September 2006, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Even More Amazing:  Yesterday, I said that I found the attacks by Bill Clinton and members of his administration on the ABC "Path to 9/11" docudrama amazing.  What has happened since I wrote that post has been even more amazing.

To begin with, there was this threatening letter from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, and Democratic senators Debbie Stabenow, Charles Schumer, and Byron Dorgan,  Here are the parts of the letter that struck me as especially worth noting.
The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest.  Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.
. . .
Unfortunately, it appears Disney and ABC got it totally wrong.
. . .
Frankly, that ABC and Disney would consider airing a program that could be construed as right-wing political propaganda on such a grave and important event involving the security of our nation is a discredit both to the Disney brand and to the legacy of honesty built at ABC by honorable individuals from David Brinkley to Peter Jennings.

Should Disney allow this programming to proceed as planned, the factual record, millions of viewers, countless schoolchildren, and the reputation of Disney as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress will be deeply damaged.  We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program.
Here's how I translate those selections.  The program is "totally wrong".  And, even worse, it may be "right-wing political propaganda".  ABC should withdraw the program.  And if they don't withdraw the program, Congressional Democrats will retaliate.

Again, just try to imagine the reaction if the Bush administration and Republican senators had made the same claims and the same threats.

According to news accounts, ABC is trying to meet some of their objections.  That's not necessarily wrong; if the producers think they have found errors in their docudrama, they should correct them.  (Although it is an interesting question what constitutes an error in a docudrama.)  But to withdraw the program would be a serious mistake and one which would damage ABC and the Democrats even more.

Let me point out something that should be obvious, but was not to the Democratic senators:  The docudrama has already been released.  The producers sent out hundreds of preview copies, some of them to conservative talk show hosts.  If ABC pulls the program, those talk show hosts will broadcast the substance of the docudrama, in one way or another.

And the same is true, though to a lesser extent, if ABC alters the program to lessen the criticism from Bill Clinton and his administration.  Many conservative talk show hosts, including Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt, have copies.  They will almost certainly compare their versions with the version that is scheduled to be broadcast Sunday and Monday nights.  If the changes have been too much in Clinton's favor, they will say so.  And the fact that prominent Democrats tried to suppress the docudrama will make their criticisms of the changes even more plausible.

To me, what is most amazing about all this is Clinton's open attacks on the docudrama.   In the past, Clinton almost always found others to do his dirty work.  To get involved this directly is an astonishing slip by one of the best political tacticians of our time.

Finally, there is the almost complete silence from our "mainstream" journalists about this attempt at something awfully close to censorship.  I wish I could say I found that amazing, but I don't.   But it is something to remember the next time they criticize the Bush administration for its efforts to influence the press.

(Some on the left have argued that the right was guilty of similar tactics when CBS produced and then dropped a mini-series on the Reagans.  I would say that there is some truth to that charge, but only some.  Here's an account of that controversy if you want you want to form your own opinion.  (I never wrote on the subject myself, partly because I dislike anything that gets even within shouting distance of censorship and partly because I didn't know enough about the script to have an opinion.)

We may be seeing the effects of the leftist bloggers (who some like to call the "nutroots") on Democratic officials.  That might explain why Reid and company went so far out on a limb.   The Democratic officials believed the nonsense on the docudrama coming from the less responsible leftist blogs.  And the officials may regret that soon.)
- 1:29 PM, 8 September 2006   [link]

"Alleged" Hijackers:  This morning, I was watching a story on the Al Jazeera tape showing some of the 9/11 hijackers with Osama bin Laden.  The news reader kept referring to the "alleged" hijackers.

Many have wondered why so many Americans do not believe the official version of the 9/11 attack.   I think one reason for that is this kind of irresponsible reporting.  By way of comparison, the New York Times story on the tape is straightforward.
Five years ago, in the soaring mountains of Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden met with some of the men involved in planning the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.  He had a video camera rolling to document the moment.

On Thursday, four days before the fifth anniversary of the attack, that tape was made public and broadcast on the news channel Al Jazeera, allowing Al Qaeda once again to command headlines, even as its leaders remain in hiding and its organization apparently has been fractured.
But the local station, by using "alleged" raised doubts about the official account.   Intentionally, I suspect.  And if they did so intentionally, as I suspect, that's disgraceful.  (I saw the same story on two other local stations, the ABC affiliate (channel 4) and the Fox affiliate (channel 13).  Neither used "alleged".)

