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HOW MUCH IS REPEATEDLY! Mika and Joe play a sick game, embellishing the script about Blumenthal: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MAY 20, 2010

Gullibles’ babbles: Over the course of the past several decades, the American discourse has been a sad joke. One reason? We the people are stunningly dumb—incessantly gullible, endlessly willing to swallow such brew as we find at our most famous news orgs.

So we thought when we read this dumb, snide letter from today’s New York Times:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/20/10): It is curious that over many years Richard Blumenthal could not correct the numerous news accounts repeating his false claims of Vietnam war service because he ''can't possibly know what is reported in all'' those articles (''Candidate's Words Differ From His History,'' front page, May 18), but he found time to object to accurate reporting of his real record within hours of its publication in The Times (''Damage Control Over 'a Few Misplaced Words,' '' news article, May 19)

Tell the truth—can you imagine a dumber letter? Do we have to explain what makes it so dumb? But then, cosmic dumbness has almost defined the Times letters page in the past several years. (Ann Coulter was ahead of her time in her description of what’s found on this page!) Right below that letter, we got his crap from a novelist, lounging and musing near Harvard Square:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/20/10): No big deal; he just misspoke.

Both Richard Blumenthal and Adam Wheeler, the faux Harvard student, seem unable to distinguish between what matters to most of us—the truth—and the fantasy created by their own egos.

Anne Bernays
Cambridge, Mass., May 19, 2010
The writer is the novelist.

So you’ll know: Adam Wheeler concocted a complex series of deliberate frauds over the course of several years (just click here). Richard Blumenthal is said to have made one—or possibly two—misstatements about his military service (for more detail, see below).

Lounging grandly near Harvard Square, Bernays can’t discern a possible difference between these situations. Bottom line: No one is dumb like our modern elites, who trail around collecting the droppings of their colleagues at “elite” news orgs.

Good God, we the people are gullible! Today’s collection of letters starts with two submissions about draft deferments in the Vietnam era. In the first, a Seattle resident engages in silly psychiatric musings about Blumenthal, having accepted the shaky premise of the New York Times’ recent report. But the second letter, from New York City, deserves an explanation.

In yesterday’s Times, Larry Pressler, a former Republican senator, complained about Vietnam-era draft avoiders who cloaked their desire to avoid Vietnam in bad-faith claims about their own noble motives (text below). The letter-writer knew young men who avoided Vietnam too. But she can’t recall all the bad faith:

LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (5/20/10): Larry Pressler’s memory of those who did not serve in Vietnam does not jibe with mine. The young men I knew who avoided the draft by getting deferments never pretended to be idealistic. They were open about not wanting to sacrifice for a war that they opposed and considered not worth dying for.

I have no memory of classmates “cloaking their actions in idealism.” More culpable, to my mind, were those who supported the war and yet did all they could to avoid service in Vietnam, like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Phil Gramm and Trent Lott.

Why does Pressler recall so many who postured and preened? We don’t know, but we do recommend the following chunk of his column. You see, Pressler was recalling the bad faith he encountered among the Cambridge swells of his day—his careerist classmates at Harvard Law School. And among his fellow Rhodes scholars, of course:

PRESSLER (5/19/10): I had a unique opportunity to observe the best and brightest of my generation—first as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in 1964 and then when I attended Harvard Law School after serving in Vietnam. Among both sets of my classmates were some who used elaborate steps to avoid the draft. (At school, I recall articles circulating that explained how to fail Army physicals.)

In private conversations with my classmates, I was told over and over that they didn’t want to serve in the military because it would hold up their careers. To the outside world, though, many would proclaim they weren’t going because they were opposed to the war and we should end all wars. Eventually they began to believe their “idealism” was superior to that of those who did serve. They said that it was courageous to resist the draft—something that would have been true if they had actually become conscientious objectors and gone to prison.

