What was Novak running from?

What was Novak running from?

What was Novak running from?

A mostly political Weblog.
Aug. 7 2005 2:13 AM

What Novak Was Running From ...

Was it ... a book?

“The governor doesn’t do negotiations.”  Now there's a weak response, from New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine, explaining why his romance with the president of a union that represents 9,000 state workers won't present a troubling conflict of interest. But Corzine's $470,000 gift to his labor-leader ex-girlfriend only helps his case, no? From the voters' point of view, it's better that she owe him than he owe her. ... Too bad they "remain good friends." [Via NewsAlert] 10:55 P.M.

Craig Crawford argues that Bush's allegedly impolitic adoption of the Schiavo cause actually helped pass CAFTA--not by pleasing Bush's base, but simply by distracting the press from Speaker Tom DeLay's ethical troubles at a crucial time. ... Sure, it's self-serving White House spin (as Crawford notes). And it ignores the honorable idealistic motives for intervening. That doesn't mean it's wrong! ... 5:48 P.M.

Special for kf weekend readers: Secrets of the Huffington Post revealed! Go here. Click on "Author bio." You have now located Maxim UK editor Greg Gutfeld's "double secret hidden blog," which he uses to take clandestine shots at the Hollywood Left types who populate the HuffPo front page. Sample:

christ is it me OR IS THE HUFFPOST GETTING BORINGER? the celebs try to be smart, which is like watching a blind kid ride a bicycle. then the noncelebs try to be witty and cool -- AND THAT'S EVEN FUNNIER!!!! ...[snip]

THE HUFFPO HYPOCRISY: SUVS the unspeakable truth about the anti-SUV crowd.they only hate those vehicles because every one in America can afford them. If SUVs were too expensive for middle class Americans, then only people like laurie david and Arianna would drive them. But since we can afford to drive them, and they are wildly popular and all over town, THERE MUST BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THEM. If we all could afford private jets - then Arianna would want to ban them. But since only she can afford to charter them, she's ok with it. THAT'S THE GIST! ...

Advertisement

Fun, fun fun. But wait ... if what you are concerned about is conserving fossil fuels, etc., then the time to get concerned about SUVs is precisely when middle class Americans can afford them, because that's when they start having a big impact on gas consumption. Gutfeld's issue isn't "hypocrisy" so much as snobbery. It's an interesting question--not unimportant if you care about social equality, or winning elections--whether wealthy libs like Laurie David are snobs. (My default estimate, subject to instantaneous revision, is "no.") But in this case snobbery and sound environmentalism would go hand in hand. The rich can't do too much damage by themselves. ... P.S.: Gutfeld's non-secret   sniping is actually funnier and more effective. But less sincere! ... 3:29 P.M. link

Is Frank Gehry's Bilbaoesque outdoor furniture bombing? Already discounted at Design Within Reach. That doesn't seem like a good sign. ... 11:13 A.M.

David Shaw, Proto-Blogger! E.J. Dionne writes a nice and accurate column about David Shaw. I went after Shaw too often to credibly eulogize him. But I do remember that when the LAT was sold to the Chicago people, the paper took Shaw off his leisurely one-big-piece-every-blue-moon routine and briefly had him cover breaking stories--and the resulting daily articles were great, deeper and more subtle than the competition on the same beat. You wonder what he would have done if he hadn't pioneered big-paper press criticism.... P.S.: The following passage, from Shaw's impactful 1990 critique of press abortion coverage, supports Dionne's point that Shaw was (ironically!) informed by a now-familiar MSM-bashing spirit:

[T]hroughout the media, print and broadcast alike, coverage of abortion tends to be presented--perhaps subconsciously--from the abortion-rights perspective. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Webster case a year ago Tuesday that states could have more latitude in regulating abortion, for example, ABC News termed the decision "a major setback for abortion rights."

Couldn't it also have been called "a major victory for abortion opponents"?

Yes.

But most reporters don't identify with abortion opponents.

Advertisement

If you blogged that today, Instapundit would link to you and add "Indeed." 10:27 A.M. link

Was Novak Running from ... a Book? What was the big reddish-brown book sitting in front of moderator Ed Henry when Robert Novak walked off the set of CNN's Inside Politics? Who's Who in America, of course! ... Mystery Pollster  caught it first. ... Perhaps Henry, who says he told Novak he was going to ask about the Plame case, wanted to clear up the Anne Kornblut question: whether Novak really found out Plame's maiden name from the book. (Highly unlikely, sez kf**). Novak escaped just in time. ... P.S.: Finally, CNN's Jonathan Klein produces some "appointment television"!Lucky for him Inside Politics is a sturdy CNN fixture that will stay on the network's schedule be able to benefit from the ratings boost it's sure to get. ... Oh, wait.

