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SAVING GENERAL STRANGELOVE (PART 1)! General Boykin has made odd remarks. Plus: It’s time for Nagourney to go!


EXTRA! IT’S TIME FOR NAGOURNEY TO GO: Adam Nagourney needs to be fired for his work in this morning’s New York Times. Our report appears later on in this post, under the heading “Unbearable lightness, part 2.” But Nagourney’s work is a piece of pure fraud. As Americans, we put up with this throughout Campaign 2000. It can’t be allowed to start again. It’s time for Nagourney to go.

ODD BOYKINS: We assume that Lt. General Jerry Boykin is a perfectly decent individual. We also assume that he has served in full good faith during his thirty-year military career.

But in recent years, Boykin has said some odd things to a string of religious assemblies. For example, when William Arkin reported on Boykin in the Los Angeles Times, he started with this strange example:

ARKIN (10/16/03): In June of 2002, Jerry Boykin stepped to the pulpit at the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., and described a set of photographs he had taken of Mogadishu, Somalia, from an Army helicopter in 1993.

The photographs were taken shortly after the disastrous “Blackhawk Down” mission had resulted in the death of 18 Americans. When Boykin came home and had them developed, he said, he noticed a strange dark mark over the city. He had an imagery interpreter trained by the military look at the mark. “This is not a blemish on your photograph,” the interpreter told him, “This is real.”

“Ladies and gentleman, this is your enemy,” Boykin said to the congregation as he flashed his pictures on a screen. “It is the principalities of darkness... It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy.”

That evening, CBS’ David Martin played footage of Boykin making this point during another public speech. “Whether you understand it or not, it is a demonic spirit over the city of Mogadishu,” Boykin says on the CBS tape. “Ladies and gentleman, that’s not a fake, that’s not a farce.”

As Arkin said in his piece in the Times, “That’s an unusual message for a high-ranking U.S. military official to deliver.” But Boykin has other unusual views. Every school kid knows that our presidents are not elected by popular vote. But why is President Bush in the White House? Boykin has explained that one too:

ARKIN: He has praised the leadership of President Bush, whom he extolled as “a man who prays in the Oval Office.” “George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States,” Boykin told an Oregon congregation. “He was appointed by God.”
Why didn’t God just inspire more people to vote for Bush? Most likely, Boykin can tell you.

In recent weeks, Boykin has come under public discussion for other remarks he has made. President Bush has consistently said that the War on Terror is not a Christian war against Islam. But Boykin has made public statements in which he seems to say that Muslims worship a false god—an “idol.” Because Boykin serves as a deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, charged with tracking down terrorist leaders, critics have said that his statements will complicate the War on Terror—making it harder to sustain the claim that the war is not meant as a clash of religions. Indeed, Senator John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, sent Donald Rumsfeld a letter asking for a formal probe into Boykin’s speech-making. Many observers think that Boykin’s comments will cost him his job.

Yes, Boykin has made some unfortunate statements—and he’s made some other statements that just seem a little bit nutty. But the public dispute about Boykin’s statements helps to show the shape of the discourse with which Americans now are saddled. Forty years ago, Americans filed into public theaters and laughed at the oddness of the good Dr. Strangelove. But what happens now when General Boykin shows the splotch above Mogadishu? In part, we see the way forty years of agitation from certain sectors have turned our public discourse on its head.

Yes, General Boykin has a right to his views, and we assume he’s a well-meaning, decent person. But Americans also have some rights—including the right to a sane public discourse. In some ways, Boykin does seem a bit daft. And no one—repeat, no one—dares say so.

TOMORROW: Good-bye, Mogadishu.

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF READING, PART 1: Did you know that Wes Clark is bitter? Max Frankel very much wants you to know it. Frankel reviewed Clark’s new book, Waging Modern Wars, in yesterday’s New York Times. Quickly, he got in Clark’s head:

FRANKEL (pgh 2): “Winning Modern Wars” turns out to be aptly wrapped. For its 200 pages, many of them updated just a month ago, are obviously designed to abet the swift transformation of a once embittered warrior and armchair television analyst into a hard-driving, platitudinous candidate for president.
Is Clark’s “embitterment” a thing of the past? Guess again. He’s still bitter today:
FRANKEL (pgh 4): [T]he general cannot camouflage the partisan thrust of his polemic. His deft review of the battlefield tactics that won Baghdad in less than a month is merely the preface to a bitter, global indictment of George W. Bush.
In case you missed the key point—Wes Clark is bitter—Frankel sing-songs the point again, right in his closing paragraph:
FRANKEL (pgh 16): As Clark recounted in a previous book, “Waging Modern War,” his enemies in Washington managed to trick the Clinton White House into firing him from the post of supreme allied commander in Europe. And so he was left to watch from a CNN studio as a new administration employed the battle doctrines he had long championed in what he bitterly concluded was a misguided cause in Iraq. It was enough to drive a man to print, and to think he could do better, as commander in chief.
Why has General Clark criticized Bush? Clearly, it’s because Clark is bitter. How eager is Frankel to let you know it? He recites the key spin-point three times.

