April 22, 2005 | 11:45 AM ET | Permalink

I’ve got a new Think Again column here on Ken Ferree, the man the Bush administration has put up as acting head of the Campaign for Public broadcasting, and what that means.  I wrote a Nation cover story on the administration’s war against the press, here

I’ve got to get my new iPod working and loaded before flying to California this morning having just returned from Williamstown by way of Brooklyn and so I think I’m rather done replying to John Cloud, whom I think would greatly benefit from a few weeks in the Caribbean or something, as he appears to have become completely unhinged on MSNBC’s letters page and elsewhere, calling me all kinds of names, again, making crazy accusations, and obsessing, of all things, about the fact that I teach in Brooklyn.  (I do think this is the first time he’s ever heard any criticism. Boy life must be awfully cushy, still, at Time.)  But if you still care, watch Mr. Cloud try to defend himself over at CJR Daily, here.  (And there’s plenty more discussion below, but before I leave CJR, is it really right of these guys to allow Cloud to call me all kinds of crazy names and then ignore my response? What’s up with that, journalistic-ethics-wise, guys?)

A few things first:

Laughing Last:  I found this on page 182 of Victor Navasky’s A Matter of Opinion:

“We have no feud with that magazine [The Nation]. Its readership is too tiny.”  -Marty Peretz, then full owner, now 1/3 owner of The New Republic, quoted in The New York Times, February 1979.

Circulation, 2005: The New Republic, 61,000 (or so) and still dropping.

The Nation, 185,000 (or so) and still rising.

Um what’s for dinner, Marty?

I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t say this for all kinds of reasons, but Matt Labash’s portrait of Ward Churchill here is just wonderful; funny, good-humored and smartly observed.  Ward Churchill really is the Left’s Ann Coulter.  Time should get John Cloud to drink a bottle of white Bordeaux with him.  I doubt he’ll find many errors in his work either.

And this Hitchens profile from nplusonemag.com is truly brilliant and ought to end a lot of arguments.  It is far superior to George Scialabba’s work published in The Nation not long ago.

On to Slacker Friday:

Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to criticize Time magazine's piece on Ann Coulter.  The week before they named Richard Daley the best mayor in America -- what credibility was there left to lose?

So back to Hillary Clinton, who everyone except John Edwards and John Kerry assumes will be the Dem nominee in 2008.  Trouble.  I bet you can imagine a good number of Kerry voters who wouldn't vote for Hillary.  Bet you can't imagine a single Dubya voter voting for Hillary.  When I ask if there's any way she could win, I get the same answer: fate.  For example, "if things are really miserable" or "if John McCain runs as an independent and splits the vote."  Myself, two things come to mind.  The first is the word "chivalry."  What female progressive candidate has managed to win in red state territory?  Ann Richards did it against Clayton Williams and many attributed that win to Williams' lack of chivalry (refusing to shake hands, using coarse language).  Hillary benefited from something similar when Rick Lazio charged at her during a debate with an outstretched hand, trying to bully her into some trite agreement.  Now if Karl Rove is still breathing the GOP nominee will avoid such gaffs, but Hillary can manufacture a chivalry dynamic on her own. 

Imagine: Hillary asks to address a Promise Keepers convention.  Recall that she grew up steeped in religion and lived in the South -- she can speak the language.  I'm happy to write the script (talking points: crime, rape and a theological explanation for her abortion politics), but suffice to say, the second most powerful words in the English language are "I/we need you."

The other thought is health care -- it's the one issue she's identified with.  Instead of running away from it like she has, she needs to turn it to a positive.  Things have changed since 1994, the most obvious is that health care -has- been rationed, by Harry and Louise's puppet masters no less.  But more importantly, in the context of the weakened dollar, national health
insurance and the economies of scale it can provide is now a jobs issue (see: Here ).  Agree or disagree with my suggestions, she needs to know there is no safe route to victory.

Name: Kathleen Grant
Hometown: Foster City, CA

Mr. Alterman:
I'm in awe.  A tough, tightly reasoned, fierce and unapologetic voice for the traditional values of American journalism...well, it seems like a very long time since anyone except Bob Sommerby at the Daily Howler was willing to be so direct and impassioned.  The people you are calling to task are such cowards, and their near complete disregard for the truth has damaged our precious national discourse in ways we don't even yet understand.  Thank you for what you have done.  May others join you.  But even if they don't, keep on truckin' (as we learned at those Dead concerts), and know you have my respect, and that of many others.

Name: Alan Deikman
Hometown: Fremont, CA
It seems odd that you and Brock seem to care more about Time Magazine's reputation than they do.  I find it amazing that your friend the editor hasn't given you some sort of statement over this.

Didn't Chris Matthews -- no slave to probity himself -- permanently kick Coulter off his show, saying "the truth means nothing to you?"  You mentioned this here I think.

Name: Jim Gerow
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NY

Eric--
Bravo for your pointed rebuttal of John Cloud's rantings against you and other critics of his awful Time cover story on Ann Coulter.  Fortunately there are still some members of the "reality-based community" in journalism who are willing to check the facts.  The SCLM hit a new low this week with the Time piece, so it will be interesting to see how Time deals with its critics in the Letters section next week.  Does anyone doubt that the real issues will be completely ignored in favor of sensational name-calling?

In response to Anonymous who urged a consumer boycott of everything TimeWarner-related, by all means shut off CNN and cancel those subscriptions, but as a classic film lover, please don't ask me to sacrifice Turner Classic Movies, the one thing TimeWarner does right.  For those thinking of switching from cable to satellite TV, Dish Network is far superior to the Murdoch-owned DirecTV.  Don't dump the Time empire only to get in bed with Fox!  My service from Dish has been excellent and there's no minimum contract requirement.

Name: Don S.
Hometown: Boston, MA

Conservatives and Time defenders have mentioned that Time had done a cover on Michael in July of last year.

In July of 2004, Moore had a documentary in theaters that had shattered the box office gross in the documentary category and was still going strong (despite many theaters refusing to show it.)  The film won at Cannes.  He also had a book or two out that was doing well.  He was being talked about everywhere.

He was, in a word, news.

Coulter currently has her columns, and that's it.  No book on the bestseller lists, certainly no movies.  She's been fired from various jobs, including the right wing National Review.  Her influence is hardly growing.

She is simply not news.

This makes Time's choice to write the puff piece even more interesting.

Name: F.A. Roberts
Hometown: Oxford, England

Eric,
Full disclosure: I am a conservative southern white male.  I read your blog regularly - and I would like to comment on your remarks about Ann Coulter.  I think you are absolutely right.  She is a right-wing attack dog, using rhetoric to inflame the faithful.  She (and others like her on both the right and the left) have cheapened political discourse into the spoken equivalent of a tennis match in which both players just slam it as hard as they can trying to injure the other.