**[Why wouldn't Novak want to say whether he in fact got Plame's name from Who's Who?--ed He might not want to get pinned down on that point, because the truthful answer would be "no." (If it was "yes," wouldn't Novak have written that he'd in fact gotten the name from the book, instead of writing merely that the name "could" be found there?) If the answer is in fact "no," it suggests either a) Novak's source used Plame's maiden name, which might help identify the source, or b) Novak got the name somewhere else and chose to use it himself.  Whichever is true, use of the maiden names seems more career-damaging to Plame since more of Plame's overseas contacts as a CIA agent would have known her by that name). Intentional use of that name, then, could be seen as vindictive--evidence that either Novak's source (a) wanted to punish Plame and/or her husband or Novak himself (b) wanted to punish Plame and/or her husband (perhaps in pursuit of a pro-Bush agenda, perhaps because Novak just thinks Wilson's an "ass---"). None of these seem like lines of speculation Novak would want to encourage.  [See also Marshall.] ...

Advertisement

Update: Jacques Steinberg notes that Novak's "time off" will protect him from having to answer Plame questions anytime soon. CNN's spokesperson may not have been lying when she declared it a "mutual decision."  It almost seems like an outcome Novak might have wanted all along! Hmmm. ... Kabuki Watch: You don't think ... I mean, Novak wasn't especially provoked. ... And he didn't look that mad when he got up. ... More like he was slipping out! ... Update: Josh Marshall is puzzled too, for similar reasons. He seemingly randomly mentions World Wrestling Federation ... or maybe not so randomly. They have fights that feel like this one all the time! [But the WWF is ...-ed More realistic?] ...

Update 8/5: Novak says  Henry's impending Plame questions "had nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing." ... But Marshall interviews James Carville, who is at as big a loss as anyone else to explain how what he said prompted Novak's exit:

"At the time I thought it was like a 2.5 [on the scale on pundit show smackdowns].  But when I heard it again later, I thought, no, it's more like a 1.5."

Carville also told me that he didn't get any sense during the interview or in anything that happened off the air that "something was building" or any other sense that the guy was about to snap.  It was as out of the blue to him as it was to everyone watching.

7:19 P.M. link

Advertisement

Two of Tom Maguire's live Plame leads were new to me (perhaps because I haven't been paying enough attention to the Plame controversy!):

1) Russert's misdirection play? Maguire notes that, on close inspection, the denial NBC put out about Tim Russert's possibly Plame-related conversation with Cheney aide "Scooter" Libby was kind of ... weasely and Clintonian!

Mr. Russert, however, according to the NBC statement, said "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a C.I.A. operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby." Indeed, the statement said, Mr. Russert first learned the information from Mr. Novak's column. --NYT, 7/16/05 [Weasel highlights added]

Under this too-precise denial, Russert might still have told Libby "You know his wife works for the CIA." Not that there would have been anything wrong with that! (I'm assuming Russert didn't know she was an undercover agent, which most CIA employees are not.) Indeed, I don't see how you could not bring this up if you knew it and found yourself talking to Libby about Wilson's CIA-sponsored trip to Niger. It's the logical gossip to mention. But if that's what happened, why would Russert pretend to deny it?  ... Sydney Schanberg has called on Russert to tell the public the truth (after all, there's a big controversy over whether Bush aides like Libby found out about Plame from reporters like Russert or from classified documents). What I hadn't realized is that Russert may have gone beyond simply remaining silent and actually misdirected the public, allowing NBC to suggest, with its Luskinesque denial, that he didn't tell Libby anything about Plame. ...

2) The secret friend: Did you know that, according to Joseph Wilson*, the CIA press operation knew that columnist Robert Novak might "out" Valerie Plame several days before Novak published his column--and possibly even before CIA spokesman Bill Harlow took Novak's call and ineffectually attempted to dissuade him from identifying her? How did the CIA know? Because--in a bizarre Watergate-quality incident inadequately chronicled in the MSM--Wilson's "secret friend" had confronted Novak on the street, found out what Novak knew, and Plame herself subsequently "alerted the CIA press office," according to Maguire. Given this heads up, why didn't the CIA take more "affirmative measures" to protect Plame's cover, if it was such a big deal? Measures like having George Tenet call Novak? Or was Tenet already talking to Novak ...? (Novak's original source has yet to be revealed, remember.)

*--admittedly, not a take-it-to-the-bank character. 11:07 A.M. link

Advertisement

" Bush Supports Rove, Palmeiro" is not a headline that Karl Rove's lawyer, the weasely Robert Luskin, would pick, I suspect. ... 4:19 P.M.

