Let the sun shine in

We've got a new “Think Again” column on protecting anonymous sources.

Ezra's right, Eric's wrong:

Seriously. Ezra Klein writes here that TNR's Jamie Kirchick is “not Stephen Glass,” and notes that “by being much more aggressively dishonest than the average unreconstructed neoconservative, and by writing in the pages of The New Republic, Kirchick has attained a sort of overnight infamy, which in this business, is indistinguishable from prominence. That is, in a way, success, and it would be odd to expect Kirchick to abandon a strategy that's working. What's more curious is his place at The New Republic.”

Ezra points out that the primary difference between Kirchick and Glass was that “Glass had tricked The New Republic. His lies -- the fabrication of facts -- were a deception, and could only continue until he was caught. Kirchick's lies -- the willful misrepresentation of the political arguments, histories, and beliefs of his opponents -- are his writing style, and they form the basis for his continued employment. For TNR, Glass was an embarrassment. Kirchick, by contrast, represents an impulse that they've affirmatively chosen to represent in their pages: Anti-left, with McCarthyite rhetorical tendencies, and a penchant for getting a rise out of political opponents by lying about their positions. ... His falsehoods are not hidden by forged documents or invented sources. They're right there on the page, and they have drawn nothing but forbearance and promotions from his employer.”

I further note in support of Ezra's more careful distinction than my own that yesterday was the third time I have been forced to correct the very same lie that Kirchick has told about my challenge to Andrew Sullivan regarding the accuracy of his work to make it appear that I was somehow mocking his medical condition. I was forced to write a long letter that was published by the Advocate the last time he did it. Kirchick knows the truth, and yet he does it again and again. And it is a very damaging lie about me to those who believe it. The editors of The New Republic also can learn the truth with the click of a mouse, but they either don't care or can't be bothered. The National Enquirer has higher standards than that.

George Zornick writes:

This is the kind of stuff that creates head-sized holes in many walls around the country.

In February, John McCain was pressed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week if he was a " 'read my lips' candidate, no new taxes, no matter what." McCain insisted there were no circumstances under which he would raise taxes.

Then, appearing on that show again last Sunday, Stephanopoulos asked if “payroll taxes are on the table,” McCain responded: “There is nothing that's off the table. I have my positions, and I'll articulate them. But nothing's off the table.”

Now, that's the kind of gargantuan flip-flop that would have given many journalists the vapors if John Kerry did it in 2004. But here is New York Times political writer and CNBC analyst John Harwood, when asked by David Shuster if there would be fallout from McCain's conservative base on this newfound position: Harwood asserted that McCain's shift in position “might provide some countervailing help with -- for him in the middle of the electorate, some of those independents he's trying to reach out to, because that's truth-telling from John McCain.”

Harwood added: “That's the Straight Talk Express, which people got to know so well about John McCain in 2000.” Harwood later added: "[I]t's a risky position for John McCain to take politically, especially with a conservative base, but it's also one of candor."

Note that McCain flip-flop-flipped yesterday, reverting back to his no-new-taxes absolutism: “I think the worst thing that could happen to America in these very tough economic times is to raise someone's taxes,” McCain said in response to a question. “I won't do it.” So, what does Harwood have to say about that? What candor!

Wikipedia is no doubt a revolutionary thing -- a depository of accumulated human knowledge that is changed in real time by millions of people across the globe. (Next time someone famous dies, I guarantee that if you check that person's Wikipedia page immediately upon hearing the news, it will already be reflected in that entry. Actually, Wikipedia broke the news of Tim Russert's death before anyone else even knew).

As such, though, it occasionally reflects the falsehoods held by millions of people as well. Check this list of men and women that Wikipedia lists under the entry for “Common man.” Here's the middle of the list:

  • Tiberius Gracchus
  • Robin Hood
  • John Wilkes
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Robespierre
  • Bill O'Reilly
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Eugene Debs
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Which one of these things is not like the other? (The full list is here. Note that O'Reilly is the only living American on that list.)

Now, not to beat up on Wikipedia -- that tag has been applied to O'Reilly quite a bit. But that's the problem. Here is Robespierre's alleged equal writing in The Washington Times this week, complaining about the possibility that tax cuts “on those making $250,000 or more” would be repealed -- he says that “me and other rich folks” would have to finance “folks who dropped out of school, who are too lazy to hold a job, who smoke reefers 24/7.” He also complains about his “astounding” tax rate. The Wonk Room dispensed with this nonsense here -- reminding us that the tax rate for the wealthiest one percent is at its lowest level in 18 years.

Also, recall O'Reilly's recent interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton, where he pestered her on the tax rate for rich folk like him, and accused: “You're going to raise taxes on the wealthy, and that's income redistribution. You know what that is. And income redistribution is why some conservatives don't like you, all right? It's because you take from the wealthy and you give to the less affluent. That's socialism. That has a socialist component.”

Any enterprising Wikipedia editors out there? Just sayin'.

O'Reilly bonus: Earlier this week, we pointed to a study done at George Mason University demonstrating that Obama gets tougher coverage from network newscasts than does McCain. The head of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, Dr. Robert Lichter, is no stranger to conservatives -- after he did a study with identical methodology in 2006 showing that Democrats got more favorable coverage than Republicans leading up the midterm elections (can't imagine why), O'Reilly called him “a truth teller.”

