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Spencer Blog Archives 10-02

Spencer Blog Archives




Click here for Mr. Spencer's latest blog entry.

THE DOG IS STILL REFUSING TO BE WAGGED
10-31-02

I'm having an awfully busy day today. It's time for the second"blue book festival" of the year, my parents are coming to visit this weekend, my kids are going trick-or-treating tonight, you name it. Regardless, I feel compelled to comment on some recent events. Bear with me. This may take a bit of time.

I'm happy to report that, despite W's best efforts, the dog is refusing to be wagged regarding Iraq. This poll shows what many other public polls are showing, which is rapidly dropping public support for military action against Iraq. It's now barely a majority and if you ask Americans if they support action against Iraq without the support of allies (which is how we're going to have to do it folks), the support drops to a tad over one in four, only 27%.

While the" conventional wisdom" in Washington is that the Iraq war issue has saved the Republicans from defeat in the midterms,"running out the clock" on the election so to speak, I'm not really sure that's the case. In fact, what many in the press are just beginning to realize is that Iraq is not on most people's radar screens at the moment, the economy is. In fact, many reporters are suddenly reporting that Iraq has completely disappeared as a campaign issue over the last couple of weeks.

I suspect Karl Rove and the Republican political"braintrust" must be pretty dumbfounded right now -- and a little desperate. I suspect that's why we're hearing about Republican intimidation of voters in some states (such as South Dakota, Michigan, Arkansas, and my own state of Missouri) right now -- that's a sure sign of desperation. The histrionics (see below) of the Republican right-wing grief police also are a sign of desperation as well. They're seeking traction on anything -- and they're not getting it. In fact, I would suggest you read this story from the Daily Howler if you want to learn more about the machinations of the Republican grief police and how the media in Washington is just eating it up. I suspect the Republicans have realized the war isn't doing it for them and that it's too late to pretend they've done anything about the economy over the last few months. This is what desperation looks like my friends. Enjoy it.

I would also caution you to pay little or no attention to the beltway punditry with regard to the midterms. They have so badly botched the last two of them in 1998 and 1994 that you can't believe their predictions anymore. If the beltway pundits were right, Tom Foley never would've lost the speaker's seat in 1994 and Democrats would've just lost a few seats, but not their house majority, to Newt Gingrich and his"Contract on America." In 1998, these pundits also told us that Republicans were going to gain bigtime from American outrage over Clinton's sexual pecaddiloes. They didn't. In fact, the Republicans lost seats. Newtie, who was carrying on with his own 20ish girlfriend at the time, resigned just a few weeks later.

The beltway press doesn't really cover the news much anymore folks, they just repeat what the pundits tell them. It is best if you pay little attention to them. That's one of the reasons that the internet is so useful. You can hear about things outside the beltway and actually learn something rather than hear the same tired -- and often inaccurate -- beltway wisdom from the punditry repeated ad nauseum as"political analysis."

Most Americans, I'm happy to say, have apparently seen through the Iraq charade for what it is: merely an attempt to wag the dog. And the dog is refusing to be wagged. Most Americans know that the administration is really stretching the truth with regard to Iraq. Most Americans would love it if Saddam, a monster of our own creation, would disappear tomorrow. Who wouldn't? However, Americans know when they're being misled. They know that Iraq is not a" clear and present danger" that must be dealt with right now. They know that, if Saddam really were that big of a threat, W wouldn't be off campaigning for three weeks straight, he'd stay in Washington.

Americans also know that this war is an unnecessary one. Containment of Saddam has worked for the last ten years and will certainly work for a bit longer. Because of this, they know that action against Iraq will needlessly cost the lives of Americans. They also know that if Saddam does have weapons of mass destruction (and the administration still hasn't made a very good case for this yet), he'll certainly use them against us if we invade. Americans also know a war against Iraq will actually make all of us less safe from terrorism not more. It will actually increase the chances of terrorism against Americans here and worldwide. They also are aware that a war against Iraq will destabilize the region and might not lead to a more peaceful Iraq or Middle East for that matter.

In short, Americans know they're being sold a bill of goods and they're simply not buying it.

So, what this means is that the midterms may not play out the way the pundits are telling you. Of course, the biggest problem with all of this is that" conventional wisdom" often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if it's all people hear. And at this point it is all that we're hearing on the news. However, I think the people may surprise the punditry this time, just as they did in the midterms in 1994 and 1998. With the beltway punditry's recent track record, I've actually come to expect it. Hang in there folks. It could be interesting. Now don't get me wrong. I don't expect earth-shattering stuff but, at the very least, I do expect some upsets in gubernatorial races and I expect the Democrats to hold the senate.

Of course, we'll see in just a few days. Then we can all get back to political life as normal. Don't be surprised if the war rhetoric virtually disappears after next Tuesday -- and then you'll know this was really all about the midterms and little else.

I do want to remind you that I'm not a pundit and my opinion carries no more weight than the next guy. These are just my observations. We'll see if I'm right.