'Did you mean: kornblut and rove and novak and plane?' No, I did not! But thanks for asking:  I agree with Josh Marshall that there was something strange about the estimable Anne Kornblut's NYT article on how Robert Novak might have found out Valerie Wilson's maiden name  (Plame). Just because Novak says, by way of defending himself, that Plame's name could be discovered in "her husband's entry in Who's Who in America'" doesn't mean Novak is trying to hint that the book was in fact his "source" for the name. He's arguing that using the name was no big deal. ... Of course, using her maiden name rather than her married name was at least a little deal, since it made it easier for people in foreign countries to put two and two together and realize they'd been dealing with a CIA agent, with possible dire consequences for those who cooperated with her ...  P.S.: Why was Kornblut's story printed? Theories: 1) It fulfills the NYT'sgoal of writing about Rove/Plame every damn day in an attempt to keep the scandal in the public mind (perhaps on the highly questionable assumption that this somehow helps the NYT reporter who is in jail, as opposed to increasing the pressure on her to talk);  2) It makes an incremental contribution on the teeny-tiny question of whether to read much evidentiary value into Novak's use of Plame's maiden name. In other words, it's a blog item! But in a real blog item you don't have to pretend that the little point you're obsessively gnawing at--such as the point I'm trying to make in this very sentence!--is worth a New York Times story. And you can, you know, just come out and make your point. ... Update: See also Somerby. ...3:27 P.M. link

Arianna  and Karl, Together Again! Arianna Huffington continues to push the theory  that jailed New York Times reporter Judy Miller may have been one of the people who told Bush aides about Valerie Plame's CIA connection, rather than the other way around. This, of course, also happens to be a major potential defense of Bush aides Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby from the charge that they illegally leaked secret information "outing" Plame. Indeed, through their lawyers or other anonymous spinners, they already  seem to have adopted a we-were-only-passing-on-what-journalists-told-us defense. (If they learned about Plame's CIA job from a reporter--as opposed, to, say, a  classified State department memorandum--that would make it harder to show they knew Plame was "covert" etc., as required to successfully prosecute them under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act.) ... Do the Rove-bashers who populate the Huffingsphere  realize that their leader is objectively aiding Rove by popularizing the leading theory that exculpates him? ... Hollywood libs always worried she'd go back to the other side! ...

Advertisement

P.S.: The real explanation, I suspect, is that Huffington's staying near Sag Harbor and the Judy-as-source theory--even though it seems less simple and straightforward than the competing 'Libby-leaked' scenario--is in fact what vacationing media types are buzzing about, as  Huffington herself reports. She gets points for being guided by what solid schmoozalism and old-fashioned sandal leather tells her the story is as opposed to what Democratic frog-marching fantasies (or bloggish deskwork) says the story should be. ...

P.P.S.: She also buries a big potential lede--

But what worries my Times sources the most is that it smells like the straw that could break the Gray Lady's back. A lot hinges on how much of what Judy knows Bill Keller and Arthur Sulzberger also know.

I'm not convinced of the Judy Theory myself, which means I think Keller's in less trouble and Rove's in more trouble than Arianna does. But I'm not in Sag Harbor! ...

Advertisement

Update: Surprisingly, Arianna does not graciously accept the mantle of nonpartisan truthseeker!  Instead, she keeps her left base in line with a cake-and-eat-it-too response that holds out the prospect of nailing both Rove and Judy Miller--because Rove must surely have had "multiple sources" on Plame's CIA status. I don't actually doubt that's Arianna's preferred outcome. But there is a reason why Rove and Libby seem to be promoting the idea that they heard about Plame from reporters. That's because it helps their case--i.e., helps keep them from being indicted, which is pretty much the whole ballgame at this point. Even if they had multiple sources, it's much harder for a prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt they got the information from Source A (classified memos that should have alerted them to Plame's covert status!) if they can argue they got it from Source B (a journalist like Miller). Matthew Yglesias  at least recognizes that at this point the left faces a wish-fulfillment choice between nailing Miller and nailing Rove. ...  2:15 A.M. link

Bachelors heard: Everyone's saying that welfare causes terrorism! Does polygamy cause terrorismtoo? ... P.S.: William Tucker  writes:

Today polygamy is not practiced widely in Islamic countries, and only accounts for about ten percent of all marriages. The country where the distribution of wives is most unequal—Saudi Arabia—seems to be the best at producing roving jihadists who roam the world in search of conflict.

Advertisement

But if polygamy isn't widely practiced in Islamic countries, can it really be so important that violent jihad is "unlikely to disappear until it is eliminated"? ... 12:40 A.M. link

Was Aswat/Not Aswat: The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Haroon Rashid Aswat, whom the paper said had been arrested in a madrassa in Pakistan, was in fact arrested in Zambia:

Two Pakistani sources said last week that Aswat had been arrested there. But other Pakistani officials subsequently denied that, and in recent days British and Indian officials said the arrest in Pakistan was a case of mistaken identity involving a Briton with a name similar to Aswat's.

