Jan. 16, 2004 | 12:04 PM ET

There’s a new “Think Again” column here.  It’s on the problem of felony disenfranchisement and  co-authored with my friend Laleh Ispahani, who deals with the issue for the ACLU. It’s a big deal, but very difficult to get any coverage for—except by the far right, and hey guess what—along with Ralph Nader, it put the loser of the 2000 election in the White House.

In the Nation, I wrote about NAFTA.  I feel a little bad about this, because I granted Paul Krugman’s point a while ago that we are all a bit silly to get so excited about this issue while extremists are taking over the country and preparing, in various ways, to subvert what’s left of our democracy. Still, I can’t help caring.

And the funniest criticism of me I’ve come across is here.

Now should we get upset about this silly trip to the moon nonsense?

  1. Yes. Look at the guy’s priorities. E.J. Dionne writing on this topic today notes, “How many Americans know -- I didn't -- that the percentage of children with asthma has more than doubled since 1980, from 3.6 percent to 8.7 percent; that deaths from asthma have increased by more than 75 percent; that 25 percent of all children in central Harlem have asthma?”
  2. Yes. Guy on Daily Show: “President Bush has officially given up on planet earth; arsenic in the drinking water, heating the planet, bombing everyone in the world, don’t trash the hotel room unless you’re sure you’re checking out.”
  3. No. Well, let’s be serious. Nothing’s going to happen, so why worry? Remember the last time a President Bush said this exact silly stuff?
  4. No, but let’s take another opportunity to pick on the media. It is those lemmings who deserve our scorn for taking it seriously, wasting valuable space that could be devoted to even more coverage of the Jacko/J-Lo wedding. 

Katha wrote about it this week.

The SCLM agrees that Dean is idiotic for proposing total repeal of the tax cuts.  Hey, they're probably right.  But surely somebody in the press must care enough about substance to ask the stupidly simple question: Is Dean right on the merits?  Well, finally somebody has. TNR's Jonathan Cohn crunches the numbers here and makes the case for Dean's approach.  (Punchline: If you read the policy details, most of those "middle-class tax cuts" Dean's rivals defend aren't for the middle class -- they're for folks making an awful lot of money. That's not a price worth paying to keep the deficit twice as big.)

On my best behavior: January 18, 1:00 PM - CSPAN Book TV (2.3)
New York Times Arts & Leisure Weekend/Media Bias Panel: Eric Alterman, Tucker Carlson, Al Franken, Laura Ingraham

That’s enough. Slacker Friday is particularly rich today, even sans Stupid:

Name:  Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Eric --
I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus, Part MCMVII : Nice story arc this week from the elite media. I mean, can't you just see the moment in the doctor's office in Vermont?

"I won't be able to give you your biopsy results for a couple of days, Mr. Flagstone. I have to go to Iowa and kiss a pig for my husband."

Jeebus Christmas, THIS is an issue? I'd rather argue about Wes Clark's sweater again.

Unfortunately lost as my main man Suskind brought down the rain of frogs this week were:

a) the equally great book by the redoubtable Kevin Phillips -- Why can't we get conservatives like this guy any more? -- on whole sorry clan, and

b) a terrific piece by Ken Auletta in The New Yorker about the manifest contempt in which the court of C-Plus Augustus holds the White House press. Note to Andy Card -- You once thought you needed me, back when I wrote for the Phoenix and you were in single digits in the governor's race.

And stepping into the on-deck circle is Richard Clarke on bungling the war on terror and, of course, in the hole, The Landlord on practically everything.  In sum, I think it can be fairly said that Bob Woodward -- who once began an interview with me by asking "How long have you been in the business?" -- has been played like a two-dollar tin piano for the past three years.

Equally splendid moment on CNN, when Joe Klein called Suskind's book "unseemly."  As opposed to an anonymous farrago of cheap gossip about which you lie barefaced to your fellow reporters, I guess.

Mini-Alter-review: Check out Barbara Holland's "Gentleman's Blood," a dryly hilarious history of duelling.  I like the fact that newspaper guys used to call each other out with pistols. By now, Howie Kurtz'd have so many holes in him he'd whistle the "Liberty Bell March" when he walked.

