FACT-CHECK FOLLIES! The Washington Post tried to fact-check Rudy. But their muscles were weak from disuse:
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
ZELLS BELLS: Some readers recall a promise we broke—a pledge to review Zell Millers book, A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat. In January, we said wed review the clowning book, perhaps the most laughable book of its kind ever written (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/5/04). But more urgent stories blew into town, and we never made good on our promise.
Over the weekend, we thumbed back through the Miller tome and remembered why we found it so comical. Is there a bigger fake in American life than the man who speaks at the Garden tonight? Today, we issue that promise again: At the end of the week, well run through a few of the highlights from that utterly ludicrous book.
But remember as you watch tonight—every word is the Gods honest truth! Miller simply cant help himself. By his own embarrassed admission, his conscience is in full command:
MILLER (page 2): [M]y conscience travels with me everywhere I go, like some unwelcome inner companion. I cannot escape him and is he tough. He is on steroids, has a Black Belt and long fingernails, and stomps around inside of me, sometimes in hobnailed boots. Hes been there as long as I can remember. Although its getting tougher and tougher for me to blow out all the candles on my birthday cake, he just grows stronger—and louder.The rubes made this laughable mess a best-seller. In fact, Millers work is as phony and fake as any book weve ever read. You cant do it justice in one day, but well hit some highlights later this week. In the meantime, grit your teeth as you watch tonights clowning. This is where your discourse heads when your press corps walks away from its posts.
THEYRE EVEN AFRAID OF HASTERT: Lets see if we have this right. Speaker Hastert tours the convention, saying that George Soros may be getting his money from drug cartels. Meanwhile, a former president, George H. W. Bush, takes cheap shots at Kerrys war record; he doesnt know the facts, he says, but he does have great faith in Bob Dole. I have great confidence in Bob Dole, Bush told CNNs Paula Zahn. I don't think he'd be out there just smearing. But when Dole trashed Kerrys record on CNN, he made baldly inaccurate factual statements—misstatements which went unchallenged by Wolf Blitzer and in a later MSNBC interview (Joe Scarborough). Blitzer and Scarborough seemed to know that they arent allowed to challenge Dole; pundits also seem afraid to challenge Bush and Hastert now. So Bush and Hastert clown and smear. Bush even says, of the Swift Boat Vets, 'I dont know enough about them to say theyre all liars. This also came from his session with Zahn, who brought up the topic then failed to challenge the ex-presidents McCarthyite logic. As weve noted, life is very good for accusers when you play by this press corps— lax rules.
Yes, Hastert/Bush/Dole make a joke of your discourse—and they treat reporters like fools as they make their remarkable statements. But have you seen your national pundits challenge Hasterts astonishing comments? Have they challenged Dole or Bush? No. The national press corps perfumed dandies are hiding beneath their desks once again. Hastert and Bush can say what they like. Your press corps is still runnin scared.
Good Lord! Theyre even afraid of Dennis Hastert! Are you really surprised that major pundits dont know what to make of those rough Swift Boat Veterans? On Monday, William Raspberry rolled over and died, too afraid to challenge their work (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/31/04). But so did Chris Matthews, late last week. Tomorrow, our series continues.
FACT-CHECK FOLLIES: Amazing! In this mornings Washington Post, Glenn Kessler offers a fact-check of Giulianis convention speech! We were pleased to see an attempt being made. Then we read the scribes floundering efforts.
Kessler gets off to a fairly good start. He quotes one of Rudys phony attacks against flip-floppin Kerry:
KESSLER (9/1/04): In his speech to the Republican National Convention on Monday night, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani made a number of specific attacks based on statements made by Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. But Giuliani's description of those comments often lacked context.The rubes really loved it when Rudy said that! But there was one small problem with Rudys remark; a few months later, Kerry didnt take exactly the opposite position from the one he had stated before. We settled in, waiting for Kessler to nail it. But Washingtons scribes are out of practice when it comes to challenging phony attacks. Kessler completely fails to address the heart of Giulianis statement:
KESSLER (continuing directly): The context: When Kerry made his statement about a "barrier to peace," he was referring to, as he put it, the "Israeli government's decision to build the barrier off of the Green Line, cutting deep into Palestinian areas." The Green Line is the de facto boundary between Israel and the West Bank.Weird, isnt it? Kessler completely fails to address the heart of Giulianis attack—the claim that, a few months later, Kerry reversed his position. To all appearance, its been so long since scribes fact-checked a speech that they no longer know how to do it.
