Monday, July 18, 2005

NRO-Gate

Regardless of what one believes did or did not happen in Plamegate, there's one thing on which reasonable people might agree: the most interesting and compelling writing on this is coming from bloggers on the Left. For someone who grew up turning to sources like National Review whenever I needed some acerbic, well-reasoned, intellectually honest fare, the reversal of roles is striking.

Make no mistake: this thing's brought out the nuts. There's a lot of crap being shoveled around, and a fair share is coming from both sides. And to be sure, the dynamic of this story---a Republican administration under fire---is naturally conducive to passionate expression from the Left. But I'd much rather read provocative, intelligent, compelling, and (yes) sometimes speculative stuff from writers like this and this---while passing over the obvious blather of others, which is easy to do---than wade through the intellectual dishonesty, ridiculous recycled talking points, and desperately dull drivel coming from much of the standard-bearing Right.

A few examples....

Sunday, as Matt Cooper's piece came out in Time, here's what the stable at NRO offered up. We have Cliff May out with the following, pointing readers approvingly to a Mark Steyn piece:
As Mark so often does: [I]n the real world there's only one scandal in this whole wretched business -- that the CIA, as part of its institutional obstruction of the administration, set up a pathetic ''fact-finding mission'' that would be considered a joke by any serious intelligence agency and compounded it by sending, at the behest of his wife, a shrill politically motivated poseur who, for the sake of 15 minutes' celebrity on the cable gabfest circuit, misled the nation about what he found.
So the real scandal here is the CIA sending Wilson to Niger in the first place? Yeah, that's the ticket. Incisive. Honest. Compelling.

Then we have Mark Levin offering up this juicy investigative tidbit:
Get a load of this line from Matt Cooper's Time piece: "As for Wilson's wife, I told the grand jury I was certain that Rove never used her name and that, indeed, I did not learn her name until the following week, when I either saw it in Robert Novak's column or Googled her, I can't recall which. ..." If he got it from Google, that would mean it was on the Internet for the entire world to see. Isn't this worth pressing Cooper about a little harder?
A real zinger here; the "what was on Google, and when did he Google it" theory! We need to get Fitzgerald on this pronto. Mark, will you shoot off an e-mail to him?

We certainly can't ignore John Podhoretz, can we? Here's his "analysis" of Cooper's piece in Time, misspellings included:
Translation: Did Karl Rove break any laws? No. Did he do anything wrong? No - because saying someone worked for the CIA on WMD is not in any way wrong. Nor was there anything wrong with Cooper learning that Mrs. Joseph Wilson may have arranged a little Nigerien jaunt for her has-been, lame-o hubby -- perhaps because she knew he needed some Dry Look hair spray and could use the Duty Free Discount at Dulles. Or perhaps because she wanted him out of the hosue because he was so annoying. Or because they could use a little more scratch and he was presumably reimbursed to some extent for his travels. Or perhaps because she's his wife and loves him and wanted to throw him a bone to salve an ego that is roughly the size of the Goodyear Blimp.
Good grief.

And apparently Rich Lowry's been drinking from the same water cooler, because he's out with a longer piece that concludes with the following:
The White House has contributed bad faith of its own. It went along with the pretense that something awful had happened in the Plame leaks, acquiescing in the appointment of a special prosecutor. It provided false assurances during the investigation that Rove wasn't involved. Now suddenly the White House is saying it won't comment during a still-ongoing investigation, and probably will eventually argue that the leaks weren't a big deal after all.
And there we have it: the real mistake the White House made was to appoint a special prosecutor in the first place. Remember that metaphysical question about the sound a falling tree makes? If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, Rich and National Review seem to have decided that it never fell. This, from the same writers who howled about the need for a special prosecutor every time Clinton stepped on a sidewalk crack in the 90's.

If a Rich Lowry piece bombs and no one reads it, could that mercifully mean it was never written in the first place?

Not your father's National Review, folks....

34 Comments:

Anonymous Shep said...

This scandal will soon separate the men from the boys in the Republican Party. Or, to be less sexist, it will determine who among them have character, maturity and integrity and who are stuck in being unthinking party loyalists.

I've long considered the least discussed, most under-appreciated power of the mind to be rationalization. We see what we want to see, in most cases, and it takes a genuine grownup to change one's mind when reality no longer fits one's hoped-for picture.

But then, Republicans aren't getting very good modeling from the top on this score, are they.

7/18/2005 3:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gave up on NRO about a year ago, for reasons you post here.

7/18/2005 7:21 AM  
Blogger DrDave said...