Surprisingly, though, Frankel never says how he knows that Clark is bitter. He doesn’t produce any quotes that sound bitter, nor does he ever say what’s wrong with Clark’s basic judgments about Iraq. But then, if it’s reasoned judgment that you seek, Frankel probably isn’t your man. Is Wes Clark really bitter? For some reason, Frankel seems to think that this passage helps establish the claim:

FRANKEL (pgh 5): No credit even for the one thing that Clark admires about the American performance in Iraq. He recounts with relish the “synchronization of high-tech airpower with agile ground maneuvers”—how the rapid advance of armor forced Iraqi units to move and expose themselves to air and rocket attacks, which in turn facilitated more ground advances. But “the irony is that the vision of…a high-tech battlefield, viewed through an array of sensors, with battles fought and won by precision strikes and a slimmer ground component—which the Bush administration, and especially Donald Rumsfeld, have trumpeted, is largely a reality that they inherited when they took office in 2001.”
But if this high-tech reality was “largely inherited,” why should Clark give its “credit” to Bush? For similar lightweight performance by Frankel, see how he shows, in paragraph 4, that Clark’s basic argument is “partisan.” And see Clark trashed (paragraphs 8 and 9) for failing to take out a crystal ball and prophesy future events.

How lightweight is today’s elite press? Read Frankel’s review to find out. In fact, this “review” exists for one simple reason—to throw unflattering adjectives around. Clark is “bitter,” ambitious,” “partisan” and “coy,” as we learn in the first four paragraphs. The American people are poorly served when lightweights like this rule our print.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Gore tested the waters in 2002; “bitter” was the script then, too. Such scripts are easy for lightweights to learn. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/02, 11/19/02 and 11/21/02.

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF READING, PART 2: How lightweight is today’s press elite? Adam Nagourney floats through the air—and lies in your face—in this morning’s Times:

NAGOURNEY: At several points, General Clark appeared to struggle as he explained his views on the war in response to a challenge from a questioner.

The questioner, Carl Cameron of Fox News, asked, “Are we to understand that what you’re saying now is that those things you have said that were positive about the war was not what you meant?”

Mr. Clark responded: “No, I always—I’m a fair person. And when this administration’s done something right, well, if they were Russians doing something right, Chinese doing something right, French doing something right or even Republicans doing something right, I’m going to praise them.

“Right after 9/11, this administration determined to do bait and switch on the American public,” he said. “President Bush said he was going to get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. Instead, he went after Saddam Hussein. He doesn’t have either one of them today.”

But why did Clark “appear to struggle?” Because Nagourney baldly misstated what he actually said. Here is the actual Federal Document Clearing House transcript of what was actually said:
CAMERON: General, there is a long litany of comments from you, both in your time as a former television analyst and then over the course of the last several months. Are we to understand that what you’re saying now is that those things you have said that were positive about the war was not what you meant?

CLARK: No, I always—I’m a fair person, Carl. And when this administration's done something right, well, if they were Russians doing something right, Chinese doing something right, French doing something right or even Republicans doing something right—


I’m going to praise them.

Now, this country was attacked on 9/11, and it was right that this administration went into Afghanistan. And I supported that war; so did 90 percent of the American people. That Taliban government should have been taken out.

But the failure of this administration was not to put the troops in to finish the job against Osama bin Laden. And you know why they didn’t do it? They didn’t do it because, all along, their plan was to save those troops to go after Saddam Hussein.

So I support them for what they did right, and I condemn them for what they did wrong.

IFILL: Thank you, General.


You’d never know it from reading Nagourney’s report, but that’s what was actually said. In fact, Clark “struggled” so hard to convey his meaning that it was greeted with laughter and applause! But it isn’t hard to make out Nagourney’s meaning. He meant to spread a scripted message—Wesley Clark is a big, fucking mess. And how did Nagourney create this impression? By baldly misstating what Clark really said! Instead of presenting Clark’s actual statement, Nagourney spliced in something Clark said to another question, earlier in the debate. And he said the resulting pseudo-reply was an example of Clark’s hopeless bungling!