P.S. -- Now that the president has proposed the Ozzie And Harriet Reconciliation Act of 2004, all the accounts emphasize that the initiatives are directed mainly at poor folks. This, of course, is because when rich fools screw up their marriages, they have other options: for example, they can fly to Thailand where beautiful young women will show up at the doors of their hotel rooms and offer to commit group therapy upon them.

Name: Mark Budwig
Hometown: New York, NY

Equating approval of the estate tax to approval of the holocaust now has competition for most inane/insane analogy:
'Ms. Rios of Concerned Women of America said Mr. Bush had implicitly endorsed gay unions. "It is the same as saying the federal government doesn't want to weigh in on slavery, but if the states want to call it chattel that is O.K.," Ms. Rios said.'

Name: Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center
Dear Chevra,
Several weeks ago,  I was invited  to take part in an annual commemoration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, to be held the evening of 1/14 (last night), at the Israeli Embassy in Washington --  co-sponsored by the Embassy of Israel and the Religious Action Ctr of Reform Judaism. 

And yesterday, it turned out, was when began the trial  of Rabbi Arik Ascherman, exec of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, for acting precisely like Dr. King -- standing in the path of bulldozers that came to (and did) demolish the homes of Palestinians.

(No one claims these families had any connection to terrorism. They had added children's rooms to their homes without a permit.  Permits are almost never granted Palestinian families to do this, while Jewish families either get permits easily or find the lack of permits is totally ignored.)

More than 400  North American & European rabbis have now signed a letter condemning both Rabbi Ascherman's arrest and the home-demolition policy. It was physically delivered on Monday to the Embassy in Washington and the Israeli consulate in NYC.  So many people have called the Embassy in Washington that when one caller reached the ambassador's office, the secretary said, "Oh, are you calling about Rabbi Ascherman?")

Back to the Embassy's honoring of Dr. King: The contradiction stuck in my craw too much for me to ignore. So I accepted the invitation and took the trouble to ride the railroad from Philadelphia to Washington, to attend.

There were about 120 people at the Embassy-- two Members of Congress, two Ambassadors from Africa, various civil-rights and liberal and Jewish-community leaders.  After politely and with real interest listenng to Rabbi David Saperstein and Ambassador Ayalon welcome the gathering, I spoke up in the momentary pause just as the next part, honoring two civil-rights/ liberal activists who have worked in (a very limited and conventionalized version of) the King
tradition,  was about to begin.

I described the arrest of Rabbi Ascherman and said  that the arrest and the home demolition policy stand in contrast to the work of Martin Luther King -- and why.  I spoke for about three minutes. The person who had been about to chair the next part of the meeting tried mildly to shush me, but it was clear people were listening intently.

When I ended, the ambassador then asked  "May I respond?" and of course then did. He said two things: "Israel is a state of laws; Rabbi Ascherman violated the law, and so is on trial. ... We should turn back from these political questions to focus on honoring those who are doing the work of Dr. King."

I thought to myself  that it would be easy to answer --  "Dr King violated unjust laws; this home demolition policy is unjust; and as for politics, what was Dr. King doing but "politics" in a spiritually deep way?"

But I also knew that for me to keep intervening would rile people who otherwise agreed with me, or were open to hearing such views. So I kept quiet. The rest of the event went as programmed -- except that Rabbi  Saperstein, in his closing remarks, said how moving had been the eloquent words of the Ambassador and of the honorees and even the dissent that had been voiced, "just as [he said] in democratic Israel dissent is part of the society."

Half a dozen people, including a couple leaders of the mainstream Jewish community and several leaders of non-Jewish religious and liberal organizations, came up to me afterwards to thank me. (I don't know whether they'd want me to name them, so I won't.)

So I am glad that the Ambassador knows that the policy at least of home demolition and possibly more broadly the Occupation is upsetting enough people that not only are 400 rabbis from the sometimes silent U.S. Jewish community ready to sign a letter of protest, not only are dozens ready to phone his office, but some are even ready to challenge him face-to-face.

And I am glad that 120 influential people heard that there is a Jewish opposition to Sharon and the Occupation, in the U.S. as well as Israel, and heard about the home-demolition policy and Reb Arik.