Advertisement

kf made a big deal out of the Pakistani madrassa angle recently, arguing this undermined the Peter Bergen/Swati Pandey op-ed argument  that madrassas "are not and should not be considered a threat to the United States." I still think that op-ed was wildly unpersuasive--the madrassas are a problem even if they merely supply terrorists with an approving base of support rather than supplying the actual terrorists themselves. If they don't supply terrorists now they might in the future. And it still appears to be true that at least one of the 7/7 London bombers visited a madrassa. But the most dramatic bit of evidence against Bergen and Pandey appears to be non-evidence. ... P.S.: Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, has ordered an estimated 1,400 foreign students to leave the madrassas. See also. ... 11:25 P.M. link

A.T.C.F.k.: They  laughed when kf argued that the New York Times was "massively exposed" in the Steven Hatfill libel suit against op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof. ... They paid no attention when, after a lower-court federal judge threw the Hatfill suit out, kf wrote:

Maybe I'm missing something, but if I were Kristof, I wouldn't crow too loudly. Lower court decisions are made to be reversed. ...

They are not laughing now! Haftill's suit has been reinstated  on appeal. ... P.S.: Kristof reported that Hatfill had "failed three successive polygraph examinations" in connection with the anthrax mailings of 2001. How could that, if it isn't true, not be libelous? ... 11:23 A.M. link

Advertisement

Arianna Huffington fleshes out the Judy's-the-source theory  and puts an uncomfortable question to Frank Rich. ... P.S.: I'm not for saying that Miller doesn't deserve to be a press hero because she was a pro-administration on the war, as some on the left seem to argue. But she might not deserve to be such a press hero if the only source she is protecting is herself. [Even if she is the one who told Scooter Libby or Rove, wouldn't she still need to protect whoever told her?-ed a) But why couldn't she testify about her own role while keeping her source's identity secret?; and b) maybe she had no "source" as such, but directly observed Plame's CIA activities in the course of her previous reporting on WMD. For example, if she interviewed Plame.] ...

Update: NYT vs. NYT? Those attracted to the Judy-source theory undoubtedly noted with interest the following paragraph in today's New York Times  Plame story by Doug Jehl--

In e-mail messages this week, Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, and George Freeman, an assistant general counsel of the newspaper, declined to address written questions about whether Ms. Miller was assigned to report about Mr. Wilson's trip, whether she tried to write a story about it, or whether she ever told editors or colleagues at the newspaper that she had obtained information about the role played by Ms. Wilson.

Advertisement

What is Jehl suggesting that his colleague Miller was doing if she wasn't "assigned" to the Wilson story--freelance conspiring with Bush aides to prop up the Saddam-has-WMD theory with which she was identified? Surely Jehl knows reporters never do such things! ... And why's he casting aspersions on his beloved, incarcerated fellow Timesperson? Maybe Arianna's right that the Judy-source scenario

has divided the Times into two camps: those who want to learn everything about this story, and those who want to learn everything as long as it doesn't downgrade the heroic status of their "colleague" Judy Miller.

More: Timely Blogs vs. Boggy Times? Tom Maguire notes that Jehl's story is impressively late--the Pincus Nieman Reports article on which Jehl relies is dated July 6, and Maguire wrote about it on July 8. Even kf linked  back then! Jehl cleverly covers the NYT's three week delay by dating the article only as being "in the current issue of Nieman Reports." He also entirely  misses a few bits of evidence, which Maguire supplies. ... 5:12 P.M. link

I refuse to believe that it was Paul Begala who first  came up with the quip, "Politics is show business for ugly people."   FishbowlDC's Garrett Graff is showing just how naive and inexperienced he is! ... Next he'll be giving Jake Tapper credit for "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog!" ... Update: Two readers note that the line is attributed to "political consultant Bill Miller" in a 1991 Dallas Morning News article. ... 3:50 P.M. link

Advertisement

If you can't blog for candidates, then only bloggers will be candidates! And outlaws will have guns! Or something like that. ... I do think it's hard, under Supreme Court precedents (e.g. Buckley vs. Valeo) to stop people from blogging in support of themselves. That's their constitutional right. If all bloggers become candidates for something, then--say, President in the year 2028- does that free them all from any threatened McCain-Feingold regulation? Arguably everything they say about anything would be in furtherance of their future candidacies, after all. ... I must be missing something. ... Update: Alert teader G.S. immediately notes that being a candidate triggers other obligations. But what if you don't spend more than $5,000?  ...[Via Insta3:29 P.M. link

Do You Serve Schrempp? Juergen Schrempp, CEO of DaimlerChrysler, is stepping down. Autoextremist has a  strong and predictable opinion about this.

Schrempp has been the longest-running disaster in the automotive business, a runaway ego that almost single-handedly destroyed what once was a great company [Daimler-Benz and now DaimlerChrysler] and formerly one of the greatest automotive brands - Mercedes-Benz - of all time. His bone-headed decisions over the years are many and legendary, but his most egregious decision was to allow Mercedes-Benz to go "down market" in the U.S. [with C-Class models priced around $25,000] - and it proved to be an unmitigated disaster. In the process of doing that, he allowed his managers to take their eyes off of the ball, and consequently, Mercedes quality plummeted - eroding the brand immeasurably in this market.

