Friday, January 21 2005
THE SPEECH:
It was beautifully written and respectably delivered. But I have to admit that after re-reading the text a couple of times I'm left slightly conflicted and confused.

Generally speaking, I think the President's instincts are correct. I support the proposition that democracy leads to peace and stability and it is therefore in our national interest to promote it abroad. But I also think by making such a sweeping, idealistic declaration the President probably complicated the task more than he clarified it. Is, as the President said yesterday, promoting democracy in all corners of the world an "urgent requirement of our nation's security?" An honest answer is "yes" in some places but "not as much" in others.

Jonah Goldberg is right to argue that the reason this President is "revolutionary" is that he's taken what has traditionally been a classically liberal foreign policy ideal and married it to specific set of U.S. national security interests. What's made him even more revolutionary (and polarizing) is that he's been willing to use American military force in applying this vision, and Afghanistan and Iraq have been the bright line marking this revolution.

Yesterday, however, the president smudged this line a bit and in doing so he invited a host of legitimate questions. Do we plan on punishing Vlaidimir Putin for human rights vioations in Chechnya, or for lavishing a formal state visit on Baathist strongman and terrorist-sympathizer Bashar Assad of Syria as he plans to do this coming Monday?

How much is it in our national security interests to start spanking China over their represssion of Tibet? Not a lot. This isn't to excuse what the Chinese are doing either in Tibet or to their own people, only to point out that President Bush glossed over a whole host of sticky details, including a very real set of national security priorities, to link American interests to the ambitious (and noble) goal of "ending tyranny in our world."

At some point, the administration is going to have spell out in more detail how they plan to turn Bush's rhetoric into a practical, executable strategy. We'll have to wait and see how that comes about. But yesterday's speech did seem to mark a very public pronouncement of a coming shift, or rather a new emphasis, in U.S. foreign policy and the President is now obligated to take some demonstrable actions to support his rhetoric. Otherwise, if things rumble along with the perception of "business as usual" the President's words will quickly be emptied of any real meaning.

Whatever your reaction to the speech, there is no question it was vintage George W. Bush. The concept is bold and the ambition is Texas-sized big. And the President's approach to it is, like so many other things, defined by a single sentence he said yesterday: "The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it." That spirit and leadership is what so many people, including myself, like and admire about the man. - T. Bevan 10:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, January 19 2005
MORE EXCUSES FOR MAPES AND CBS:
This is getting ridiculous. On the heels of yesterday's silliness where two leaders of a "media watchdog" group tried to minimize the CBS scandal and compare it to the reporting of Judith Miller of the New York Times, a reader sends through this column from Robert Jamieson in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Journalistic sins tend to play out differently depending on who is involved. Consider Fox News, the media outlet that Republicans love. Last fall, FoxNews.com posted an item by reporter Carl Cameron purporting to contain quotations from then-Democratic presidential hopeful Kerry -- quotes such as, "Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate."

"The item was based on a reporter's partial script that had been written in jest and should not have been posted or broadcast," Fox apologized. "We regret the error, which occurred because of fatigue and bad judgment, not malice."

And that was that for behavior that is arguably more troubling than the honest mistake Mapes made through competitive haste. (Emphasis added)

Now we're supposed to believe that Carl Cameron jotting down a few silly phrases that were accidentally posted to the Fox News web site is "arguably more troubling" than Mary Mapes orchestrating a 60 Minutes hit job built around forged documents to try and influence the outcome of a presidential election?

Watching left-leaning commentators fall all over themselves to try to minimize and excuse the transgressions of Mapes and CBS shows that the bias in the industry is deeper and more rigid than we can possibly imagine.

Consider that Jamieson also sees fit in his column to ponder this:

if the broadcast had involved unsustainable allegations about John Kerry, would the repercussions have been as severe? I suspect not.

To ask this question you have to believe that Mary Mapes and the folks at 60 Minutes would actually run a piece critical of John Kerry in the first place (regardless of whether the allegations were "sustainable" or not). That is something no objective person believes - and for good reason.

Mapes and the rest of the MSM was put to that test last year with the Swift Boat Veterans story. They failed. Not a single member of the mainstream media felt compelled to investigate the allegations of the Swiftees, many of which were at least if not more "sustainable" than the ones CBS used in the Bush National Guard story.

Instead, when Unfit For Command was published in early August the MSM took one look at the source and the allegations and deemed them too partisan and too politically motivated to be given any serious coverage. Too bad Mapes and the folks at CBS didn't evaluate the Bush National Guard story using the same criteria. - T. Bevan 10:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, January 18 2005
NOT QUITE FAIR:
You know we've reached a new low in the annals of media bias and duplicity when the leaders of an organization with the name "Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting" (FAIR) can get away with penning an op-ed like this:

The investigation did document serious failures in 60 Minutes Wednesday's efforts to check its source's claims - an endemic problem in the news business. If the investigation had called attention to the issue of credulous journalism, it would have performed a valuable service for the public. But the media discussion of the incident generally has treated it as either an aberration or as an emblem of left-wing media bias.

Lost amid the hours of coverage of the affair was what should have been the central question: Did George W. Bush, in reality, properly fulfill his National Guard requirements?