Name: Donald Johnson
Hometown: Yonkers

What harm is Kucinich doing?  Lieberman is, of course, busy writing Bush's campaign ads with his criticisms of Dean (if Dean gets the nomination) and Sharpton playing the race card isn't helpful, but if a candidate isn't actively trashing the other possible nominees, then I can't understand why they should drop out if they think they can bring up issues that are important, as Kucinich does.  And he's not going to draw votes from the Democrats in November.  Finally, it pains me to say it, but by showing people what a real leftist looks like he makes the actual Democratic nominee appear as the centrist he really is (whoever that turns out to be).  Unfortunately that's a good thing in American politics.

Also, this bit about people being on an ego trip is a bit tiresome.  A Presidential candidate is egotistical by definition. 

Eric replies: True, but it’s time to give the serious guys a chance to talk and let people get to know them. This ninety second response thing, necessitated by so many candidates, prevents any of them from getting a hearing.  Also, is the guy running a candidacy or a dating service. Really, he kinda lost me there.

Jan. 15, 2004 | 1:07 PM ET

Off to the Races:  I tend to avoid almost horse-race coverage, but strategic analysis -in a year when the gulf between the two parties is so large and the stakes so enormous- strikes me as unavoidable. So here’s what I think for now:

Iowa:  Dean needs a convincing win here, given “expectations.”  Since it looks like he probably won’t get it, he will be weakened going into New Hampshire. The media already smell blood and are eager to write the second half of the “rise and fall” story, in part because they dislike Dean and all he stands for and in part because if he were to sweep Iowa and New Hampshire, the race would be over but for the weight-challenged womyn’s final aria.

And the rest, well, it keeps hope alive but I’m not sure it matters.  New Hampshire does not appear to care much what Iowa thinks, and why should it?  Gephardt needs a win or near win to remain at all viable.  Kerry’s surge is surprising—even though he promised me personally it was coming—but I feel like the guy had his chance in New Hampshire and the folks there found him wanting. They are not going to revisit their decision because of what Iowans thought. The only candidate who can really benefit from a merely close showing is Edwards, because that is a little surprising, plus he wears quite well and becomes more likeable—and credible—the more attention you give him.

In New Hampshire, assuming a non-victory for Edwards or Kerry, and an unconvincing victory for Dean or Gephardt, it begins to look like a Clark/Dean race.  Not only do most strategic-minded voters think the general is the best candidate to beat Bush (read Richard Cohen here) and hence, will be the choice of the pros for that reason, but he is also the only candidate with an organization, the money and the capacity to raise more money to outlast Dean down the line.

A whopping victory for Edwards in South Carolina could make it a three-person race, but with Clark coming strong out of New Hampshire, that seems awfully unlikely. Again, Iowa may not settle anything, but I don’t see how the guys who did not triumph in Iowa or New Hampshire and are out of money afterward can make a convincing case that there’s a good reason it’s going to be one of them.  Kerry has his own money, of course, but I don’t get where he becomes a more attractive candidate to the peaceniks than Dean or to the regular folks/establishment-types-who-try-to-mind-meld-the-regular-folks than Clark.

I believe that from the very day of Clark’s announcement I said the Democrats’ best chance was a Clark/Dean ticket in that order. General Wesley “I don't think it's patriotic to dress up in a flight suit and prance around" Clark as a candidate drives a power drill into all of Bush’s advantages, save money.  His early waffling on the war, while I don’t like it, may actually help him in the general election.  I admire a lot about Dean, but he seems to me too dangerous to trust with the nomination in this moment of maximum national peril. He has earned a place on the ticket and his people have earned a place in the room. In the coming decade or so, they may form the backbone of the Democratic party—which I think helps explain Al Gore’s endorsement and quite a few others.

But while Dean’s angry, shoot-from-the-hip, DemocraticwingoftheDemocraticparty stance was sufficient to win him a significant chunk of Democrats in various polls, and a ton of money, it is just not a big enough in either direction to beat Bush with. And given the crap he is going to be expected to swallow in the national election—see ABC’s disgracefully empty story here, and the fact that most reporters already hate him, the fact is he is much too big a gamble for my taste on the top of the ticket. 

I say Clark, Edwards or Gephardt, in that order, and Dean. I’d add Kerry but only if he won New Hampshire outright, which I think impossible. If Dean wins the nomination, he should pick Edwards and immediately announce a shadow cabinet, so everybody on it could run against Bush, and make Clark his secretary of Defense and Anthony Zinni his Secretary of State. Or the other way around.  I don’t care. But he had better do something to shut up reporters who prattle on about the "national security” gap, even though they are dead wrong.