(For those who live in this area, I can add that the "alleged" station was the NBC affiliate, King 5 and the news reader was Joyce Taylor, whom I rather like to watch, but don't trust one little bit with the news.)
- 9:03 AM, 8 September 2006   [link]

Amazing!  President Clinton and members of his administration are trying to censor ABC.
A furious Bill Clinton is warning ABC that its mini-series "The Path to 9/11" grossly misrepresents his pursuit of Osama bin Laden - and he is demanding the network "pull the drama" if changes aren't made.
Now maybe you are thinking that the New York Post, a tabloid that has often been hostile to the Clintons, might be exaggerating.  Well, here's what Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post says.
Top officials of the Clinton administration have launched a preemptive strike against an ABC-TV "docudrama," slated to air Sunday and Monday, that they say includes made-up scenes depicting them as undermining attempts to kill Osama bin Laden.

Former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright called one scene involving her "false and defamatory."  Former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger said the film "flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions."  And former White House aide Bruce R. Lindsey, who now heads the William J. Clinton Foundation, said: "It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known."
Imagine the uproar if George W. Bush and his administration were doing the same thing.  (And they might have reason to.  According to talk show host Michael Medved, the second half of the mini-series is quite critical of the Bush administration.)

(Could Clinton and members of his administration be right about their particular criticisms?   Perhaps, in some cases.  Since this is a docudrama, rather than a documentary, we know that it is not even intended to be a literal accounting of the facts.  And I have heard that those who made it took more than a little dramatic license with some incidents.  But the docudrama could be wrong on some particulars and still convey the right general impression, that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did not do as much as they should have to meet the threat of terrorism.

Trying to remember exactly what Sandy Berger confessed to doing?  Here's a brief account.  And he has never explained, to my satisfaction, why he was stealing top secret documents.)
- 10:44 AM, 7 September 2006   [link]

Worth Reading:  David Broder takes on the Plame "scandal" — and gives some advice to his fellow journalists.
I have written almost nothing about the Wilson-Plame case, because it seemed overblown to me from the start.  Wilson's claim in a New York Times op-ed about his memo on the supposed Iraqi purchase of uranium yellowcake from Niger; the Robert D. Novak column naming Plame as the person who had recommended Wilson to check up on the reported sale; the call for a special prosecutor and the lengthy interrogation that led to the jailing of Judith Miller of the New York Times and the deposition of several other reporters; and, finally, the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff -- all of this struck me as being a tempest in a teapot.
. . .
But caution has been notably lacking in some of the press treatment of this subject -- especially when it comes to Karl Rove.  And it behooves us in the media to examine that behavior, not just sweep it under the rug.
. . .
These [Salon, Newsweek, and the American Prospect] and other publications owe Karl Rove an apology.  And all of journalism needs to relearn the lesson: Can the conspiracy theories and stick to the facts.
Some of those who kept the Plame "scandal" alive actually believed Joseph Wilson — the editorial writers at the New York Times come to mind — but many others — New York Senator Schumer comes to mind — did not care whether the charges were true.  They saw an opportunity to attack Bush on his strong point, character, and they took it.  Don't expect many in either group to apologize, or even to correct the record.
- 5:06 AM, 7 September 2006   [link]

Not Being A Woman, I was not required to watch Katie Couric's debut at CBS.  (Think that "required" is too strong?  Then read some of the examples of feminists making just that argument collected by Mary Katherine Hamm.)

Ann Althouse and Andrea Peyser are women, so they watched the debut, but they didn't enjoy it.

First, Ann Althouse.
It's so annoying to feel forced into it!  She's standing up and wearing a weird white jacket buttoned conspicuously at the waist as if to argue with those who said she'd been photoshopped into semi-svelteness.  Now, she's sitting down, but in kind of a half standing position in front of a low desk, to give us more of a view of her torso.  She's got a special white microphone to blend in with that white lapel.  The first few stories are military, as if they need to drive it home that a woman can cover the manly topics.
And she has more along the same lines.

Althouse is kind compared to Andrea Peyser.
Katie Couric last night underwent her second on-air colonoscopy.