Update:Daily Kos has a good post on Get-Out-the-Vote efforts and their impact on election day which is another element that is often forgotten by the Washington media. This also provides me with more hope for election day as well.

Posted by Tom at 12:03 p.m. CST

ELEANOR CLIFT ON W'S LIES AND MACHINATIONS 10-30-02

Eleanor Clift has a good column today on how W gets away with lying so often -- more so than Clinton actually. But you and I knew that. Here's a bit of it:

Compared with taking the country to war based on a body of lies, Bush’s duplicity on domestic issues doesn’t seem as egregious, but the pattern is disturbing. On the budget, he has managed (or mismanaged) the biggest fiscal reversal in the country’s history. Part of the loss of revenue is the result of 9-11 and the recession, but Bush has totally abdicated his responsibility in steering the country out of the financial mess. His response is to gloss over the $300 billion loss from the balance sheet, pick a fight with Congress over a symbolic $13 billion appropriations bill and then claim he’s fiscally responsible. “They see the rhetoric obscuring the reality, and it angers them,” says Mann.

There is hardly an issue where Bush hasn’t pulled a fast one. The rules he announced with great fanfare this week to make it easier to move generic drugs onto the market were passed by the Senate in July. Bush opposed them then; now with polls showing voters think he hasn’t done enough on domestic issues, he’s flipped.

How does he get away with such crass duplicity? The media doesn’t want to disturb the story line. Gore was the prevaricator; Bush was intellectually challenged. So when Bush fiddles with the facts, the media doesn’t see malevolence. They see a man who’s not articulate, who doesn’t speak with lawyerly precision. And they can’t believe how believable he is.

What I love is the fact that when W lies, W's protectors in the media make excuses for him. We hear how he just misspoke or that he's too ignorant to know the truth or that he's not"detail-oriented" or that he's given to"flights of fancy." Folks, he's lying and he knows he's lying. He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but he knows when he's telling a whopper, believe me.

Posted by Tom at 3:38 p.m. CST

MORE HUCK NEWS 10-30-02

Huck's job approval numbers are plummeting according to the Arkansas Poll. They've dropped 20 points since last year to just under 50%. Sounds like an incumbent that's about to go down to me.

The television media is picking the Dumond story up. Here are stories by Kark-TV and KATV in Little Rock. (These links via the Daily Kos)

The Arkansas press is also slowly picking this story up. Here's a news story about it from the Donrey News Bureau in Little Rock about it.

Since the jerks at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette won't allow you access to their stories (sounds like a bunch of Republican editors to me), I haven't been able to find much else. I'm still hoping to find some quotations from Joe Quinn, Huckabee's spokesman, who has, according to my sources, been making a fool of himself the last couple of days. You know, I don't think Quinn has much of a future at this point. He was a TV journalist but now that he's proven himself to be little better than a shill, I'm expecting him to put his skills to work running for office soon.

I'm told that Quinn is calling this story simply partisan politics and uses that to deflect all questions about the story. In fact, Quinn even goes so far as to say that"The Governor is very comfortable that he did not unduly influence the board." Go read the story again. At the very least he"unduly influenced" the board. Also, the idea that this story isn't credible is a real load of mularkey, since it only cites four of the five parole board members, three of them on the record.

Also, I wanted to mention that Jeralyn at Talkleft has begun to look into the Wayne Dumond case as well.

I do want to make something clear though. By talking about this, in no way am I endorsing the castration of Wayne Dumond in Forrest City in 1985. That was awful and barbaric. My parents later lived there and heard all sorts of local legends on this.

This story is important because, like the Noelle Bush story, it exposes the hypocrisy of"law and order" Republicans like Jeb and Huck. These guys talk a big game but, when in power, make notable exceptions for their own family members and those whom they're sure have been framed by their political opponents -- despite, in this case, the fact that juries have already rendered their verdict in the matter.

Also, see this Atrios post for much more on the Dumond case as yet another of the ubiquitous and groundless"Clinton Scandals."

Posted by Tom at 1:10 p.m. CST

GET THIS 10-30-02

I'm with Atrios, I don't know what to make of this either:

As far as the nation knows, President Bush does not keep a Richard Nixon-style"enemies list." If he did, though, Gabe Hudson might well be on it.

Hudson's new collection of short stories,"Dear Mr. President" (Knopf, $19), has made him a favorite of book critics, fellow writers and lots of readers. But the book, it seems, has had the opposite effect on the commander in chief.

If Hudson is telling the truth - and there's no reason to think he isn't - Bush recently sent the young author a two-paragraph note, complete with his own review of"Dear Mr. President."

"I was in shock. Very surprised," Hudson said Tuesday."I didn't think it was real at first. I mean, who would? But once you hold the thing and read it, there's no doubt in your mind. I mean, nobody could fake the authority of that letter."

Bush's missive, however, was not fan mail.

"The letter began by thanking me for sending the book," Hudson said."Also, I'm from Austin, Texas, and the president touched on the fact that I was a fellow Texan, congratulating me on my book. But he was setting me up for the one-two punch. Because he called the book unpatriotic and ridiculous and just plain bad writing. Beyond that, I've been instructed not to talk about the contents of the letter for the time being."