And I think Lieberman, Sharpton, and Kucinich should join Braun in a bar somewhere for the next nine months and quit strengthening Bush by diminishing the likely nominee with their silly ego trips.

Yeah, I know it’s unfair. Life is unfair. My five year old already knows that. If you still don’t know it, don’t complain to me about it. That’s why God invented spam buttons.

Columbia Journalism Review will be monitoring media coverage of the election here. We can’t have too much of that.

If you are too busy to read the O’Neill/Suskind book, or prefer to save your money because you can get the muckraking elsewhere, but there is really only one book available that offers a comprehensive analysis of the across-the-board policies of this administration, well then, Dr. DeLong has volunteered to do all the work for you. An amazing performance, in its own weird way.

Quote of the Day:  “In all these ways, we are reaping the poison fruit of our misguided and arrogant foreign policy. The Administration capitalized on the fear created by 9/11 and put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth to justify a war that could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy. We did not have to go to war. Alternatives were working. War must be a last resort. And this war never should have happened.”
- Ted Kennedy

Are you a “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading Body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak” in need of a new wardrobe. Try here.

"'Did you see the Democratic debate the other night?' he asked. 'To me Dennis Kucinich's politics are more scrambled than Rod Steiger's dream journal. And Clark? He's a wizard in many ways, but when I hear him speak, it's almost like he's slumming. There's a mensch discrepancy there. At least John Edwards, who to me is a reasonably shallow guy, at least he can dog-paddle around in that park and not look out of place.'" 

What a thoughtful, clever, sensitive choice for CNBC to host a talk show. And guess what? He’s a conservative. Did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine a conservative host for a cable TV talk show? What will they think of next? Congrats to everyone at CNBC. Your mothers must be very proud.

Jan. 14, 2004 | 2:04 PM ET

Dirty Business:  Regarding Messrs Bush, O’Neill, Suskind, etc. (and thanks to the on-top-of-it S&S publicity people for the quick delivery yesterday).  In viewing the Bush team’s reaction to the documented revelations of Mr. O’Neill, the same guy who, after all, he picked to oversee the U.S. economy, we now learn that he needs to be investigated for the disloyal act of publishing classified documents which, as Slate notes, "has long been available on the website" of Judicial Watch, the conservative group who sued to open up Cheney's task force, but seems to have, in the eyes of the Bush administration, undergone a complete personality transformation.

As my friends at the Center for American Progress point out:

In nominating O'Neill, Bush said "in a distinguished career, Paul has earned a reputation as a straight shooter." When administering the Oath of Office, Cheney said, "Secretary O'Neill is a man of consistently sound judgment. He's a man of honor and decency who will make all Americans proud." After O'Neill commented about the growing size of the deficit in 2002, President Bush again said, " I find [Paul O'Neill] to be refreshingly candid. I appreciate his judgment." Even as O'Neill was leaving the White House, Bush said "Paul [is] one of the most fine, honorable, decent men I've ever served with. He can be proud for all he has done for his country."

Now what are we hearing, as Salon shows us, in just one of many, many examples:

O'Neill sounded oddly naive this week when he expressed surprise that the well-oiled Bush political attack machine would come after him once he went public with his allegations.  Dallas-based conservative Bruce Bartlett, a former Treasury Department official and policy analyst during the Reagan and George H. Bush administrations, did exactly that, pummeling O'Neill's track record and demeanor.

We have all been to this movie before, and not that long ago. Again, I stand on the shoulders of the brilliant and dogged research efforts of the patriotic men and women at the Center for American Progress. But take a looky here.

And let’s not forget what happened when they decided to target George Soros:

“The Wall Street Journal [was] suddenly exercised about the political influence of "fat cats." A writer in Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times complains jingoistically that "the Hungarian native anointed himself a major player in American politics." RNC chair and ex-Enron lobbyist Ed Gillespie laments that Soros, a champion of campaign finance reform, is using what the RNC's Christine Iverson calls "an unregulated, under-the-radar-screen, shadowy, soft-money group" for his nefarious purposes. … . A writer on the conservative website GOPUSA.com termed Soros--get this--a "descendant of Shylock."  

