FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 2003
RUSSERTS INDICTMENT: Lets face itwhen a White House hopeful does Meet the Press, we expect top-flight preparation. With so much at stake for the nation we love, a guy cant show up on the program and start making careless blunders! But last Sunday, Howard Dean did Meet the Press, and the factual errors began almost instantly. In fact, in the very first Dean-Russert exchange, this unforced error occurred:
RUSSERT: You said that your son got in a scrap. He was arrested for driving a car in which some of his friends broke into a beer cooler and stole some beerThats right, people. Almost before Dean could open his mouth, Russert made an unforced error (at a teen-agers expense), telling the nation that Deans son had been indicted in a recent incident. Its hard to know how such instant errors could occur in such an important session, but two things should be crystal clear. First: No pundit will ever say a word about Tim Russerts unfortunate error. And second: Rightly or wrongly, a number of Dems have stopped believing that these errors are really mistakes.
But the pundit corps has a Standard Story whenever Dem hopefuls do Meet the Press. They say how brilliant Russert wasand they lament the Dems gruesome performance. Since Sunday, Dean has been battered for his performance. But theres nothing new about this, of course. When Candidate Gore did Meet the Press on July 16, 2000, Russert made a string of errorsand Gore was hammered for a grisly outing. Liberal pundit Margaret Carlson raced to express the Standard Outlook. Russert chopped [Gore] up in little pieces, she colorfully said. It looked like he was a candidate who was bolted together by the people at the robot factory. But so it goes when your liberal pundits express their Conventional Wisdom.
In this mornings New York Times, Jake Tapper says that Deans performance wasnt as bad as portrayed. We agree with that general assessment. But Standard Pundits raced into print, eager to type Standard Stories. As always, Katharine Seelye was the most foolish. Here was part of her next-day assessment, offered as a news report in the New York Times:
SEELYE: Under questioning, [Dean] said he did not know how many American military personnel were on active duty around the world, guessing there were one million to two million. According to the Pentagons Web site, there were 1.4 million as of March.Ah, the familiar Seelye trademarks! Dean guessed at the number of personnel, were told. Meanwhile, students of SeelyeThink can surely translate the passage she offered on Iraq. Dean said there were 135,000 troops in Iraq; the actual number is 146,000, Seelye said. And trust us: Readers are supposed to think that this shows that Dean doesnt know his stuff. Dean said we need more troopsand he didnt know that we already have them! Trust usweird as it sounds, that was Seelyes message. (Later in the interview, Dean suggested that we need over 200,000 troops in Iraq.)
Yes, the presidential race is picking up steam, and familiar presentations are appearing. Gore bombed on Meet the Press, we were told; now we learn that Dean bombed too. (Edwards bombed on the program last May.) As readers know, we always urge caution about double standard assertions; its the easiest claim of all to make, and the hardest claim of all to prove. Its rare that two cases are perfectly comparable. But as the press corps starts to have its way with another White House race, well at least suggest that Dems should ask if Double Standards arent sometimes lurking.
HE TOO DIDNT KNOW: Dean has been widely battered for his guess about the size of the military. Troubled pundits have asked themselves if hes ready to be a real candidate. As usual, Russert was willing to lecture the hopeful, helping Dean better comprehend his grave responsibilities:
DEAN: For me to have to know right now, participating in the Democratic Party, how many troops are actively on duty in the United States military when that is actually a number thats composed both of people on duty today and people who are National Guard people who are on duty today, its silly. Thats like asking me who the ambassador to Rwanda is.Russert continued his helpful instruction:
RUSSERT: If somebody wants to be president of the United States, have a sense of the militaryRussert will always lecture the hopefuls. Or will he? On November 21, 1999, Candidate Bush did Meet the Press, and its hard to avoid the sneaky feeling that he got a different ride. Well examine that in more detail next week, but lets start with what these candidates said about knowledge of military affairs.