Name: Marie Malicki
Hometown: Glendora, CA
Thank you!  I received that issue of Time magazine and threw it in the trash and canceled my subscription.  That woman has no business on the cover of any respectable news magazine.  She does nothing but spew hatred.

Name: Rick Perlstein
Hometown: Chicago, IL

...sent to Cloud under the subject heading "you must be overwhelmed right now, but..."

------

...please read this.

I've been thinking of nothing else but you, your article, Coulter, and Time the last few days, and I think I have something to well-informed and useful to contribute that might rise above the dreck you must be getting bombarded with.

I have a pretty decent understanding of the right. That's why, I humbly submit, when I wrote my book about Barry Goldwater, it got glowing reviews in every right-wing publication, from the Weekly Standard to a white-supremecist quarterly.

This is the point I want to convey. People who spew hate rhetoric, talk violence, and make things up have nothing to do with Michael Moore, Eric Alterman, and David Brock.

What they have to do with is this. The last time figures like Coulter were being mainstreamed for public consumption in this way was 1994-95. People like Gordon Liddy--who, recall, was "joking" to his listeners to shoot federal agents in the head.

This pushed the limits of the acceptable far to the right, and vulnerable, nutty people felt licensed to blow up buildings because of it.

There will be right-wing violence in the next year. Of that I have no doubt. And people who've served to push the limits of the acceptable far to the right by mainstreaming people who spew hate rhetoric, talk violence, and make things up will bear some measure of responsibility.

You've made a series of very grave lapses in moral, professional, and intellectual judgement. You have no idea what you're dealing with.

Name: Kathy Givner
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Hi Eric,
Thanks for another terrific column.  I e-mailed Time yesterday, canceling my subscription. I hope many others did the same.  Keep up the good work!

Name: Sam Hankins
Hometown: Austin, Texas

In case you're keeping track, my wife and I cancelled our subscription to TIME day before yesterday.  I pledged to them that we would never, ever buy another copy of their magazine ever again.

Name: Jesse Corum
Hometown: Portland, OR

After reading about Time magazine's Coulter-love-fest on Tuesday, I liked seeing the Anonymous suggestions about canceling subscriptions.  I quickly checked the list to make sure I wasn't giving them any money.  I don't get Time, I don't get Sunset, I don't get Popular Mechanics or any snowboarding magazines.  I don't own any stock either.

But then at the bottom, I'm reminded that Time/Warner owns DC comics, and its arty imprint, Vertigo.  I've long since decided that Neil Gaiman's 'Sandman', which practically created the Vertigo imprint, is the best thing written in the last 25 years.  No kidding.  The series, which featured an embodiment of Dreams who looked like a Cure fan (and his older sister, Death, who looked like Crissy Hynde) has been over for nearly 10 years, but  I will greedily snatch up any more side stories that Gaiman gets around to writing.

The point is that this is another crucial problem of media consolidation.  I feel like the Southern Baptist who wanted to boycott Disney except for college basketball on ESPN.  I am unable to vote with my dollars because they own too much of the market.  It's probably the same for a number of snowboarders, home remodelers, amateur chefs, etc. who don't want to give up their specialty magazine because of Time, even if they loathe Coulter and the article.  My favored comics are written by leftist Brits and the quasi-religious elements would earn damnation if they ever appeared on the Right-wing's radar.  But dollars spent on those books goes into the same pool as dollars spent on Time.  I'm scared to even do the research on who owns the publishers of books by Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. because I'm afraid there will be even more things I feel guilty about buying.  My passion is cinema, and I don't even want to THINK about refusing to see Warner Brothers films or DVDs.

If Anonymous can pull off his total Time/Warner boycott, more power to him.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure it's practical when dealing with this kind of media Hydra.

Name: David Ehrenstein
Hometown: Los Angeles, Ca.

I trust I'll see you this weekend, Eric.  Saturday at 1:30 PM at Anderson Korn I'm going to be on a panel called "Hollywood Behind the Camera" with Leonard Maltin, Scott Eyman, Maureen Orth (Mrs. Tim Russert) and David Rensin. Thomas Greanias will be the moderator.

Then at 3:30 PM in Fowler Auditorium I'm doing a one-on-one with Liz Smith.

April 21, 2005 | 9:44 AM ET | Permalink

Cloudy

From: John Cloud
Eric Alterman calls my piece on Ann Coulter a "moral, professional, and intellectual abomination" as well as, redundantly, a "moral and intellectual scandal." He says Time has "a journalistic venereal disease." This is the left-wing equivalent of an Ann Coulter attack: callous and intended to create as much friction as possible (words I use to describe Coulter in my alleged puff piece). But that's really what my story was about--the kind of take-no-prisoners dialogue that Coulter has helped create and popularize. Now Alterman, it would seem, is trying to out-Coulter Coulter.

Rather than engage the ideas in my story, Alterman simply insults me. He does mention that the story actually quotes him, but he conveniently hides the fact that it also quotes James Wolcott, Andrew Sullivan, Salon, Ronald Radosh, and even Jerry Falwell criticizing Ann Coulter. She is called everything from an "ideological huckster of hate" in my story to a "skank." I myself say she can be "callous and mouthy," that I want to "shut her up occasionally," that her writing can be "highly amateurish." She is called a "fascist," a "polemicist," and--by Radosh--a virtual McCarthyite.

What Alterman wants is for people to ignore Coulter, to pretend as though she doesn't exist and isn't one of the most loved--and hated--figures on the public scene. I would rather engage her, examine her ideas and her popularity, and challenge her. My story does all of those things. It's true that I don't list every single mistake Ann Coulter has ever made, although I do print some new ones. My job was not to fact-check all of Coulter's 1,000 columns, the 1,300-odd pages of her books and the hundreds of TV appearances; it was to profile her. Nonetheless, I do list several Coulter errors and also correct the record on some mistakes by others who have written about her--including Alterman. In his book on the media, Alterman asserts that Coulter said to a Vietnam vet, "People like you caused us to lose that war." She did not. In fact, the vet had just gotten his facts wrong, and Coulter responded sarcastically, "No wonder you guys lost." Harsh words, yes--sort of like saying Time has a venereal disease--but Alterman got the quote wrong.

In the end, Alterman seems most annoyed that we did not use more of his personal "sources" on Ann Coulter. I suppose those sources include Media Matters, the website he quotes to provide the only substantive criticism of my story. That website, of course, is run by someone who is, famously, an ex-friend of Coulter's--David Brock. I do quote Brock in my story once, but I don't consider it fair reporting to dwell too much on the comments of someone who is so publicly identified as her enemy.

Alterman criticizes my "lazy and credulous reporting," but he doesn't seem to have done any reporting for his item on me whatsoever. Eric, I'm not hard to find: call me. Last night Coulter went on Fox and blasted Time magazine in language almost as strong as Alterman's. She implied that I am an unfair reporter and said she had "learned [her] lesson" after talking to me. At least I'm getting it from both sides.

