Saturday, November 19, 2005


Contemporary Democratic Party vs. Bill Clinton...

Interesting open discussion going on over at Josh Marshall's analyzing the politics of the GOP pushback on John Murtha and the inability of the opposition to respond in kind. Josh quotes one reader:
"I'll bet you a dollar that the Democratic response (if there is one) will be a) unorganized (from Biden through Dean), b) incoherent (or at least internally inconsistent), c) slow, d) measured, and e) cerebral. All the wrong things to do. What they need to do is show some blood and gore, use a couple of veterans, and ask the question -- is this worth it?"
Now, which one of those "a-e" responses would one describe, say, Bill Clinton employing? Maybe "e", but only in a mild "added seasoning" way -- and none of the others. Take the word of one who was there during the '90s: That's one reason why Republicans hated him so much. He recognized that politics was a blood sport -- and he excelled at it. He took no prisoners. Ask Paul Tsongas, George H.W. Bush or Bob Dole.

It wasn't just charm or "third way" rhetoric that one him two elections, you know.

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Friday, November 18, 2005


"Stonewall" Woodward

The Valerie Plame case may have been the trigger but the ticking time bomb hidden within the Bob Woodward/Washington Post relationship has always existed.

Talk about a walking conflict of interest! On the one hand, he is a reporter, which means that he is, technically, "staff"; on the other hand, he is "Assistant Managing Editor," which means he is management.

Yet, he is also always working on a book -- serving a completely different "master" -- his publisher. The question of "what goes into the paper" vs. "what goes into the book" has always drifted over Woodward's head. Given that he basically "made" the paper with Watergate, I can understand why Post execs never wanted to make him decide what came first, but this situation is precisely the problem. (Yet, being scooped by both Vanity Fair and The New York Times earlier this year with respect to the revelation that Mark Felt was "Deep Throat" must have caused more than a little bit of frustration with Post higher-ups, given that Woodward has been sitting on the secret for thirty years.)

Post reporter Walter Pincus, conversely, is almost the anti-Woodward. He believes in day-to-day reporting. He's not an "author"; he's never been a "talking head"; he's never been interested in being Mr. Multi-Media superstar -- and his reporting over the last two years has not only held up, it's been, in many ways, darn prophetic.

passages are revealing:

"He asked me to keep him out of the reporting and I agreed to do that," Pincus said [Wednesday]...

"In October, I think he did come by after I had written about being called and said I wasn't the only one who would be called," Pincus said, adding that he believed Woodward was talking about himself, but did not press him on it. "Bob and I have an odd relationship because he is doing books and I am writing about the same subject."
So, the assistant managing editor tells his reporter (staffer) to "keep him out of the reporting..." Surprise! He agrees. He also admits they have an "odd relationship because he is doing books and I am writing about the same subject."

How can Executive Editor Leonard Downie not see that this arrangement is ultimately corrosive to the aims and values of a daily newspaper that strives to break news and, in so doing, influence the course of daily events?

Does he not see the irony that if this state of affairs had existed in the '70s, Richard Nixon would have likely ended up with two fairly good full terms? A Post assistant managing editor working on a long-term book project on the Nixon administration -- essentially shooing away his own colleague/staff writer from possible avenues of inquiry -- would have established an internal "stonewall" in the way of junior reporters named Woodward and Bernstein.

Just curious: What would Woodward '73 have thought of a public figure who said

"I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed."
What's that, Bob -- a "Post-modified limited hangout"?

Of course, journalists have to keep some secrets, hold onto some confidences, in order to continue doing their jobs.

People criticized Tim Russert for not being more forthcoming while Fitzgerald was developing his case. But at least he was upfront about the fact that he had testified, though he didn't share his testimony until after Libby was indicted. In retrospect, Miller's behavior is slightly more acceptable: She neither wrote about Plame or commented on the Fitzgerald case -- until she was subpoenaed and went to jail.

Yet, "Mr. Watergate", using the prestige of The Washington Post, repeatedly goes on TV to downplay the whole legal case, has a key detail about it and feels no compunction about bringing forward the information that he has. Now, he can claim that his source required confidentiality. But if that is the case, then Woodward shouldn't have been playing pundit. His insight on the validity of Fitzgerald's case was clearly guided by his privileged information. Again, the viewer at least knew that Russert was involved on the periphery of the ongoing Plame investigation.

