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SAVING GENERAL BOYKIN (PART 2)! General Boykin’s oddest remarks have been airbrushed from major newspapers:


GOOD-BYE, MOGADISHU: Yes, it’s true—Lt. General Jerry Boykin seems to hold some unusual beliefs. In speeches to various religious assemblies, Boykin has said that, despite getting fewer votes than Gore, George W. Bush is in the White House because God intervened in his case. More oddly, he thinks that he has taken photos of the sky above Mogadishu which show “a demonic spirit over the city.” “Ladies and gentleman, that’s not a fake, that’s not a farce,” he has said (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/27/03).

Do Boykin’s photos really show such a presence? We don’t have the slightest idea how you would settle that question. Nor would Boykin’s views even matter, except for his high position. But alas! Boykin is a deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, with major responsibilities in the War on Terror. William Arkin describes his position in the Los Angeles Times:

ARKIN: In this newly created position, Boykin is not just another Pentagon apparatchik or bureaucratic warrior. He has been charged with reinvigorating Rumsfeld’s “High Value Target Plan” to track down Bin Laden, Hussein, Mullah Omar and other leaders in the terrorism world.
In short, a man charged with evaluating intelligence reports sees “demonic presences” in his own snapshots! Is General Boykin, however decent a person, perhaps a little bit of a nut? You’d almost think that someone would ask—especially if we actually care about those troops to whom we all love to pander.

But few scribes are going to ask that question, whatever the answer might actually be. (We assume that Boykin is a thoroughly decent man, and a thoroughly hard-working soldier.) Indeed, when the mainstream press has discussed this case, reporters have tended to airbrush away the strangest things Boykin has said. Most strikingly, his statements about those snapshots have rarely been mentioned. For example, his statements about the Mogadishu pics have never been mentioned in Washington Post news reports. In the New York Times and USA Today, the general’s statements about Mogadishu have never been mentioned at all. These papers don’t seem to want their readers to know what the general has said.

Yep—Boykin’s statement about that “demonic presence” have largely been airbrushed away. Instead, reporters discuss his political blunders—the fact that he has expressed public views about the War on Terror that fly in the face of Bush policy. But it’s “Good-bye Mogadishu” when it comes to those snapshots—when it comes to his oddest public statements. His kookiest comments get washed away. Less kooky comments get discussed.

Why have Boykin’s oddest statements been airbrushed from the mainstream press? We’ll discuss that point by the end of the week. But meanwhile, in the conservative press, the standard Grievance Tales have been brewing. Standard spinners brew standard complaints about how Boykin is being mistreated. You know the drill: The talk-show right just loves playing victim, and its pseudo-cons are especially good are weeping and wailing and crying big tears. And they’re very good at something else, too—at faking, spinning, dissembling, reinventing. In the past week, they have once again showcased their brilliant skills, reinventing the things Boykin said.

Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t see a demonic presence in the discourse around General Boykin. But we do see the shape of a public discourse whose troubles have grown in the past forty years—and no, it isn’t General Boykin who’s been churning the standard bullroar.

TOMORROW: Blankley on Boykin

YES, WE HAVE NO CORRECTIONS: On December 1, 1999, the New York Times’ Katharine Seelye “misquoted” Al Gore about Love Canal—a “misquotation” which played a key role in the 2000 White House campaign (links below). It was instantly clear that an “error” had occurred, but you know the way your “press corps” works. Even though the “error” was immediately clear, the Times refused to issue a correction until December 10. In the meantime, its “misquotation” went round the world. Incredibly, news orgs were still repeating the bogus quote as much as two months later.

And guess what? Things never change at the lofty Times! There is no correction in today’s paper of Adam Nagourney’s amazing “misquotation” of Clark—and yes, the Times has been informed of its scribe’s puzzling “error” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/27/03). But as the Times has shown before, their agents live on a high, lofty plain, far above the silly concerns of you and your fellow Americans. They struggled to deny their “mistake” about Gore. With Clark, the same process obtains.

Let’s make sure we understand what was wrong with Nagourney’s presentation.

First, Nagourney baldly misstated what Clark said—what Clark said in response to Carl Cameron’s question at Sunday night’s Dem debate. Clark’s actual answer was perfectly clear; he supported the war in Afghanistan, he said, but opposed the war in Iraq. It’s hard to make things simpler. But rather than quoting Clark’s actual answer, Nagourney presented a strange amalgam. He presented the first paragraph of Clark’s real response, then appended another paragraph, taken from a response Clark gave to a previous question! This could, of course, be an “editing error,” although you’d be a fool to assume that.

Did Nagourney make an “editing error?” We have no way to know that. But Nagourney’s framing of the Clark Q-and-A was simply inexcusable. “At several points,” Nagourney wrote, “General Clark appeared to struggle as he explained his views on the war in response to a challenge from a questioner.” He then presented his manufactured “answer”—a phony “answer” designed to show that Clark’s statements didn’t make sense.

As noted, Clark’s real answer was crystal clear—he supported the war in Afghanistan, but opposed the war Iraq. And his answer seemed perfectly clear to his audience; as he finished, his statement was met with applause, as the official transcript notes. Meanwhile, the debate was filled with Q-and-A’s in which Dem hopefuls strained to make sense. One answer by Edwards made so little sense that it was greeted with a bit of mild hooting.

So why was Clark’s response singled out? Simple: The Current Spin—straight from the RNC—says that Clark can’t explain his position. And, for reasons only he can explain, Nagourney was eager to type this spin-point up. The scribe took a straightforward answer by Clark and singled it out as somehow unclear. And then, he “mistakenly” crafted a phony answer—an answer Clark never gave. So it went as the great New York Times showed the world how confused Wes Clark is!

No correction today from the Times—but then, they also fought to deny Katharine Seelye’s “mistake.” Of course, Seelye clowned throughout Campaign 2000, making a joke of your White House election. Normal people find it hard to believe that this is how their press corps behaves. But the journalistic record is clear. This morning, the Times adds to it.

VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: By the summer of 2000, Seelye’s bizarro coverage of Gore had lasted for roughly a year. (Ask us to tell you the Seelye-does-Al-Franken story, the one from December ’99.) But given the clubby nature of the insider press, you had to go off-shore to read it. On August 17, 2000, the Financial Times hammered Seelye hard, along with the Post’s Ceci Connolly and the AP’s Sandra Sobieraj. “The Gore media…sometimes appears to step over the line in its pursuit of critical coverage,” the FT wrote. Seelye, Connolly and Sobieraj? They were “perhaps the most influential reporters on the Gore campaign,” the paper said. “They can also be the most hostile to the campaign, doing little to hide their contempt for the candidate.” Ouch! But that was surely true of Seelye; for examples of her endless clowning, enter her name in our whirring search engines. Real-time coverage of the Love Canal “error” can be found in December 1999.

What’s the Seelye-does-Franken story? you ask. No problem! We’ll tell you tomorrow.