Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

Readers want tall tales about Bush. We recommend two easy pieces.


EXTRA! NOTES FROM A LEFTIST!! This is exactly the kind of clowning that undermines Andrew Sullivan’s talent. A very-special rejoinder will follow. By the way, see if you can find the “leftist” slant in today’s incomparable DAILY HOWLER.

READERS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN: Some readers are miffed because the HOWLER has criticized some of the Harken reporting. Sorry. From July 1999 right through the election, we challenged unfair coverage of Bush. To be sure, there was very little such work to confront; except for brief periods in March and September 2000, the press corps went in the tank for Bush, and stayed there till the votes had been counted. But whenever the press corps fooled with Bush, we incomparably spoke, loud and clear. Some of you want us to mislead you now. We’ll stick to our previous practices.

All through Campaign 2000, the press corps dissembled and spun against Gore. Some scribes are now being quite selective in things they report about Bush. If you want to be spun and misled, that’s your option. “Please mislead me,” some of you say. We offer two scribes who might help you:

SPINNIN’ MARTY: If it’s selective recitation you like, Marty Peretz offers the perfect example. In the current New Republic, he describes Bush’s sale of his stock:

PERETZ: The June 22, 1990, transaction was for 212,140 shares sold at $4 per share, for a total of $848,560. Two months after the sale (but before Bush actually reported it), Harken announced an unprecedented quarterly loss of $23 million, of which George W. could not have helped but be aware—of which, in fact, he was legally obliged to be aware…
It doesn’t get much more selective. Bush “could not have helped but be aware” of the size of Harken’s second quarter loss, Peretz says. The pundit is happy to tell you that, without saying how he knows it. But what does Peretz leave out of his piece? He doesn’t tell you that the SEC explicitly found that Bush wasn’t aware of these impending losses. In fact, no one knew, the gumshoes said; the size of the losses turned on accounting decisions which hadn’t been made when Bush sold his stock. But you won’t learn that elementary fact in this highly selective text. Its author simply asserts what he wants you to think, and omits facts which harm his assertion.

While we’re at it, also note the silly spinning of Harken’s stock prices down through the years:

PERETZ: When the loss was made public, Harken stock fell to a shade above $2 and, by year’s end, was down to $1. (As we go to press twelve years later, one share of Harken Energy is worth 45 cents.)
Peretz wants you to think that Harken simply went in the dumpster after Bush sold the stock. In fact, Harken sold between $5 and $8 from June 1991 through the end of that year. Why do you think he left that out, but told you what Harken’s price is now, eleven irrelevant years later? By the way, “a shade above $2” was actually $2.38. It went back to $3 the next day.

Peretz’s recitation is highly selective. If you like being spoonfed your facts this way, you should also check Anthony York.

A SELECTIVE SALON: How selective is York in Salon? He starts out listing things Bush knew. And he tells us about a key letter:

YORK (pgh 1): When President Bush sold more than 200,000 shares in Harken Energy Corp. in June 1990, he said he did not know the company was in bad financial shape. But memos from the company show in great detail that he was apprised of how badly the company’s fortunes were failing before he sold his stock—and that he was warned by company lawyers against selling stock based on insider information.
Wow! Despite the things that Bush has said, he had been “apprised of how badly the company’s fortunes were failing!” And he even was warned against selling his stock! Later, York insinuates further:
YORK (7): Bush and his Harken colleagues received a warning about selling based on insider information. On June 15, 1990, one week before Bush’s sale, Harken attorneys at the firm of Haynes and Boone sent a memo to Harken staffers with the subject line “Liability for Insider Trading and Short-Swing Profits.”

(8) “If the insiders presently possess any material non-public information, a sale of any of their shares could be viewed critically,” the memo states.

(9) On June 22, Bush sold 212,140 shares in Harken for $4 per share, netting him $835,807.

The insinuation is perfectly clear; Bush sold his stock despite the fact that the lawyers said not to do so. But what does York leave out of his piece? He doesn’t tell you that, when Bush decided to sell his stock, he ran the sale past those same Harken lawyers. That’s right—the same Harken lawyers who sent him that letter later told him his sale was OK. The SEC’s gumshoes stressed that point in their summaries of this case. Anthony York knows it perfectly well. He just doesn’t want you to know it.

On and on the spinning goes, as journalists tell you the stories they like. Peretz and York both include snippets of things Bush knew before he sold, hoping you’ll draw a vile conclusion. As noted, York even says that Bush had been “apprised of how badly the company’s fortunes were failing.” Really? The SEC gumshoes explicitly found that he didn’t know how bad things were. Of course, York doesn’t mention that fact. His story sounds better without it.

Readers, misleading accounts have been widely offered. You get to recite these accounts if you wish. But you complained when Clinton was spun by the press. Why is it OK with Bush?

TOMORROW: Closing thoughts about Ann Coulter’s Slander.