Of course, typical of the baby boomer generation -- once caught with matches, covered in oil and standing next to a burning building -- Woodward "
apologizes." Why not, he has more than one iron in the fire. The controversy can only help his next book on the Bush administration. And the institutional integrity of The Washington Post? Now why would Bob Woodward give a damn about that?

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Thursday, November 17, 2005


WFB's Secret '60s Epiphany

One of the highlight's of the dinner in honor of William F. Buckley's 80th birthday tonight was a montage of various '60s & 70s clips where he was either a guest or subject of (gentle) parody.

Some clips -- WFB on "Laugh-In" or Woody Allen's talk-show -- were real rarities.

What was fascinating was how comfortable Buckley came across. He didn't try to be "cool" or "hip." But he was congenial in every setting, with a great smile and a perfectly timed quip that never failed to win over his audience (stylistically, if not intellectually).

That demonstrates his greatest gift (beyond his command of language) and explains his ultimate success -- beyond founding National Review in 1955: He knew preaching to the choir wasn't enough; the written word wasn't enough; "serious" venues weren't enough.

So, in the next decade, Buckley took his "act" to as many places as possible -- and charmed his way in long enough to ensure that either he or his ideas got some memorable hearing.

William F. Buckley, subverter of the pop culture paradigm.

UPDATE: Post title edited to include the proper word choice (as Mr. Buckley would wish).

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T&T Scores A Big First...

The home country makes the World Cup!!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Burning Down The House...

Last week, CNN's Larry King scored a major 'get' -- the first major interview with Judith Miller after she departed The New York Times.

For some reason, the following
exchange struck me as somewhat odd:

KING: Want to be a columnist?

MILLER: Oh gosh. Well, I'd like to follow in the large feet of Tom Friedman and Bill Safire. The amazing Bill Safire, whose friendship and guidance and standards. The role he set, I think, has been a model for all columnists. Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post. People I read and admire. I just think they do amazing, provocative work. I might want to try that one day.

KING: He stood up for you through this whole thing, Bill Safire.

MILLER: He certainly did. And in all of the years, all of those great columnists at The New York Times, I can never remember that any one of them ever attacked a colleague. And I'm just so grateful for Bill's support and other columnists on the paper. Tom Friedman was very laudatory. And also at other papers, Bob Woodward was very supportive of me in jail. He's defended the importance of the reporter-source relationship. I've had a lot of support within my profession. I'm grateful for it.
It came as little surprise that Friedman and Safire would be supportive of Miller -- the former because of a common interest in similar areas of the world, the latter for reasons both ideological and philosphical. It also seemed likely that the left side of the blog world would happily lump Friedman, Safire and Miller as part of the same neo-con "cabal" (albeit, perhaps putting Friedman in the Democratic-leaning side of the neo-cons). Hoagland could also be seen in that same framework.

Woodward didn't seem to fit. Yeah, he had kept secret for more than three decades the
ultimate anonymous source. But, Watergate was also the quintessential "abuse of power" story that had influenced an entire generation of reporters. Miller seemed like a journalist more comfortable with "official" sources -- perhaps too close, given Bill Keller's use of the enigmatic word "entanglement" to describe Miller's relationship with I. Lewis Libby.

The heroic crusader whose coverage of a scandal in the heart of the White House brought down a Republican presidency is now happily commenting -- in arguably supportive language -- the current Republican White House scandal. He does this, all the while,
NEVER revealing to Post editors that he himself had been informed about Plame's identity by a "senior administration official" in the summer of 2003 -- before Libby spoke with Miller!


No wonder the left side of the blogosphere is
going nuts. Though some will undoubtedly say they won't be surprised.

Looking at what has suddenly become of Bob Woodward stuff, one can easily be reminded of a classic lyric by The Clash. The song is "
Death or Glory":

'N every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock 'n roll,
Grabs the mike to tell us he'll die before he's sold,
But I believe in this and it's been tested by research,
He, who f***ks nuns, will later join the church.