We’ll assume that Pressler used the term “best and brightest” ironically. That said, why did Pressler encounter so many phonies and fakes, while the letter-writer can’t recalls such bad faith? One possibility: The letter-writer recalls the ways of normal people. Pressler is writing about the Cambridge poseurs of his day—the careerist hustlers at Harvard Law School. As Christopher Edley recently helped us recall, these hustlers remain the self-proclaimed “best and brightest,” right to this very day. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/17/10.

It would be hard to find a dumber analysis than the one Bernays provides. But no one is dumber in modern society than our upscale pseudo-elites—the fine, dumb bunnies who preen and posture from our most heralded zip codes. Over the course of the past several decades, these self-regarding stooges have endlessly failed to serve. They’ve endlessly swallowed the serial garbage served by our finest news orgs.

Bernays displays their brilliance today. Pressler claims to recall the preening bad faith displayed by their self-dealing forebears.

Our entire Supreme Court will soon come from this class. Edley is glad about that, since these people are “better” than you are.

HOW MUCH IS REPEATEDLY (permalink): The moral squalor of your upper-end “press corps” is really quite hard to top. So too with their inanity, their intellectual squalor.

This morning, first thing, the fatuous gang at Morning Joe started in on the Blumenthal story. Mika knows Blumenthal and generally defends him—but she made the first shaky statement about this latest big flap. In the course of her defense, she said that Blumenthal has “repeatedly” misstated his Vietnam service.

“Repeatedly?” In fact, what follows is the best the New York Times seemed willing to claim in yesterday’s follow-up story. Michael Barbaro’s report appeared above the fold on the Times front page, like Raymond Hernandez’s multiply-bungled original effort:

BARBARO (5/19/10): Mr. Blumenthal on Tuesday discussed his past statements about his military service after The New York Times reported Monday night on its Web site that he had falsely said in March 2008 that he had served in Vietnam, and had repeatedly failed to correct media reports that perpetuated the claim.

According to Barbaro’s accurate summary, the New York Times had reported one false statement by Blumenthal—a statement made in March 2008. In Tuesday’s front-page report, Hernandez quoted another statement by Blumenthal which sounded a bit shaky. But the paper provided very little context, making the accuracy of this second statement hard to judge.

Two alleged misstatements—that was it.

For the record, this second statement allegedly occurred at some point in 2003. This means that the mighty Times has turned up one false statement by Blumenthal, and one more statement that perhaps seems shaky, over at least the past seven years. But so what? On this morning’s Morning Joe, this was turned into “repeated” misstatements—phrased that way by the one person who was defending the man.

Is there a worse fate than being defended by Mika? How about being pursued by Joe Scarborough? In response to Mika’s hapless defense—she has had two days to get her facts straight—Scarborough hotly complained about the way Blumenthal failed to correct “the hundreds of articles” which have described him as serving in Vietnam. In fact, the New York Times said it found eight such articles, dating back through 2003, including one which appeared in the widely-read Shelton Weekly.

So typical! Complaining about Blumenthal’s lack of truthfulness, Scarborough turned that meager harvest—eight—into “hundreds of articles.” Instantly, Jon Meacham supplied the final indignity. Grandly, The Parson cleared his throat and offered a few psychiatric thoughts about Blumenthal’s failure to correct these “hundreds” of errors.

(Has Blumenthal perhaps convinced himself that the bogus story is true? This was the soul of The Parson’s pensee. As is so typical with The Parson, he offered no thoughts about the cosmic misstatement that had just been made by his host.)

These people are broken, inane, unwell. They’re a parody of a “press corps.” But so it has gone, for the past several decades, as the squalor of these celebrity “journalists” has made a long rolling joke of the American discourse. George W. Bush reached the White House because of “journalists” like these—and to this day, the leading lights of the liberal world refuse to discuss this problem. The New York Times is simply too great—too essential to too many careers—and so too with the pundit spots provided by programs like Morning Joe. Conservatives will attack the Times—but your “career liberal leaders” suck thumbs in silence. Editors of your “liberal journals” will then parade on the air at MSNBC, even displaying such desperation as to praise a man like Chris Matthews.