John Cloud
Staff Writer
Time

Eric Alterman replies:  John Cloud doesn’t like me.  Either that, or he doesn’t like being criticized for producing a morally and intellectually indefensible work of journalism and has chosen to respond with a fusillade of personal invective.  You be the judge.

In response to my comments on his admiring profile of Ann Coulter in which he announced that he "didn't find many outright Coulter errors"* based on a casual Google search, available here, Cloud says I:

  • am the left-wing equivalent of [...] Ann Coulter
  • am trying to out-Coulter Coulter
  • am simply insult[ing] him
  • am hid[ing] the fact that it also quotes James Wolcott, Andrew Sullivan, Salon, Ronald Radosh, and even Jerry Falwell criticizing Ann Coulter.  She is called everything from an "ideological huckster of hate" in [his] story to a "skank."  [He] say[s] she can be "callous and mouthy," that [he] wants to "shut her up occasionally," that her writing can be "highly amateurish."  She is called a "fascist," a "polemicist," and--by Radosh--a virtual McCarthyite.
  • want [...]  people to ignore Coulter, to pretend as though she doesn't exist and isn't one of the most loved--and hated--figures on the public scene
  • Made a mistake about a quote of hers in What Liberal Media?
  • seem most annoyed that [Time] did not use more of [my] personal "sources" on Ann Coulter
  • [don't] seem to have done any reporting for his item on [him] whatsoever

In his interview with CJR Daily interview available here, he adds:

"I think Eric Alterman and Ann Coulter engage in the same kind of debate. They don't often make actual arguments.  Instead, they throw names around. This is the point of my article.”

And...

"I think maybe Eric and Ann are in the same bunch. They also, by the way, use the same language."

To take these one by one may appear a bit tiresome and self-serving, but there are larger issues involved, including, admittedly, defending my reputation, but more importantly, having to do with defending the tenets of honest journalism and fair-minded media criticism.  So I will, as briefly as I can, engage Cloud on the facts:

Cloud insists that Coulter and I are peas in a pod, guilty of the same sins, up to the same shenanigans.  OK, let’s compare me with Ann Coulter.  True, we both have B.A.s from Cornell, where we both attended many Dead concerts, (though I don’t pretend I refused to partake in the local customs).  More to the point, I went on to earn an M.A. in international relations from Yale and a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford.  I’ve written six books, two published by university presses, containing many thousands of footnotes.  None of these books have been substantially challenged on the basis of the evidence they employ, even by those who strongly disagree with my arguments.  This is not true of Coulter.

I am also a professor of journalism at the City University of New York, a senior fellow of two think tanks, a professional blogger for the most trafficked Internet news site in the world and the media columnist for oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States.  I am pretty sure none of the above is true of Coulter, either.

What’s more, Coulter has twice either wished for, or joked about the mass murder of American journalists.  She has called for, or joked about, the assassination of a sitting American president.  She has called for, or joked about, the mass murder of entire populations of Moslem nations.  She has referred to the president of the United States and his wife as “pond scum,” among many other things.  She has called Christie Todd Whitman a "birdbrain" and a "dimwit"; Jim Jeffords a "half-wit"; and Gloria Steinem a "deeply ridiculous figure" who "had to sleep" with a rich liberal to fund Ms. magazine--all of which makes her "a termagant."  I have never called publicly for the death of any one, nor joked about anyone’s murder, nor called any president or any senator any names like those listed above, though I admit, not all of them—including the current president--are among my favorite people.

While Cloud vouches for Coulter’s accuracy, an entire industry has sprung up demonstrating that accuracy plays no role whatever in her work.  You can find dozens, if not hundreds, of lies, mistakes, misattributions, and unsupported allegations in Coulter’s work catalogued here, here, here and here, to name just a few.  Cloud insists that his “job in this story was not to be a fact-checker.”  Funny, that’s just exactly the excuse the White House offered in July 2003.  ("The president of the United States is not a fact-checker.”  See The Book on Bush, p.330.)  Well, I always thought Time Magazine was pretty proud of its fact-checking capabilities, but OK, that’s quite an admission.  Still it misses the point.  If Cloud could not be bothered with checking the accuracy of Coulter’s work, he should not have vouched for it and his editors should not have  published him doing so.  Deploying the authority of America’s most influential magazine, Cloud declared the work of Ann Coulter to be without “many outright [...] errors."*

Is it too much to ask, if he isn’t going to fact check Coulter’s work, that he at least check her comments in his own piece?  Cloud explains, "Coulter says profiling makes sense when Muslims have committed virtually all the terrorist attacks against Americans for the past 25 years-"  By not pointing out that, for example, the number of terrorist acts against Americans by pro-life radical extremists makes Coulter’s claim false, Cloud is enabling a racist lie that is factually incorrect.

This is the heart of the scandal of its publication in Time and the reason his name will now be forever synonymous with a kind of craven, dishonest journalism that seeks to apologize for those who hold the values for which Time professes to stand in contempt.  It is not about liberals attacking conservatives nor vice-versa.  For all of Cloud’s attacks on my political orientation, it had nothing to do with my criticisms of his piece.  Those dealt exclusively with Cloud’s journalism.  For some reason he does not seem to get this, so let me spell it out:

Nobody really cares about Mr. Cloud personally, or the fact that he found Ms. Coulter so charming and “ironic” sipping her white Bordeaux and throwing her blonde locks back as she downed her Nicorette.  The issue that engages those of us who are invested in protecting and defending the honesty and integrity of American journalism is that Mr. Cloud has used the powerful and influential pages of Time magazine to declare Ms. Coulter’s work mostly accurate ("didn't find many outright Coulter errors"*) while admitting that neither he, nor Time’s minions, did the necessary work to defend that pronouncement.

We can debate the meaning of the word “lie” and whether it can apply to a false description. As the author of a doctoral dissertation and a 450 or so page book containing over 1400 footnotes spread over 91 pages on the topic of presidential lies, and a member of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, I like to think my vote should carry some weight when I say “yes.”  But I admit the point is arguable.  What is not arguable is that Ann Coulter’s work cannot be fairly described as without "many outright [...] errors"* by anyone with a modicum of respect for rules of evidence or the simple meaning of words.  Again, I refer you to the countless examples listed above, not merely in What Liberal Media, but in Tapped, Media Matters, Spinsanity, Salon and many, many others.

Cloud also complains that I did no independent reporting on Coulter for my item.  This is silly.  I’ve known Coulter since 1996, and  worked with Coulter virtually every day for more than a year on MSNBC, before she was fired.  I first published a column about her in September of 2002.  I published half a chapter plus an entire appendix in a book that came out in 2003.  Demonstrating that Cloud’s ability to think and reason had been befogged by his apparent attraction to Coulter’s “irony” did not require any additional reporting on my part.  That is, dare I explain it again, exactly the point.  All of the evidence was available to Cloud when he wrote the piece, just as it was available to me.  He chose to ignore it.  I didn’t.  This is not about “my personal sources” about Coulter, as he implies—once again casting aspersions on my motives without any personal knowledge.  (To tell you the truth, I don’t even know what he means by my “personal sources.”)  Rather, it’s an argument about the accuracy of Coulter’s statements and of Cloud’s—but more importantly Time’s—willingness to vouch for them.  Why is that so hard for Cloud to understand?