Gimmicks? Like "Deep Throat", perhaps? Or William Casey's mysterious death-bed, "interview"? And when one is well-traveled between competing "churches" such as the FBI and the CIA, to which one do you end up having the strongest allegiance? And what about

The (grand) jury is still out whether Patrick Fitzgerald will actually obtain a conviction of any White House official in connection with the Valerie Plame case. However, he has already drawn much blood. With The Post's Bob Woodward now following The Time's Judith Miller into the light of questionable ethical journalistic behavior, the twin liberal "papers of record" have come crashing down into a heap of damaged integrity.

If this is "Fitzmas," liberal bloggers might want to find a place in which to return their gifts.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005


When Does The Cock Crow?

No, that's not a quasi-obscene headline.

It's a reference to the latest news that
Judge Alito is distancing himself from a 1985 anti-abortion memo:

[Sen. Dianne] Feinstein met with President George W. Bush's nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor amid new concerns over the application in which Alito, then a lawyer in the Reagan administration, wrote he backed its efforts to ban abortion and racial quotas.

"'It was different then'," Feinstein quoted Alito as saying. "'I was an advocate seeking a job, a political job and that was 1985'."

"'I'm now a judge. I've been on the circuit court for 15 years. It's very different. I'm not an advocate'," Feinstein said.
So, do we now call him Samuel "Simon Peter" Alito?

(2a) Mark 14:26-31
/26/ When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. /27/ And Jesus said to them, "You will all become deserters; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' /28/ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." /29/ Peter said to him, "Even though all become deserters, I will not." /30/ Jesus said to him, "Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." /31/ But he said vehemently, "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." And all of them said the same.

= Matt 26:30-35
/30/ When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. /31/ Then Jesus said to them, "You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' /32/ But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee." /33/ Peter said to him, "Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you." /34/ Jesus said to him, "Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." /35/ Peter said to him, "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." And so said all the disciples.
Now, one could argue that Peter took a calculated risk that, in the short term, kept him alive long enough to become "the rock" upon which Christ's church would be built.

It still doesn't change the fact that he chose to deny his best friend, "rabbi" and Lord.

If Alito "downplays" his '85 self, he may be able to survive the confirmation (there's a great word!) process, get to the Supreme Court and "do the right thing" (in the view of his most earnest supporters). Apparently, the cock crows in the first trimester of court confirmations.

There is something unseemly about it.

He is following Peter in wanting to do good, but choosing deception in the short term.

A Republican friend notes,

"[F]irst we had Judge Robert's "Those weren't MY ideas. I was just doing a job,"
argument and now Alito "Hey, I just wanted a job and meet chicks" argument
makes it look like the much romanticized "Reagan Revolution" was nothing but Bonfire of the Vanities . . . . doesn't it? Did ANYONE believe in what they were doing? Is that why "Conservative Government" is right up with the Unicorn as far as mythical creatures?"
I would say that it is, arguably, even worse than that. I think the current environment makes principled individuals deny who they are. Alito is going to have to downplay his comments to get confirmed -- which means that, just like Clarence Thomas, you have someone who is essentially lying to get on the highest court in the land. (Does anyone truly believe that Thomas never even "discussed" Roe v. Wade while in law school?)

Everyone swears to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" when they testify, yet members of highest court will say a blatant falsehood to get on it.

Don't get me wrong; conservatives have been forced into this corner. Liberals want to have it both ways: They charge conservatives with having a pro-life litmus test, while denying their own pro-choice one. They say ideology shouldn't matter, but do everything they can to paint certain conservatives as "too ideological."

Liberals lie about their motives; conservatives lie about their principles.

A dishonest political system helps construct a bench of dishonest individuals.

The whole thing is disgraceful.

UPDATE: Edit done to correct typo transferred from e-mail quote.

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THOTS Spawns A Trend?

Shocking news! An "Aquaman" TV series is in the development stage:

The Hollywood trade papers boosted the buzz Monday with confirmation that an Aquaman pilot will be shot next year in Florida, where the potential series would be set.