Repeat: The New York Times alleges that it found eight articles (in the past seven years!) which somehow misstated Blumenthal’s record. Scarborough changes that to “hundreds,” then complains about Blumenthal’s lack of truthfulness.

This is precisely how you got to Iraq. And “career liberals” still won’t confront it.

How often has Blumenthal misstated his record? Like the folks at the New York Times, we don’t have the slightest idea. But the New York Times, after a mighty search, says it has found one or two examples. We thought you might want to compare that meager harvest to what was said on Tuesday’s NewsHour—and to what we found when we tried to locate that second statement by Blumenthal, the statement the brilliant New York Times tracked to 2003.

Stated on Tuesday’s NewsHour

How often has Blumenthal misstated his record? Like Hernandez, we have no idea. But on Tuesday evening’s NewsHour, Judy Woodruff interviewed a major Connecticut journalist who “has covered Mr. Blumenthal's career for the past two decades.” Christopher Keating is the Hartford bureau chief for The Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s biggest newspaper. This is the first thing Keating said about Blumenthal’s past statements:

WOODRUFF (5/18/10): Let me just ask you first, where do the facts stand right now? You have The New York Times saying that Blumenthal misstated his record several times, and then you have Mr. Blumenthal himself today saying, no, it was inadvertent; it was only a few times; most of the time, he got it right.

KEATING: That's correct. He basically said he's been to almost hundreds of wreath-laying ceremonies and funerals and different occasions where he spoke, and said it was only a couple of times. He did admit to misspeaking. But the people who were there, the veterans who were behind him at the press conference basically all said that they never heard him misspeak. And other Vietnam veterans that I spoke to said they had never heard Blumenthal misspeak about his service.

Of course, those veterans were mainly supporters of Blumenthal. (Keating went on to describe Blumenthal’s tireless work on behalf of vets.) So Woodruff asked Keating if he himself had ever heard Blumenthal misstate his record.

No, I haven’t, Keating said:

WOODRUFF (continuing directly): Now, as we just reported, as we just said, you have covered him for many years. Have you ever heard him claim or say that he served in Vietnam?

KEATING: I personally had not. I have been at many occasions. He always mentions that he is a veteran. When people come to the state capitol, and there are different veteran ceremonies, he always mentions that. He mentions he was a sergeant and compliments the people who were in the audience, the older veterans who might have been of a higher rank. But I personally had never heard him misstate what he did in Vietnam or that he was even in Vietnam.

WOODRUFF: So, it wasn't your understanding that he had been in Vietnam?

KEATING: Correct. I never thought that he was in Vietnam.

Somehow, the human sloths on today’s Morning Joe had failed to capture these insights—even Mika, who was staging a typically hapless attempt to defend her friend. (Mika is totally hapless.) But then, the complete inability to gather information is the distinguishing characteristic of the modern celebrity “journalist.” Celebrity journalists work from scripts, not from information. It rarely occurs to these moral ciphers to present the range of information which might flesh out a damaging claim.

Keating, of course, is only one person. But he has been at many events—and he said he has never heard Blumenthal misstate his record. Question: Have you seen this gentleman’s statement repeated anywhere in the past two days?

With that in mind, consider what we found when we tried to locate that second statement the Times attributed to Blumenthal—the shaky-sounding statement he allegedly made in 2003.

Reported in 2003—and in 2002

The New York Times is too great, too grand, to worry about minor things like dates. In its original, groaning front-page report, Hernandez only said this about Blumenthal’s second alleged misstatement:

HERNANDEZ (5/18/10): In 2003, he addressed a rally in Bridgeport, where about 100 military families gathered to express support for American troops overseas. “When we returned, we saw nothing like this,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Let us do better by this generation of men and women.”