The man’s crime: putting his money where his mouth is to defeat the man he considers to be a threat to peace.

Mr. O’Neill could not have been unaware of this history of character assassination when he decided—for the good of the country—to tell his story. He is making no money volunteering to put himself in the eye of what was a predictable s**itstorm.  It seems to me that in trying to determine the quality of his testimony, the fact that he had nothing to gain and everything to lose—ought to count for quite a lot.

And P.S. This same approach seems to work pretty well with the media.  In the current New Yorker you’ll find The Washington Post's Dana Milbank admitting, "My biggest frustration is that this White House has chosen an approach ...to engage us as little as possible." He is joined by the Elisabeth Bumiller noting, "Too often they treat us with contempt."

(This issue, by the way, seems to have been constructed with me personally in mind;  a Roger Angell talk piece about McNamara, much like my Nation column and subsequent exchange with Errol Morris; a profile of Larry; a profile of Joseph Roth, whose book, The Radetzky March, I’m currently reading; my colleague Katha Pollitt irresistibly spilling her guts about the most intimate details of her life, and Ken Auletta proving much of what I contend about Bush and the media in What Liberal Media.)

Anyway, my point here is that the Bush modus operandi is not a coincidence and it oughta be news.  It began when John Diullo, back in December 2002, was forced to issue his Stalinesque show-trial recantation. 

Remember what he first told Suskind: “There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you've got is everything-and I mean everything-being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

I wonder what it took to get him to say, "My criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. I sincerely apologize and I am deeply remorseful."

These are people who are apparently willing to break the law and blow a CIA agent’s cover in an attempt to smear a man telling an uncomfortable truth—by casting aspersions on his wife. Given all that, I think O’Neill deserves a Presidential Medal of Honor… from the next administration. I also think you should read more about all this in The Book on Bush.

And P.P.S. I will say more about this later, but my current feeling is that for the Democrats to win in November, Howard Dean has to be the vice-presidential candidate.  More to come.

Jan. 13, 2004 | 3:25 PM ET

Meet the new line: same as the old line:  I don’t generally enjoy doing “Jane, you ignorant slut” media hits, but I have a new book just coming out and my employers at the Center for American Progress like to see me out there with their name under me, so yesterday I did CNN and NPR on the Suskind/O’Neill book—which by the way, S&S publicity people, I still don’t have—and was paired with former Richard Perle protégé Frank Gaffney in the former and former Robert Bartley protégé Max Boot, in the latter.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, both Bush apologists had the same line. “It’s no big deal that Bush and company were plotting the invasion of Iraq in January of 2001 without ever mentioning it in the election; that was the policy of the Clinton administration too. Everybody wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein.” Or in other words, “Why is this even news? Let’s get back to what a brave selfless leader we have.”

It’s hard to know where to begin over how disingenuous this argument is.  I mean sure, I wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein too. The question, like all questions, is one of means and ends. Did I want to overthrow Saddam Hussein if it meant undermining our democratic debate with deliberate deception; spending hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions of dollars in reconstruction costs; killing hundreds, if not thousands of young men and women; killing thousands of Iraqis; inspiring more anti-U.S. terrorism; nearly destroying the Atlantic Alliance; and making the U.S. more isolated and hated than it has ever been in its entire history? 

Um, no.

And neither would most Americans, I’m pretty sure. And if Bush had been honest with the country about his intentions during the 2000 election—and if the media had paid more attention—Nick Lemann had this in the New Yorker in January 2001, by the way—instead of worrying about Gore’s alleged character flaws, Bush would have certainly lost the election by a big enough margin to prevent the Supreme Court from handing him his minority “victory.”