I don't quite see why it was a disaster to market an entry-level car--BMW's equivalent 3-series has been very successful. But Mercedes reliability did go to hell under Schrempp. The AP story run by WaPo ignores this rather important factor. (It's not the sort of thing newspapers are comfortable saying.) The merger with Chrysler--emphasized by the AP in part because there is a nice big lawsuit to talk about--now appears to have been not such a mistake. Certainly it wasn't bad for Chrysler. ... Backfill: Sales of the relatively new E-Class mid-range sedan-- the company's bread and butter--are down 25% this year. Grim. ... 10:56 A.M. link

Advertisement

Several readers have suggested that Hillary Clinton is only attempting a mirror image of the trick George W. Bush used to gain the presidency in 2000: Set a moderate tone ("compassionate conservatism") while making sure the fine print pleases the base. I see at least two differences, though. 1) Hillary wants to get away with being a lot vaguer with her commitments to her base than Bush was with his commitments to his base. Sample: Bush said he admired judges like Antonin Scalia. Will Hillary say she admires judges like William Brennan (or even Ruth Bader Ginsburg)? Bet she tries to fudge it by throwing in some more conservative judicial heroes. 2) The growth of blogging since 2000 makes it harder to placate the base--witness the Hillary vs. Kos throwdown. In 2000 a speech to the DLC arguing for party unity would have been noncontroversial. But it's not enough to just convince a few vocal leaders anymore; you apparently have to convince activist bloggers. ... P.S.: The parties aren't necessarily symmetrical, but the GOP candidates in 2008 could easily run into highly public disputes with conservative bloggers if they try to appear too moderate. Satisfying Dr. Dobson might not be enough. Then Michael Barone's argument --that the blogosphere helps Republicans by forcing the Democrats to their extreme--might be undermined by a similar phenomenon on the right. ... 2:57 A.M. link

It's Make Fun of Eric Alterman Day: First Gawker, then FishbowlNY. ... 9:31 P.M. link

You Know That Person You've Never Heard Of? Well, You Don't Have to Worry About Him! To understand why Anne Kornblut's story on Ari Fleischer ("Ex-Aide on Periphery of Leak Inquiry") was deemed newsworthy enough to merit 20 inches in today's NYT--even though (as Kornblut reports) "investigators have lessened their interest in Mr. Fleischer's activities" [Emph. added]--you have to read this Wonkette item. ... P.S.: I suspect the following Kornblut sentence--

Few if any reporters who traveled with Mr. Fleischer, Mr. Bartlett and the White House entourage that week have been called to testify before the grand jury.

Advertisement

drove Tom Maguire wild! ... Yep. ... 9:07 P.M. link

Hillary vs. the Blogs: It turns out Hillary's bland, options preserving, insubstantial centrist shadings  at the DLC have ignited a firestorm of protest on the left! At least, according the Washington Post, which ran a whole story about the blowback from, especially, Daily Kos. Six kf reactions:

1) Hilarious!

2) A milestone for the blogosphere! Kos writes 10 paragraphs and makes Dan Balz write eleven.

Advertisement

3) Of course it helps her, both because attacks from the left make her look centrist and because Kos is one of the few people on the planet with a personality so unappealing he allows Hillary to seem warm and enchanting! That's especially true when she's playing the peacemaker. She doesn't even have to denounce him directly (e.g. like a Souljah), although it would be nice to see her stand up to someone forcefully in public (see #6 below).

4) This is really a third cheap date for Hillary. First--CD#1--there's a big segment of the left that will support her blindly even if she moves to the right. Second--CD#2--there's a big segment of the press that will say she's moved to the right when she hasn't really, aiding her appeal to the center. And now there's a smaller, vocal segment of the left  that will denounce her for moving to the right when she hasn't really, thus lending credence to the all-too-ready claims of Cheap Dates #2 in the press (who are also all-too-ready to turn a bit of argumentative Deanish blogging into a big-deal ideological line-drawing). All the while she never really has to commit herself to anything much at all. What a deal.

5) Good for the Kos crowd that they don't join the mooning Hillaryites who are in cow-like awe of her. (I also hold out hope for the Kos/Deaniacs' long-term role in the party because they--maybe as much as the DLC--aren't beholden to the party's union/civil rights/AARP interests. They're idealistic "reform" Democrats. I think.) [They will say that's condescending--ed. It probably is.]

