Welcome back, my friends ...


We've got a new Think Again column called " Meltdown: The Blame Game," here. My new Nation column is called "It's Sliming Time (Again)," which is here. Meanwhile, I will debate the election Monday, October 20, at 7 p.m. in Whitman Auditorium at Brooklyn College with Robert George, columnist with the New York Post, and moderated by Leonard Lopate of WNYC.

One quibble with post-debate fact-checking: A lot of journalists, NBC's Andrea Mitchell in particular, have been hitting Obama for saying "100 percent, John, of your ads -- 100 percent of them have been negative." (The Associated Press does it here.) But it's true -- the Wisconsin Advertising Project found that, in the most recent week they measured, 100 percent of McCain's ads were negative, and about one-third of Obama's were. Now, I guess you could say that Obama should have clarified that he meant recent advertising, and not all advertising, but does anyone really think he was trying to say that every ad McCain ever ran this campaign was negative? Of course not.

Also, this, from Media Matters:

During postdebate coverage, Bill Bennett asked, "Why didn't [Sen. Barack] Obama say it was wrong?" -- referring to a statement by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) that invoked George Wallace. In fact, during the debate, Obama said of Lewis' statement, "I do think that he inappropriately drew a comparison between what was happening there and what had happened during the civil rights movement, and we immediately put out a statement saying that we don't think that comparison is appropriate."

More here.

This week's Think Again deals with the wild yarns being spun by conservatives about the financial meltdown. We left out one truly ridiculous one, though -- guests on Lou Dobbs' CNN show, the Drudge Report, and Michelle Malkin have all shoehorned illegal immigration into this issue, claiming that according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 5 million subprime loans went to illegal aliens.

There is really no detailed rebuttal to this claim -- it's just false. The Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn't even keep statistics like that.

George Zornick writes: There was a peculiar exchange on Fox News Monday night:

SEAN HANNITY: When you look at polls like ABC/Washington Post, or Newsweek, when you get to the internals, they're interviewing 10 to 25 percent more Democrats. So you have to discount them because they don't.


HANNITY: You can't interview 25 percent more Democrats and expect, you know, anything other than the result that they're coming up with, right?


This shows what a free-for-all is going on over there -- facts have gone right out the window. All pollsters have more Democrats in their samples, because there are more self-identified Democrats in the country right now. More will be showing up to the voting booths in November. That's just how it works. Hannity has not stumbled onto an evil liberal pollster scenario.

The strange thing is not that Hannity would assault basic facts like this. (Although, it's one thing to insist the surge is working, or that tax cuts for the rich help us all -- you at least get a lot of distance from those comments until everyone realizes you're lying. But pretending the pollsters are all wrong seems like a strategy that can only possibly work for another, oh, 18 days). More strange, though, is that Scott Rasmussen, who does this for a living, didn't say anything.

Over at Crooked Timber, they have a great collection of conservative heads exploding as a result of Paul Krugman's Nobel Prize.

There's a lot of this: "I wouldn't want to suggest Krugman excuses terrorism or hates America. It is likely, however, that his extensive Bush-bashing, Saddam-dismissing, GWOT-mocking absurdism was a heavy thumb on the Nobel scale" (Jules Crittenden). See also: "Today, Paul Krugman is disgraced, internationally, and anointed with the Mantle of Stooge as defined by the Swedish Academy. This Academy is besotted with political choices for prizes ..." (Townhall).

I'm making my own list here -- national and international measures of acclaim that right-wingers have denounced as useless "liberal plots."

(1) The Nobel Prize (see above).

(2) The Academy Awards. Representative dismissal: "This to a conclave of Hollywood plutocrats who have not seen the inside of a subway since the moon landing and for whom mass transit means a stretch limo seating no fewer than 10." -- Charles Krauthammer. And let's not forget the anti-Oscar venom when Michael Moore won.

(3) The Pulitzer Prize. Dana Priest's win, in particular, did not please right-wingers. "So when you hear a liberal-media person crow about someone's excellent journalistic qualifications, such as his Pulitzer Prize, it's fairly safe to assume that hallowed journalist wrote something that would make a Hillary Clinton smile from ear to ear -- and would make a Rush Limbaugh grimace." -- Brent Bozell.

(4) George Polk Award. "The winners, as selected by an advisory panel assembled by Long Island University, are a who's who of liberal activists, including left-wing New York Times columnist Frank Rich and Victor Navasky, the long-time Editor of the far-left The Nation magazine. Virtually all the winners in reporting categories went to journalists who revealed secret anti-terror operations, undermined the Bush administration's anti-terror efforts or embarrassed people and/or contractors linked to the Bush administration." -- Media Research Center's Brent Baker.

(5) The Grammys - remember when the Dixie Chicks won? "In order to try and boost the ego of the Dixie Chicks, Hollywood gave the gals five Grammies.... The left never rewards quality of work and actual success. They instead reward people who say what they want to hear and act the way they are expected to act." -- American Conservative Daily.

There are others, I'm sure. Send them along ...

I got a note this morning calling this the best blog post ever.

But Henry thinks it's this.

I still think it's this, with this as a close second.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

I know you weren't asking us to send you questions for Schieffer, but I thought I'd suggest a principle and an example.

Instead of training a disproportionate amount of time on Obama as some RW pundits are suggesting, and instead of asking questions for which the two candidates can go to boilerplate paragraphs from stump speeches, how about debate moderators ask both candidates to address some issues from current events that have not been addressed, preferably from breaking news so that they won't be able to offer canned answers. An example might be the Washington Post's report on the Bush administration's use of waterboarding:

"The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public."