Here’s more from my friends at The Center

NOW:  "The Treasury Department has asked for an investigation into how a possibly classified document appeared in a televised interview of ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill."
- CNN, 1/12/04

THEN:  No investigation was requested after the Providence Journal reported that "Bob Woodward said the president gave reporters 90 minutes, often speaking candidly about classified information. 'Certainly Richard Nixon would not have allowed reporters to question him  [about classified information] like that. Bush's father wouldn't allow it. Clinton wouldn't allow it."
- Providence Journal, 4/10/02  In fact, it’s far worse. Bush et al did not merely speak to Woodward, they offered him unfettered access to " contemporaneous notes taken during more than 50 National Security Council and other meetings where the most important decisions were discussed and made. Many direct quotations of the president and the war cabinet members come from these notes.  Other personal notes, memos, calendars, written internal chronologies, transcripts and other documents also were the basis for direct quotations."  This is a crime under U.S. law, but just try and get a Justice Department investigation of Woodward’s sourcing.In the meantime, Krugman makes the larger point nicely here this morning: “People are saying terrible things about George Bush. They say that his officials weren't sincere about pledges to balance the budget. They say that the planning for an invasion of Iraq began seven months before 9/11, that there was never any good evidence that Iraq was a threat and that the war actually undermined the fight against terrorism.
But these irrational Bush haters are body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freaks who should go back where they came from: the executive offices of Alcoa, and the halls of the Army War College”Check out our man Boehlert on Dean and the media.“At another soiree, hosted by writer Christopher Hitchens, I waded into a well-lubricated cabal of journos, Bushies and neo-cons. I spied the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, still chatting with admirers past midnight.”   Priceless. Michael Dobbs falls for the old journalistic cliché that the only people who object to a genuinely objectionable action are people with a vested interest. In writing about the culture war over Middle East studies, he writes, “Many Arab Americans were outraged last year when President Bush appointed [Campus Watch founder Daniel Pipes] to the board of directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a government-funded think tank in Washington.”  In fact, if you look at the list of scholars and others who objected, damn few were “Arab Americans,” Michael. In fact, a hell of a lot were Jews. Looky here.  Dobbs’ sloppy construction slurs the opposition and falsely tilts the battle in favor of Pipes. The article is here. The Post ombudsman is here. As a casual reader and admirer of Frank DeFord’s prose over the decades I don’t have a dog in this fight, but it sure does look like this Bunting fellow got his ass handed to him by Romenesko’s letter writers, including, of course, our boy. (Scroll down; he started it off, not surprisingly.) A personal note: I turn 44 tomorrow. A lot of you people take the time to write me nice things which I deeply appreciate. Just this once, I am going to try to take advantage of your generous impulses.  I grew up with a fellow wiseguy from first grade on up, who went to law school, met a French girl, and moved to Paris. His name was Ed Zalaznick and two weekends ago, Ed, his wife, their three children, and six more members of their extended family were returning from family vacation at Sharm el Sheik and died together in the Red Sea. You don’t have to feel bad for me. I was only in distant contact with Ed. But I know a lot of people who loved and admired him, and who are devastated by the loss—and you can multiply their numbers by eleven. Anyway, I knew Ed well enough to know that he used to pony up regularly for the heroes at Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders, and encourage others to do the same. Now he won’t be able to anymore, and this is one tiny portion of this unfathomable injustice that we at Altercation can help rectify.  The address for donations is here.  Click on “Make a Donation” and I’ll have a happy birthday. Correspondents’ Corner:Name: Lorraine Cademartori
Hometown: Hoboken, NJ

I always hated Paul O'Neill when he played for the Yankees, but that 60 Minutes interview forced me to reconsider my opinion.Name: Don Dougherty
Hometown: Lynbrook New York
Dr. E.
Is there any truth to the rumor that Paul O'Neill has been appointed Ambassador to Guantanamo?  I knew he should have never stopped playing right field for the Yankees.  He seems to have aged a bit as well.  Maybe George Steinbrenner will make him a coach.  I see that now they are investigating him for having classified documents.  Anybody want to bet that this investigation gets finished more quickly than that other investigation.  You remember that lady from the CIA, don't you?  I think that the SCLM must have lost her name, along with that fellow from that energy company, the potato chip guy? He must be in the same witness protection program as Sammy Gravano.Jan. 12, 2004 | 12:23 PM ET

The O’Neil Explosion:  So Bush was lying all along about Iraq.  Nahh, that’s not news. Anyway, let’s see how this information plays out. Planning the Iraq invasion in January and February 2001? It’s really too extraordinary to be believed. Every time I try to be as cynical as possible about these people they always make me feel foolish by being so much worse than I imagined.

Why does the U.S. Army War College hate America?  The Communists at the U.S. Army War College have published a “scathing new report” that “broadly criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism, accusing it of taking a detour into an 'unnecessary' war in Iraq and pursuing an ‘unrealistic’ quest against terrorism that may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat."  The entire unpatriotic document can be found here.