What, then, did he have to say about the recent study by Lichter? Read here how O'Reilly declared Lichter's “technique” as no longer “valid,” and declared the study “misleading” and “an enormous mistake.” True truthiness at work -- I don't believe it, so it can't be true.

Paul Newman: one great American. Christopher Hitchens: not so much.

Reasons my city kicks your city's ass that are relevant only the past 12 and next 12 hours:

1) The burgers at J.G. Mellons
2) The Public Theater's Hair at the Castle in Central Park
3) Bruce Springsteen, third show, Giants Stadium

This week on Moyers:

With former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is already serving five and a half years, expected to be sentenced on other charges next month, Bill Moyers takes viewers back to the scene of the crime in this update of “Capitol Crimes,” an acclaimed documentary investigating the Abramoff lobbying scandal. The program examines the web of relationships, secret deals and political manipulation that exposes the use and abuse of power in American politics. In this update of a report that aired in 2006, Moyers and his colleagues untangle emails, reports, interviews and facts on the record to reveal an astonishing pattern of criminal and political chicanery.

From the ANP:

The House Judiciary Committee has voted to hold Karl Rove in contempt of Congress after repeated efforts to get him to testify under oath. Now the decision to take the matter to the House floor for a vote lies with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She says she won't consider the resolution until September but public pressure is mounting. Is Karl Rove headed to jail?

From TomDispatch:

In his new post, “When I'm 64 ... Living Through the Age of Denial in America,” Tom Engelhardt begins with his own birth -- “I set foot, so to speak, on this planet on July 20, 1944, not perhaps the best day of the century. It was, in fact, the day of the failed German officers' plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler...” His life has, in fact, spanned 64 years in which Americans have both lived with -- and in denial of -- world-ending possibilities.

In fact, beginning with the few miles-wide, torn-up, utterly devastated strip of land that made up, at any given moment, the Western front in the First World War, his latest post traces the way in which the means to destroy came to envelop ever greater swaths of the planet, while, from 1945 on, the means to deny exactly what kind of a world we were living in expanded exponentially in the U.S., which remained, in terms of destruction, essentially untouched by World Wars I and II.

“Let me start this way,” he writes, “If, on the evening of October 22, 1962, you had told me that, in 2008, America's most formidable enemy would be Iran, I would have danced a jig. Well, maybe not a jig, but I'll tell you this: I would have been flabbergasted.” That was, of course, the evening in which John F. Kennedy addressed Americans on the topic of Soviet missiles in Cuba. ( “It was the single moment in my life -- which tells you much about the life of an American who didn't go to war in some distant land -- when I truly imagined myself as prospective burnt toast.” )

He continues: “Had you, a seer that terrifying night, whispered in my ear the news about our enemies still distant decades away, the Iranians, the ... are you kidding? ... Iraqis, or a bunch of fanatics in the backlands of Afghanistan and a tribal borderland of Pakistan ... well, it's a sentence that would, at the time, have been hard to finish. Death from Waziristan? I don't think so.”

Somehow though, we did escape the Big One in the Cold War, that world of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) and, given that fact, the question he asks -- and tries to answer in much of this post -- is: “Why don't I feel better, more hopeful, now?”

In part, the answer to that lies in another strange reality -- that, only when the Cold War (aka “World War III” in neocon land), ended with the disappearance of the Soviet Union, did the MADness really began. The rest of this piece considers how exactly an American Age of Denial made it to September 11, 2001, and the ways in which the Bush administration's response to the attacks of that day might be considered “a desperate and fierce rearguard action to extend that era.”

As Engelhardt enters his 65th year, this is his attempt to make some sense of the world he's passed through.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Linda Whitener
Hometown: Charlotte, NC

I think Altercator Beth Harrison has hit upon the only way to restore credibility to the Justice Department: “Frankly, I don't know how DOJ can recover from the Age of Monica other than firing all career attorneys who owe their position to her.” My question is, can it be done? I'm very much afraid that the same Villagers who sat on their hands during Rove's purge at DOJ will raise hell if a Democratic administration tries to clean up Monica's mess.

Name: Jim Celer
Hometown: Omaha

The CBS News website had a story from the WaPo pointing out that McCain's attacks on Obama's troop non-visit in Germany were based on falsehoods.

So? “McCain's advisers said they do not intend to back down from the charge, believing it an effective way to create a 'narrative' about what they say is Obama's indifference toward the military.”

Am I correct in reading that as “a lie, if repeated often enough, becomes the truth” ?

Don't we have enough evidence for what happens when campaigns are won with those tactics?

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC

Dr. When an incident like this happens, the generals and field marshals in the so-called war on religion such as this guy hide in their respective foxholes. Or maybe to them Unitarians and “other” religions are simply expendable and religion freedom is only for Christians. One could only imagine the cacophony within the 24/7 cable world if Jim David Adkisson shot up a church of a Christian denomination and had a copy of, say, the Koran or “Why We're Liberals” in his house.