January 20, 2005 | 4:58 PM ET

Yesterday, I noted Barbara Boxer's deficiencies, and the problem that Bush's appointees have posed for the Democrats.  But there is a ray of hope, in the form of Barack Obama, who gets a terrific review from Gregory Djerejian of The Belgravia Dispatch:

So, who asked the best questions of Condi, rather than tiresomely showboat (Biden) or display encroaching symptoms of Gore-itis (Kerry)?
Barack Obama, that's who.
...
First, kudos for talking about the nuclear proliferation issue. There is no more critical foreign policy challenge impacting our national security. But, of course, everyone knows that. It's the part about the "low hanging fruit" that got me.  Obama's obviously thought through these issues--he's not just going through the motions and scoring cheap points. We can quibble about the stats and methodology behind deeming nuclear material secured and such. But Obama was gracious, and showed he knew what he was talking about, by making the important point that it gets harder and harder going forward to secure nuclear materials after the "low hanging fruit" have already been accounted for (don't miss Obama's good follow up question on this issue either).
...
I haven't followed Obama much, and I will have to keep more of an eye on him to form a fuller view, but I think it's fair to say that he's a real star. Who knows?  Will America be ready for such a post-racial, cerebral HLS grad for the big job circa.  2012 or 2016? We'll see.  One thing is for sure.  There's a bigger chance B.D. would vote for a more seasoned Obama than the sometimes insufferably self-aggrandizing Kerrys and Bidens.

P.S. Is it just me, or is it a testament to a certain meritocratic grandeur we have in this country, that the two people at the top of their game during these hearings (a star freshman senator and the first minority female Secretary of State) were both African-Americans?

I agree.  The question is whether the future of the Democratic Party looks like Barack Obama, or like Barbara Boxer.  I guess the first step toward the former would be for Ted Kennedy to learn Obama's name.

January 20, 2005 | 12:30 AM ET

Somewhere, Karl Rove is laughing

Somewhere -- okay, actually somewhere on Pennsylvania Avenue -- Karl Rove is laughing.

Why is he laughing?  Because he's sent two nominees to the Senate, only to see them belittled and mocked by Democratic Senators, during a slow news season when it was sure to get coverage.  One was a Latino, Alberto Gonzales, and the other was a black woman, Condi Rice.

Barbara Boxer's treatment of Condi Rice was particularly embarrassing for the Democrats, as she recycled Michael Moore conspiracy theories and misrepresented the Congressional declaration on Iraq.  According to Boxer:

Well, you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did.  It was WMD, period.  That was the reason and the causation for that, you know, particular vote.

Fortunately, however, we have this Internet thingie, which lets us look at the actual resolution that Congress voted on, and that Boxer apparently didn't read.  (I am not the first to do
so.)  And here are some excerpts from that resolution:

Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolutions of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;
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Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council; Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq; Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens; Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;
...
Whereas United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 authorizes the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 and subsequent relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United Nations weapons inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, repression of its civilian population in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, and threatening its neighbors or United Nations operations in Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 949; Whereas Congress in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1) has authorized the President "to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677"; Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1)," that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and "constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region," and that Congress, "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688"; Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;

Well, you can read the whole thing, but there's a lot more than just WMD there, isn't there?
This makes Boxer look dumb, and her rudeness and inaccuracy are especially pointless given that even among the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee only Barbara Boxer and John Kerry voted against Rice.  But that's not why Karl Rove is laughing.  Rove is laughing because he's maneuvered the Democrats -- still freshly smarting from their loss last fall -- into unloading a lot of their bile onto two minority nominees, polished and impressive representatives of groups that the Democrats consider part of their base.  That sends two signals.  The first is that the Democrats don't appoint people like this to positions like these.  The second is that they treat people like this disrespectfully when Republicans do.

It's only a minor blow to the Democrats' position with these groups.  But it is a blow, and the Democrats cooperated.  Will they ever learn?

January 18, 2005 | 5:04 PM ET

Whose side are they on?