Shouldn't W have better things to do with his time? I mean, we all know unca Dick is running the country but sending hate mail to people is awfully juvenile and thin-skinned, isn't it?

Posted by Tom at 10:20 a.m. CST

BUSH WARNED BY HARKEN LAWYERS THAT 1990 STOCK SALE COULD BE CONSIDERED INSIDER TRADING 10-30-02

A story in the Boston Globe this morning raises serious questions about the seriousness of the SEC investigation into Bush's Harken stock sale. In fact, the company's own lawyers warned him that it could be considered insider trading. Here's a bit of the story:

One week before George W. Bush's now-famous sale of stock in Harken Energy Corp. in 1990, Harken was warned by its lawyers that Bush and other members of the troubled oil company's board faced possible insider trading risks if they unloaded their shares.

The warning from Harken's lawyers came in a legal memorandum whose existence has been little noted until now, despite the many years of scrutiny of the Bush transaction. The memo was not received by the Securities and Exchange Commission until the day after the agency decided not to bring insider-trading charges against Bush, documents show.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, does not say directly whether Bush would face legal problems if he sold his stock. But it does lay out the potential for insider-trading violations by Bush and other members of the Harken board, and its existence raises questions about how thoroughly the SEC investigated Bush's unloading of $848,000 of his Harken stake to a buyer whose name has not been made public.

The SEC cleared Bush after looking into whether he had insider knowledge of an upcoming quarterly loss at Harken. But the SEC investigation apparently never examined a key issue raised in the memo: whether Bush's insider knowledge of a plan to rescue the company from financial collapse by spinning off two troubled units was a factor in his decision to sell.

Let's see. Tens of millions spent investigating Whitewater but this doesn't deserve any attention or investigation? Nah. Of course not.

Update:Hesiod has a good post on this as well. BTW, Hesiod fingered the mystery buyer of Harken's stock a few months ago as well.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 a.m. CST

THE RIGHT WING GRIEF POLICE 10-30-02

Boy, isn't it interesting how the right wingers are just apoplectic over the fact that Wellstone's funeral became a joyous, campaign-like event? I know it's sour grapes because they know their boy Coleman is done now but isn't it amazing that folks whose party cynically uses terrorism, war, and fear to build support get a little bent out of shape when someone laughs at a memorial service?

In fact, one of the more embarassing performances in the blogosphere has been Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit. Of course, I'll admit that the more I blog the less I read Glenn and the more amateurish and biased toward the right he seems. Glenn certainly wins the race for being prolific but that's about it. If you want quantity, go there. Quality...well, go somewhere else I've discovered.

Anyway, several bloggers have already taken off on this, most notably Leanleft, Atrios, and Hesiod at Counterspin. I won't add much more except to say that what you're seeing is Republicans beginning to see their hopes in the midterms for the Senate melt away -- and they're venting about it. All the rest is just a facade. They're beaten, they know it, and they're pissed about it.

Posted by Tom at 8:42 a.m. CST

ANNOUNCING THE DAILY KOS 10-29-02

I wanted to draw attention to the addition of the Daily Kos to the blogroll.

I also want to take this opportunity to welcome visitors today from The Daily Kos and Atrios as well. I hope you like what you see and come back for more.

Posted by Tom at 3:43 p.m. CST

THE HUCK IS IN TROUBLE 10-29-02

For those of you that follow Arkansas politics (okay, I know that just made 99% of you yawn), this story is a political blockbuster. The Arkansas Times has now uncovered just how Mike Huckabee got convicted rapist Wayne Dumond paroled from prison in 1997. Dumond later allegedly committed a murder in Missouri in 2000. Huck has been trying to shift blame for the release ever since Dumond was arrested for the murder in 2001. Huck can shift blame no longer. Many folks in Arkansas had their suspicions but now the Times has confirmed that Huck was behind it.

This is big news in Arkansas folks -- and it may cost Huck his re-election. It was already VERY close. I can't help but think this will also affect Senator Tim Hutchinson's chances of re-election as well. Many Arkansans may desire to vote against both of these Republican hypocrites at the same time now.

Posted by Tom at 11:29 a.m. CST

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE AT A NINE-YEAR LOW 10-29-02

Consumer confidence is not looking good -- sounds like a recession to me. Thanks W. Expect more"trifective" (and deflective) war talk soon. Eventually, though, the economy is going to catch up to W and the Republicans. It may on November 5th. We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 11:10 a.m. CST

NEWTIE"CAPTAIN HYPOCRISY" GINGRICH LEADS THE CHARGE AGAINST MONDALE
10-29-02

One of the leading political hypocrites of our time, Newt Gingrich is leading the charge against Walter Mondale and -- surprise, surprise -- he is lying his ass off to do it.