For ourselves, we’d like to see a wider context before we judged a short quotation like that. Since Hernandez hadn’t worried his head with silly things like specific dates, we searched the Nexis records for all of 2003, trying to locate this event.

The Nexis records do not include that quotation by Blumenthal. (Which doesn’t mean that he didn’t make it.) It isn’t obvious when this event occurred, though we’d guess it happened in April. That said, we did come upon a detailed report in the Connecticut Post from May 21 of that year. Blumenthal had filed a lawsuit against a group which had allegedly misspent charity funds collected for veterans. In the course of his report, Michael Mayko offered this detailed, perfectly accurate account of Blumenthal’s military service:

MAYKO (5/21/03): "Virtually none of the money went to causes supporting Vietnam veterans or to the veterans or their families," charged Blumenthal. "That's outrageous because Vietnam veteran causes are close to my heart."

The suit accuses American Trade & Convention Publications, the telemarketer, with willfully failing to file a notice that it was soliciting Connecticut residents as required by state law.

Blumenthal, a former U.S. Marine, served as a reservist during the Vietnam War. Although he did not serve overseas, he said he knew many who did.

"I saw how they were treated when they came home," he said.

"Few received the respect they deserved."

Charity directors named as defendants in the suit are...

Duh. All the way back in 2003, Mayko reported Blumenthal’s record with perfect accuracy, with Blumenthal describing his concern about the way Vietnam vets were treated in real time. But then, the Associated Press had somehow managed to do the same thing in a lengthy profile of Blumenthal in 2002. Like Mayko, Diane Scarponi had somehow managed to describe his record with perfect accuracy:

SCARPONI (10/3/02): [W]hile American youths were protesting the war and burning draft cards, Blumenthal did the opposite. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves.

Blumenthal said he enlisted because he had a "pretty low draft number." The Army said he might have to wait a year to be called up, but the Marine Reserves had an opening right away.

At the time that it was uncertain whether reservists would also be shipped to Southeast Asia, Blumenthal said.

In the spring of 1970, as Blumenthal and other recruits sweated out boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., the United States invaded Cambodia and the Ohio National Guard killed four students at Kent State University.

Blumenthal never went to Vietnam. Records from the Marines, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, said he performed no active duty, although recruits are technically on active duty while training.

Blumenthal insists he did six months of active duty. With the Marines, he studied administration and was classified as an "Admin Man."

He was discharged honorably six years later, with the rank of sergeant.

Next, a career in the law pulled at Blumenthal's ambitions. While still in the Marine Corps Reserves he enrolled in Yale Law School, where his classmates included Bill Clinton.

Scarponi generated a semantic pseudo-dispute over the term “active duty.” But here too, in a major profile, Blumenthal’s record was described accurately, with Blumenthal saying that he had enlisted to avoid being drafted.

Our point? It’s clear that Blumenthal’s actual history was very much a matter of record. In later years, did a handful of journalists misstate the record, as the New York Times alleges? Did someone at The Shelton Weekly even make such an error? It’s possible; indeed, some of the errors appear in the Nexis files. But until the Times can show that Blumenthal was responsible for those eight errors (over the course of as many years), the errors simply aren’t Blumenthal’s fault. And the Times has only alleged eight journalistic errors—in a seven-year time span—not the “hundreds” of errors Joe Scarborough dreamed up this morning.

Your celebrity press corps is a squalid place, populated by preening ninnies. Why won’t Rachel Maddow says so? Where oh where is the fiery Joan Walsh? Why won’t Ed Schultz challenge the Times—provide the background Woodruff provided? Why does the fiery, highly moral Keith Olbermann keep his big fracking trap shut?

Why can we say, with perfect certainty, that no one will ever criticize Scarborough for his groaning misstatement?

You have been screwed by these people for years, but career liberals still refuse to confront this problem. As a matter of basic journalism, that report by Hernandez was a horrible joke.

What keeps “liberals” from speaking up? More on this matter tomorrow.