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SUSAN’S LAMENT! Susan Estrich hates cheap shots. She proved it last night, pleasing Hannity:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2003

HARPER CIRCLES THE GLOBE: The Washington Times wanted readers to know that the Plame affair was a big, silly flap. So they put Jennifer Harper to work on the story. Her report appears today, beneath this headline: “CIA-leak story Beltway-only buzz.” Yep! Once you get beyond the Beltway, Americans think this tale is pure bunk. “Americans beyond the Beltway were wary—and weary—of the CIA-leak story yesterday,” Harper began. And when she said that she’d journeyed “beyond the beltway,” the scribe wasn’t making it up.

How far “beyond the Beltway” did Harper have to go to find Americans who were “wary and weary?” Harper doggedly circled the globe. Here was her first example:

HARPER: “This sounds like another passing frenzy down there in D.C., getting hyped more than it should be,” said Rocky Wood of Hoonah, Alaska, on a large island about 30 miles west of Juneau.
Harper didn’t explain how she tracked down Wood, “who says he’s ‘number two man’ at Chichagof Island Aviation, a local flying-taxi service.” But, speaking frankly from the large island, Wood said he was pretty sure that the CIA leak was being overblown. “Sometimes, I watch CNN and wonder, ‘What are they all thinking?’” he advised. “The weather is more critical to us than what’s happening in Washington,” he sagely said.

Of course, Harper was too savvy a scribe to base her judgment on one source. So she conducted a second interview with A. J. Nute, “proprietor of A. J.’s Bait & Tackle near the shores of” New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. Nute—sounds like “Newt”—chopped live worms as he voiced his suspicions and concerns:

HARPER: “I want to know why they’re bringing this issue up now. Is it one political party digging up dirt on the other?” Mr. Nute asked from his shop in Meredith, where preparations are under way for the upcoming ice-fishing season.
Nute wasn’t taking the bait! Meanwhile, respecting the critical Rule of Three, Harper conducted one more interview, this time with Phil Paleologos, “who hosts a daily talk-radio show from his eatery in New Bedford, Mass.” Paleologos—speaking direct from his studio/deli—said he “believes the CIA-leak story is a symptom of a greater ‘hate and obsession.’” According to Paleologos, “The left want to assault the White House, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rush Limbaugh, traditional values. This CIA thing is part of the pattern.”

Phew! Harper had conducted three separate interviews, and the public just kept speaking out, loud and clear! It didn’t matter where you went—to a large Alaskan island, or to the Granite State’s largest lake. The American people had seen right through this gimmicked-up insider’s tale. So the Times rushed Harper’s work into print, assuring readers that the CIA story was really a “Beltway-only buzz.” Real Americans thought this was silly, Harper showed by her dogged reporting.

Oh yeah. Deep in her piece, completely in passing, Harper cited results of an actual poll. According to the ABC News survey, 68 percent of Americans “were familiar with the leak story; 82 percent called it ‘serious.’” But had pollsters spoken to real Americans? Or had the polled a bunch of insiders? Let them come to “a large island west of Juneau,” Harper’s pleasing piece deftly said.

SUSAN'S LAMENT: Meanwhile, speaking of clowning performances, Susan Estrich was there in person last night as Hannity and Colmes did a live show from Philly. Estrich, of course, is a “Fox News Democrat”—is even more likely to trash her party than the “Hardball Dems” seen on MSNBC. Earlier in the California recall campaign, Estrich wrote a truly ludicrous op-ed column; in it, she trashed Arianna Huffington for ignoring her children while she conducted her race for the State House. But last night, Estrich was thoroughly miffed at the day’s reporting on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s groping and grabbing. The L. A. Times had landed on Arnold. And Estrich was there to complain:

ESTRICH: This really troubles me. Everybody knows I’m a Democrat and I’m not a big Arnold voter, not by any stretch. But here’s what happened, for those of you who don’t know. It is the Thursday before the Tuesday of an election, and I don’t like cheap shots, I really don’t.

So what does the Los Angeles Times do on the Thursday before the Tuesday? They come out, apparently after a seven-week investigation. They wait until Thursday, and they come up with an article that quotes anonymously four women and names two women.