Attempting to minimize the magnitude of the CBS scandal by writing it off as a simple failure to check a source's claims is like dismissing Enron as just a simple failure of accounting practices.

This was not a metro reporter failing to source a claim on page D-22 of a local paper. Nor was it an individual act of embellishment or dishonesty a la Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass. Memogate stands as the single most egregious example of coordinated, unethical and biased journalism we've seen in a very long time - at least so far as we know. There is simply no telling what went before.

Still, the authors of the column need to minimize the CBS fiasco so they can trumpet the true scandal:

Other reporters have received much less scrutiny and punishment for offenses of far greater magnitude, and with much more significant consequences to society. The New York Times, for example, published numerous allegations about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that turned out to be false. Those stories did a great deal to sell the White House's bogus case for war.

While the Times has admitted that some of its WMD reporting was "insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged," the reporter most responsible for those stories, Judith Miller, was never sanctioned and still continues to report on Iraq.

The lesson of the CBS investigation, then, could very well be this: Journalists can be punished for bad reporting if they have offended the wrong people. If they have merely helped steer the country into war under false pretenses, their careers can continue unimpeded.

This is absurd. Judith Miller should be punished for what? Not seeing into the future? For accurately reporting what the United States government, the current and former administrations, and nearly every other intelligence agency in the world believed to be true about Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities?

To compare Miller's reporting to the hatchet job by Mapes & Co. is, to be overgenerous, not very FAIR. Then again, if you read the first few lines of the mission statement of this outfit it's quite clear that fairness isn't what they're after:

FAIR is a media watch organization offering constructive criticism in an effort to correct media imbalance....We scrutinize media practices that slight public interest, peace and minority viewpoints.

All of us who founded FAIR have media backgrounds. Our sympathies are with the working press. We do not view reporters, editors and producers as our enemy. Nor do we hunt for conspiracies...

How quaint: A bunch of former liberal journalists offering "constructive criticism" to current liberal journalists. Tell me again why so many people distrust the mainstream media? - T. Bevan 10:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, January 17 2005
HOWARD DEAN: BACK FROM THE DEAD:
Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the death of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. Dean's bid didn't officially end until February 18, of course, but his dismal third place finish in Iowa followed by the scream heard round the world effectively drove a stake through the heart of his candidacy.

Now Dean is back, and he's leading the race to become the new Chairman of the DNC. Here are the latest numbers on the DNC Chair election as reported by The Hotline last week:

1st Choice For DNC Chair
Howard Dean 31% (58 votes)
Martin Frost 16 (30 votes)
Tim Roemer 4 (8 votes)
Donnie Fowler 4 (7 votes)
Wellington Webb 2 (4 votes)
Simon Rosenberg 2 (4 votes)
David Leland 1 (1 vote)
Undec/Refused 40 (75 votes)

You would think the mere fact that Dean has pledged to spare his fellow Democrats the spectacle of another run at the Presidency in 2008 if he wins the DNC chairmanship would make him a shoo-in for the job. Then again, we may be experiencing a case of deja vu where Dean enjoys an early lead but his support evaporates into the ether when the time comes to actually cast ballots. At this point, it's still hard to say.

Would Dean be a good choice for the Democratic party? Liberals like John Nichols think so:

Democrats need a great big, high-profile fight over what they want their party to be, and Dean's candidacy will give them that.

I'm not so sure. Setting aside the debate over just how important party chairmen are to begin with, the job description requires they excel at either 1) raising money, 2) organizing, 3) helping to recruit great candidates or 4) being a leading face and voice behind the party's message. Successful party leaders are usually good at all four.

Dean proved he could raise money from small, individual contributors in 2003, but contributing to the party is different than contributing to a candidate. It's not at all clear whether Dean has the sort of connections inside corporate boardrooms and the power structure in Washington needed to be a successful party fundraiser.

On the organizing front, I'm surprised some Democrats are eager to turn over such a large and important operation to a guy who failed so miserably at managing his own campaign. As we learned from Howard Kurtz shortly after Dean completed his self-immolation, the Dean campaign was thoroughly chaotic, disorganized and riven with internal strife.

And let's not forget that Dean's own volunteer operation - breathlessly reported ad nauseam by the press as the real strength of his candidacy - turned out in hindsight to have been more effective as a yuppy dating service than a true GOTV effort.

Finally, though Governor Dean was fun to watch and the best of bunch in 2004 at rousing the party faithful, he also developed a reputation among the press and the public as prickly and temperamental. On top of that, Dean was easily the most gaffe-prone candidate in the race last year. His lack of savvy and discipline created a disturbingly large number of foot-in-mouth headlines. That practice continues today and Democrats should think long and hard about putting someone with such loose lips at the helm of the ship.

To sum up, Howard Dean has a number of qualities that could make him a really bad choice to be DNC Chairman - which is why most Republicans enthusiastically support his candidacy. No doubt they are echoing Karl Rove's famous words, uttered while watching Dean's supporters march by in a July 4th parade in 2003: "Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, that's the one we want. Go, Howard Dean!" - T. Bevan 10:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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