WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2004
KINSLEYS RETURN: This morning, Michael Kinsley is back, doing what a real press corps must. In recent weeks, Bush and his team have made a joke of your discourse with clowning charges against Candidate Kerry. These charges insult the publics intelligence. But weve reached a point where its almost impossible to insult the intelligence of the press corps. We never thought wed see the day when a Post Pundit stood up and fought.
This morning, Kinsley defends the public interest against Bushs latest deceptionthe laughable claim that big-spending Kerry raised taxes 350 times in his Senate career. Bush is laughing right in your face. At last, today, Kinsley stands up.
TRAINED SEELYE (PART 3): Is Kerry weak on intelligence? Soft on defense? Last Saturday, Kit Seelye pretended to study this claim in a lengthy piece for the New York Times. And the Times unparalleled Spinner One suggested that Kerry has some troubling history. Since the late 1990s Mr. Kerrys votes on the military and intelligence have fallen more in the mainstream, she hissed, early on in her piece. Then, in one of her many ESL constructions, Seelye tosses Kerry this bone:
SEELYE (pgh 12): While Republicans accuse him of voting to eliminate numerous weapons programs, by the end of 19 years in the Senate Mr. Kerry also voted for many to be continued.Apparently, he didnt vote to eliminate the armed services altogether! Were not quite sure what that odd sentence means, but Seelyes earlier construction makes her point clear. At least through the late 1990s, John Kerry was out of the mainstream when it came to intelligence and defense.
But when we look for examples of Kerrys malfeasance, we find that Seelye is clowning, as always. What is Seelyes list of horribles? In 1995, Kerry proposed a $1.5 billion cut in intelligence funding over five years (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/22/04). Seelye doesnt say that this represented one percent of the intelligence budget, and that Senate Republicans passed a bill that same yeara bill which cut intelligence by $3.8 billion, more than twice as much as Kerrys proposal! And Seelye presents another complaint; in 1994, she says, Kerry had already authored a shocker. This time, his measure would have cut $1 billion from the nations intelligence services and $3 billion in military programs, once again over five years. In the area of intelligence, this was roughly one-fourth the size of the cut which Republicans passed the very next year. Meanwhile, the $3 billion in military cuts would have been a relative pittance over five years. But these are the only troubling proposals by Senator Kerry which Seelye is able to cite.
For the record, Seelye offers one more complaint about Kerrys Senate record. What put the solon out of the mainstream? Seelye makes her complaint early on:
SEELYE (pgh 9): In the 1990s Mr. Kerry voted against three defense authorization billsin 1991, 1996 and 1997. He opposed the bill in 1991, he said, because it did not reflect changes in the post-cold-war world. He said the other bills were loaded with pork-barrel spending, and he favored transferring the money to domestic programs.According to Seelye, these votes against three defense authorization bills put Kerry out of the mainstream. But incredibly, the passage which you see above in Seelyes full treatment of those votes. What issues were at stake in those votes? How many senators voted with Kerry? What pork-barrel did Kerry cite? Readers have no way of knowing, because Seelye is a Potemkin reporter. Her work provides them almost no facts. Her work has always been about spin, and her work is about spin today.
Is Kerry actually weak on defense? Seelye devotes over 1800 words to this topic, but all we get are two proposals from the mid-1990s that seem to be well within the mainstream (although Seelye is careful to keep you from knowing that) and three votes on defense authorization bills that she makes almost no attempt to explain. In fact, this article provides almost no information about John Kerrys actual record. What it does provide is something more crucial. It does provide silly spin about Kerry. And it does provide cover for Bush.
Where does the cover for Bush come in? Over the course of the past few weeks, Candidate Bush and the Bush campaign have aimed two stinging accusations at Kerry. Bush himself has said that Kerry was willing to gut the intelligence services when he proposed that 1995 cut. As weve seen, this accusation is patent nonsenseand Seelye omits the information that would let readers know that. And, as Seelye notes in passing, the Bush campaign has accused Kerry of voting to eliminated numerous weapons programs over the course of his Senate career. In Slate, Fred Kaplan argued that this charge has also been deeply deceptive. But Seelye takes a pass on Kaplansclaim. Her strangely incoherent paragraph 12 (see above) is all she has to say on the question. Its one of the principal charges that Bush has madeand in an 1845-word report, Seelye knows enough to avoid it. Instead, she worries about proposed minor cuts, being careful not to keep you from knowing how mainstream those proposals really were. This is also cover for Bushthe man who said, in his latest Big Lie, that the proposals would have gutted our intelligence.