Estrich found several problems with the Times reporting, which she referred to as “garbage.” She was shocked to learn that some such reporting is based on anonymous accusers. (Accusers who didn’t want their names used were supported by interviews with named associates.) She implied that the Times had published suspect information, although Schwarzenegger had already apologized for his conduct. But she made her principal complaint two times. Here was her second iteration:
ESTRICH: But here’s my point to the L. A. Times. If you had a serious story to run, if you thought there was serious misconduct, you don’t wait until the Thursday before the Tuesday. You run it early.
The Times had been holding it back! Of course, as Estrich herself had noted, the Times said that its detailed report was the result of a seven-week investigation. And when had Schwarzenegger announced his run? He announced his run on August 6, just a bit more than seven weeks back. But Susan Estrich—on-message with Arnold—kept saying the Times had been holding it back. She presented no evidence that this was true. Somehow, Alan Colmes failed to notice.

There may be real objections to such reporting, although we’re not entirely sure what they’d be. (We thought the supporting, on-the-record interviews made the anonymous interviews credible.) But how stupid is your current discourse? The Estrich segment provided a prime example. Estrich lodged a charge against the Times for which she provided no evidence whatever. But of course, you know how it works at Fox. “I agree with you,” Alan Colmes, the show’s “liberal,” quickly said. And Sean knew what to say at the end. “I thank Susan for being with us,” he said. “And for one other reason; she has shown us that she is an intellectually honest Democrat. We’re glad you’re here. Thank you.”

HE TOO WAS INTELLECTUALLY HONEST: Earlier in the show, Colmes had also defended and praised poor Rush Limbaugh. At the end of the hour, Sean praised Alan’s character. Set your Irony Meters very high:

HANNITY: I think what Alan Colmes did in the last segment of this program tonight and what he said about Rush Limbaugh shows why Alan is a liberal that is a cut above and a class act and why I’m proud to have him as a partner.

COLMES: Thank you.

HANNITY: You know, honestly—and what Susan said in this segment earlier tonight was intellectually honest. There is partisanship, but there are times where we have got to just speak the truth, whatever it is, and stand up for what is right. And Alan, it’s a credit to you as a person for doing that—no, I mean that sincerely.

COLMES: You used the phrase intellectually honest sometimes. We have to be intellectually honest. We have to strip ourselves of our partisan bickering and go for the truth. And that’s really what’s important. Sometimes we have to forget whether we’re left or whether we’re right.

HANNITY: Yes.

COLMES: And just find out where we can find common ground. That’s what’s really important.

By the way, Estrich really does hate those “cheap shots,” just as she said on this program. On November 2, 1999, she was hustled onto Hannity & Colmes to talk about the budding Naomi Wolf flap. Heather Nauert was also there, booked to rattle off RNC spin. But Nauert couldn’t match Estrich this day; the “Democrat” recited every dumb-ass RNC spin-point then in circulation about Wolf. Needless to say, Wolf was being paid too much, she complained, racing to agree with Hannity. And “from what I’m reading in news reports, her big contribution to date has been to put him in those brown earth tones,” she dumbly said. There was more: “I’m always suspicious of really beautiful women telling us we shouldn’t be worried about beauty,” Estrich hissed. Following that utterly stupid remark, she offered her cheapest, dumbest shot:
ESTRICH: But there are a lot of guys on both campaigns, on all the campaigns now, who do some very questionable lobbying on behalf of very questionable interests and do things that trouble me a whole lot more than a woman writing a book about masturbation.
“A woman writing a book about masturbation!” It was stupid, textbook RNC-spin, although it happened to be baldly, dumbly untrue. Apparently, Estrich has developed her loathing of cheap shots at some point in the past four years. Actually, at some time in the past two months—since she took her ludicrous shot at Huffington. By the way: If you’ve noticed that Estrich doesn’t seem to like women, you might sign up here for the club.

MR. O REALLY WAS HONEST: One Fox honcho really was honest when he assessed the Times report. Bill O’Reilly has trashed the paper for alleged anti-Schwarzenegger bias. But last night, he defended the paper’s report about the muscleman’s groping and grabbing:

O’REILLY: I told [Schwarzenegger] two weeks ago on this program. I told—I said, look, they’re going to come after you on this. They’re going to knock you. The L. A. Times has been knocking you all day long. But I’m not going to knock the L. A. Times today because it looks like what they reported has some truth to it.
Mr. O had made the same point a bit earlier. Hard to believe, but someone on Fox actually noticed that the Times reporting seemed to be accurate! One hour later, Estrich was complaining that the report was “garbage,” “a cheap shot,” had been held back. As we’ve noted, she offered no evidence for that last claim. But on Fox, the lack of evidence wasn’t the point. The Democrat’s inspiring intellectual honesty was what the net really was after.