And sadly, this is the strongest part of Kesslers critique. By the third of his three examples, he is completely misstating the problem:
KESSLER: Giuliani: "He even, at one point, declared himself an antiwar candidate, and now he says he's a pro-war candidate."What was the problem with that attack? Kerry did once call himself an anti-war candidate, in a sense which he quickly defined. But heres the problem—at the present time, Kerry doesnt say hes a pro-war candidate. Thats the part of Rudys statement that was clownishly wrong—a phony claim to invent a fake flip-flop. But Kessler doesnt seem to know that. The scribe seems to be out of practice:
KESSLER (continuing directly): The context: Giuliani's statement appears derived from an appearance by Kerry in January in which Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball," asked him whether he was one of the candidates "unhappy with the war has been fought, the way it's been fought . . . are you one of the antiwar candidates?" He answered: "I am. Yes. In the sense that I don't believe the president took to us war as he should have, yes. Absolutely. Do I think this president violated his promises to America? Yes, I do, Chris. Was there a way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable? You bet there was, and we should have done it right."No, that isnt the problem with Rudys statement—and that isnt even what Matthews was griping about. In reality, Matthews made a lot of noise about a relatively minor misstatement. On its web site, the Bush campaign was slightly misstating what Kerry had said on Hardball that night; they were saying that Kerry had declared himself the anti-war candidate. That was a silly exaggeration, which they were hyping for effect. If you saw Matthews pummel Bush aide Matthew Dowd (on August 16), it is abundantly clear that he was complaining about this relatively minor exaggeration (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/17/04). Kessler didnt know what was wrong with Giulianis statement—and he didnt seem to know what Matthews was crabbing about.
Oh yeah! How about that first claim by Rudy—the claim that Kerry took exactly the opposite position on Israels security barrier? Sorry. In the remark which Kessler quotes, Kerry complained about the way the wall was cutting deep into Palestinian areas—deep beyond the Green Line. The problem was the walls intrusion into Palestinian lands, not the fact that the wall existed. In the remark he made a few months later, Kerry accepted the rights of Israel to have a wall. There is no contradiction here. Indeed, if Kesslers remarks are accurate, both positions are held by Bush too. No, there is no contradiction. But if there were, it would belong to both hopefuls.
For the record, there is one more problem with Kesslers fact-check. He doesnt just bungle the topics he selects. He also skips Giulianis most clownish moment—the ridiculous claim that Kerry voted for and against exactly the same thing in the matter of the $87 billion (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/31/04). But you know the press corps stance on that matter! Long ago, they accepted the Bushs campaign clownish claims about Kerrys votes on that funding measure. On Monday, Giuliani lied about these two votes. And Kessler seemed to know not to notice.
Is this the best the Post can do in conducting a much-needed fact-check? Perhaps so. In March, the press corps walked away from its posts when it comes to fact-checking claims by Bush. This morning, Kessler tries to revive an old practice. But his muscles are weak from disuse.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Four years ago, we suggested that Kessler might well be Da Man. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/8/00. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
ADDENDUM: It isnt in our hard-copy Post. It isnt in the article we find on the Posts web site. And it isnt in the Nexis version. But in some version of Kesslers article that someone somehow linked us to, he does discuss the $87 billion. And oh yeah—he discusses it very poorly. Glenn Kessler knows to keep things polite:
KESSLER: Giuliani: "I quote John Kerry: 'I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.' "The context Kessler provides is fine, but he ignores the worst part of Giulianis remarks. After quoting Kerry in the way Kessler cites, Giuliani did what seems to come naturally to men of his type—he lied in the delegates faces:
GIULIANI (continuing directly from above): Maybe this explains John Edwards' need for two Americas.Giulianis implication is blatantly false. As Kessler shows in his own commentary, Kerry did not vote for something and then vote against exactly the same thing. Giuliani was lying in the delegates faces. But the Washington Post instinctively knew that its readers wouldnt want to know something like that. The Washington Post was too polite to tell you that Rudy was lying.
But there you see the world in which you now live. Politely, Kessler writes about missing context, but declines to tell you that you were lied to Monday night, during the evenings most-discussed speech. Why did Giuliani lie in your face? Simple. He lied because he knew that he could. He knew that the Post would indulge him.