Watching the procedure was not a horribly painful event.  Nor was it an experience I would volunteer to repeat any time soon.

For her very first night as CBS News diva, Katie spent a half-hour looking as if she desperately had to go potty.
And she has more along the same lines, too.

My own, less informed, thoughts?  I almost never watch network news and see no reason to watch it now that one network will have perky Katie Couric reading the news.  In fact, for decades I have advised people who want to be informed to replace watching network news with reading a newspaper.  And I almost always follow my own advice, except on election nights.  I can't resist the temptation to watch network news when the Republicans are winning an election.  As I mentioned here, my favorite anchor for those nights was Peter Jennings because he was so openly peeved.  But I am not sure that Couric can replace him.  As I said in this post, I found Couric's reaction to the 2004 election results disturbing.
- 7:55 AM, 6 September 2006   [link]

Even Lamer Than I Expected:  In this post, I said that the New York Times would probably reply to this fine Washington Post editorial on the Plame "scandal", and that their reply would be lame.  Here's the New York Times reply, and it is even lamer than I expected.

The editorial is titled "Time for Answers", but could be titled "Never Mind!".  It ends with this whimpering conclusion:
It's time for Mr. Fitzgerald to provide answers or admit that this investigation has run its course.
Here's my translation:  We hoped Fitzgerald's investigation would hurt the Bush administration, but now we fear it will hurt us and our allies, so let's call the whole thing off.

Between the title and that whimpering conclusion, there is this absurd refusal to face facts
Last week, it was reported that Richard Armitage, then deputy secretary of state, was the first to mention Valerie Wilson to Mr. Novak, and that the federal prosecutor knew this more than two and a half years ago.

The revelation tells us something important. But, unfortunately, it is not the answer to the central question in the investigation — whether there was an organized attempt by the White House to use Mrs. Wilson to discredit or punish her husband, Joseph Wilson.  A former diplomat, Mr. Wilson debunked the claim that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger to make nuclear weapons.
There was no organized attempt, as every honest person who has followed the scandal now knows, and as most have known for some time.  Joseph Wilson did not debunk the claim that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Niger in his report to the CIA; in fact, he provided weak evidence for that conclusion.  To write such nonsense, the editorial writer must be misinformed, indifferent to the facts of the case, or both.

I can understand (sort of) why the New York Times would so much want to keep hope alive that this scandal was real, and that it would topple the Bush administration.  But at some point, they need to face reality and admit that they were wrong to believe Joseph Wilson, and wrong to help him spread slanderous stories about the Bush administration.

(Incidentally, you will note that the editorial writer said "Niger".  The Bush administration claimed that British intelligence had learned that Saddam had tried to purchase uranium in "Africa", which includes countries besides Niger.  I mention that only because the editorial writer seems unaware of that point.)
- 7:12 AM, 6 September 2006
More on the editorial from Tom Maguire, Ed Morrisey, and Clarice Feldman.
- 5:54 AM, 7 September 2006   [link]

Are Forced Conversions Legitimate?  Nearly all Christian theologians would say no.  (Though there are some unfortunate historical precedents, for example, in Charlemagne's campaigns against the Saxons.)  And I suspect that most other religions do not consider forced conversions legitimate.

In contrast, for Islam, forced conversions are valid, Reverend Sensing concludes.
The way to convert to Islam is very simple. One simply utters the confession, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammed is in [his?] prophet."
. . .
But in Islam, the confession's utterance is unconnected to a change of heart.  In fact, a change of heart is wholly irrelevant.  The confession stands alone and its only point is that it is done, not that it is believed.
. . .
So according to the precepts of Islam, (Fox journalists] Centannis and Wiig's confessions were completely valid.  Any Muslim, not just their captors, considers it so.  That they were uttered "at gunpoint" is unobjectionable.  The guns simply enabled the two newsmen to understand that submission to Allah was required of them.  Regardless of what Centanni or Wiig may think or believe, Muslims now consider them to be of their religion.
And the penalty for giving up Islam is death.
- 4:34 PM, 5 September 2006   [link]

The New York Times Does Admire Some In Our Military:  As you can see in this admiring obituary.
Guy Gabaldon, a Marine private in World War II who used extraordinary grit and a smattering of Japanese phrases to capture more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers single-handedly in the battle for Saipan, died Thursday in Old Town, Fla.  He was 80.
. . .
He earned the Navy Cross, the Marines' highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor.  It was presented to him as an upgrade from his wartime Silver Star after his exploits became widely known through the television program "This Is Your Life" and the Hollywood movie "Hell to Eternity" (1960).