6) If, as John Podesta speculates, Hillary was "trying to push the DLC back a little bit," she really doesn't know how to deliver a put-down message!  Is that because she lacks the experience, or the cojones, or because in her own little world an arched eyebrow does the trick? If she can't stand up to the DLC in public and won't stand up to Kos in public ... 8:10 P.M. link

Advertisement

Always Trust Discontent From kausfiles! Another commercial milestone for the Michelangelo of metal, BMW's Chris Bangle:

The [BMW] Z4 has been anything but a roaring success. After a promising start in 2002, demand soon began to crumble. By 2003, the crumbles turned into an avalanche. Last year, production was scaled back drastically from 56,589 to 35,136, and in the first five months of 2005, production was cut by another 28 percent.-- Inside Line

The Z4, of course, is the contrived Bilbao-esque design Bangle declared "as big a jump in terms of aesthetic value systems as there was between an Eve before the fall … and an Eve after the fall." It looks as if his genius is just too great for this world! ... P.S.: BMW is trying to solve its Z4 problem by slapping a hardtop on the car's tortured torso, thus eliminating whatever brio it has. ... P.P.S.: I doubt they will be naming any high schools after Bangle in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where the dwindling number of Z4s are made. ... [via Autoblog] 1:45 A.M. link

Advertisement

Hillary Hovers: From Josh Gerstein's  N.Y. Sun report on Hillary Clinton's speech to the DLC:

The potential candidates and their staffs were treated to a first-hand reminder of how Mrs. Clinton's sheer star power threatens to skew any race for the nomination. The senator's delivery yesterday was strong, but far from her most electric.

Is Hillary Clinton ever electric? I deny it. Her speaking style is controlled and insistent--at best, strong--and her substance quotient hovers close to zero. Expectations of electricity are expectations that will be disappointed. ...

Update: Gerstein and other   reporters  saw in Hillary's DLC speech more of her now-famous move to the center. Here's Gerstein:

Mrs. Clinton also set forth the litany of socially conservative points that are part of her regular repertoire, such as a call to reduce the number of abortions and to protect children from destructive forces in popular culture. At moments, she voiced themes that sounded downright conservative. "We can restore America to its historic devotion to opportunity, responsibility, and the common good, with big dreams, new ideas, and old-fashioned values," the senator said.

Advertisement

I'm not so sure. The speech (which you can read here) doesn't sound too conservative to me. For one thing, Hillary avoids completely the obvious hot-button move-to-the-right issue of immigration, a subject on which she's made conservative noises in the past. Her language on abortion pledges to "support a woman's right to choose"--as Joe Klein has noted, her abortion statements are "centrist" mainly in attitude, not substance. And if reporters are willing to give Hillary credit for being "downright conservative" just because she uses the phrase "old fashioned values"--well, reporters are cheap dates!

I'd always thought this Cheap Date Syndrome helped Hillary mainly with the Left, which loves Hillary so much it could conceivably be bought off with a bit of Bush-bashing that covers a dramatic Hillary shift to the right.  But it's now also clear that her shift to the right doesn't have to be that dramatic, because the equally Cheap Date press is ready to interpret even the subtlest, most insubstantial shading as part of Hillary's New Moderation. She can get credit for centrism without having to actually take too many positions that the left would disagree with (and hold against any another politician). Paleoliberals can love her, the DLC can love her, and she never has to say anything, either leftish or moderatish, that commits her publicly to a position that might annoy someone. Her primal drive for vagueness is free to trump her drive to the center.

The only problem is that the resulting biteless rhetoric is almost totally uninspiring. Read the speech, and see if you are actually moved to cheer at any point. (I was, only once, at the line: "The Republicans abandoned arithmetic; well, we brought it back.") Hillary's instinctive contentlessness is both the symbol and part of the substance of what may be the biggest doubt she has to overcome--not the issue of whether she's right or left, or the issue of whether she's "tough" enough on defense, but the issue of whether she's tough generally. When has she told off or even firmly-but-gently rejected someone in her own coalition? When has she ever stood up, in public, against, say, a big union? When has she pulled off a difficult legislative triumph? ** We know she's smart and cautious and flexible. We need to know she has balls. No more cheap dates!

P.S.: In the options-preserving department, Hillary's DLC statement on Social Security does leave her a breathtakingly large amount of room to make major un-paleoliberal changes. Here is her vision of the Democratic future:

And in 2020, Social Security is safe from the ideologues. It is still providing survivor benefits and benefits for the disabled and providing millions of retired baby boomers with benefits without the threat of bankruptcy while all Americans, regardless of income, have more options to amass additional retirement savings. [Emph. added]

Advertisement

Note that this statement is perfectly consistent with a radical means-testing of the Social Security system, in which the affluent get cut out (but still "millions of retired baby boomers get benefits" because they're not affluent). The non-Cheap Date Centrist version of this sentence wouldn't simply (and covertly) leave the means-test option open. It would advocate or at least explicitly suggest cutting the benefits of the affluent. Even John Kerry did that much. You could call it starting a "National Conversation!"

**--Don't answer "welfare reform" to any of these questions. I do think Hillary favored the 1996 bill, but if so she did it in private, which allowed her left-wing Cheap Dates to tell themselves she surely must have actually opposed it. Meanwhile, her strategic contribution to the bill was passive--she just didn't block her husband. Not ballsy!)

