SATURDAY, MAY 31, 2003
BEND IT LIKE SULLIVAN: Weve tried to ignore Andrew Sullivans posturing about Maureen Dowds recent error, but Fridays foolishness put us over the top. A Texas newspaper has dropped Dowd, Sully says, because she misquoted President Bush. Sully quoted the newspapers statement, then began to pander. Amen to that, Sully said. I wonder how many other papers who syndicate Dowd are reconsidering, given her propensity to deceive.
For the record, Dowd did misrepresent something Bush said, though we wouldnt swear she did it on purpose. Heres what Dowd wrote in her May 14 column:
DOWD: Busy chasing off Saddam, the president and vice president had told us that Al Qaeda was spent. Al Qaeda is on the run, President Bush said last week. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated Theyre not a problem anymore. [Dowds deletion]Since al Qaeda had just staged its Saudi bombings, Dowd used the quote to make Bush look dumb. But Bush hadnt said that al Qaeda was finished; Dowds deletion had changed Bushs meaning. Here was Bushs full statement, including the part which Dowd clipped:
BUSH: Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely, being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, theyre not a problem anymore.Clearly, Bush meant that the dead or jailed operatives are no longer a problem. Dowds edit changed Bushs meaning.
Sully began to crow about this as soon as he spied it on other web sites. Yesterday, his posturing hit its zenith. The comedy? On the very day when Sully began thumping Dowd, he posted his review of The Clinton Wars. And right up front in that review, Sullivan clipped a Blumenthal quote, then said the clipped quote made Sidney look stupid. In other words, Sullivan did much the same thing hes been flogging in Dowd for two weeks.
Lets ignore the general fakery of Sullys review. Instead, lets zero in on his clipped quote. Early on, Sullivan wants to ridicule Blumenthal for worshipping at Clintons altar (its a Standard Hack Spin-Point). To accomplish this end, he quotes an early part of The Wars. Clinton is visiting FDRs Hyde Park home right at the start of his presidency. Sully lets us know how stupid the passage is. Youll just have to take my word for it that Im not making this following bit up, he says. Then he quotes from Sid:
SULLIVAN (quoting The Clinton Wars): An aide gently but insistently reminded [Clinton] that his time was limited. The turbulent world was tugging at him, starting with a boisterous crowd waiting at the local high school. Its so peaceful, Clinton whispered as he stared at the tomb. His mind was filled with great plans: universal healthcare, reducing the federal deficit, investments in education and the environment, cutting crime, remaking the welfare system, ending discrimination, to begin with.Now the mockery starts. To begin with? Sullivan says. What on earth would be next? A space colony on Mars? But to ask such questions of this book is to mistake its essence. To ask how Sid knew what was going on in the presidents mind at that moment, is also to miss the point.
Sullivan mocks Blumenthals account. How could Blumenthal know what was going on in the presidents mind? he asks. Fairly clearly, were supposed to roll our eyes to think that Blumenthal would engage in such silly mind-reading.
But its perfectly clear from The Clinton Wars how Sidney knew what was going on in the presidents mind. Sullivan simply clipped his quote to keep his reader from knowing. Heres the fuller quote from Blumenthals bookthe fuller quote which plainly explains how Sidney could read Clintons mind:
BLUMENTHAL (page 8): An aide gently but insistently reminded [Clinton] that his time was limited. The turbulent world was tugging at him, starting with a boisterous crowd waiting at the local high school. Its so peaceful, Clinton whispered as he stared at the tomb. His mind was filled with great plans: universal healthcare, reducing the federal deficit, investments in education and the environment, cutting crime, remaking the welfare system, ending discrimination, to begin with. I believe that government must do much more, Clinton had told a joint session of Congress on February 17, quoting repeatedly Roosevelts call for bold, persistent experimentation.Duh! How did Blumenthal know what was going on in the presidents mind? He knew because he was explicitly referring to Clintons just-completed speech to the Congress! Dowd clipped a quote to make Bush look silly; Sully did the same thing to Sid. But now, the loud little fellow is stroking his thigh, scoring Dowds propensity to deceive. Does anyone else maybe get the feeling that Sullivan bends it like Jayson?
IF YOU MISSED IT: Be sure to read yesterdays HOWLER. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/30/03.
ITS SO EASY: How easy is life as a hack pseudo-con? Life is extremely easy. For example, look at Sullivans Weekly Dish column in Fridays Washington Times. Then look at Greg Pierces Inside Politics column in the very same paper. Sullivan opens with an item about John Carroll of the Los Angeles Times; Pierce opens with the same item. Pierce then does an item about the Texas newspaper dropping Dowd; Sullivan covers the Dowd matter too. Youd think Times readers would eventually tire, reading the same old stuff again and again. But noand life is sweet for hack pseudo-cons, blessed with such robot-like readers.
The Daily update
THE WEBLOG YEARS: Presidential biographers have often read minds. In The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal mentions one of the greatest such writers:
BLUMENTHAL (page 196): Two days before I was twelve and four days before the 1960 election, my political education began. I would soon get as a birthday present the two hardcover volumes I had asked forCarl Sandburgs The Prairie Years, about Lincoln. Lincoln was the god of Illinois, the Prairie State.And Blumenthal was growing up right in that state! But no one ever read subjects minds the way Sandburg did at the end of those volumes. Lincoln, now elected, journeys for days to say good-by and have his last hour with his stepmother, Sally Bush Lincoln:
SANDBURG (volume II, page 417): Sally Bush and he put their arms around each other and listened to each others heartbeats. They held hands and talked; they talked without holding hands. Each looked into eyes thrust back in deep sockets. She was all of a mother to him.But how did Sandburg know what Sally Bush had been thinking? And how did he know that, as Lincoln rode in great parades in the east, the sunshine of the prairie summer and fall months would come sifting down with healing and strength? At a time when writers were permitted to write, such stupid questions occurred to no one. Now, writers spend their time cutting and pasting from other writers brilliant weblogs, and they express their puzzling, crabbed anger when all writers dont hate Bill Clinton.