Hey, did you catch Mehlman on Russert yesterday? Now if you want to talk about the epitome of regurgitated talking points:

MR. RUSSERT: [Scott McClellan said, in Oct 2003] "They were not involved." Is that comment still operative?

MR. MEHLMAN: Well, Tim, I know Scott McClellan very well. Scott's a smart guy. He's an honest guy. He's a very effective spokesman. And he'd love to be on this show this morning commenting. But in contradiction to what he said, attack, attack, attack is not how we'll respond to this investigation. This White House is responding by cooperate, cooperate, cooperate. And what Scott understands and all of us understand as attorneys is that the last thing a prosecutor wants to see are people out talking about the facts of his case. And so Scott is now not commenting. But the fact is--what the facts this week show is what Scott said is accurate. The facts show that Karl Rove was not the source of Bob Novak, that there was another source that, in fact, leaked the information to him, and that Karl Rove at the time didn't know her name, didn't know she was undercover and didn't provide that information to him.

So that's why John [Podesta]'s comments--and I'm disappointed to hear him say it this morning--are so outrageous, that Karl Rove shouldn't be working in the White House. The information exonerates and vindicates, it does not implicate, and what we should all do is take a breath, not rush to judgment and certainly not try to make political gain of an investigation that we should have confidence in the investigator for.



Sheesh.

7/18/2005 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Power corrupts. If they'd had any integrity as journalists they'd be in an uproar, instead they're protecting their political interests. These type of rags are much more interesting when their party is out of power. Same thing goes for the lefty rags when Clinton was in office.

7/18/2005 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

William F. Buckley must be spinning in his grave. NRO nowadays is a nice peek at the animated corpse of conservatism in its final decadence. A frankenstein monster of contradictory talking points shambling along for reasons it can no longer remember. I wonder what comes next?

7/18/2005 9:56 AM  
Anonymous m osman said...

i don't see it as the death of conservatism or rational thought, all this is the end game of a corrupt 2 party system of gerrymandering and no choice

7/18/2005 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, since I've never read the NRO---at what point did it stop representing neanderthal racial politics and enter its golden age?

7/18/2005 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

William Buckley spinning in his grave??? This conjures up the Monty Python and the Holy Grail scene with "I'm not dead yet!"

7/18/2005 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you catch Goldberg on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He wrote a book, "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America". Jon said the west coast thinks it has power (or that is what the right keeps telling us), but the east coast is the one that REALLY has it, and that the people at the Pentagon are more dangerous than Barbara Streisand and perhaps journalists should spend more time researching someone like Richard Perle, Tom Delay, Randy Cunningham, Cheney, Rove than Barbara Streisand; research things that really impact peoples' lives. Goldberg listed two people on the right in the book, one was the guy that bombed abortion clinics, and the other was the Alabama judge who wanted the 10 commandments in the court house. Goldberg showed a small hint of honesty when he said that if the right is going to complain about activist judges on the left, then they need to complain about activist judges on the right. Wow. Gee, the intellectually honest citizen would want apolitical judges.

Al Franken was listed in the book. I don't know how you can be intellectually honest and not include Rush Limbaugh then. Maybe due to my age, Rush is THE person, the first that I recall, that has done a lot of harm to the culture, political climate, with his hatred, lies, innuendos. He even attacked Clinton's daughter. But hey it is okay if the Right does it. If Rush was intellectually honest, he'd have as much problem with Bush as he did with Clinton. So I have to agree with above, "all this is the end game of a corrupt 2 party system of gerrymandering and no choice."

The Republican party lost all integrity when it condoned the actions in the Bush administration that they hated in Clinton's. The Republican party lost it when it opted for lies, innuendos, gossip over intellectual debate and facts; when it took us to war in Iraq on lies and then didn't listen to the experts, hid the results of the Energy Task Forse, interfered in the private matter of Schivo, attacked science and replaced it with a certain brand of religion, leaked the identify of a CIA agent and gave a 100 excuses why it didn't matter, became the most secretive sneeky administration ever, fought against the 9/11 widows who wanted an independent investigation of the events of 9/11, put a political campaign manager in the White House. The Republican party lost it when they opted against fiscal conservatism and opted for deficits, pay to play, crony capitalism, and the scheme of increasing social security taxes to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy while at the same time using the surplus in the general funds to hide their excessive spending.

It is very difficult to know where to go for unbiased news and intellectual debate. Your blog is good and as you mentioned, so is Josh's. I have to say, I really like Jon Stewart and the Daily Show crew. 60 Minutes is also good. I also really like PBS NOW. I don't think it is left oriented. I think it just tells the facts from a truthful individual's perspective and some people and corporations are threatened by that. God forbid we empower the meek.