Amazing, isn’t it? But then, Americans put up with this type of fraud all through Campaign 2000. No high school kid could offer such work. Why in the world is Nagourney still working? And how long do we, as American citizens, plan to put up with this conduct?

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF READING, PART 3: How lightweight is today’s elite press? Over at the New Republic, callow schoolboy Adam Kushner even suggested that Clark is delusional—for making statements which are patently accurate! Others have commented on Kushner’s inanity, so we’ll remind you of the history here. “Delusional” was a prime RNC spin-point against Al Gore during Campaign 2000. (It started with Gore’s remarks about the “farm chores”—remarks which were patently accurate!) At TNR, a callow schoolboy revives the script, and engages in some lightweight typing. But then, how empty are TNR’s gaggle of schoolboys? Do you recall the consummate clowning about John Kerry? Kerry had a “character flaw” because he likes to play show tunes on the guitar! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/10/02.

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF READING, PART 4: It doesn’t matter what you say; if you criticize Bush, you’re a “hater.” It’s the latest, easy-to-cut-and-paste script, and—yes, in yesterday’s New York Times—James Traub recited it well:

TRAUB (pgh 1): Scrutiny of the New York Times best-seller list discloses a new and important trend: Bush-hating has eclipsed Clinton-, Democrat- and liberal-elite-hating. There’s Bill O’Reilly, liberal-hater in chief at Fox News, at the No. 2 slot; but Michael Moore’s “Dude, Where’s My Country?” sits on top of the greasy pole, while Al Franken’s “Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)” occupies the No. 3 spot. Molly Ivins’s “Bushwhacked” is farther down, as is David Corn’s “Lies of George W. Bush.”
Don’t make us explain the sheer dumbness of this. But why do we incomparably note that “it doesn’t matter what you say?” We say that because Molly Ivins devoted her entire column, just last week, to explaining that she doesn’t hate Bush, because she’s an adult! No matter! A type-by-the-numbers script is about, and America’s press corps is lighter than air. If you criticize Bush, that makes you a hater: A lightweight elite has heard the key script. So they sit at their screens and they type it.

By the way, good news has been received concerning Jonathan Chait’s “I hate Bush” clowning. Chait will now be making big bucks, dumbly performing for corporate groups. Can’t you see him shucking and jiving? Howard Kurtz showed-us-the-money:

KURTZ (10/20/03): Chait’s New Republic editors urged him to write a coolly analytical piece about Bush’s failings, but he waved them off. “I felt I was being slightly dishonest by not confessing my own feelings,” he says.

Bush-hating, it turns out, can be good business. Chait has gotten so much reaction that he and Ponnuru have been making the talk show rounds and are working with a speaker’s bureau.

And yes, those corporate groups pay big bucks! And make no mistake: Every time Chait tells these groups that he “hates” the way Bush holds his arms, this latest, idiot spin will be spread, just the way the RNC wants it. Sorry, but this is the group that runs your discourse, and you need to know how these consummate lightweights make such a joke of your lives.

SOMEHOW, HE FAILED TO NOTICE: For the record, neither Traub nor Chait seemed to notice the endless “Gore-hating” in Campaign 2000. It went on for two solid years, and it clearly decided the race. By October 24, 2000, the canned “Gore-hating” was all about, driven by twenty months of press corps dissembling. On that date, Betsy Hart did O’Reilly, eager to explain her deep, vast loathing. We’ll spare you the bulk of her fake, phony comments. But here was her opening remark:

HART: Well, Bill, the vice president is a condescending, patronizing, hectoring, lecturing know-it-all. And this isn’t just some odd little personality trait that his mother couldn’t quite work out of him when he as a kid. It is reflective of his worldview. He really does think he knows it all. He really does think he knows better than I do about how I should live my life and how I should raise my children and so forth.
For ourselves, we’d guess that almost anyone would know how to raise Hart’s children better than she does. (We note the way the loathsome pundit dragged Gore’s mother into her rant.) Soon, though, the fake, phony pundit got right to the core of her loathing. “He almost physically makes me writhe,” she confessed. “And apparently I’m not the only one.” This sort of thing went on for two years. And it’s funny: James Traub didn’t notice.