Update: Ted Frank is not impressed with Hillary's moderation on the medical-malpractice issue. 5:25 P.M. link

Advertisement

Ann Coulter now has barbed little items on the right side of her site. The first step down a steep, slippery slope at the bottom of which is ... a blog. Or something like it. ... Today she gets in a good cheap shot at Sullivan's predictably antiheteronormative Edward Heath obit. ... Kf says: Go ahead, slip. ...  11:47 P.M.

They Mean to Win Wimbledon! Was China's currency revaluation really just a diplomatic concession to U.S. pressure? Snarksmith has another theory. He notes that every 2% upward revaluation makes it 2% easier for Chinese firms to buy struggling American consumer brands, with all the name recognition and retail networks that come with them (a strategy Slate's Dan Gross has described in more detail).... And what's the most famous American brand that's struggling right now? Not the L.A. Times. (Sorry, Chicago. The Chinese aren't that stupid.) General Motors. A Chinese outfit, Snarksmith notes, could pick up GM for a mere $20 billion. Make that $19.6 billion. Then they could start selling Chinese-made vehicles alongside U.S.-made vehicles in U.S. dealers! I'm not sure American consumers would mind. They buy plenty of well-made Chinese products at Wal-Mart. ... P.S.: China, as a socialist country, would surely act only in the interests of Detroit's unionized workers! ... P.P.S.: Actually, of course, a GM bid would set off a giant defensive political reaction. But why are we assuming that the Chinese are trying to cool tensions? ... 11:13 P.M.

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts appears to driveChrysler PT Cruiser. This may be the scariest thing I've heard about him. ... An ugly, immature attempt at returning to an earlier era! Is that what the Constitution will look like after Roberts is through with it? Probe this issue thoroughly, Sen. Schumer! 12:10 P.M.

Advertisement

Carroll Ankles:

CW on John Carroll's departure from the L.A. Times: Editor of Pulitzer-winning paper tragically steps down because budget cuts and layoffs imposed by the paper's Chicago owners threatened his ability to produce quality journalism! (See, e.g.,  here  and here.)

Kf's alternative perspective: Carroll made the LAT a better paper--or, rather, he made it a paper and not a cargo cult going through the motions of putting out what it thinks is a paper! To his credit, he realized it sucked when he took it over. And he hired Kinsley. But how conventional and dumb (and paleoliberal) is it to judge a newspaper by the amount of "resources" devoted to it? A smart editor, faced with a giant bureaucracy  filled with pleasantly plodding holdovers, would have realize that layoffs are his friend. Massive layoffs, preferably! Get rid of the soul-killing middle management mediocrities--you have a good excuse, "the evil Chicago people made me do it"--and you could rebuild the place with fresh talent and make it great.   ...

P.S.: In today's NYT, incoming editor Dean Baquet comes off like a bit of a Chicago-pleasing opportunist for saying (in Katharine Seelye's paraphrase)

that perhaps 70 percent of what he wanted to accomplish could be done without more money.

This actually seems like a refreshing sign that Baquet may be focused on output and not input. ...

Personal Angle #1: Baquet's Beggars! Circulation at Carroll's Times has been falling rapidly (6-8 percent in a single year). The paper has become less oddly compelling as it's gotten better--a B+ NYT. The day before Carroll quit, I got a call from an LAT telemarketer informing me that even though I'd cancelled my subscription they were "going to start" delivering the paper on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (and maybe Thursday, I forget) for $1.50 a week. I said no, I didn't want that. They said 'OK, just Sunday then," or words to that effect. I said no, again, louder this time. There was a click. First time I've ever been hung up on by a telemarketer. They may be desperate, but at least they're rude.

Personal Angle #2: I learned the LAT was a gold-plated bureaucracy in the mid-80s when a friend who worked there wondered if she should take her son in to the company infirmary to get a free flu shot. On a Sunday. ... I'm sure plenty of fat has been cut since then, but it seems quite possible there's just a bit left. ...

Advertisement

Update: Jonathan Weber on Carroll's alibis and the paper's destructive and distracting quest for national prizes--and East Coast approval--even before Carroll arrived with his Pulitzer obsession. ("[J]ust entering the damn contests was practically a full-time job.") 12:42 A.M.

The news lede from Wonkette's recent Los Angeles  Zocalo talk concerned a conversation she said she had with Sen, John McCain, in which the latter offhandedly suggested we were in fact losing in Iraq. ... P.S.: I've always mentally contrasted Sen. Chuck Hagel's pessimism on Iraq with the non-pessimism (on TV chat shows) of his friend McCain. But maybe Hagel is functioning as McCain's Deep Throat, voicing the views a GOP presidential contender can't affford to articulate himself. ... 11:00 P.M.

The Madrassa Threat is a Myth! Oh, Wait: On June 15, Peter Bergen and Swati Pandey wrote a NYT op-ed,  "The Madrassa Myth," mocking the denunciation of fundamentalist Islamic schools in Pakistan by then-Secretary of State Powell and Defense Secretery Rumsfeld. "While Madrassas may breed fundamentalists who have learned to recite the Koran in Arabic by rote," Bergen and Pandey declared, "such schools do not teach the technical or linguistic skills necessary to be an effective terrorist." The authors noted that of 75 terrorists studied "a majority of them are university-educated, often in technical subjects like engineering."