Anyone else find it odious that Gingrich, the fellow who put the"h" in hypocrisy is smearing Mondale? I mean, for God's sake, he assaulted Clinton for his dalliances while at the same time this married"family values" conservative was carrying on with a 20ish staffer for years that was about the same age as Monica Lewinsky. I mean, Newtie, I'm sorry you've been disgraced and you're out of politics but don't get all righteous about anything. We all know you are a liar and a hypocrite. Most Americans are done with you -- for very good reason.

Newtie, you represent what is the worst about our entire political system, the spinning, bought-and-paid-for, money-grubbing, immoral, lying politician that wouldn't know the truth if it struck him upside the head. You shouldn't sully the reputation of Walter Mondale, a guy who's got more honor and integrity in his pinkie finger than you've got in your entire body.

Okay. I'm done.

Update:Josh Marshall has a good post on this as well.

Posted by Tom at 9:34 a.m. CST

KRUGMAN'S WELLSTONE COLUMN 10-29-02

Paul Krugman has a good column about Paul Wellstone this morning. Here's a bit of it:

Paul Wellstone took risks. He was, everyone acknowledges, a politician who truly voted his convictions, who supported what he thought was right, not what he thought would help him get re-elected. He took risky stands on many issues: agree or disagree, you have to admit that his vote against authorization for an Iraq war was a singularly brave act. Yet the most consistent theme in his record was economic — his courageous support for the interests of ordinary Americans against the growing power of our emerging plutocracy.

In our money-dominated politics, that's a dangerous position to take. When Mr. Wellstone first ran for the Senate, his opponent outspent him seven to one. According to one of his advisers, the success of that ramshackle campaign, run from a rickety green school bus,"made politics safe for populists again."

If only. Almost every politician in modern America pretends to be a populist; indeed, it's a general rule that the more slavishly a politician supports the interests of wealthy individuals and big corporations, the folksier his manner. But being a genuine populist, someone who really tries to stand up against what Mr. Wellstone called"Robin Hood in reverse" policies, isn't easy: you must face the power not just of money, but of sustained and shameless hypocrisy.

I wonder who he's talking about in the last paragraph? I can't tell. Have you got a guess? It's a good column. Go read it.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 a.m. CST

BOROWITZ DOES IT AGAIN 10-29-02

Andy Borowitz does it again:

DEMOCRATS FIGHT TO RETAIN CONTROL OF SENATE'S RUBBER STAMP

Election May Determine Which Party Will Give Carte Blanche to President

As the days until the midterm elections dwindle, Democratic leaders fanned out across the country to remind the party faithful what is at stake: the right to rubber-stamp anything the President wants to do.

"Your votes have never been more important," Majority Leader Tom Daschle exhorted a Democratic rally in Springfield, Illinois today."Only you can decide whether Democrats continue to rubber-stamp the President's policies, or whether the Republicans get to do it."

With national polls showing Democrats and Republicans in a dead heat, control of the Senate's coveted rubber stamp is hanging in the balance, political observers say.

"The key question is, with so many grave threats facing the country right now, whom do the voters trust more with the Senate's rubber stamp?" says Dr. Irvin Koontz of the Brookings Institution.

Dr. Koontz points to a recent survey that asked likely voters the question,"Which party do you think is better equipped to approve all of the President's proposals, Democrats or Republicans?"

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed favored the Democrats, while another thirty-nine percent chose the Republicans as the party better qualified to let the President do whatever he wants to do.

But a wildcard may have emerged in this high-stakes political battle, as third-party standard-bearer Ralph Nader urged his supporters today to support the"spoiler or crackpot" candidate in every local race come Election Day.

"Voting for crackpot losers is the only way we can ensure that control of the Senate's rubber stamp falls into the wrong hands," Mr. Nader said.

As I've said before, good satire is often pretty close to the truth, eh? Although I would argue that the Democratic Senate is an important check on W, even if it isn't as vigilant as many of us would like it to be.

Posted by Tom at 7:52 a.m. CST

WHAT IS THE VEILED PROFIT, ER, PROPHET? 10-28-02

I've gotten a couple of e-mails asking about my Veiled Prophet book. I don't know that I can easily summarize the book in a couple of sentences, but here's a link to an interview with me by the St. Louis Riverfront Times a couple of years ago that gives you a fair sense of what the book is about.

If, after reading this story, you have any further questions, feel free to e-mail me.

Posted by Tom at 3:21 p.m. CST

"TRIFECTIVE" 10-28-02

Hesiod has a new phrase to add to the American lexicon:

PHRASEOLOGICAL UPDATE:"Trifective." A tragic confluence, or series of occurrences, that positively
[a]ffect one's flagging political standing.

Unfortunately, the trifective, while it has been great for W, has been terrible for the rest of us, huh?

Posted by Tom at 1:16 p.m. CST

JOE CONASON: WELLSTONE AND POLITICAL ANACHRONISM 10-28-02

Joe Conason's blog entry is good today. He believes he may have mispoken on Friday when he called Wellstone's politics"anachronistic." Here's a quote:

Whatever his flaws, Wellstone was considerably more progressive and forward-looking than the truly anachronistic elements in American politics – meaning those who prefer Fifties sex roles, closeted gays, creationism and prayer in the schoolhouse, an underclass with no social safety net, industries unfettered by environmental regulation, blacks and other minorities unprotected by civil rights laws, and a gunboat foreign policy that exalts weapons over human rights and diplomacy. It is the hard right that wants to return to the bad old days, though its backwardness is often dressed up as the latest Washington fad. Always standing in their way for the past decade was Wellstone, modern American and son of the Sixties, with a defiant smile on his face.

It's a good entry. Conason also talks about the smear campaign already under way against Fritz Mondale. Take a look.

Posted by Tom at 12:54 p.m. CST

MOLLY IVINS IS ON TARGET 10-28-02

Here's a good Molly Ivins column from Friday. I'll give you a quote from it:

Now that you are in practice on the Red Queen program, join us for the latest fiasco in corporate reform. In those dear, dead days of last summer, Bush appeared on Wall Street standing before a blue and white backdrop on which"Corporate Responsibility" and"A New Ethic" were printed over and over — in case we should miss the point of his speech. President W. was there in his incarnation as the Scourge of Corporate Misbehavior to read the riot act to corporate executives who do terrible things — like get insider loans, dump their stock when the company is tanking and do phony transactions to take heavy losses off the books.

For those us who had followed Bush's career at Harken Energy — Enron writ small — this was merely an average Red Queen morning. Hey, times change, the guy was the executive of an energy company bleeding money way back when, why shouldn't he get out while the getting was good? Now we have"a new ethic."

In that same speech, to show his zeal for going after corporate evil-doers, Bush asked for a nice round $100 million in additional funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Except the New Ethic didn't last very long. Didn't even survive the election, and I think Bush deserves credit on this point. Any posturing politician could have stuck with corporate reform until after the election was over; it takes cojones to drop the whole thing two weeks before the election. That, or someone who thinks the American people are deeply stupid.

W certainly has shown he no longer cares at all about corporate reform -- not that I think he ever really did in the first place. He was just posturing because he thought it would have a political payoff for him. Now that W thinks everyone is distracted by the war, he's decided to essentially scuttle these rather minor initiatives so he won't have to upset big-money donors to Republican campaign coffers after all.

Posted by Tom at 10:27 a.m. CST

TODAY'S LINKS AND SARCASM 10-28-02

Hesiod adequately expresses my thoughts on how the righty bloggers that are defending the Russian government's disastrous effort to end the hostage crisis in Moscow have lost their moral authority to lecture opponents of the war in Iraq. I can't believe how Glenn Reynolds tries to put a positive spin on what was clearly a disaster. It's interesting to watch the right cozy up to yet another authoritarian leader, huh? Now that the Russian leader isn't a communist, everything he does is okay because he's our guy. Frightening (and rather amoral) approach to foreign policy, eh? Welcome to Republican foreign policy folks. Get used to it.

Josh Marshall has an excellent post about the race for the Senate -- he's predicting the Democrats will hold it. I hope he's right. I've seen tape of Jean's tongue-lashing of Jim Talent for questioning her patriotism in a very nasty commercial he's running right now. This one moment may very well have turned this race around. We'll see. As I said earlier, it will all likely depend on turnout in KC and St. Louis.

In other news related to this campaign, Jim Talent's father died over the weekend. That's very sad news. My condolences to Jim Talent and his family.

Chuck Kuffner has an interesting analysis about hispanic voter turnout and its impact on the senate and gubernatorial races in Texas. He's wondering if the"experts" will be wrong about this one. We can only hope.

Oh this is tacky -- but it's worth every minute just to hear Ashcroft's rendition of"The Mighty Eagle Soars." I also enjoy the commentary that runs along with the song as well.

Oh heck, while I'm at it, watch this (also tacky) video about Republican chickenhawks too. It's awfully entertaining.

I will warn you though. These videos are just a tad partisan.

Posted by Tom at 9:24 a.m. CST

LYING ABOUT SEX OR LYING ABOUT WAR -- WHICH IS WORSE? 10-28-02

Paul Begala's letter to the editor in the Washington Post this morning is quite good. I'll quote it for you:

I know something about defending a president who's been caught lying. Let me tell my friend Ari Fleischer that he's only making things worse for President Bush. After The Post reported on Mr. Bush's many fabrications regarding Iraq and homeland security, Mr. Fleischer sent a letter to the editor in which he refers to President Clinton's false denial of an affair as a" crime that shook the nation" [Oct. 24].

The lawyer in me is compelled to point out that President Clinton has never been charged with nor convicted of a crime. The same cannot be said of President George W. Bush who, of course, was convicted of drunken driving many years ago. To his shame, in the 2000 campaign Mr. Bush falsely denied ever having been convicted of a crime.

The political veteran in me knows that lying about a long-past drunken driving conviction -- or an affair -- is understandable, if not excusable. What is not excusable is misleading the country -- repeatedly, as The Post and others have noted -- about going to war. There is something odd about a White House that thinks misleading people about sex is a crime, but misleading us about war is good public policy.

PAUL E. BEGALA

McLean

(Link via Atrios)

I believe Mr. Begala hits the nail on the head. I'll add nothing.

Posted by Tom at 8:58 a.m. CST

CONSPIRACY THEORIES 10-27-02

I know there are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around today about Senator Paul Wellstone's plane crash. Atrios (Eschaton) has an excellent post today about this sort of thing. I'll quote part of it:

Conspiracy theories are always directed against those in power (or those imagined to be in power occasionally). During the Clinton years, conspiracy theories ranging from Bill Clinton tied up LAX for two hours to get a hair cut to Hillary"The Lesbian" Clinton had her ex-lover Vince Foster killed to Bill Clinton ran a cocaine smuggling operation through Mena airport didn't just occupy the excitable partisans of the internet. In fact, they were a regular staple of mainstream newspapers media outlets - print, television, and radio. From the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to the New York Times front page to Inside Politics on CNN to, of course, the Rusty Limbaugh show, with an audience probably larger than the rest combined.

It wasn't just the media, either. I forget - how many separate congressional investigations of Vince Foster's death were there, complete with amateur ballistics tests by Congressman Dan dan the Watermelon Man?

So, when a few inhabitants of internet message boards get a bit suspicious about the death of a Democratic Senator, I don't want to hear generalizations about the paranoid left. I've been listening to the paranoid right and its conspiracy theories in mainstream media for years. Part of the reason those on the left are a bit paranoid now, aside from the fact The Other Side is in power now, is that the mainstream media has by and large failed to aggressively follow up on the many potential 'conspiracies' of this administration, as well as the very real conspiracies against the last one.

Besides, it was about one year ago that two prominent Democratic senators survived assasination attempts by someone who likely had access to the bioweapons program of our military. Still unsolved. Political assasinations - whether done by disgruntled 'lone gunmen' unconnected to the political power structure or done at the behest of those in power, directly or indirectly, are not of course impossible.

Am I saying I think Dick Cheney used his mind control powers to down Paul Wellstone's plane? Of course not. Probably the plane hit bad weather and crashed. Do I respect people who jump to conclude that the Bush administration is repsonsible for this? No. Do I condemn people who harbor a few cynical suspcions? Of course not. Nor should you.

Amen.

Does anyone remember all the loony things the righties used to say about Clinton and how the press took off on these wild goose chases with abandon? Whitewater? Vince Foster? The Mena Conspiracy? It all seems so ridiculous now but there were Republicans who believed this stuff and reporters that chased after it. And after the tens of millions of dollars spent by Ken Starr and Richard Mellon Scaife and the millions of gallons of ink spilled, all they found was that Clinton lied about sex -- not about something job-related like W does several times per day right now. In my childhood home of Arkansas, it was obvious that you could tell those New York Times reporters anything, no matter how wild, and they'd believe it. Heck, just to provide one example, the Paula Jones thing was an obvious fabrication to those who know much about the facts of that day and were with Bill Clinton. Her story simply doesn't check out with the known facts at all.

What a change a few years makes. Heck, nowadays we can't get the media to fact-check the president's speeches, which are often filled with exaggerations, half-truths and, occasionally, outright lies. Strangely enough, the same Republicans that fed those conspiracy theories in the 1990s are conspicuously quiet about even the most obvious stuff regarding their guy right now. These Republicans told us back in the 1990s they were only interested in the truth, right?

Right.

Posted by Tom at 2:08 p.m. CST

SOME LINKS (WITH OCCASIONAL SARCASM)
10-27-02

The A.L. has posted a response to me. I have nothing to add. I didn't realize I was an elitist though. I don't think he and I communicate well I guess.

Here's a USA Today editorial about W's cooking the intelligence books.

It's looking like Mondale will replace Wellstone.

There was a protest against the war in Washington and San Francisco yesterday -- not that you probably knew anything about it.

Hey, if you can't help out your brother with your family's lucrative brand of crony capitalism, what kind of brother are you?

Mary McGrory writes a good column on W's part-time presidency this morning. There's supposed to be a war on soon but W isn't in Washington enough to play a role in it, is he? Come to think of it, I'm not sure that isn't a good thing.

Posted by Tom at 12:33 p.m. CST

SOME LINKS OF NOTE TODAY 10-26-02

It's my wife's birthday today. We're old. For the next week, we're both 34. Next week I'll turn the big 3-5. Anyway, I'll be busy with the festivities today.

However, there are a few things I should mention this morning.

I have yet to see anything that contradicts that W said the words in last night's post. If you look at the source news story from the Austin American-Statesman, it unambiguously attributes the quote to W. I'm quite happy to retract it if someone can show me a reliable source (not the frequently-heavily-doctored White House transcripts either) that attributes the quote to Jemin or that what W said was somehow different. I have yet to see one -- and I've looked quite a bit.

Update: I retract the quotation. I have just removed the offending post. Counterspin has been right on top of this today I discovered. I was one of scores of folks in the blogosphere that jumped on this quotation and the Austin-American Statesman was simply wrong. You can go here and watch the video of the statement to confirm the White House's account if you want. This administration so frequently doctors transcripts that you can't really trust them unless there's tape to back it up. There is in this case.

Update 2: For you skeptics out there (I've gotten a couple of e-mails already), the specific link you want from the C-Span website is here. I should've been more specific in my earlier update. Hey, I'm glad you want to check this out! I had to watch it myself too. Unlike many conservative Republicans who willfully misquote and distort the words of their opponents on a daily basis, I am interested in being entirely accurate in my quotations. There were so many examples of this during the 2000 presidential campaign I lost count. I mean, I'm not playing by Ann Coulter's rules for goodness sakes! I just don't play that way.

You ought to read this touching piece about Paul Wellstone by Peggy Noonan. Like Jeff Cooper, I'm generally no fan of hers, but this is a good column. (Link via Jeff Cooper)

As several departmental colleagues and I surmised yesterday, Minnesota Democrats will be choosing either Walter Mondale or Hubert H. Humphrey III. We'll see.

Here's a St. Paul newspaper story on Wellstone's career.

This is a good story about the decision to replace Wellstone, both in the short term and on the ballot. It is unclear whether Ventura will name a replacement for the remainder of Wellstone's term.

FYI, because of Wellstone's death, Republicans do not take over the Senate now. With his death, there are now 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and Jim Jeffords, who caucuses with the Democrats. Therefore, Democrats still control the Senate. Actually, if Jim Talent wins and Ventura names no replacement for Wellstone, Talent could be sworn in on November 6 and the Republicans would then control the Senate immediately. Missourians, remember to get out and vote! This one is important!

Frank Rich has another thought-provoking column this morning. This one deals with what scary lessons our terrorist enemies can take from the last three weeks in the D.C. area. He wonders if we're paying any attention to the lessons of the experience ourselves.

Posted by Tom at 11:18 a.m. CDT

A TRIBUTE 10-25-02

Here's a nice tribute to Paul Wellstone by Josh Marshall.

Here is local reaction to the tragedy in Minnesota.

Counterspin has updates about the story and is a good location to go for updates and reaction.

The comment board at Atrios' Eschaton is already filling with responses in memoriam. Feel free to go there of course.

I don't have anything else to add. It's awfully sad. I feel terrible about it.

Posted by Tom at 3:35 p.m. CDT

BELLESILES RESIGNS 10-25-02

Michael Bellesiles has resigned from the faculty at Emory. I don't have anything to add. I'm just glad it's over. As I said earlier, it appears the wheels of justice in the historical profession worked properly.

On a day like today this seems like an incredibly minor story. The system apparently works. It's time to move on -- and has been for months now.

Now, what do three-quarters of the folks on the discussion boards here at HNN have to talk about? I'm sure their lives will be utterly meaningless now. I've got a couple of folks in particular in mind.

Posted by Tom at 3:30 p.m. CDT

POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS 10-25-02

It seems profane to talk about this in the wake of the death of one of the greats of American liberalism, Paul Wellstone. However, I will go ahead and do it. It appears that Minnesota state law allows the governor (yes, Jesse Ventura) to appoint someone to fill out the remainder of Wellstone's term and the party can appoint a replacement candidate for the election. I have no idea who they would appoint but they apparently have that right. The wildcard at the moment is who would be appointed to fill the remainder of Wellstone's term. We'll see.

I feel awful to even talk about this but I felt compelled to do so. I've gotten some e-mail from readers who are wondering so I thought I'd say something.

Posted by Tom at 3:10 p.m. CDT

AWFUL 10-25-02

This is terrible.

Update: The shock hasn't warn off yet but I know that our thoughts are with Senator Wellstone's family and the families of all the others who were killed. His wife, one of his daughters, three staff members and two pilots were killed in the plane crash as well. I really don't want to think about the political ramifications of this yet. American liberalism has just lost one of its giants.

Posted by Tom at 12:55 p.m. CDT

GET A LOAD OF THIS 10-25-02

You've got to watch this. It's hysterical -- not to mention terribly misleading. Of course, it is a GOP ad after all. BTW, a rather important question: do you think the GOP paid the rights to use the Superman theme for the ad? Do you? (This link via Counterspin.)

Update: While we're posting links to video, check out this ad for Bill McBride in Florida using Jeb's positive comments about McBride a couple of years ago against him. It's pretty effective.

Posted by Tom at 10:59 a.m. CDT

ARCHPUNDIT WEIGHS IN 10-25-02

The Archpundit responds to my post on Missouri politics and posts his own take on the Talent-Carnahan race and voter turnout today. Here's a clip from it:

A great primer on Missouri Politics at Tom Spencer's blog. A couple things I'll add are Talent's strength is outstate, but he is softer there than Ashcroft or Bond. The only rationale I can figure out is he seems like a city boy. In many of the recent commercials it seems to me that he fits the stereotype of a city guy who doesn't relate to rural voters. Kinda geeky and wonky, he seems like suburban dad who reads to much. This doesn't mean he isn't the favorite in such places, but that the gut reaction to him is a bit weaker. I think the fishing story was a good example where he said he didn't like hunting, but he was a big fishing guy. Turns out he hasn't had a fishing license in a long time. No big deal there, except it fits the perception of him.

The other exception I'll point out is the St. Louis politician hatred outstate. While generally true at least two candidates overcame this: Danforth and Eagleton both pulled well from around the state. As party reallignment continues, I think we will continue to see those two as a part of the good old days.

Tom points out that urban turnout is key and he is right.

ArchPundit is a great blog for information on St. Louis and Missouri politics. Be sure to give it a look.

Posted by Tom at 10:36 a.m. CDT

THIS MORNING'S LINKS & SARCASM 10-25-02

Al Gore talked about media and society at Middle Tennessee State University Wednesday night. He has interesting things to say about how the 24-hour news cycle and never-ending search for ratings has led to something he calls"news plus." He still refuses to say whether he'll run in 2004.

Surprise. Surprise. W and the boys have known about North Korea's nuclear weapons program for a long time -- a lot longer than three weeks. How about for a year? Boy, these guys sure do keep things from us, don't they?

Lautenberg has surged ahead by 10 or so in New Jersey. Stick a fork in Forrester. He's done.

Surprisingly high early voter turn out in the town of my alma mater, San Antonio. This certainly appears to bode well.

It appears that Katherine Harris has been taking public speaking tips from W.

Don't forget the Halliburton lawsuit that is still active.

Here's an article about Ron Kirk, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Texas. He's an interesting guy.

Here's more evidence that the Republican"voter fraud" complaints are a load of mularkey. Of course, we knew that, didn't we?

Posted by Tom at 9:22 a.m. CDT

DEAD PARROT SOCIETY 10-25-02

There's another good Paul Krugman article this morning about the Bush administration's frequent habit of telling whoppers. Here's a bit of it:

A few days ago The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote an article explaining that for George W. Bush,"facts are malleable." Documenting"dubious, if not wrong" statements on a variety of subjects, from Iraq's military capability to the federal budget, the White House correspondent declared that Mr. Bush's"rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy."

Also in the last few days, The Wall Street Journal reported that"senior officials have referred repeatedly to intelligence . . . that remains largely unverified." The C.I.A.'s former head of counterterrorism was blunter:"Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronounc


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Orson Olson - 10/13/2002

"After what was a disastrous 1990s in the newspapper's history during which the Times embarassed itself daily with its scurrilous evidence-free reporting and blustering opinions on the often-imaginary improprieties of the Clinton administration, the Times is beginning to actually practice journalism once again in the 2000s." SURELY you jest--or else you have no fact checker yourself. The Times' retractions regarding its erroneous reports that Kissinger opposed Bush in August, and then that Krugman was wrong about Thomas White email months after others had acknowledged it--these are just the tip of the iceberg of mistaken (not to mention fantasized), reportage. Methinks you face no real dissent, sir. 'Tis a shame to waste such intellectual wattage in the dark. P.S. "Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball writes his last newspaper column and can't help but include a parting shot at the clueless Bush administration. I'll quote the relevant paragraph (the rest of it isn't as interesting): 'I hate this war that's coming in Iraq. I don't think we'll be proud of it. Oppose this war because it will create a millennium of hatred [Hmmm. !82 dead in Bali as I write--and you say the "Hatred" is yet to come? I'd say it's already here: note to Chris: 911 didn't hit San Fran--it happened on the right side of the map! Take another look there]and the suicidal terrorism that comes with it. You talk about Bush trying to avenge his father. What about the tens of millions of Arab sons who will want to finish a fight we start next spring in Baghdad?'" But Chris's regular guest Howard Fineman has repeatedly shown Chris's opinion of the Bushies to be WRONG. It's Chris that doesn't "get it," while Fineman repeated shows that the Left perrenially underestimates the Bushies, and Bush likes it that way! TALk about not studying your opponenet!--the Left prefers to talk to itself instead of winning!--like you. "The Bush administration is using Osama, the war on terror, and the impending war on Iraq to distract Americans from major domestic problems; domestic problems that would doom a president who didn't have a "war on terrorism" card to play. The worst part of all of this is that it has become so darned obvious. It's very clear that's what is going on." So, do you see any 110 story twin towers in NYC that I don't? Or what are you smoking? "I remember when people accused Clinton of wagging the dog for launching cruise missiles against bin Laden during the impeachment debacle. While I'm not sure that was the case at the time...." Clearly, sir, either you do not read the opposition, or else you do not understand what you read! (As for myself, I have little choice in avoiding establishment, i.e., the opposition's, opinion since I am a news junkie.) You ought to try it--expand your well shrunken horizons. You might find them engaged in problems you simply ignore or deny. But in sampling your blog, I suspect I waste my breath...preaching to the closed mind becomes me not.