A few smaller points.  Cloud says I ignore the fact that he quoted some people who didn’t like Ann.  Well, true, but he wrote a 5800 word piece and I wrote a short blog item. Naturally I could not deal with all of it.  (And quoting people calling her names like “skank” does not, in my idea, substitute for examining her accuracy.)  In any case, if Time (or Cloud) wants to take the time and do the necessary research to critique all 5,800 words,  I’d be happy to do so… for $25,000.

Cloud says I misquoted Coulter’s attack on a legless Vietnam veteran in What Liberal Media? Well, I am willing to believe this might be the case, as I did not have Time’s army of researchers and fact-checkers at my disposal and everyone makes mistakes.  But I’m afraid he’s going to have to provide some evidence.  What Liberal Media? has nearly a thousand footnotes.  Cloud’s article has none.  What’s more, I was in the studio at MSNBC when the incident took place.  (There was cheering.)  True, I didn’t hear it, and never claimed to, and even if I had, I might have misremembered it.  Evidence is a much trickier matter than Cloud seems to understand.  My own source who claimed to have heard it might have been mistaken as well.  But I know Cloud wasn’t there and unless he’s watched a videotape—and I’m not sure I’d trust his word even there—I’ll wait until the point is proven.  (Though I must admit I don’t think it makes much moral difference.)  In any case, if Cloud can provide or point me to a tape, I’ll be happy to correct future editions of my book.  If not, well, I’ll have to judge his assertion based on the level of accuracy of the rest of his piece.  (Howie Kurtz however, appears to have a different story to tell here.)

Cloud says I want people to ignore Coulter.  Well, yes, this is true.  There are any number of people, I suppose, who want to kill Arabs, joke about murdering New York Times journalists and American journalists serving in Iraq, who call people vicious names, even during their funerals, who mock legless veterans, and who lie with impunity about those with whom they disagree.  It would be a better world if we ignored all of them.  I wrote about Coulter for a while in the hopes of demonstrating that a person who employed such practices had no business being embraced as a respectable voice in the mainstream media, and then I stopped.  I did what I could and moved on.  Now, the least I can do is remain consistent to my own personal principles by refusing to debate or appear with Coulter.  I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what Cloud thinks is the problem here.

Cloud notes to CJR, that Hitler and Stalin have also been on the cover of Time.  Excuse me, but why is he bringing up Hitler and Stalin?  Nobody else has.  Isn’t that the kind of thing the Left is always being accused of doing?  Reels the mind…..

Finally, Cloud throws in a great many personal insults toward me and toward David Brock in the hopes of deflecting the criticism he has received of his work.  My guess is that this is his first experience in receiving public criticism and he will grow to regret the intemperance of his remarks.  In the meantime, even if his wild charges were accurate, they would do nothing to exonerate his article.  I will let Brock speak for himself and he does so very well here.  But I should also like to point out that for all Cloud’s angry and unsupported accusations about me, the reader will note that I have not called him a single name.  Nor have I attributed a single unspoken motive to him.  In fact, I never even noticed him at all before the story was e-mailed to me by Time’s PR person on Sunday morning.  All of my comments have been directed toward Cloud’s indefensible work of journalism and the damage that Time’s publication of it has done to our profession and to the cause of honest and honorable political discourse in the United States.

*CORRECTION:  An earlier draft incorrectly quoted Mr. Cloud as using the expression "mostly accurate." His actual phrase was he "didn't find many outright Coulter errors."  I regret this mistake but it changes nothing in either my larger argument or Cloud's. Also, an earlier version of Altercation appeared without Cloud's letter. That was the result of an editorial miscommunication. I had always intended to include it and said as much when it was received.

April 20, 2005 | 11:32 AM ET | Permalink

Unpopular war, unpopular president
Why does America hate America?

I got this in the mail from Gallup.  Don’t anyone tell the MSM:

Shortly after the war began two years ago, most Americans thought the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over.  In a March 24-25, 2003, poll, 68% said the war was worth it, and this sentiment climbed as high as 76% immediately following the fall of Baghdad. Support gradually declined over the summer and dropped to a low of 50% in September, after President Bush asked Congress for an additional $80 billion to fund the war, which he admitted was not going well in a nationally televised address. War support got a boost with the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003, but that proved to be short-lived.  

By the end of January 2004, Gallup found for the first time less than a majority saying the war was worth it. Support rebounded somewhat in the spring, but tumbled again in May after news of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners made headlines. Since that time, support has been below the 50% mark with one exception (in late August 2004). The April 1-2 Gallup Poll shows 45% of Americans saying the war was worth it, while 53% say it was not.

And the president’s approval rating, recall, is the lowest ever recorded for a second-termer at this point in his presidency.

Where is this story?

And take a look at this: 

A study of local news during the last election by the Norman Lear Center clearly shows that the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality continues to drive news decisions.  And that means that when citizens across the country went to the ballot box last year, they were essentially forced to shrug their shoulders and roll the dice.  As trustees of a public resource, broadcasters have a statutory obligation to air programming that is in the public interest.  But too many in the broadcast industry continue to resist even minor efforts to strengthen the public interest standard - to the detriment of the public, and our democracy itself.

Boehlert throws a little more egg on Time’s face, here.

To hell with Paul McCartney:  Tickets, $253, the bastard.  I’ve seen him.  Save your money or give it someone who needs it.

Quote of the Day:  “Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman."  -Melody Townsel, here.

And how desperate is Condi to get rid of Bolton?  Desperate enough to obstruct a Congressional investigation?  More here.

And a friend writes:

Just FYI, there is absolutely no way that this conclave wasn't fixed from jump.  Nobody -- not even Montini, who became Paul VI -- goes INTO a conclave with 20 of 115 votes in the satchel, which is what they were saying on ABC.  I don't believe the Holy Spirit came down and hit 70 of these guys on the melon so they'd vote for a theological reactionary who's the most clear designated successor to a previous pope since the Borgias left the building.  JPII reached out from the grave on this one, pal.

Somewhere in Germany, Hans Kung's on his fifth bottle of schnapps.

Me? I'm a Buddhist.

P.S.: My wife tells me that, on Fox, Chris Wallace was chatting with some priest and asked how Ratzinger's English was.  (Well, various theologians can attest that he knows how to say “F**k You” in several tongues.)  The priest answered that it was fluent, as was the new Papa's French.  To which Wallace replied, "Nobody cares about that!"

Zut alors!

Eric adds: Plus he’s a foreigner who tells Americans how to vote, here.