"Working alone in front of the lines," the citation read, "he daringly entered enemy caves, pillboxes, buildings and jungle brush, frequently in the face of hostile fire, and succeeded in not only obtaining vital military information, but in capturing well over 1,000 enemy civilians and troops."
(Those who have only a sketchy knowledge of the war in the Pacific may need to know that Japanese soldiers rarely surrendered, even when they had no hope of victory, so Gabaldon's feats are even more remarkable than they might seem at first glance.)

What a man!  (And it is good to see that the New York Times can admire some of our servicemen.)

(Here's Gabaldon's web site.  I like the fact that he linked to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, as well as records of his own remarkable achievements.)
- 8:44 AM, 5 September 2006   [link]

If They Would Just Stop Talking about blacks, gays and Latinos, they could rejoin the Democratic party.
About 30 Ku Klux Klan members proclaimed hatred for blacks, Jews, gays and Latinos as they stood behind barricades at the Civil War battlefield where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

Gordon Young of the World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan also called Saturday for the U.S. to pull its troops out of Iraq and use them to patrol the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration.
Think that's unfair?  The left wing of the Democratic party is dead set on a pull out from Iraq, so the Klan agrees with them on that central issue.  And it is no great secret that anti-Semitism is now far more common on the left than on the right.

(I said rejoin because of the Klan's history.  They have never much liked Republicans.)
- 6:02 AM, 5 September 2006   [link]

Most Expensive American City For Cars?  Ironically, it's Detroit.
It costs more to own a car in Detroit, an amazing $12,210 per year for a mid-sized sedan, than in any other city in the country, according to a new report comparing the cost of car ownership in various U.S. cities.

Released Friday by Runzheimer International, a consulting firm specializing in transportation reimbursement, the survey revealed that insurance, at $5,072 annually for liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage, is the biggest single reason that maintaining a car in the Motor City is so expensive.
Henry Ford would be embarrassed.

(Political point?  Perhaps a small one.  Detroit is heavily Democratic, and so are the next two most expensive cities, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.)
- 5:29 AM, 5 September 2006   [link]

Excellent news.
Iraqi authorities have arrested the second most senior operative in al Qaeda in Iraq, the national security adviser said Sunday.

Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, known as Abu Humam or Abu Rana, was arrested a few days ago, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie said.

"We believe that al Qaeda in Iraq suffers from a serious leadership crisis.  Our troops have dealt fatal and painful blows to this organization," he said.
Excellent for several reasons.  First, it was Iraqi authorities that made the arrest.  Second, as the article notes, the killing of Zarqawi is still yielding dividends.  And third, this arrest led to still more arrests.

And I like the way that the Iraqi authorities shamed the terrorist leader.
"He wanted to use children and women as human shields during the arrest, which is why the operation was based on a very precise military plan to preserve the lives of women and children in the building," al-Rubaie said, adding that there had been no casualties during the arrest.
Propaganda is the most important weapon in this war, and it is good to see the Iraqi authorities using it correctly, as in this example.  (Was he actually hiding behind women and children?  Quite possibly.  That's a common terrorist tactic.)
- 5:09 AM, 5 September 2006   [link]

Who Were The Villains In Plame "Scandal"?  Fred Barnes has a list.
The rogues' gallery of those who acted badly in the CIA "leak" case turns out to be different from what the media led us to expect.  Note that we put the word "leak" in quotation marks, because it's clear now there was no leak at all, just idle talk, and certainly no smear campaign against Joseph Wilson for criticizing President Bush's Iraq policy.  It's as if a giant hoax were perpetrated on the country--by the media, by partisan opponents of the Bush administration, even by several Bush subordinates who betrayed the president and their White House colleagues.  The hoax lingered for three years and is only now being fully exposed for what it was.  Let's start at the top of the rogues' list:
And then Barnes goes on to name the principal miscreants.