I'd like to hear the two candidates address the issue of torture and secrecy. Even though it's not about mortgage defaults or about shadowy past associations, it is about constitutional practices, our standing in the world, executive accountability, and whether or not we are a civilized nation.

Name: John Moore
Hometown: San Francisco

Dear Dr. A.,

Thank you for bringing up Richard Cohen's latest attempt to make Barack Obama responsible for the views of Louis Farrakhan. As you point out, Cohen himself admits that there's nothing to suggest that Obama agrees with Farrakhan's views. And, in fact, Obama has denounced Farrakhan's positions on more than one occasion. So what is the source of Obama's supposed responsibility for Farrakhan's opinions?

In my view, Cohen's attempts to link the two men are little more than country club racism. One of the many harmful features of racism is that it deprives black people of their individuality. African-Americans are not viewed or treated as individuals who can think independently and form varying, individual opinions. Instead, they are simply monolithically "black." By Cohen's apparent logic, since both Obama and Farrakhan are black, Obama must answer for anything Farrakhan does.

You'll note that Cohen does not apply the same standard to whites. For example, Cohen doesn't seem to hold John McCain responsible for, say, the racist views of his former Republican colleagues in the Senate -- Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. But why not? McCain certainly had a much closer association with Thurmond and Helms than Obama has ever had with Farrakhan. And like Thurmond and Helms, McCain is a white, Republican male. If Cohen is going to play this game, at least he ought to be consistent.

I bring this up because I see it as one of the many ways in which race affects the reporting on Obama and other African-American political figures. Cohen would doubtless express indignation if someone suggested that his linking Obama and Farrakhan is racist. But to me, it seems difficult to deny that he is applying a different standard to Obama than he does to white candidates. If this different standard is based on some factor other than Obama's skin color, I am unable to discern what that factor is.

Name: Rich Gallagher
Hometown: Fishkill

Dear Eric,

It should not have to fall to an amateur such as me to point out to Steven Pearlstein that a single day -- even a record single day -- does not a stock market rally make. As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, the market has given back nearly all of its Monday gain.

On the unrelated subject of Jewish comic artists, how about some love for Harvey Kurtzman?

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT


It is impossible to overstate how good Rachel Maddow is on her new MSNBC show. I thought I loved/admired her on Air America, but in that format one cannot see how well her face and voice work together. Although this might be damning with faint praise, she has more intelligence and charm in her little finger than all the rest of the cable "talking heads" put together. She is simply brilliant, fetching, and so deeply needed to balance the vituperation of the right-wingers. I urge Altercators who have not done so to be sure to catch one of her shows.

Eric replies: Actually, it is not "impossible." It is easy. Rachel Maddow is as good a talk show host as George W. Bush is a bad president ... Rachel Maddow is to talk shows what Eric Clapton is to guitar playing ... Rachel Maddow is to talk shows what Bruce Springsteen is to live performance.

Ok, none of this "impossible to overstate" ever again, please ......

Name: Jeff Mansell
Hometown: Pittsburgh

I had the unique experience of hearing Jonah Goldberg and Peter Beinart debate (or "exchange," as I think they called it) at a luncheon forum sponsored in part by the local bar association.

I gather that this is some kind of road show that Goldberg and Beinart put on, so I assume that a catalogue of the many spurious things Goldberg said would be old news, but what struck me was Goldberg's introduction of himself -- he stated that he spent much of his life trying to avoid going into journalism before realizing he wasn't qualified for anything else.

This of course begs the question of what qualifications he has for journalism. Not many, gathering by his view of the media right now. Apparently, he believes that it is futile for any media outlet to focus on the presidential candidates' "plans," since those plans will inevitably not be enacted into law as currently written. Instead, according to Goldberg, the media need to focus on character, especially Obama's association with Rev. Wright.

Beinart did a good job of pointing out that a candidate's plans reveal a great amount of character, in that one's view of what the government should be and do is the most important character evidence when judging a candidate for the presidency.

I don't know if this is stuff you've already heard/read from Goldberg, but I thought this recounting might be pertinent to your blog.

Name: Paul in LA
Hometown: Granada Hills CA

Hey Doc,

Have you heard Allison Krauss and Union Station's version of "Baby Now That I Found You" by the Foundations? Amazing!

Eric replies: Great song, could have made the list.

Name: Larry Epke
Hometown: Richton Park, IL

Jewish comic book creators -- I'll join in on this game.

One of the most important early comic book businesspeople was M.C. Gaines (nee Ginzberg or Ginsberg), whose company published the 1940s versions of the Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Hawkman and others.

His son Bill Gaines was publisher of EC comics, famed first for their horror and science fiction comics. EC's editor was Al Feldstein. Among their staff was Bernard Krigstein, one of the most highly admired comic book artists of all time.

EC published Mad comics (which became Mad Magazine), the brainchild of Harvey Kurtzman, also Jewish. Kurtzman's close friend Will Elder (born Wolf Eisenberg) was one of the book's primary artists.

Jack Kirby's primary collaborator for most of the 1940s and '50s was Joe Simon, a Jewish native of Rochester NY.

Stan Lee's brother, Larry Lieber, was an artist and writer for Marvel in the 1960s. He wrote the first Iron Man and Thor stories and drew The Rawhide Kid for comic books and The Amazing Spiderman newspaper strip for many years.

Batman's creator Bob Kane's birth name was Robert Kahn and his work has been featured at New York's Jewish Museum.

The comic book industry was largely created by a group of New York artists, so the Jewish connection is not really surprising.

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