Heads up.  My friend Lynn Povich, will show you where she gets (some of) her smart genes tomorrow afternoon on a live chat tomorrow at noon about her dad, Shirley, whose decades of smart, soulful sports writing has been collected in a new book just published by Public Affairs.  Go here and then here and when you're done, tell me his isn't the best stuff on the game you've read this side of Roger Angell (and maybe Red Smith).  Read more about the book and Shirley Povich here.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Skip Mendler
Hometown: Honesdale, PA
Hi!  I wanted to thank Maj. Bateman for his postings -- and to suggest to him, to you, and to your readers that it might be eminently appropriate to write to the White House and one's Congresscritters, and request that Marla be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and/or the Congressional Gold Medal.  In fact, it might be good to do that a lot, and to suggest the same course of action to one's friends.  It's highly unlikely the Bushites would give her a medal, of course -- but I'd say that makes it even more important that we make the request, wouldn't you?

Name: Andy Pickard
Hometown: Kansas City

This cracks me up.  It's Ann Coulter being interviewed by a Canadian.  She insists that Canada sent troops to Viet Nam.  He corrects her and she has the gall to tell him that he's wrong.  It's priceless.  I found it here.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Eric--
I second Brian Evans's remarks on the Bolton nomination.  I've never heard the refrain "the president's entitled to the people he wants" offered so frequently to explain away the series of unqualified candidates named to a variety of posts-- cabinet, judicial, and consular.  He's entitled to name whoever he wants, but he's not entitled to see them take the office unless senators like Lincoln Chafee abdicate their responsibility. 

Given the president's inclination to promote those known to have either lied serially or performed with consistent incompetence, one can only draw one conclusion about his dismal judgment. The Constitution designates the Senate's role to advise and consent to nominations.  As long as the president ignores the Senate's first role, the Senate should refuse to consent, not out of spite but because the administration is simply not up to the job of fielding qualified candidates on its own.

Name:  Steve Gregoropoulos
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Booger P. Stewelz?????

Okay I DID laugh at it.

P.S. - Keep your ears open for the Grabs - Eleni Mandell and yours truly take two weeks off from our busy schedules and do some pop with Nigel from Blondie and Elvira from Silversun/Kennedy - that's right, two weeks, not even every day of two weeks - about six days of work - I hope you like it - it's pure pop for then people

Name: Mark McKee
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM

Dr. E:
Thanks for saying what needed to be said about TIME.  Here's hoping someone will follow-up on the excellent draft Bill Moyers idea.  Obviously he deserves the richest of retirements, but maybe you could contact him and let him know that if he starts driving Judith crazy, and would like to write anything new, that we will gladly consume it.  In the meantime, we must give regular and repeated props to Moyers' parting gift to the world, the ever precocious David Brancaccio.  All the best!

Name: M. Decker
Hometown: Elizabethtown PA
Thank you.
After 20 years of subscribing to Time - I canceled my subscription 3 days ago when I saw the Time cover.
RE: Her complaints of 'liberal photographers' making her head 'pea-sized' and her feet ocean sized.  You GOT it Ann!  She has parlayed anorexic long legs and long blonde hair into a career - now let her live with it.

From:  Anonymous
Hometown:  USA
Hey Doc,
Time to rip a page out of the Right Wing handbook:

If you and your readers are truly as insulted and mortified as I am by seeing the Shrill Blonde Harpy on the cover of Time, and even worse, deified in a propaganda piece inside --  then do something about it:  Vote with your feet -- and your checkbook.

Before some damn fool writes in complaining about Freedom of Speech -- just because someone says something, doesn't mean you have to support it financially.  Your readers may only be 49% of the voting public, but that's a significant consumer bloc.  We do not need a 2nd Fox Network, and TWX better learn that damn fast.

First off:  Anyone with as subscription to Time magazine should cancel it.  After you do, send a letter in to the magazine explaining why.

Given the absurd nature of the Time story, that in and of itself is insufficient.  So the second thing to do is sell any TimeWarner (TWX) stock you own. Again, a letter to TWX Investor Relations explaining why you sold makes the gesture more significant.  Trust me when I tell you, this is a very easy thing to do from an investing standpoint: Between the cooked books, the horrific acquisitions, and the dysfunctional nature of the company, you will not be missing anything.

But to really crank this up, go to Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, and look at CJR's complete list of AOL Time Warner properties.  Then follow the same routine:  Cancel any subscriptions you may have, and follow it with a letter explaining why.

Start with Time Warner Cable; Replace it with Dish or Direct TV (more channels for less money hardly seems like a bad deal).

On to AOL: Same routine: Cancel AOL, send a letter.  From personal experience, I can tell you that when you call to cancel, they throw you into a "customer retention specialist" -- tell that person EXACTLY why you are canceling also.  INSIST on an immediate cancellation, and threaten an FCC letter if they refuse to do so immediately (they will pull the used car salesman routine, and attempt to keep you on the phone for a while).  Demand a fax number and follow up with a fax cancellation.

Do the same if you are one of the 47 people left in the nation who still uses Compuserve (another fabulous acquisition by AOL/Time Warner).

On to the dead tree magazines: Cancel any and all of the following:  In addition to Time, they also publish:   Fortune, All You, Business 2.0, Life, Sports Illustrated, Sports, Money, Your Company, Your Future, People, Entertainment Weekly, The Ticket, In Style, Southern Living,
Progressive Farmer, Southern Accents, Cooking Light, The Parent Group, Parenting, Baby Talk, Baby on the Way, This Old House, Sunset, Sunset Garden Guide, The Health Publishing Group, Health, Hippocrates, Coastal Living, Weight Watchers, Real Simple, Asiaweek, President (Japanese business monthly), Dancyu (Japanese cooking), Wallpaper (U.K.), Field & Stream, Freeze, Golf Magazine, Outdoor Life, Popular Science, Salt Water Sportsman, Ski, Skiing Magazine, Skiing Trade News, SNAP, Snowboard Life, Ride BMX, Today's Homeowner, TransWorld Skateboarding, TransWorld Snowboarding, Verge, Yachting Magazine, Warp, Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, Your Company, Departures, SkyGuide, DC Comics, Vertigo, Paradox, Milestone, Mad Magazine.

Cancel 'em all, then let them know why.

Time Warner also owns MapQuest -- which is an inferior product to Google Maps.  That's a real easy cancellation --just  lose the bookmark.  They own the Atlanta Braves -- so if you are an Atlanta local, don't buy any tickets to home games.

If you are a Nielsen family, do not watch the following channels:  TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television (TNT), Turner South, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies.

I'm not sure which is the worst crime -- the horrific factual inaccuracies of Time Magazine -- or the fact that the Shrill Blonde Harpie's 15 minutes was just about up prior to the cover story.  Let's hope that Krugman's bon mots are as true for Time as they are for Bizweek:  "He that the Gods destroy, they first put on the cover of Business Week."

Otherwise, the damn clock starts all over again.