Bush is lyingand Seelye is hiding it. But then, some things never change in our public discourse. We might even say that it is as it wasas usual, Seelye is all about spin. Is Candidate Kerry soft on defense? Youll never find out if you read Spinner One. Tomorrow, we look at some errors, we look at some spinand we whisper about Seelyes sources.
ICON CONDIS CLOWNING CLOWNISTRY: What can we learn from Richard Clarkes book? Nothing at all, absent careful analysis. But clowning clowns were out quite early trashing Clarke after 60 Minutes. Case in point: On Monday morning, Condoleezza Rice showed up on the clowning news program, Fox & Friends. If you enjoy being laughed at by Big Major Pols, you must check out Condis performance.
Needless to say, store-bought Steve Doocy knew his rolehe had to trash the infidel, Clarke. In his initial query, Doocy displayed the clowning Fox style, referring to a claim that is made in this new book that this guy is trying to sell today. All questions of integrity safely put aside, Doocy popped the question to Rice: Had she ever heard of al Qaeda before her initial briefing by Clarke? Rice laughed in the face of every Fox viewer when she offered this clowning reply:
RICE: Thats ridiculous. Of course we all heard of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. We had of course heard that in 1998, when Dick Clarke was the counter-terrorism czar, al Qaeda had bombed United States embassies. We of course heard that al Qaeda was suspected of bombing the Cole in 2000 when Dick Clarke was counter-terrorism czar. And we understood that plots against the United States had been hatching since the 1990s, when Dick Clarke was counter-terrorism czar. So yeah, I think we had a clear picture of what was going on.We had a clear picture of what was going on, Condi said. And her meaning was perfectly clear: Condi and the rest of the team had a clear picture that Clarke was a loser. But Doocy avoided the obvious question: Why then was this same Dick Clarke held on as Rices counter-terrorism czar? A six-year-old child would have known to ask. But Doocy is paid not to ask.
In this utterly foolish exchange, we get a clear picture of our modern discourse. A store-bought shill rolls over and dies. And the presidents national security chief is allowed to insult your intelligence. But then, Icon Condi is a press corps untouchable. To this day, no one has ever dared to ask about her most amazing statementthe claim that no one could have imagined using planes as missiles (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/4/03). Your press corps social judgments come first. Your national discourse always comes second, deep-sixed by store-bought losers like Doocy, and by the rest of a simpering class that has made Icon Condi their star.
They had a clear picture that Clarke was a loser. But they kept him on as counter-terrorism czar! Its good enough for the fools at Fox. And it makes a rank joke of your discourse.
MORE CLOWNING: To see more consummate White House clowning, check out Jim Wilkinson on Mondays Hardball. The White House spokesman clowned extra hard. Just click here.
E-MAIL: It appears that you are advocating promoting students despite their inability to succeed at the appropriate grade level, only to create special below-grade-level classes for those same students once they are in the higher grade. Doesnt this complicate things greatly, as opposed to, for example, teaching sixth-grade math to all students who are learning at that grade level, regardless of age? Moreover, doesnt it simply postpone the ultimate problem? Under your solution, if I understand it correctly, you might have a class of 8th-grade students working at a 3rd-grade level, which presumably would advance to a 4th-grade level by the time the students are in 9th or 10th grade, and then a 5th- or 6th-grade level by the time the students reach 12th grade, whereupon the students will graduate, having failed to learn anything at even a high-school level.I suppose that you might argue that this solution is better than the current situation, because it at least gets kids to a 6th-grade level. Perhaps youre right, but I dont know that its clear at all.
Today, we post another e-mail, this one about readable textbooks. Like yesterdays post, it asks a question people sensibly ask when they first hear the truth about our challenged urban schools:
E-MAIL: Ive loved reading your recent posts on problems with our public schools, especially pertaining to reading levels of text books. Your concern with the reading level of textbooks sounds logical to me. Ive forwarded on these discussions to the teachers that I know. I have one question though. If schools were to adopt your advice and tailor the text to the reading level of the class, what do you do with those advanced students for whom the new text would prove simplistic and boring?How can you put a kid in a sixth-grade class if hes working on traditional third grade reading level? And if below-level kids are given books they can read, what do you give to the rest of the class? Both of these are obvious questions. Keep readingwell address them tomorrow. But these are questions that must be addressed if we plan to deal with the failure to thrive that has long typified our failed urban schools.