TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2004
GENERALS AMNESTY: Pathology! Theres no other word for the Washington press corps instinctive avoidance of simple, key facts. For example, consider Chris Matthews hapless performance with former Guard member Bill Calhoun.
Did Calhoun serve in Alabama with Bush? On last nights Hardball, Calhoun once again said that he did. And once again, he gave an account of his service with Bush that contradicted long-established, basic facts:
MATTHEWS: Give me yourI know you didnt think about this probably for years at a time, but as this man became president, how did your memory go back to the time you served with him in the Guard in Alabama?Once again, Calhoun said that Bush served in Bama starting in May or June (1972). But alas! Bush wasnt even directed to report to Dannelly air base (where Calhoun served) until September of that year (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/16/04)and the White House only seems to claim that Bush served for a few weekends in October and December. As such, Calhouns account contradicts this storys basic chronologya chronology that has been clear and unchallenged for the past four years. But the Washington Posts Mike Allen didnt notice this contradiction last Friday, and Matthews didnt question it either. Here was his next hapless question:
MATTHEWS: Now people want to know whether he fulfilled his duty during those months that you were with him. Did he?Right, the Hardball host haplessly saidalthough Calhouns account plainly isnt.
For the record, Matthews wasnt the only scribe bungling an interview session with Calhoun. Here was CNNs hapless Bill Hemmer on Mondays American Morning:
HEMMER: Tell us when you saw then Lieutenant Bush in Alabama?Just to make sure Im clear on my dates! At least Hemmer provides his own comedy! Clearly, though, other journalists dont. Moments after the exchange we have cited, Hemmer cited a story in Mondays USA Today. In it, Dave Moniz wrote this: So far just one Alabama Guard member, John Calhoun, has come forward with specific recollections of seeing Bush on duty at Dannelly. He said he saw him eight to 10 times from May to October 1972. Like so many others, Moniz failed to note the obvious contradictions which riddle Calhouns account.
On Sunday, lapdog Tim Russert made Calhoun a general, and no one else seems to want to correct him. Did Calhoun serve with Bush? We dont have a clue. But the press has decided this story is done, and scribes are now walking away from their posts. The press corps is tired of pushing this tale. Your journalists? Theyre all going AWOL.
BRIT HUMES HEROES: Of course, no one clowns like those all-stars on Fox. Why was the Bush AWOL story fading? On Special Report, the doctor was IN, and he was quick to explain it:
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, what happened was Lieutenant Colonel Calhoun. A guy shows up who says I saw him. I saw him over and over again, over a period of months. So either the president was absent and this guy, Calhoun, is hallucinating, something which happened over and over again. Or he was actually in Alabama and the others have forgotten. After three decades that is the more likely explanation, end of story.Over and over again, over a period of months? That account contradicts the established facts, but to Charlie, it was end of story. Mort took the clowning one step further:
KONDRACKE: I wouldnt even be surprised but what the press wont let it alone because of the stories, after this big document dump last Friday, were there were holes in all the documents. And even though Calhoun, one witness, comes forward with his ex-wife sort of corroborating that yes, she remembers that he mentioned there was a George Bush around, you know, my guess is that the questions are going to go on.Hay-yo! Now were told that Calhouns ex-wife32 years laterrecalls him saying that Bush was around! By the way, Fox viewers wont hear about those holes in the documents. As we have noted before, the contradictions in the evidence havent been mentioned on Special Report. If youre a rubeif you want to stay dumb and happythis is the program for you.
Final note: Mara Liasson was absent this night, replaced by the Boston Globes Ann Kornblut. Kornblut must know that Calhouns story has holes. But she also knew that she was on Fox. Kornblut, gone AWOL, kept quiet.
A GUTTER RUNS THROUGH IT (PART 1): Were sorry it was Andrew Sullivan who was asked, because the scribe has been a role model lately. He has criticized Bushand offended his readers. Few libs (or cons) will argue against their preference as Sully has done.
But on last weekends Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz raised a key question. He directed his question to Sully:
KURTZ: OK, let me jump in here. There is, as you both know, an unsubstantiated rumor bouncing around the Internet, started by Drudge, about John Kerrys personal life Andrew Sullivan, you wrote about this on your blog. Any second thoughts, any guilty feelings about furthering the conversation or something that you dont know whether its true, I dont know whether its true?Of course, we now know that a great deal of Drudges unsubstantiated rumor wasnt true. We know that the woman in question hadnt recently fled the country, as the dick-tugging dirt-bag falsely reported. We also know that she wasnt an intern, as Drudges reporting had seemed to imply. And it isnt clear that [i]n an off-the-record conversation with a dozen reporters earlier this week, General Wesley Clark plainly stated: Kerry will implode over an intern issue. On this weekends Fox News Sunday, Ceci Connolly said that was false too:
JUAN WILLIAMS: Now, let me just say that Democrats, including the man who endorsed [Kerry] this week, General Wesley Clark, was overheard saying, Oh, you know, Kerrys campaign is going to implode over an intern, that kind of thing. That adds to it. And I thinkIs Connolly right? We dont have a clue. But thats the kind of peripheral nonsense dick-tugging dirt-bags like Drudge want you pondering. The sleazy old dirt-bagsleazy dirt-bag Matt Drudgewants your life lived in the gutter.
Thats right, readers. A gutter runs though our American discourse, and Drudge aint the only one shovelin hard. But did Sullivan have any guilty feelings for discussing the dirt-bags latest rumor? Here was his answer to Kurtz:
SULLIVAN: Well, what we do know, a friend of mine called up and said, Is this going to go mainstream? And my answer was, well, its on the Drudge Report. There were 15 million visits to the Drudge Report yesterday. I dont know anybody in Washington that isnt aware of this story. So you get into this excruciating dilemma: How do you talk about it? Should you talk about it? I've talked about it from aremoved, talking about the story as a press story, which is what were doing now, without mentioning the details of it.Sully didnt know how to talk about Drudges report. Luckily, we at THE HOWLER do know how to talk. Well explain how to talk all this week.
DIRT-BAG KEEPS SHOVELING: Dirt-bag Drudge was still at it this morning. On his front page, one saw a thrilling headline:
WASH POST REPORTER: Nobody would be too shocked if Kerry lied about an affair. Even if someone came to us with photographs we still wouldnt run it.Wow! The headline sounded bad, very bad. But when we linked on the headline, we were taken to a BBC report by Paul Reynolds. Reynolds does quote Glenn Frankel, the Posts London correspondent. But Frankel says nothing which dimly resembles the quote which appears on Drudges site.
Yes, a gutter runs through our American politics. How should Sullivan (and others) talk about it? Well offer free lessons all week.