But he doesn't, in my opinion, say as much as he should about the two principal villains, Joseph Wilson himself, and the New York Times.  The "scandal" started when Wilson suckered the New York Times into believing his story, and even publishing his op-ed.  The story he told in the op-ed (and in more dramatic versions anonymously to journalists) conflicted directly with other evidence, and with Wilson's later testimony to a bipartisan Senate committee — where he was under oath.

Wilson is a scoundrel who was trying to peddle a false story.  He succeeded largely because editors and columnists at the New York Times (with a few honorable exceptions) wanted to believe his story, despite the obvious holes.  Scoundrels try to peddle false stories all the time to our "mainstream" media.  That the Times was so easily taken in by Wilson's story shows an unwillingness to check anti-Bush stories that does nothing for their battered credibility.

Wilson will probably never come clean.  And I doubt that the Times will, even though this scandal is far worse than the Jayson Blair scandal.

(If you want more of the latest details, you should read posts by Tom Maguire here and here, and by Clarice Feldman, here.)
- 1:51 PM, 3 September 2006   [link]

Worth Reading:  One of bits of news that disgusted me most in the last few days is what was finally revealed about the farcical Plame affair.  I'll have more to say about it later, but for a quick take it would be hard to beat this Washington Post editorial.
We're reluctant to return to the subject of former CIA employee Valerie Plame because of our oft-stated belief that far too much attention and debate in Washington has been devoted to her story and that of her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, over the past three years.  But all those who have opined on this affair ought to take note of the not-so-surprising disclosure that the primary source of the newspaper column in which Ms. Plame's cover as an agent was purportedly blown in 2003 was former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage.

Mr. Armitage was one of the Bush administration officials who supported the invasion of Iraq only reluctantly.  He was a political rival of the White House and Pentagon officials who championed the war and whom Mr. Wilson accused of twisting intelligence about Iraq and then plotting to destroy him.  Unaware that Ms. Plame's identity was classified information, Mr. Armitage reportedly passed it along to columnist Robert D. Novak "in an offhand manner, virtually as gossip," according to a story this week by the Post's R. Jeffrey Smith, who quoted a former colleague of Mr. Armitage.

It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue.
. . .
Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson.  Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials.
None of that would greatly surprise regular readers of this site (and many others on the right), but it is good to see the Post make these points.

For now, I'll just add this comment: The Post is probably not that reluctant, because this editorial rubs salt in the wounds their rivals at the New York Times suffered when the facts became so well known even the Times could not ignore them.  And I don't think those running the Times will like this editorial even a little bit.  In fact, I would not surprised to see an answering editorial from the Times in the next few days.  And if they do publish an answer, I expect it to be lame.  What the Times should do is publish a full apology to the Bush administration — but I doubt they could write one, even at gun point.  It was, after all, the Times that gave Wilson a platform for those false charges, and that echoed those false charges again and again.
- 10:59 PM, 1 September 2006   [link]

Yesterday, to celebrate my birthday (and to get away from politics and journalism for a while), I went for a hike on Mt. Rainier.  The weather was perfect for a hike, Mt. Rainier was looking spiffier than it usually does this time of year, thanks to a snowfall on Wednesday, and the flowers, though past their peak, were still beautiful.

Many of the park animals have become accustomed to visitors over the summer.  Adult hoary marmots tolerate people no matter what the season, but I was surprised to see how close I was able to get to a pair of marmot young.  And the four or five deer that I saw were downright nonchalant when they encountered tourists.  A doe walked on the trail to within about six feet of me before turning off, not because she seemed frightened, but because that was where she wanted to browse on the vegetation.

As usual, many of those I encountered on the trail wanted to chat.  Some wanted me to take their pictures, which I enjoy doing.  And at least a few seemed to have no clue about just how dangerous the mountain could be.  A young couple with foreign accents told me that they wanted to hike up to Camp Muir.  Since they had, as far as I could tell, no equipment at all, not even jackets, I tried to discourage them from doing that particular hike.  (Later, I encountered a young man (possibly from Fort Lewis) with appropriate gear, who had tried the hike, but had given up a mile or two from Muir.)

I haven't looked at my pictures yet, but if any seem worth sharing, I will put them up in the next day or so.

(Technically, my birthday is on the 24th of August, but the weather that day wasn't nearly as nice as it was yesterday.)
- 6:39 AM, 1 September 2006   [link]