Smallville's Alfred Gough and Miles Millar will executive produce. Like their current WB series, the duo's Aquaman pilot will not be rife with capes, tights and codpiece accoutrements. Rather, the show will be a "grounded version of the Aquaman mythology," Gough told Daily Variety.
Now, this news is, of course, not a shock to regular Ragged Thots visitors. Just last month, we noted, "For whatever reason, all the stars have lined up -- this is Aquaman's moment. And that's no fish story."

I gotta get a foothold into this Hollywood thing...

Meanwhile, a Thots reader, observes that this means that the only original member of the Justice League of America now being completely overlooked is the Martian Manhunter (AKA J'onn J'onnzz, AKA "John Jones") and asks: "So is this a race thing or an immigrant thing?"

Good question.

In years past, MM might have been able to claim discrimination. Alas, once again, those damn Republicans can't help a Martian brother out!

UPDATE: My New York Post colleague, Don Kaplan, actually had this story a week ago! Damn trades never give anyone any credit!!!!

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Monday, November 14, 2005


How "Fitty-ing": A '90s Blast From The Past

Get rich...or die trying to leave the movie theater.

What a nostalgic jolt! A movie with an "urban" theme of young man's coming-of-age in an environment of gang-banging, street crime and fast-living. Rap turns out to be his salvation.
Meanwhile the film draws just the right element for some "caps" to be "busted" and a movie patron is dead.

Is it a "very special episode" of VH1's "I Love the '90s"? Alas, no, it's actually modern day. It's Pennsylvania and it's the premiere week of rapper 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Trying." Sadly one of the viewers won't be able to pursue the former option.

Amazingly, the theater even had extra security -- another homage to early '90s inner-city filmgoing experiences. Didn't work.

Pittsburgh City Paper reviewer Brentin Mock saw the movie just hours before the shooting (what the hell was he doing there with his 2 year old? I have no idea...) and
declared, "As a person who's a defender of all things hip-hop, I think it's the worst hip-hop movie ever made...This movie comes out and completely reinforces all the stereotypes people had about hip-hop anyway."

Ya think?

For what it's worth, it did come in second in per-screen average. It's debateable whether it holds up in word of mouth to next week.

On a possibly-related note, the hip-hop thug style is apparently, like,

[U]nlike other trends -- hippie chic, punk rebelliousness -- that long ago severed any connection to their origins and became pure aesthetic gestures, hip-hop remains inextricably and problematically linked to its gritty, aggressive beginnings.
Hmmm.... Maybe those Los Angeles parents knew whereof they spoke in protesting those billboards advertising the movie. "Fitty" seems to demonstrates the, ahem, downside of "keeping it real."

Hey, I'm all for "interactivity" in principle, but there is a difference between living the movie experience and dying from the movie experience.

UPDATE: Karol remains Fitty's biggest defender on the right. She links to a UK site identifying the rapper as being down with GWB. Yeah! You know me!

I'm not sure that the White House necessarily will be promoting Fitty's view that "We are both gangsters," though it goes without saying that that notion has a certain resonance in various European and Upper West Side Manhattan salons.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005


Back In Black

My Sunday Post column analyzes how a surprising level of African-American support helped return a Republican mayor to office in heavily Democratic New York.

UPDATE: A few follow-up observations on Bloomberg and minority voters.

1) Even though I had already voted for him last week, doing the reporting on this piece made me appreciate Bloomberg a lot more. Indeed, it made me appreciate a comment made by PACE University polling director Jonathan Trichter that I wasn't able to include because of space: "This is a mayor that nobody hates — a singular characteristic among modern New York City mayors. They may disagree [with him] on certain issues, but there is no visceral knee-jerk venom against this guy."

2) Given all the abuse that Democratic candidate Freddy Ferrer got for running a poor campaign, would any of his primary foes have done much better? Bloomberg got a third of the Latino vote -- against a Latino candidate. He would inarguably have done much better against Anthony Weiner, Gifford Miller or C. Virginia Fields. Would Weiner and Miller have done better with white voters? Debateable. Would Fields -- an African American woman have done better with black or female voters? Perhaps. But would that be offset with more gains for Bloomberg with white or Latinos? In short, any Democrat would have had a huge problem.

3) With the notable exception of expanding minority and gender set-asides in contracting, is there much in the Bloomberg approach that other Republicans couldn't emulate in building relationships with black and Latino voters?

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