While madrassas are an important issue in education and development in the Muslim world, they are not and should not be considered a threat to the United States. [Emph. added]

Advertisement

Hmmm. How did this bit of punditry hold up over the next, say, four weeks? Since the op-ed was written, the London subway has been bombed and it's been reported that at least one of the four bombers  visited a madrassa in Pakistan. (Two of the other three also visited Pakistan, though it's not clear from news reports what they did there). Now the suspected ringleader of the plot has reportedly been arrested a) in a madrassa b) in Pakistan c) with "explosives and a large sum of money." I would say Bergen and Pandey have a bit of backpedaling to do. ... Update 7/29: The arrest in Pakistan was apparently a case of mistaken identity. ... But whoever it was, why did he have "explosives and the large sum of money"?

P.S.: They could argue that terrorists may have been Western-educated people who visited madrassas but they haven't been graduates of the madrassas. That might well be true--for now. Bergen and Pandey's whole approach is an exercise in reification--the fallacy that the way things are is the way they will stay. Sure, of the current crop of 75 terrorists, most may be educated in the West. That doesn't mean that the next generation of terrorists won't be churned out by the madrassas. If the 7/7 London terrorists felt compelled to visit Pakistani madrassas and apparently seek refuge there, that surely makes Powell and Rumsfeld's fears about the future reasonable. ...

Update: Reader A.S. adds:

"I'm not entirely sure I get the point in arguing that because madrassas don't teach the technical skills of becoming a terrorist (if that's true) that they aren't a risk. Isn't it at least an equally large part of the threat where terrorist learn the mindset that allows them to commit terrorist acts as where they learn the tradecraft? If madrassas are teaching students that terrorism is a good and holy thing then don't they bear much of the responsibility for what results ..."

Advertisement

Right. What if students go from madrassas (where they learn to hate the West) to engineering school (where they learn 'technical' skills)? The first necessary-but-insufficient school seems as important as the second. ... 4:09 P.M. link

Maybe Dan Neil was right about Bob Lutz: Despite the wildly successful  GM "employee discount" promotion, Pontiac sales managed to fall 14%  in June. Yikes. Wasn't the new G6 sedan supposed to be picking up steam in the marketplace right about now? ...  [Like John Carroll of the L.A. Times, Lutz has been tasked with turning around a huge, ossified self-protective bureaucracy. It takes years.-ed. Good point. And you don't see Carroll giving up in frustration! ... Oh.] ... Lutz Damage Control #66: OK, so current GM products are less than inspired. As if to make the case for Lutz,  Danny Hakim of the NYT recently ran a little box previewing the exciting "Lutzmobiles" that are on the way. Of the four cars featured, two are forthrightly dreary (the bland Buick Lucerne, the tired retro Chevrolet HHR), one looks OK (Saturn Aura), and only one is genuinely exciting (the limited-volume Pontiac Solstice). I hope the models GM sneak-previewed to credulous Business Week  were more impressive. ... 10:31 A.M.

Advertisement

'OK, He'll Do. Now Back to Plame!' Roger Simon writes:

The last thing a wartime president needs at a moment like this is a divisive Supreme Court fight.

Hmmm. If the alternative to a divisive Supreme Court fight is returning the public's attention to a) the ongoing casualties in Iraq; b) a scandal involving the president's top aide and c) a highly unpopular Social Security plan, I'd say Bush's biggest fear is that Roberts isn't controversial or divisive enough. He might just sail through! ... 11:35 P.M.

[It's been 5 hours and you still don't have anything up on John Roberts!--ed. Deeply ashamed. But N.Z. Bear has a useful blog-tracking page on the subject.] 11:02 P.M.

Advertisement

That Was Fast: Last year Ford introduced its long-awaited new big car, the Five Hundred, and a wagon/minivan variant, the Freestyle (advertised in Southern California TV spots featuring Brooke Shields). Now, after only 10 months in production, Ford has decided to discontinue the Freestyle, according to news reports. In the automotive world--where it costs a lot of money to build the tooling for a new model--this is a stunningly rapid demise. It may be the first time in recent memory that a major Detroit vehicle has been killed off like a movie because it 'didn't open.' Faster Flops! I suppose that's progress of a sort. ... [link via Autoblog] 10:17 A.M.

Novak vs. Novak: Andrew Sullivan rightly draws attention to this paragraph from the Newsday of July 22, 2003:

Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." 

That doesn't mean they necessarily wanted him to publicly identify Plame as a CIA empoyee, but it does not sit very comfortably with the account in Novak's later column on the subject:

During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. [Emph. added]

Advertisement

[It's too late for soft soap with Sullivan now--ed. But I can rip him off, no?] .. 8:08 P.M.

82_horizontal_rule

Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Keller's Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]