Here ’s

the evidence on WMD from the Carnegie Endowment; what didn’t they know and when didn’t they know it? 

Quote of the Day, George W. Bush:  "No President has ever done more for human rights than I have." Not Lincoln, who freed the slaves. Not FDR who (together with the Soviets) defeated Nazi Germany and ended the Holocaust.  Imagine if Bill Clinton had said something so simultaneously self-regarding and incredibly stupid?

Quote of the Day, runner-up:

STEPHEN COLBERT, " THE DAILY SHOW": The point is, Dean's anger has been widely reported.

JON STEWART, HOST, "DAILY SHOW": Right. I understand that. But for instance, you're following the campaign. What incidents have you yourself seen?

COLBERT: Doesn't matter what I've seen, Jon. It's been widey reported. And that makes it fact-esque.”

You, too, can be a big-time media show host:  Guess which one of these I made up.

KURTZ: Jill Zuchman, just briefly, do you detect any frustration on the part of the campaigns of John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, that so much of our attention has been focused on frontrunner Dean…

KURTZ: Frank Rich, do all these reporters have a sudden interest in the inner workings of state government? Or is this just more celebrity journalism?

KURTZ: But isn't it true, Marc Sandalow, that if -- if Schwarzenegger stumbles in terms of dealing with this very serious budget deficit in California, that eventually those headlines may not be quite so glowing?

KURTZ:  But can you imagine, in your wildest dreams, Len Downie, hiring a media critic who does not accept a regular paycheck from the very media corporation he is paid to report on? 

Go ahead, now try it at home.

Howard Dean really is the candidate of the far left.
Muscatine, Iowa (Rooters)-- Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean today accepted the endorsement of the Workers World Party, declaring that the time had come “for black and white to unite and fight for a Worker’s World.” Together with his endorsements by the International Socialist Organization, the Spartacist League, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, the WWP announcement appeared to solidify Dean’s standing as the candidate of the far left. “It is not enough to roll back George Bush’s tax cuts and take back America,” Dean said at a campaign stop in Ames, Iowa. “These petty-bourgeois reform measures serve ultimately to legitimate the regime of global capital and US imperialism. Rather, we must work at the very roots themselves, until the system of private property is abolished and the left’s long march through the institutions is completed.”

Michael Berube has a terrific new blog. Check it out.

TNR and the Saudi Government:  Boy does this story stink. The magazine can try to spin this all it wants but it sure looks from the outside as if it is taking Saudi money to help whitewash their (deserved) pro-terrorist/anti-Semitic reputation among Washington elites. Of course this kind of thing goes on all the time in Washington, which is one reason Iraq got invaded when the Saudis are actually a much greater danger to our security than Saddam Hussein was.  But for this self-appointed ethics cop of Jewish morality to get on board the Saudi money train is really something extraordinary.

NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin shows his good taste here.

Larry. What more can we say?

Interesting story by Paul Theroux here if you’ve got a minute.

And a useful set of reports on the current state of U.S.-Russia relations here, particularly this one. (Hey Sarah, if you’re there, don’t be a stranger.)

And David Brooks sorta apologizes here.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Siva Vaidhyanathan
As we prepare for another State of the Union delivered by this unelected president, let's reflect on some past pledges that he has made in major speeches. Anyone want to check up on that $15 billion pledge to fight AIDS in Africa? How much did the Republicans fund that effort? About $2.4 billion, it turns out.

And while we are at it, someone please check into that fight against global sex trade and slavery. Heard anything about that lately? Didn't think so.

Hmmmm. Whatever happened to that "dead or alive" pledge about Osama Bin Laden?

As Bush gets ready to propose massive cuts in health care and public housing, let's consider that this dude actually wants to spend our (or, more likely, our grandchildren's) money to COLONIZE THE MOON AND VISIT MARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me give you another minute to let that soak in. Bush wants us to committ more than $750 billion to an effort to send humans to live on the Moon and then hop over to the barren planet next door.

Let's hope this pledge generates as much follow-through as the other recent initiatives have. Some times we are fortunate that this president is a lying blow-hard.

