Companion site:


Google search...


Daily Howler logo
FACT-CHECK FOLLIES! The Washington Post tried to fact-check Rudy. But their muscles were weak from disuse: // link //

ZELL’S BELLS: Some readers recall a promise we broke—a pledge to review Zell Miller’s book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat. In January, we said we’d review the clowning book, perhaps the most laughable book of its kind ever written (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/5/04). But more urgent stories blew into town, and we never made good on our promise.

Over the weekend, we thumbed back through the Miller tome and remembered why we found it so comical. Is there a bigger fake in American life than the man who speaks at the Garden tonight? Today, we issue that promise again: At the end of the week, we’ll run through a few of the highlights from that utterly ludicrous book.

But remember as you watch tonight—every word is the God’s honest truth! Miller simply can’t help himself. By his own embarrassed admission, his conscience is in full command:

MILLER (page 2): [M]y conscience travels with me everywhere I go, like some unwelcome inner companion. I cannot escape him and is he tough. He is on steroids, has a Black Belt and long fingernails, and stomps around inside of me, sometimes in hobnailed boots. He’s been there as long as I can remember. Although it’s getting tougher and tougher for me to blow out all the candles on my birthday cake, he just grows stronger—and louder.
The rubes made this laughable mess a best-seller. In fact, Miller’s work is as phony and fake as any book we’ve ever read. You can’t do it justice in one day, but we’ll hit some highlights later this week. In the meantime, grit your teeth as you watch tonight’s clowning. This is where your discourse heads when your “press corps” walks away from its posts.

THEY’RE EVEN AFRAID OF HASTERT: Let’s see if we have this right. Speaker Hastert tours the convention, saying that George Soros may be getting his money from drug cartels. Meanwhile, a former president, George H. W. Bush, takes cheap shots at Kerry’s war record; he doesn’t know the facts, he says, but he does have great faith in Bob Dole. “I have great confidence in Bob Dole,” Bush told CNN’s Paula Zahn. “I don't think he'd be out there just smearing.” But when Dole trashed Kerry’s record on CNN, he made baldly inaccurate factual statements—misstatements which went unchallenged by Wolf Blitzer and in a later MSNBC interview (Joe Scarborough). Blitzer and Scarborough seemed to know that they aren’t allowed to challenge Dole; pundits also seem afraid to challenge Bush and Hastert now. So Bush and Hastert clown and smear. Bush even says, of the Swift Boat Vets, “'I don’t know enough about them to say they’re all liars.” This also came from his session with Zahn, who brought up the topic then failed to challenge the ex-president’s McCarthyite logic. As we’ve noted, life is very good for accusers when you play by this “press corps—” lax rules.

Yes, Hastert/Bush/Dole make a joke of your discourse—and they treat reporters like fools as they make their remarkable statements. But have you seen your national pundits challenge Hastert’s astonishing comments? Have they challenged Dole or Bush? No. The national press corps’ perfumed dandies are hiding beneath their desks once again. Hastert and Bush can say what they like. Your “press corps” is still runnin’ scared.

Good Lord! They’re even afraid of Dennis Hastert! Are you really surprised that major pundits “don’t know what to make” of those rough Swift Boat Veterans? On Monday, William Raspberry rolled over and died, too afraid to challenge their work (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/31/04). But so did Chris Matthews, late last week. Tomorrow, our series continues.

FACT-CHECK FOLLIES: Amazing! In this morning’s Washington Post, Glenn Kessler offers a fact-check of Giuliani’s convention speech! We were pleased to see an attempt being made. Then we read the scribe’s floundering efforts.

Kessler gets off to a fairly good start. He quotes one of Rudy’s phony attacks against flip-floppin’ Kerry:

KESSLER (9/1/04): In his speech to the Republican National Convention on Monday night, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani made a number of specific attacks based on statements made by Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. But Giuliani's description of those comments often lacked context.

For example, Giuliani said: "In October of 2003, he told an Arab American institute in Detroit that a security barrier separating Israel from the Palestinian territories was a barrier to peace. Okay. Then a few months later, he took exactly the opposite position."

The rubes really loved it when Rudy said that! But there was one small problem with Rudy’s remark; a few months later, Kerry didn’t “take exactly the opposite position” from the one he had stated before. We settled in, waiting for Kessler to nail it. But Washington’s scribes are out of practice when it comes to challenging phony attacks. Kessler completely fails to address the heart of Giuliani’s statement:
KESSLER (continuing directly): The context: When Kerry made his statement about a "barrier to peace," he was referring to, as he put it, the "Israeli government's decision to build the barrier off of the Green Line, cutting deep into Palestinian areas." The Green Line is the de facto boundary between Israel and the West Bank.

Kerry's stance was similar to the position President Bush took a few months earlier, in July 2003, when he said in the Rose Garden: "I think the wall is a problem, and I discussed this with [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon. It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank."

The Bush administration has spent months negotiating with the Israelis the precise route of the fence. Both Kerry and Bush opposed involvement of the International Court of Justice in the matter.

Weird, isn’t it? Kessler completely fails to address the heart of Giuliani’s attack—the claim that, “a few months later,” Kerry reversed his position. To all appearance, it’s been so long since scribes fact-checked a speech that they no longer know how to do it.