April 19, 2005 | 11:09 AM ET | Permalink

Time out

Time’s cover story/whitewash of Ann Coulter, here, will make it impossible for serious people to accept what the magazine reports at face-value ever again. It is as if Time had contracted a journalistic venereal disease from Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and is now seeking to lower itself to their level in pursuit of their ideologically-obsessed audiences.

This is a profoundly depressing realization as its managing editor Jim Kelly is a friend of mine and I respect both his intelligence and integrity and to be perfectly honest, I cannot find a way to reconcile my high opinion of Jim and the journalism he has produced, together with my respect for many of the professional reporters and editors at Time, with this moral, professional, and intellectual abomination.  The fact that the system could produce a story like this one—one that was in the pipeline for months and had plenty of opportunities to be both fact-checked and reconsidered--is a moral and intellectual scandal and a permanent stain on the reputations of everyone associated with it, most particularly its author, John Cloud.  Like New York Observer’s George Gurley, Cloud has accepted the role of an unpaid PR flack for a woman who frequently jokes about the mass-murder of journalists—including presumably, himself--and he professes to find this charming.  And let us pause for a moment to note that today is the anniversary of the day that Timothy McVeigh did his horrid deed—the mass murder of men, women and children Ms. Coulter and the moron, Gurley, thought it was so cute to joke about wishing he had accomplished at The New York Times.  (I suppose it’s too much to worry about her calling for the mass murder of Arabs.)  With the resources of Time’s legions of researchers and fact-checkers, he relies on a casual Google search to determine that she can be “occasionally coarse” and that he "didn't find many outright Coulter errors."  I spoke to one of those researchers and I’m quoted in the article.  But more to the point, I pointed the researcher in the direction of many easily available sources that easily undermine Cloud’s lazy and credulous reporting.  The entire package is a statement of contempt for the values for which Time professes to stand; another notch in the belt for the far-right’s forty-year campaign to destroy journalists’ role in assuring democratic accountability in our society.

Here’s just one example.  Cloud judges Coulter’s work to be largely accurate:  "Coulter has a reputation for carelessness with facts, and if you Google the words 'Ann Coulter lies,' you will drown in results.  But I didn't find many outright Coulter errors."

Media Matters writes:

One would have hoped that the author of a 5,800-word Time magazine cover story would go beyond performing a simple Google search; Nexis would be a good start.  But even Cloud's simple Google search should have been enough to dispel the notion that it's difficult to find "outright Coulter errors."  The fourth "hit" that Cloud's Google search yields is a review of Coulter's Slander on the nonpartisan Spinsanity.org website, which revealed Coulter to have erred about:

  • The number of articles the New York Times printed about "Selma" over a six-year period;
  • The frequency of the Times' use of the phrase "moderate Republican" vs. that of "liberal Republican"; and
  • Former Vice President Al Gore's claim to have been the inspiration for the book Love Story.

Likewise, a quick look at just the first three of 11 pages of search results for "Coulter" at Media Matters finds examples of Coulter lying or being wrong about:

  • The New York Times "outing" gays (the people mentioned in the article in question were already "out") and ignoring former atheist William Murray's conversion to Christianity (the paper didn't ignore it; it covered it.)
  • Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry supposedly running for president "under invented names" (they didn't);
  • The Bush administration's refusal to reimburse the District of Columbia for costs incurred during Bush's inauguration;
  • Long-discredited allegations that President Clinton "sold burial plots in Arlington National Cemetery."

In short: Coulter is wrong very, very often, and Cloud's suggestion to the contrary is simply bizarre.

More here.

Eric adds:  See also this study, which comprises one of the appendices to What Liberal Media?

Given the central role that Time, as America’s most influential and widely-read newsweekly plays in our journalistic culture, this is indeed a sad moment for all of us.

UPDATE: From Dan Perkins/aka Tom Tomorrow

Not only is there the infamous line about the Times, there's also a lesser known but equally egregious follow up:

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

--Ann Coulter as quoted in the New York Observer, Aug. 20, 2002

"RE: McVeigh quote.  Of course I regret it.  I should have added, 'after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters.'"

--Ann Coulter, from an interview with Right Wing News

[ Link]

While I’m alienating my friends, here, I suppose it is as bad a time as any to point out that Time’s political balance of columnists is badly skewed to the right in direct contrast to Newsweek’s.  While the latter has the almost always excellent and genuinely liberal Jon Alter, together with the undeniably bleeding-heart Anna Quindlen to balance George Will and Robert Samuelson and Fareed Zakaria, who is perhaps America’s most thoughtful conservative pundit, now that David Brooks has decided to become something else entirely.  (Other possible nominee: Chris Caldwell.) 

Time, meanwhile, has no one at all to balance right-wingers Charles Krauthammer and Andrew Sullivan save Joe Klein; a “liberal” of the Nick Kristof/"Even-the-liberal-New-Republic…" variety.  This is no accident.  Time used to publish Barbara Ehrenreich and it fired my friend Margaret Carlson, who is only just a little bit liberal, but apparently too much.  It’s not as if there are not plenty of people available.  Just off the top of my head, E.J. Dionne or Josh Marshall could give Jon a run for his money on a regular basis and my sometimes nemesis Katha Pollitt could be Time’s Anna Quindlen.  And hey, wouldn’t getting the currently under-employed Bill Moyers to do a regular column be a coup for any publication?  (Speaking of which, whatever happened to Mike Kinsley’s Time column?)  Repeat after me, What liberal media?

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Brian P. Evans
Hometown: San Diego, CA

So let me see if I understand "Anonymous" correctly:  Bolton is a terrible nominee.  He is clearly unqualified to fill the position of ambassador to the UN.  But because other clearly unqualified candidates were given a pass, this means that Bolton must be given a pass as well because to do otherwise would indicate that there is a severe disconnect among the members of the Senate.  That because Bolton was given a pass the last time, he needs to be given a pass this time.

Sounds like a bunch of whining to me.  It is time to grow up and take back the power the Senate has from the President.  "Anonymous" says it himself:  The Senate has a job to advise the President when it comes to nominations.  This isn't about politics.  This is about performance.  When the President sends a nominee who is clearly and in all ways unsuited to the task that he is to be given, the Senate has a duty and responsibility to advise the President to rethink his nominee by rejecting him.

And if you cannot convince 51 people to do their job that they swore an oath to do, then none of you deserve to be in the Senate.  Not because of any political misstep but because you are clearly not up to the job of being a Senator and having the confidence and temerity required to tell the President no.  If finding through testimony that a candidate is the worst person for the job is not enough to reject the nomination, what is?  "Dead girl or live boy," as the cliche goes?

Why is it unusual to hear opposition testimony?  How on earth can you judge the suitability of a nominee for a position without hearing from those who might have information about why the person should not receive the position?  This should be a routine matter, not a rarity.  While I understand the need for not bogging the confirmation process down with every random person who thinks he has something to say, that doesn't mean the system should be so "toothless and pitiful."