Should Dean know the answer to Russerts question? The Dem offered this opinion:
DEAN: As someone whos running in the Democratic Party primary, I know that its somewhere in the neighborhood of one to two million people, but I dont know the exact number, and I dont think I need to know that to run in the Democratic Party primary Tim, you have to understand, and I know you do understand, that as you run a campaign and as you acquire the nomination and as you go on to be president, you acquire military advisers who will tell you these thingsSoon, Russert was offering his helpful lecture. But no such lecture was heard in 1999, when Bush made that first Meet the Press appearance. And Candidate Bushspeaking sensibly, like Deansaid much the same thing Dean did:
RUSSERT: In your speech, you said that arms reductions are not our most pressing challenge. Right now, we have 7,200 nuclear weapons; the Russians have 6,000. What to you is an acceptable level?Did Bush have an opinion about Prime Minister Putin, a possible successor to President Yeltsin? I really dont, the hopeful said. I will if Im the president. But Russert offered no lectures this day. Nor did he start the high-profile session indicting Bushs daughters for something.
No, these Meet the Press sessions arent perfectly comparable. But many Dems no longer feel that Russertor the press corpsplay these things straight. By the way, one final question: Could President Bush have answered Tims question last Sunday? For ourselves, we wouldnt bet the house. And guess what? It wouldnt really matter.
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL: [A] wide range of governments, agencies and individuals outside the Bush administration looked at the same or their own evidence about Iraq and drew the same fundamental conclusionthat Saddam Hussein was defying repeated U.N. disarmament orders. The Clinton administration, the governments of Britain, Germany and France, most of the senior U.N. weapons inspectors and most Democratic senators also were convinced that Iraq was hiding weapons and the means to produce them. While the Bush administration may have publicly exaggerated or distorted parts of its case, much of what it said reflected a broad international consensus. If it turns out that neither the weapons nor the programs existed, the failure will be not just that of the Bush administration but of most Western politicians and intelligence experts.Huh! When Gore was said to have exaggerated about an old movie, it became a troubling, two-year cause celebre. Here, the Bush Admin may have exaggerated about going to war! But whats the big deal, the Post seems to say. Much of what the Bush Admin said may not have been exaggerated.
Beyond that, this Post editorial is truly remarkable. The debate in Washington over Iraqs weapons of mass destruction and the administrations prewar intelligence about them is becoming more overheated and uninformed, the paper begins. The absence of facts hasnt stopped critics of the war from rushing to the conclusion that no WMD exist, or that Mr. Bush and his top aides manufactured a case for war by strong-arming U.S. intelligence officials and distorting the evidence. This passage is larded with foofaw. As weve noted, few critics have said that no WMD exist, but this straw-man is a favorite wherever Bush spin is now sold. But what is truly amazing is the Posts assertion that there is an absence of facts and an uninformed debate about the question of distorted evidence. In fact, the Post has published many articles on the subject; those articles have been filled with facts. Walter Pincus has been a lead author. Can we make a helpful suggestion? Maybe the Posts editors should put down their dog-eared copies of the Washington Times and start reading the great Post itself.
BONUS! WORLDS GREATEST EXAGGERATIONS! Jack Kemp really bent it good on last nights Hannity & Colmes. How bad was that University of Michigan admission procedure? Yes, this exchange did occur:
COLMES: I thought it was a great decision in that they threw out the undergraduate case where they were awarding points [for race], 20 points out of 150.And yes, that is what Kemp really said. His statement was clear as a bell on the air, and its there in this mornings Fox transcript.
As readers may recall, UM undergraduate admissions used a 150-point scale. The university awarded 20 points for raceand up to 110 points for academic achievement! Applicants could get 80 points for grade point average; 12 more points for their SATs; 10 points if they attended a rigorous high school; and 8 more points if they took advanced courses. As youll recall, many conservative pundits had great fun spinning that bogus 20/12 comparison (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/20/03). Last night, Kemp took the foolishness to a new level. That 110 points for academic achievement has now been shrunk to just one.
By the way, why do some libs think some cons are so stoopid? Suzanne Fields still cant figure it out.