Jan. 9, 2004 | 10:02 AM ET

I’m traveling today. Here’s a fight I had with Errol Morris about “The Fog of War.” The original column was here.

On to Slacker Friday...

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Eric --
I don’t usually use the “chickenhawk” argument because I believe it to be a clumsy weapon too easily turned back on the people who wield it. (See: “Quayle, J. Danforth in re: Clinton, William Jefferson.” I KNOW the situations were not precisely the same, and I also know that didn’t matter.)

Yeah, well, whatever...

For spectacular misuse of the first-person, it’s hard to beat the comedy team of Perle ‘n Frum, now appearing on a panel show in your neighborhood, flogging their latest work entitled, I’m paraphrasing here, “Let’s Kill Everyone Who Isn’t Us.” Take in this slim-but-potent little vial of vicarious testosterone and you find yourself enmeshed in beauties like this one:

”We have offered concrete recommendations equal to the seriousness of the threat, and the softliners have not, because we have wanted to fight, and they have not.”

If you’re keeping score at home, that “We” stuck in there is the single most indecent word yet typed in the 21st century.


Who in the bloody hell is “We”?

Now, it is true that the authors did manage to turn the tide at Foundation Ridge, that they managed alone to hold the ramparts at Thinktank Castle, that they organized the counterattack that swept the field at Buffet Flats, and that they only this week fought to victory in the Battle Of Charlie Rose. But since, as Lawrence Kaplan pointed out in his judicious review in last Sunday’s Washington Post, some of the “softliners” in question are in the employ of the U.S. military, perhaps our two heroes ought to be a little more modest about their undeniable accomplishments, or at least cut the “softliners” some slack, since some of those “softliners” are coming home in boxes these days because some honorarium-fattened hyenas have no compunction about using other people’s children to act out their imperial dreams (Perle), or as bleeding punctuation marks to the kind of high-flown rhetoric (Frum) that gets you invited once again to duel upon the greensward at Cocktail Frank Fields.

They’re lucky Charlie Rose is too much of a gentleman to vomit on camera.

Name: Stupid
Eric, it’s Stupid to make a fuss about the No Child Left Behind scandal (at least it should be a scandal).  But first a brief response to Nancy Pickard, who took me to task about Howard Dean in true friendly Midwesterner style. 

I’ll give a mea culpa on Dean’s reaching out to women, but not yet on his lack of African-American support (I think the South Carolina polls showing it going to Sharpton are more representative—I just see no heat there at all compared to White yuppies).  More important is the fundraising: Dean’s $40 million is impressive, but Dubya trounces him with $120 million (and no primary expenditures).  I fear the Dean camp is expecting too much from its peasant army.

So apparently both the Dubya administration and local school districts are flouting the No Child Left Behind Act.  Schools are cooking their test score results and graduation rates (in Chicago it’s reported that some schools simply toss suspicious exams).  Some states are openly flouting major requirements of the act, like reporting and testing teacher quality.  Students in chronically abysmal schools get a sham lottery to get into better ones (here in Chicago 240,000 students in failing schools qualified for 1,000 openings in acceptable schools).  The response of the Department of Education has been to turn a blind eye. 

And what do the Dems do?  Filibuster until Dubya agrees to support his own program? Hardly. Teacher unions and local school officials hate this law. The most (only?) progressive thing to come out of the Dubya administration, and all the Dems can muster is a little carping for campaign fodder.  What they should do is demand enforcement of the Act at all levels of government, all the time bleating “unfunded mandate.” Yes, state budgets are hurting, but a lot of them need education finance reform anyway.  And talk about an opportunity to ask why our schools take a back seat to Iraq—the endlessly funded mandate! 

Name: David S. Bernstein
Hometown: Boston, Phoenix
Just wanted to throw my two cents to you on the neocon/anti-semitism flap. Yes, the gang should not be able to wrap themselves in an anti-semitism cloak of invincibility. Given. But there’s also lots of anti-semitism out there, especially outside America but also within, that does look at the neocons as a Jewish cabal plotting the takedown of the Arab world. Believe me, plenty of us Jews wished from the get-go that the guy behind the curtain on the Iraq attack was named something other than Wolfowitz. That doesn’t let Brooks off the hook, but you can’t let the anti-semites off the hook just because the Jews they’re blaming happen to actually be at fault.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments