MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2003
EXTRA! ITS TIME FOR NAGOURNEY TO GO: Adam Nagourney needs to be fired for his work in this mornings New York Times. Our report appears later on in this post, under the heading Unbearable lightness, part 2. But Nagourneys work is a piece of pure fraud. As Americans, we put up with this throughout Campaign 2000. It cant be allowed to start again. Its time for Nagourney to go.
ODD BOYKINS: We assume that Lt. General Jerry Boykin is a perfectly decent individual. We also assume that he has served in full good faith during his thirty-year military career.
But in recent years, Boykin has said some odd things to a string of religious assemblies. For example, when William Arkin reported on Boykin in the Los Angeles Times, he started with this strange example:
ARKIN (10/16/03): In June of 2002, Jerry Boykin stepped to the pulpit at the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., and described a set of photographs he had taken of Mogadishu, Somalia, from an Army helicopter in 1993.That evening, CBS David Martin played footage of Boykin making this point during another public speech. Whether you understand it or not, it is a demonic spirit over the city of Mogadishu, Boykin says on the CBS tape. Ladies and gentleman, thats not a fake, thats not a farce.
As Arkin said in his piece in the Times, Thats an unusual message for a high-ranking U.S. military official to deliver. But Boykin has other unusual views. Every school kid knows that our presidents are not elected by popular vote. But why is President Bush in the White House? Boykin has explained that one too:
ARKIN: He has praised the leadership of President Bush, whom he extolled as a man who prays in the Oval Office. George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States, Boykin told an Oregon congregation. He was appointed by God.Why didnt God just inspire more people to vote for Bush? Most likely, Boykin can tell you.
In recent weeks, Boykin has come under public discussion for other remarks he has made. President Bush has consistently said that the War on Terror is not a Christian war against Islam. But Boykin has made public statements in which he seems to say that Muslims worship a false godan idol. Because Boykin serves as a deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, charged with tracking down terrorist leaders, critics have said that his statements will complicate the War on Terrormaking it harder to sustain the claim that the war is not meant as a clash of religions. Indeed, Senator John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, sent Donald Rumsfeld a letter asking for a formal probe into Boykins speech-making. Many observers think that Boykins comments will cost him his job.
Yes, Boykin has made some unfortunate statementsand hes made some other statements that just seem a little bit nutty. But the public dispute about Boykins statements helps to show the shape of the discourse with which Americans now are saddled. Forty years ago, Americans filed into public theaters and laughed at the oddness of the good Dr. Strangelove. But what happens now when General Boykin shows the splotch above Mogadishu? In part, we see the way forty years of agitation from certain sectors have turned our public discourse on its head.
Yes, General Boykin has a right to his views, and we assume hes a well-meaning, decent person. But Americans also have some rightsincluding the right to a sane public discourse. In some ways, Boykin does seem a bit daft. And no onerepeat, no onedares say so.
TOMORROW: Good-bye, Mogadishu.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF READING, PART 1: Did you know that Wes Clark is bitter? Max Frankel very much wants you to know it. Frankel reviewed Clarks new book, Waging Modern Wars, in yesterdays New York Times. Quickly, he got in Clarks head:
FRANKEL (pgh 2): Winning Modern Wars turns out to be aptly wrapped. For its 200 pages, many of them updated just a month ago, are obviously designed to abet the swift transformation of a once embittered warrior and armchair television analyst into a hard-driving, platitudinous candidate for president.Is Clarks embitterment a thing of the past? Guess again. Hes still bitter today:
FRANKEL (pgh 4): [T]he general cannot camouflage the partisan thrust of his polemic. His deft review of the battlefield tactics that won Baghdad in less than a month is merely the preface to a bitter, global indictment of George W. Bush.In case you missed the key pointWes Clark is bitterFrankel sing-songs the point again, right in his closing paragraph:
FRANKEL (pgh 16): As Clark recounted in a previous book, Waging Modern War, his enemies in Washington managed to trick the Clinton White House into firing him from the post of supreme allied commander in Europe. And so he was left to watch from a CNN studio as a new administration employed the battle doctrines he had long championed in what he bitterly concluded was a misguided cause in Iraq. It was enough to drive a man to print, and to think he could do better, as commander in chief.Why has General Clark criticized Bush? Clearly, its because Clark is bitter. How eager is Frankel to let you know it? He recites the key spin-point three times.
Surprisingly, though, Frankel never says how he knows that Clark is bitter. He doesnt produce any quotes that sound bitter, nor does he ever say whats wrong with Clarks basic judgments about Iraq. But then, if its reasoned judgment that you seek, Frankel probably isnt your man. Is Wes Clark really bitter? For some reason, Frankel seems to think that this passage helps establish the claim:
FRANKEL (pgh 5): No credit even for the one thing that Clark admires about the American performance in Iraq. He recounts with relish the synchronization of high-tech airpower with agile ground maneuvershow the rapid advance of armor forced Iraqi units to move and expose themselves to air and rocket attacks, which in turn facilitated more ground advances. But the irony is that the vision of a high-tech battlefield, viewed through an array of sensors, with battles fought and won by precision strikes and a slimmer ground componentwhich the Bush administration, and especially Donald Rumsfeld, have trumpeted, is largely a reality that they inherited when they took office in 2001.But if this high-tech reality was largely inherited, why should Clark give its credit to Bush? For similar lightweight performance by Frankel, see how he shows, in paragraph 4, that Clarks basic argument is partisan. And see Clark trashed (paragraphs 8 and 9) for failing to take out a crystal ball and prophesy future events.
How lightweight is todays elite press? Read Frankels review to find out. In fact, this review exists for one simple reasonto throw unflattering adjectives around. Clark is bitter, ambitious, partisan and coy, as we learn in the first four paragraphs. The American people are poorly served when lightweights like this rule our print.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: Gore tested the waters in 2002; bitter was the script then, too. Such scripts are easy for lightweights to learn. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/02, 11/19/02 and 11/21/02.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF READING, PART 2: How lightweight is todays press elite? Adam Nagourney floats through the airand lies in your facein this mornings Times:
NAGOURNEY: At several points, General Clark appeared to struggle as he explained his views on the war in response to a challenge from a questioner.But why did Clark appear to struggle? Because Nagourney baldly misstated what he actually said. Here is the actual Federal Document Clearing House transcript of what was actually said:
CAMERON: General, there is a long litany of comments from you, both in your time as a former television analyst and then over the course of the last several months. Are we to understand that what youre saying now is that those things you have said that were positive about the war was not what you meant?Youd never know it from reading Nagourneys report, but thats what was actually said. In fact, Clark struggled so hard to convey his meaning that it was greeted with laughter and applause! But it isnt hard to make out Nagourneys meaning. He meant to spread a scripted messageWesley Clark is a big, fucking mess. And how did Nagourney create this impression? By baldly misstating what Clark really said! Instead of presenting Clarks actual statement, Nagourney spliced in something Clark said to another question, earlier in the debate. And he said the resulting pseudo-reply was an example of Clarks hopeless bungling!
Amazing, isnt it? But then, Americans put up with this type of fraud all through Campaign 2000. No high school kid could offer such work. Why in the world is Nagourney still working? And how long do we, as American citizens, plan to put up with this conduct?
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF READING, PART 3: How lightweight is todays elite press? Over at the New Republic, callow schoolboy Adam Kushner even suggested that Clark is delusionalfor making statements which are patently accurate! Others have commented on Kushners inanity, so well remind you of the history here. Delusional was a prime RNC spin-point against Al Gore during Campaign 2000. (It started with Gores remarks about the farm choresremarks which were patently accurate!) At TNR, a callow schoolboy revives the script, and engages in some lightweight typing. But then, how empty are TNRs gaggle of schoolboys? Do you recall the consummate clowning about John Kerry? Kerry had a character flaw because he likes to play show tunes on the guitar! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/10/02.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF READING, PART 4: It doesnt matter what you say; if you criticize Bush, youre a hater. Its the latest, easy-to-cut-and-paste script, andyes, in yesterdays New York TimesJames Traub recited it well:
TRAUB (pgh 1): Scrutiny of the New York Times best-seller list discloses a new and important trend: Bush-hating has eclipsed Clinton-, Democrat- and liberal-elite-hating. Theres Bill OReilly, liberal-hater in chief at Fox News, at the No. 2 slot; but Michael Moores Dude, Wheres My Country? sits on top of the greasy pole, while Al Frankens Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) occupies the No. 3 spot. Molly Ivinss Bushwhacked is farther down, as is David Corns Lies of George W. Bush.Dont make us explain the sheer dumbness of this. But why do we incomparably note that it doesnt matter what you say? We say that because Molly Ivins devoted her entire column, just last week, to explaining that she doesnt hate Bush, because shes an adult! No matter! A type-by-the-numbers script is about, and Americas press corps is lighter than air. If you criticize Bush, that makes you a hater: A lightweight elite has heard the key script. So they sit at their screens and they type it.
By the way, good news has been received concerning Jonathan Chaits I hate Bush clowning. Chait will now be making big bucks, dumbly performing for corporate groups. Cant you see him shucking and jiving? Howard Kurtz showed-us-the-money:
KURTZ (10/20/03): Chaits New Republic editors urged him to write a coolly analytical piece about Bushs failings, but he waved them off. I felt I was being slightly dishonest by not confessing my own feelings, he says.And yes, those corporate groups pay big bucks! And make no mistake: Every time Chait tells these groups that he hates the way Bush holds his arms, this latest, idiot spin will be spread, just the way the RNC wants it. Sorry, but this is the group that runs your discourse, and you need to know how these consummate lightweights make such a joke of your lives.
SOMEHOW, HE FAILED TO NOTICE: For the record, neither Traub nor Chait seemed to notice the endless Gore-hating in Campaign 2000. It went on for two solid years, and it clearly decided the race. By October 24, 2000, the canned Gore-hating was all about, driven by twenty months of press corps dissembling. On that date, Betsy Hart did OReilly, eager to explain her deep, vast loathing. Well spare you the bulk of her fake, phony comments. But here was her opening remark:
HART: Well, Bill, the vice president is a condescending, patronizing, hectoring, lecturing know-it-all. And this isnt just some odd little personality trait that his mother couldnt quite work out of him when he as a kid. It is reflective of his worldview. He really does think he knows it all. He really does think he knows better than I do about how I should live my life and how I should raise my children and so forth.For ourselves, wed guess that almost anyone would know how to raise Harts children better than she does. (We note the way the loathsome pundit dragged Gores mother into her rant.) Soon, though, the fake, phony pundit got right to the core of her loathing. He almost physically makes me writhe, she confessed. And apparently Im not the only one. This sort of thing went on for two years. And its funny: James Traub didnt notice.