7/18/2005 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Cyde Weys said...

Good work man. I find that I am able to empathize with two groups: REAL liberals and REAL conservatives. As you pointed out, the liberals are being a lot more real about this whole issue than most conservatives, so I applaud you for being one of the few on your side to "keep it real".

7/18/2005 12:32 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Oh my god! you linked us to this piece of liberal crap:
"To give the devil his due, the Pentagon's web site is absolutely crammed with official propaganda, which does make it easier to track the evolution of official lies. But, with all due respect to Godwin's Law, this is almost like Joseph Goebbels boasting about how many times he spoke to the German people on the radio. Yes, those broadcasts made it easier for historians to track the declining effectiveness of Nazi wartime propaganda"
Another comparison of Bush's Administration to The Nazi's.
You call that acerbic, well-reasoned, intellectually honest fare? I thought you were a fair honest blog commentator, I even linked to your blog in mine, but now I'm beginning to wonder about your motives.

7/18/2005 1:40 PM  
Blogger The Cunning Realist said...

There is usually something a little over the top on most blogger sites, especially these days. Since I was referring specifically to Plamegate stuff, read some of that blogger's material on that topic over the past week or so. I think you will agree it is far more interesting and compelling stuff than the NRO material I quoted above......

7/18/2005 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good old Billmon, getting people all worked up with references to Herr Schikelgrubber and his pals. Guess you didn't like The Producers either.

7/18/2005 1:51 PM  
Anonymous JWC said...

I'm not surprised that you read Talking Points Memo and Billmon.

Earlier today I told my husband that I couldn't understand why Billmon is not paid to write. He is an awesome writer and I read him (and Josh) every day.

I occasionally try to link into some righty sites just to see what they are saying, but usually can't stomach them for very long.

By the way, your blog is on my short list of "must reads" every day.

7/18/2005 2:16 PM  
Anonymous JWC said...

I'm not surprised that you read Talking Points Memo and Billmon.

Earlier today I told my husband that I couldn't understand why Billmon is not paid to write. He is an awesome writer and I read him (and Josh) every day.

I occasionally try to link into some righty sites just to see what they are saying, but usually can't stomach them for very long.

By the way, your blog is on my short list of "must reads" every day.

7/18/2005 2:16 PM  
Blogger owenz said...

The problem with "viewpoint based journalism" is what happens when the powers that be share the journalist's viewpoint. Fox News was tenacious and enterprising during the Clinton years. Now it considers criticizing the government something akin to treason. It's no secret why.

NRO is an even more glaring example. Of course they will fight for Bush while ignoring his errors - they are ideological soulmates with this Administration. They're certainly not journalists in the classic sense of the word.

Here's a question for you:

Who will be tougher and more aggressive in their coverage?

A. Josh Marshall covering a Democratic president

B. NRO covering a Republican president

7/18/2005 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neither. I'll always read the opposition press for better coverage. Lap dog reporting is lap dog reporting. Hell, even Limbaugh was funnier when the dems controlled congress and the white house.

7/18/2005 3:53 PM  
Blogger Tayefeth said...

I don't know, owenz, but I'd love to find out. I think we know that the NRO covering a Republican president doesn'tqualify as "tough and aggressive" no matter how you water those terms down...

7/18/2005 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "didn't know her name" defense would be hilarious if it weren't taken so seriously by seemingly serious people. The statute doesn't prohibit divulging a name; it prohibits divulging an identity. It would be a toothless statute indeed if it could be circumvented simply by describing a relationship. If I say "Bill Clinton's wife" or "Janet Jackson's most famous brother", you know who I mean even if I don't mention them by name. It's the same in the Plame case. If Novak had only called her "Wilson's wife", her cover still would have been blown.

7/18/2005 4:40 PM  
Blogger brian said...

Owenz bringing up the problem of journalists reporting on people "on their side" reminds me of an idea I bobbled around for awhile: if some arm of the press were to have their journalists drop the "we're not biased!" act, and instead pair them off so as to cancel out their biases. That way it wouldn't matter who supports what, because they'd be immediately rebutted in the next article/segment/story.

Imagine if it were common to cover stuff like that...

7/18/2005 6:14 PM  
Anonymous howard said...

cunning realist, i'm sorry to say that you are one of a very small number: actual honest conservatives. speaking as a lefty, i treasure you and your work, because there just aren't enough of you around.

america desperately needs a well-articulated conservative perspective.

what we are getting, instead, is propaganda spouting right-wing robots who have lost any ability to judge right from wrong (although they've very good at shouting "evil" in a crowded theatre).

