on giving out medals, and so on.

He concludes: “A confused pep talk indeed. Even if Bush is still exhorting his top officials not to ” blink," Americans should. After all, there are almost eight months left to his presidency, and a man of such stunning immaturity, who confuses fantasy with real life, and is given to outbursts of challenge, bluster, and bloodlust should be taken seriously. Nixon's 'mad mullah' stayed private until transcripts of the Watergate tapes and memoirs started coming out. For us, the question remains, will this President be able to take a final turn on-screen before his term ends, playing the 'mad mullah' in relation to Iran?"

Alter-reviews: The Eagles and the Raconteurs, by Eric

I saw the Eagles at Madison Square Garden over the weekend. I've never seen them before, and I don't think I've ever seen a more professional, precise rock n' roll show. The four actual band members wear black suits and ties, with white shirts, and put me in mind of a group of law partners who played in bands in college and are getting together to sing for the firm's annual Christmas party. (The sidemen also wore black suits and ties, but with black shirts.) The renditions of the songs were perfect. Every ounce of craftsmanship that went into making these songs classics was on display -- in contrast to the ragged glory of, say, CSNY. And Don Henley has, I submit, the most beautiful voice of any white man alive. Glenn Frey has the most inoffensive, and in many ways perfect, Eagles voice. It's amazing how well these guys cohere as a unit when they seem to not be able to get along at all. So here's the deal: perfect harmonies, perfect melodies, great graphics, and no surprises. It helps a great deal that their recent double album “Long Road Out of Eden” is also really, really good -- better than their late pre-breakup records. It hurts, at least me, that they didn't do “Already Gone” or “The Heart of the Matter.” I loved it, but at $200 or so for the good seats, it's not, for most people, a casual decision. (Media criticism bonus: Henley's “Dirty Laundry” comes with a video montage attacking Murdoch, Fox News, and crappy magazines, but carelessly includes The New Yorker in it.)

We had planned to review The Raconteurs' show in town this week to increase our (nonexistent) cred with the young folk, but sickness intervened and so we will note only of their second CD, Consolers of The Lonely -- you may have heard “Salute Your Solution,” the first single and one of 14 tracks on the album. The group's previous album was home-recorded, and we really liked it for its Beatlesy, Byrdsian, and Raspberryesque harmonies. This is the first big “studio” effort for The Raconteurs. The album was surprise-released in late March on full-length vinyl, CD, and digital formats “to get the album to fans as soon as possible and as we promised” -- or, in other words, to avoid pirated leaks of the album before its release. Unfortunately we do not like it nearly so much, perhaps because it is more complicated and required more attention than we had at the time. But perhaps you'll disagree. In any case, more information is available here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Roger Stone
Hometown: Miami Beach, Florida

I'm glad you liked Jeff Toobin's profile " The Dirty Trickster."

To the reader who said I was “an immoral bastard” - he is wrong on both counts. My Mother was married and I am not immoral. I believe in freedom, freedom from conventional thinking and government restriction of speech or open democracy, freedom in the Boardroom and the Bedroom. Consulting adults have freedoms.

Sure, I practice a Gonzo brand of politics. How else to gain coverage and currency for your ideas and aims in a world with 300 cable channels, Satellite TV and the Internet and the overload of information that provides.

Who else in politics says what he really thinks?

Eric replies: Consenting adults, as well...

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

As painful as it is to re-live the events of “Recount,” it provides a teaching moment for liberals, as the idealistic Gore forces, so concerned about their moral standing in posterity, are run over by the take-no-prisoners Bush forces. Perhaps they should have been worrying more about how posterity will view them in light of the horror of the past seven years. This is the basis for the support of the brass knuckles Clinton candidacy over the Hopeful Obama one by so many of us, but that battle is over.

In your book "Why We're Liberals," the Chapter called “Why Are Liberals Such Wimps?” [which is stated ironically for those who have not yet had the pleasure] is one of the shortest ones, and your concentration is on the way in which the media promotes phony equivocating liberals like Kristof and Alan Colmes. But doesn't the charge have some validity nonetheless? You begin with the wonderful quote from Robert Frost about liberals being so broadminded that they can't stick up for their own side of the argument, but isn't it too easy to blame the media for this failure on the part of so many liberal leaders?