And yes, that is insulting.  What do you expect when you find your elected officials are sleeping on the job?

Name: Mike Foulk
Hometown: Providence, RI

I would like to make a brief comment on what your unknown guest wrote today.  First, I wholeheartedly agree that the Dems on the committee have played Bolton's nomination battle very well.  They chose the right strategy for the moment.  Let's hope it works and Bolton is stopped before he can get full Senate vote (in which he would probably be approved, unfortunately).  However, should he be voted down this week, the Democrats should immediately pivot to his role in intelligence matters.  Since it will no longer be about his nomination, there would be little political down side.  If they can draw the connection between people like Bolton in the administration and the way they used and misused intelligence it could be the way to finally draw the public's and the press' attention towards this important issue.  Bolton should be made the poster child (temper tantrums and all) of Bush's intel henchmen.  Maybe then we can finally get Congress to do something about it.  If not, though, it gives Dems a solid issue to run on next year.

Name: Reg Prewitt
Hometown: Franklin, TN

Here is a story about an "activist judge" of a kind unlikely to be on Tom DeLay's "hitlist."

Name: Booger P Stewelz
Hometown: Brighton, Mi

Eric,
MSNBC's Einstein article is a great read.  The comparison of Einstein and Darwin is a must read for those that would like to put Evolution in proper perspective.  The presentation is wonderfully coherent, the points taken clear and to the point.  It's the reality of science in our lifetime coupled with the message that education in both the teachings of Einstein and Darwin are the world's future.  It's easy to read these articles and come away with a proper framework to view these past twenty-five years of Conservative dogma providing a roadmap to third world status for America.  If ever there was a time to get America back to believing in separation of Church and State, it is now.

Name: M. Rusco
Hometown: Wichita, Kansas

Notes from the Heartland: Please don't give up on the Midwest, dear Democrats. The breadbasket of the world is not lost.  Get your butts in gear and take the time to speak to the red state masses who are not, just yet, beholden to the right.  The progressive movement was nurtured by dirt farmers and laborers sick of runaway corporate interests.  In Kansas, a state governed by a female Democrat, can get behind a solid centrist who is willing to push the traditional ideals of Democratic progressive values.  If that means a few more bucks from the DNC for state reps than open the check books, that is fine.  It is a long term strategy to be sure but all politics are local.  When I hear of the Democrats operating as if they don't need a particular region, I cringe.  That is defeatist.  Talk about the issues and support every progressive who is not afraid to wave the dirty stick of corporate special interest in the faces of politicians slimed by big money.  As soon as Democrats get a dose of bravery and the will to fight every good fight, then you will see the face of the nation change.

Name: Mark Shotzberger
Hometown: Wyoming, DE

If you want to support indie music, check the Internet Station 3WK.

A true "Mom & Pop" operation, they offer two streams, one new Alternative and the other, Classic Rock.

And Classic does not mean playing a 'Greatest Hits" CD, but digitized tracks from the Original LP's.  Some of the songs on the "Classic" Stream you might not have heard since you disconnected your Turntable in the 1980's.

April 18, 2005 | 11:30 AM ET | Permalink

Route Irish takes another

Name: Maj. Bob Bateman
Hometown: Baghdad, Iraq

Route Irish

Today I do not much feel like writing.  Yesterday was my birthday.  It was also the day one family found out about the death of their daughter here.  The latter is more important, so this will be only a short note.  Nobody much wants to hear from ‘the military guy’ today.

On Saturday, a six or seven kilometers from here, Marla Ruzicka died.  By all accounts she was a courageous young woman.  I did not know her, but I believe the world is lessened by her death.  She was killed by a suicide car bomber.

She died on Route Irish.

I am getting tired of writing variations of that sentence.

Ms. Ruzicka might be considered my anti-thesis by some.  I would disagree.  I would suggest that we occupy flip sides of the same coin.  That is just my opinion, however, and has little worth.  I do think she was probably braver than I.  This is what I know of her:

Marla Ruzicka was 28.  She was from California.  Her parents are Republicans.  She was not, and though I would not presume to know what her personal politics were, I am assuming they were considerably left of that point.  She has a twin brother.  She was dedicated to people, to improving life and saving life.  She felt a deep and abiding need to do everything she could towards that end.  In the course of her life she worked for one NGO, then founded another. The latter, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), had as its mission, the cataloging of civilian deaths in this war.  That is a task which the military does not pursue (nor, for what it is worth, has any military ever done so), and Ms. Ruzicka thought it important that these numbers should be counted.  But more significantly, from where I sit, is the fact that she did not catalog numbers from the safety of a desk in some London office.  She did not just compile news clippings and then post them on the alternet.  She came here, lived here, and attached a human face to those casualties.  Then she worked to relieve their suffering.  She learned the systems, first agitating in Washington, DC, and eventually here.  She did so even to the degree of working with the military to help distribute funds for the victims which the military has for that purpose, all of this in order to help innocent people.  In the end, it seems, she left politics aside in favor of practical reality and set her shoulder to work for humans, not just ideals.  Nobody I know opposes an objective such as that.

There is no need for me to go into the details right now. There will doubtless be a thousand articles about her in the next few days.

In the past several weeks, in your gifts of creamer and magazines and the like, and by e-mails and letters, many of you have asked me, “What else can we do?”  For the most part I’ve side-stepped your generosity.  Today I have an answer.

Go to CIVICWorldwide.org.  Go there and donate ‘til it hurts.

There will be time enough for soldiers later on.

BAGHDAD WITHIN EARSHOT:

I haven’t heard a mortar round in a week, and even before that they were getting rare.  Car bombs are on the upswing this week, obviously, but something occurred to me recently.  It may be hopeful, in a sad sort of way.

A car bomb can be created in secret, and only needs 2-3 people to keep quiet in order to avoid detection during the process.  In the end only one jihadist is needed.  But to fire a mortar, be it against Iraqis or the Coalition, one needs at least a crew of three just for starters.  One also needs some source for the rounds themselves, and the charges that propel them.  Then, when firing, one needs an entire neighborhood if Iraqis to keep silent about the event.

The implications of the apparent local decrease in the latter, therefore, may offer some small hope.

Eric adds:  Please feel free to respond to Bob at bateman_maj@hotmail.com

Bellow on Bellow c/o Roth

Classy fellow, Steinbrenner .  My heart goes out to all Yankee fans.

Oh yeah, our editorial page also let Cathy Young lie about Eric Alterman, but one scandal at this newspaper at a time, please.

Correspondents’ Corner:

Name: Phil Kaplan
Hometown: Norwalk, CT

Hi Eric,
Your Think Again column made amply clear the absurdity and outrageousness of any comparison of Bolton to Moynihan vis-a-vis international law and norms. 