And sadly, this is the strongest part of Kessler’s critique. By the third of his three examples, he is completely misstating the problem:

KESSLER: Giuliani: "He even, at one point, declared himself an antiwar candidate, and now he says he's a pro-war candidate."
What was the problem with that attack? Kerry did once call himself an anti-war candidate, in a sense which he quickly defined. But here’s the problem—at the present time, Kerry doesn’t “say he’s a pro-war candidate.” That’s the part of Rudy’s statement that was clownishly wrong—a phony claim to invent a fake flip-flop. But Kessler doesn’t seem to know that. The scribe seems to be out of practice:
KESSLER (continuing directly): The context: Giuliani's statement appears derived from an appearance by Kerry in January in which Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball," asked him whether he was one of the candidates "unhappy with the war has been fought, the way it's been fought . . . are you one of the antiwar candidates?" He answered: "I am. Yes. In the sense that I don't believe the president took to us war as he should have, yes. Absolutely. Do I think this president violated his promises to America? Yes, I do, Chris. Was there a way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable? You bet there was, and we should have done it right."

Matthews has protested to the Bush campaign the use of the statement that Kerry called himself an antiwar candidate, saying the remarks were taken out of context.

No, that isn’t the problem with Rudy’s statement—and that isn’t even what Matthews was griping about. In reality, Matthews made a lot of noise about a relatively minor misstatement. On its web site, the Bush campaign was slightly misstating what Kerry had said on Hardball that night; they were saying that Kerry had declared himself “the” anti-war candidate. That was a silly exaggeration, which they were hyping for effect. If you saw Matthews pummel Bush aide Matthew Dowd (on August 16), it is abundantly clear that he was complaining about this relatively minor exaggeration (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/17/04). Kessler didn’t know what was wrong with Giuliani’s statement—and he didn’t seem to know what Matthews was crabbing about.

Oh yeah! How about that first claim by Rudy—the claim that Kerry “took exactly the opposite position” on Israel’s security barrier? Sorry. In the remark which Kessler quotes, Kerry complained about the way the wall was “cutting deep into Palestinian areas”—deep beyond the Green Line. The problem was the wall’s intrusion into Palestinian lands, not the fact that the wall existed. In the remark he made a few months later, Kerry accepted the rights of Israel to have a wall. There is no contradiction here. Indeed, if Kessler’s remarks are accurate, both positions are held by Bush too. No, there is no contradiction. But if there were, it would belong to both hopefuls.

For the record, there is one more problem with Kessler’s fact-check. He doesn’t just bungle the topics he selects. He also skips Giuliani’s most clownish moment—the ridiculous claim that Kerry voted for and against “exactly the same thing” in the matter of the $87 billion (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/31/04). But you know the press corps’ stance on that matter! Long ago, they accepted the Bush’s campaign clownish claims about Kerry’s votes on that funding measure. On Monday, Giuliani lied about these two votes. And Kessler seemed to know not to notice.

Is this the best the Post can do in conducting a much-needed fact-check? Perhaps so. In March, the press corps walked away from its posts when it comes to fact-checking claims by Bush. This morning, Kessler tries to revive an old practice. But his muscles are weak from disuse.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Four years ago, we suggested that Kessler might well be “Da Man.” See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/8/00. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

ADDENDUM: It isn’t in our hard-copy Post. It isn’t in the article we find on the Post’s web site. And it isn’t in the Nexis version. But in some version of Kessler’s article that someone somehow linked us to, he does discuss the $87 billion. And oh yeah—he discusses it very poorly. Glenn Kessler knows to keep things polite:

KESSLER: Giuliani: "I quote John Kerry: 'I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.' "

The context: The administration's request for the funding was controversial, even among Republicans, and various attempts were made to split off $67 billion for the troops from the $20 billion for reconstruction, or to turn the $20 billion grant into a loan, or to fund some of the spending by raising taxes on incomes greater than $312,000. Kerry voted for a different version of the bill, just as Bush had vowed to veto a version that originally passed in the Senate that would have converted half of the Iraq rebuilding plan into a loan.

The “context” Kessler provides is fine, but he ignores the worst part of Giuliani’s remarks. After quoting Kerry in the way Kessler cites, Giuliani did what seems to come naturally to men of his type—he lied in the delegates’ faces:
GIULIANI (continuing directly from above): Maybe this explains John Edwards' need for two Americas.


One is where John Kerry can vote for something and another where he can vote against exactly the same thing.


Giuliani’s implication is blatantly false. As Kessler shows in his own commentary, Kerry did not “vote for something” and then “vote against exactly the same thing.” Giuliani was lying in the delegates’ faces. But the Washington Post instinctively knew that its readers wouldn’t want to know something like that. The Washington Post was too polite to tell you that Rudy was lying.

But there you see the world in which you now live. Politely, Kessler writes about “missing context,” but declines to tell you that you were lied to Monday night, during the evening’s most-discussed speech. Why did Giuliani lie in your face? Simple. He lied because he knew that he could. He knew that the Post would indulge him.