The thesis of your book itself, the reluctance of the liberal plurality to proudly acknowledge just what they are, raises the issue of wimpiness, or lack of conviction and determination. Being able to see both sides of an issue does not excuse the reluctance to fight for the correct one, and there has been far too much of that, both in 2000 and in the years subsequent. There has been too much indecisiveness on the order of a Mario Cuomo, and liberals simply can't afford to play Hamlet anymore.

The current question is how exactly will Obama stand up to the freak show, not the one he will face during the campaign, but the one that will be unrelenting during every major initiative that he will pursue. I would suggest that he watch “Recount” and take it to heart.

Name: S.R. Dipaling
Hometown: Topeka, Kansas

I've all but cover-to-cover read the book, and I am at a loss for words to describe how I feel! That was (at the risk of using a term our Prez likes inordinately) awesome! I wish so many people could understand (or even unplug their ears long enough to listen) what you spelled out in the book. I'll recommend this to anybody here in the hinterlands of America who agree and, last I checked, there ARE a few of us out here.

Please come to Topeka or Lawrence to speak and sign your book. I realize I hold no official capacity to pose an invite, but here's sending one. Rock on!!!

Eric replies: Anyone wants to invite me to speak in Lawrence, I'm there. I'll even pay my own freight so long as we can figure out a way to get some gelt to the Lawrence Community Shelter who, people, are now in the process of trying to create an endowment, and believe me, people, there is no better cause.

Name: Bob
Hometown: Kansas City, MO

I have a tough time feeling any pity for the Yankees-Mets-Red Sox cabal of fans when I have to sit through another season with the wretched Royals.

Name: tom
Hometown: new york

Hey Eric, Thanks for your suggestion to boycott Dunkin' Donuts. I sent them the following:

I found the “contact us” options on your web site pretty limited, but it is appropriate I think to consider this comment related to in-store visits, since I'm not going to be making any more of them. Dunkin' Donuts' response to Michelle Malkin's recent idiocies was at best cowardly and insulting. Do you truly believe the American people are either racist or idiotic enough that your climb-down in the face of Malkin's preposterous intimidation was warranted? That's the best possible face I can put on your shameful decision, and frankly, it demonstrates a total lack of respect for your customers.

I look forward with some anxiety but no little interest to see what you will do when Malkin makes her inevitable discovery that Yasser Arafat also wore underwear and shoes. No doubt we can look forward to future Dunkin' Donuts ads featuring barefoot celebrities going commando once that happens. How very brave and principled.

Name: Ian
Hometown: Los Angeles

Wikipedia, that unimpeachable source, tells us the practice of shunning goes back to Biblical times. It's a practice that we need to restore starting with Scottie McC. Change the channel when he is on. Do not buy his book. He had his opportunity to come to terms with his Christian faith (supposedly the reason he wrote the book in the first place -- right) when he was making his first lies on behalf of BushCo. I see no reason to enrich him now for find a sliver of morality. He'll be easy to start with. Then we can move to shunning everyone else from this criminal regime. It's the best I can come up with because I don't expect the Dems to do anything in my lifetime to hold any of them accountable. The Dems never do. They're too busy looking forward so when the past overtakes them again, they never hear it coming.

Name: George Klos
Hometown: Austin

This is embarrassing to admit, but during Scott McClellan's tenure as White House press secretary I sometimes felt sorry for the poor shmuck. He looked picked on, but not by the press corps. I mean picked on in the sense that he walked into the press room with a “kick me” sign taped to his back by the guys he thinks are his friends. He was out of the loop, a mere monkeyboy told the leader's correct line and shoved out there to stick to it. Which he did, no matter how much he looked like an ass the longer it went on.

My sympathy for Scotty was momentary. I got over it as soon as I remember that he willingly signed on for the gig. He was one of the Texas good ol' boy appointees whose sole qualification was sycophancy. He mainly got the job because Mommy was a big player in the Texas GOP lineup, though she has since been placed on waivers after running for governor as an independent.

So he is being vilified for telling a little bit of the truth in a book that can't even be called a “tell-all.” If Scotty should be held in contempt, it should be as an obsequious courtier.

Name: Rick G
Hometown: Albany, NY

Sal, c/o Dr. A.:

I stand aside for no one in my indifference towards R.E.M.'s Around The Sun, Up, and Reveal. But we've been through this before about New Adventures in Hi-Fi. It really is one of their strongest.

I do agree that Accelerate is darn good. But honestly -- “sounding too desperately like R.E.M. wanting to sound like R.E.M.” -- what does that even mean? That R.E.M. sounds like ... R.E.M.?