However, an even starker contrast can be made between Bolton and one of the giants of our nation's founding, James Madison.  Here's Madison writing in Federalist 63:

An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to every government for two reasons: the one is, that, independently of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable, on various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the offspring of a wise and honorable policy; the second is, that in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can be followed. What has not America lost by her want of character with foreign nations; and how many errors and follies would she not have avoided, if the justice and propriety of her measures had, in every instance, been previously tried by the light in which they would probably appear to the unbiased part of mankind?

Not exactly the sentiment one gets from Bolton's public outbursts about the UN and international law in general.

Name: Unkown (as opposed to withheld)
Hometown: I guess we’re assuming Washington, or so.
Hey, Eric. I need to do this anonymously, so, if you can't do that, I understand.  I would be disinvited from any future coalition meetings and less able to do my job if my name were to be attached to this note.  This is especially true as I know that my colleagues read you.

That said, I feel a need to reply to Bill Salter's comments about my and my allies' "failings" on the Bolton nomination.

Mr. Salter is under the misimpression that we could win against Bolton with some sort of allegation that he was involved with the Iraq war lies (he almost certainly was) and that we instead caved and went for the "inside baseball" approach. Mr. Salter didn't understand the politics of the issue.

First, understand that to beat Bolton, we are going to need six Republican votes against giving their President the team he wants to assemble.  That assumes that we could get a unified Democratic caucus plus Sen. Jeffords to "stay the course."

Nominees are VERY difficult to beat unless you can find some personal flaw (see John Tower or the joys of nanny-gate).  You can't convince a politician, especially one as experienced as your average Senator, that they should veto a president's choice to a political appointment over a political disagreement.  That, they will say, is why we hold elections.

And they're not entirely wrong.  Though I believe that the advise part of "advise and consent" has, through the years, been improperly decremented in value, it is still the President's job to give out. Though I hated it, Russ Feingold's vote for the confirmation of John Ashcroft was not a craven bow to the right, but a principled belief that personal disagreement does not make a person ineligible for serving in the administration. I think he's wrong, but it's not something on which I have any chance of convincing him. That is why, when Bolton was first nominated, every newspaper just assumed he'd be confirmed easily.

Additionally, this was a cheap vote for the right. Voting for Bolton didn't cost Senators anything with their moderates, and appealed to the right. Changing the debate the way we have has taken a great deal of effort and has already been a significant success (and the fight ain't over yet, though Mr. Salter seems willing to yield). I'm sure we've not done everything right, but, for heaven's sake, let's start any analysis of the Democratic Senators' efforts with a realistic look at those efforts, please.

Moreover, Senators have at least some memory, and they know that Bolton's views were raised in his earlier confirmation, as were his views on diplomacy, and those were not enough to stop him from being confirmed.  So we have to go with more.  And if the "more" was that George W. Bush lied about Iraq and that Bolton helped him lie, well: (1), they don't blame Bolton for it; (2) they don't really care that Bush lied; (3) the majority support the war in Iraq; and (4) being a good soldier for the administration does not disqualify Bolton for a job in this Administration. We might (though I doubt it) have gotten all of the Democrats with that, but, to paraphrase Stevenson, that's not enough, sir. We need a majority.

On the other hand, what Carl Ford told the Committee was that this man was: (1) unstable, which mitigates against him being a good diplomat; (2) willing to compromise getting good information for getting information he wanted to hear, which would jeopardize the information we gather at the U.N.; and, (3) a bombastic loose cannon who can't even follow his President's orders.

If this is to be about Bolton's views, which I agree are reprehensible, about international agreements and diplomacy, we will make ourselves feel good, but we will lose, and we will deserve to lose. If we want our views to be what determines who gets what job, we simply need to win elections, and we didn't, nationally or in the Senate.

Finally, let me just suggest that we take a step back and look a bit at recent history. Outside of Clarence Thomas and John Tower, when is the last time you've seen opposition testimony at a confirmation hearing?  Especially when the President is of the same party as the Senate majority?  I know it looks like those things just happen. They don't. That took the work of lobbyists working with members of the Senate who all cashed in some chips to get those views heard. It was almost unprecedented, and, in this era of partisanship, Sen. Lugar deserves some credit for understanding why Bolton had some of us so upset and allowing opposition testimony.  If the testimony was not to Mr. Salter's liking, I understand. I, myself, wanted to stand up in the hearing room and simply scream, "What is WRONG with you people?" But calling it toothless and pitiful is simply insulting.

Ian Williams put it best. Calling John Bolton a diplomat is like calling Jack the Ripper a surgeon. Sadly, that truth is not enough to beat his nomination. So, instead of screaming that and feeling like we did enough, those Washington insiders and toothless lions Mr. Salter decries hunkered down and tried to find a strategy that would show the American public exactly what sort of nominee Bolton is, and try to find enough common ground with our Republican colleagues to defeat this terrible nomination.

I don't mind being beaten. If we lose, I will have my own second guessing to do, and I will try to learn from it to fight the next battle more intelligently. But frankly, I could stand to fight these battles without having to twist around to pick arrows out of my back. Before attacking, please take a count of possible votes and remember that we only have 44 D's and one D-leaning Independent in the Senate. And that is the set of numbers that matter.

Name: Dan
Hometown: Rye Brook, NY

Eric,
At the risk of Altercation turning into a music blog, I've got to comment on Cheryl from Minneapolis's letter.  Linkin Park "real rock"?  You've got to be kidding me.  I'm 24, and I'll admit that I listen to Linkin Park from time to time, but I see them for what they are: a decent band with some decent, if highly commercial, tunes.  That's all.  To suggest that LP are the band of the 2000s (especially after only releasing two albums) and that they create "a completely different sound" is laughable.  To be sure, they do the whole rap/rock (or "nu metal" if you wanna be cheeky) thing better than 99.9% of their contemporaries, but at the end of the day, they're still remarkably similar to literally scores of bands out there.  Despite what their more diehard fans say, the band is what it is: a band competent at crafting aggressive songs, primarily designed for teenage males to get drunk and mosh to.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but hardly earth shattering.

Name: Jeff Huffman
Hometown: Seattle
This sort of contractual obligation is only the standard (and not even then) if you have stars in your eyes and you are foolish enough to commit to a major label.  Today, if an artist writes his or her own songs, they generally retain the copyrights to them.  This has been the case for a couple of decades now.  Only someone really desperate to record for Sony or whoever is foolish enough to relinquish this control.  This may indeed be Ms. Apple’s dilemma.  If it is, then she got screwed by her manager, not the record company, which is, like most businesses, a beast without a heart or soul.

I know you’ve been pointed towards the best radio station on the planet, KEXP in Seattle, by me and other Altercators.  I would guess that close to 90% of the music played on this station is recorded for small labels or the artist’s own label.  This really is the future for good music.  The major labels are no longer really seeking out unique talent.  They, like the drug companies, are looking for the next big thing that they can market the bejeezus out of, regardless of whether it has any artistic merit.  This, really, has been the case for as long as I can remember.  For every Fiona Apple, the label is really hoping to find two or three Britney Spears.

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