I was going to write a piece on media ethics, involving both the story that Armstrong Williams took money from the federal government to support its education policy and the not-really-comparable story that the Howard Dean campaign hired important lefty bloggers in the hopes of getting good blog-press.  But you'll have to read this column and this blog post for more on what I think about Armstrong Williams, and this blog post for the skinny on the Dean story.

That's because the breach of media ethics that has me really exercised today happened not at a blog, or on talk radio, but at The New York Times.  It involves this article by Sarah Boxer on the pro-American Iraqi blog Iraq the Model, and it features Ms. Boxer repeating speculation that the bloggers in question -- Iraqis whom she names -- are really CIA plants.  This has some more respectable journalists upset.

Jeff Jarvis is deeply critical:

Sarah Boxer's story on IraqTheModel in today's New York Times Arts section is irresponsible, sloppy, lazy, inaccurate, incomplete, exploitive, biased, and -- worst of all -- dangerous, putting the lives of its subjects at risk.
...
So here is a reporter from The New York Times -- let's repeat that, The New York Times -- speculating in print on whether an Iraqi citizen, whose only apparent weirdness and sin in her eyes is (a) publishing and (b) supporting America, is a CIA or Defense Department plant or an American.

Ms. Boxer, don't you think you could be putting the life of that person at risk with that kind of speculation? In your own story, you quote Ali -- one of the three blogging brothers who started IraqTheModel -- saying that "here some people would kill you for just writing to an American." And yet you go so much farther -- blithely, glibly speculating about this same man working for the CIA or the DoD -- to sex up your lead and get your story atop the front of the Arts section (I'm in the biz, Boxer, I know how the game is played).

How dare you?  Have you no sense of responsibility?  Have you no shame?

Apparently not.  Ed Cone observes:

Just in time for the conference on blogging, journalism, and credibility, a not-very-credible piece of journalism about blogging from the New York Times.
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The credibility of the Iraqi bloggers -- of any bloggers -- is a reasonble subject for journalism.  The Times could have written a credible article on this subject.  But it didn't. Why not?

Why not, indeed?  Is the Times guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy, by putting the lives of pro-democracy and pro-American bloggers at risk?  Some soldiers in Iraq are charging the media with that sort of thing.  I'm reluctant to level charges of treason, though, as I subscribe to a higher standard of proof than the New York Times.  I think the real problem is that too many people are stuck in the 1960s.  That's a point that Michael Gove makes in a different Times, the Times of London, today:

There is a particular point at which knowledge appears to end and a huge black hole begins. It seems to occur somewhere in the 1960s. 

The specific event beyond which most commentators now find it difficult to see is the Vietnam War.

It has become the dominant reference point for discussion of any current military campaign. The war to liberate Afghanistan had barely begun before sceptics were suggesting that a "Vietnam-style quagmire" loomed. And from the moment plans were laid to topple Saddam's regime, cynics were certain that the Iraq war would lead, if not to Apocalypse Now, then to the quagmire to end all quagmires. . . .

The demand that we should learn from history makes sense. But, sadly, none of the comparisons so far drawn with Vietnam display a full sense of the nature of that conflict, or the one we face now.

One of the popular media myths in Vietnam was that there were no good guys on our side.  The communists were authentic; our guys were all crooks and dupes.  That assumption seems to have carried over here, as the only evidence Ms. Boxer seems to be able to muster for claims that the Iraqi bloggers are bogus is that they are pro-American -- and at the conclusion of her article, she makes clear that criticism of the Bush Administration gets automatic credibility as "genuine."  (What must it be like to think so little of your country that you assume all praise of it is bogus?  It must be... like working for the New York Times!)

At the moment, the New York Times is in court, demanding constitutional protection for its sources.  If they're exposed, it fears, they may suffer consequences that will make others less likely to come forward in the future.  That, we're told, would be bad for America.

But the New York Times has no compunctions about putting the lives of pro-American and pro-democracy Iraqis at risk with baseless speculation even though the consequences they face are far worse than those that the Times' leakers have to fear.  It seems to me that doing so is far worse for America.

When journalists ask me whether bloggers can live up to the ethical standards of Big Media, my response is:  "How hard can that be?"  Not very hard, judging by the Times' latest.

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