PS. Podhoretz, unsurprisingly, is wrong again even on the smallest of points. Wilson's expenses were reimbursed; he did the work for free, because he understands public service, a concept beyond the pod's limited faculties.

7/18/2005 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how refreshing to find your site... we disagree philosophically, that is to say we're not in the same political party, but I would feel quite at home discussing politics with you. More than twice your age, I remember another time when indeed I could discuss current political machinations with my counterpart in the 70s... when I served in elected office. We didn't agree on what the role of government was but we could talk about it without insulting each other ---

imho, there are only a few people on this planet who control the most resources. The rest of us are hard working patriotic people who differ in our approach to getting things done... but these few folks have set about to divide us and thereby conquer and control us... and they appear to be doing a pretty good job...

It is one thing to disagree philosophically, quite another to deny the facts. One should not be wedded to an ideology... to such an extent that one cannot see the flaws of members of one political party who are in power. As an American first, one should examine the situation closely, listen to both sides of the argument and weigh the facts accordingly.

Again, it is refreshing to find a Republican who is willing to call a spade a spade. There are many others, I am sure, they have simply been covered up by the ones who are drunk on power.

Our Democracy can only survive if we each participate in an intelligent and honest manner. Namaste.

Grandma in South Carolina

7/18/2005 10:35 PM  
Blogger James Finkelstein (Ga.) said...

(from a column I wrote which will appear in this week's "The Albany (Ga.) Journal"

The right wing media and politicians have received their talking points from Rove, and as usual, their response is to attack the messengers who tell the truth. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman appeared on July 17th’s Meet the Press and declared “outrageous” the calls for Rove’s firing from Democratic Senators John Kerry, Charles Schumer, and Hillary Clinton (he apparently forgot to mention Ted Kennedy, for which he will lose Limbaugh points in the pit bull competition). From Mehlman’s contorted facial expressions, he didn’t even appear to believe his own absurd comments, and neither did host Tim Russert. As I watched, I wondered idly how much more fun the show could be if NBC hooked up the politico guests to a lie detector, so the audience could see the wild swings of the needle as the prevarications piled up.

Meanwhile, the President has apparently backtracked on his pledge to fire the leaker, in an interpretation of the English language worthy of Bill Clinton’s explanation of his grand jury testimony in the Paula Jones case. The New York Times reported on July 13, 2005:

“Mr. Bush was asked in June 2004 whether he would fire anyone who leaked Ms. Wilson's name. Without hesitation, he said "yes." But if Ms. Wilson was discussed -- but not named -- current and former White House officials say Mr. Bush may not feel he is violating his pledge by keeping the political engineer who, as deputy chief of staff, is now formulating much of the domestic policy agenda of Mr. Bush's second term.”

I guess it all depends on the meaning of the word “fire.”

7/19/2005 12:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
William F. Buckley must be spinning in his grave


Not yet, but he may go lie in his back yard and practice.


Never quite got into NR as a regular source of enlightenment back in the good old days. The business about standing astride history and yelling "stop!" was a bit too Old Europe for my taste.

7/19/2005 1:35 AM  
Anonymous joetx said...

Wilson was called a hero by H.W. Bush. He stood up to Sadaam during Gulf War I and saved alot of american lives, its amazing nobody is speaking to that more. I wonder what H.W. thinks of his son outing a CIA operative, being former CIA himself, and what H.W. thinks about jr. trashing Wilson like he is!!!

7/19/2005 3:08 PM  
Blogger Tayefeth said...

Brian said: "pair them off so as to cancel out their biases"

Fox claims to do this. The problem is that, by selecting suitable pairs, you can create the impression that one side is toothless and the other side has all the answers.

7/19/2005 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Scott_api said...

Joetx - "...I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors.”

-George H.W. Bush on the 26th of April, 1999 at the dedication ceremony for the George Bush Center for Intelligence.

Does that answer your question?

7/20/2005 1:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you could supplement your reading with something like The Nation.

I dropped my subscription to The WallStreet Journal and now get the Financial Times.

What I look for is the exchange of ideas not the promoting of an idealogy. It seems that most people will lie to support their idealogy. Reality could hit them right in the face, and they barely skip a beat.

I had to laugh when I read an article with a quote from a Republican. He said at least Democrats are honest, they say they need money (thus taxes) to fund government, programs, war, etc., Republicans lie and still keep spending. Yikes!

7/21/2005 2:32 PM  
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