The Times is fit to be tied — about the Times. Its public editor takes Executive Editor Bill Keller to the journalistic woodshed with this blast:
The article was notable for what it did not say: It did not say what convinced the advisers that there was a romance. It did not make clear what McCain was admitting when he acknowledged behaving inappropriately — an affair or just an association with a lobbyist that could look bad. And it did not say whether Weaver, the only on-the-record source, believed there was a romance. The Times did not offer independent proof, like the text messages between Detroit’s mayor and a female aide that The Detroit Free Press disclosed recently, or the photograph of Donna Rice sitting on Gary Hart’s lap.
It was not for want of trying. Four highly respected reporters in the Washington bureau worked for months on the story and were pressed repeatedly to get sources on the record and to find documentary evidence like e-mail. If McCain had been having an affair with a lobbyist seeking his help on public policy issues, and The Times had proved it, it would have been a story of unquestionable importance.
But in the absence of a smoking gun, I asked Keller why he decided to run what he had.
“If the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, we’d have owed readers more compelling evidence than the conviction of senior staff members,” he replied. “But that was not the point of the story. The point of the story was that he behaved in such a way that his close aides felt the relationship constituted reckless behavior and feared it would ruin his career.”
I think that ignores the scarlet elephant in the room. A newspaper cannot begin a story about the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee with the suggestion of an extramarital affair with an attractive lobbyist 31 years his junior and expect readers to focus on anything other than what most of them did. And if a newspaper is going to suggest an improper sexual affair, whether editors think that is the central point or not, it owes readers more proof than The Times was able to provide.
Well, who can argue with that? Two thousand outraged Times readers can’t be wrong. John McCain, whose professional reputation is in better shape than Bill Keller’s, has, by the way, raised more than $2M from his “The Times is after me” fundraising letter.
“In the last four months, in particular, we have made quite good progress in clarifying the outstanding issues that had to do with Iran’s past nuclear activities,” said Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, yesterday in conjunction with the release of his latest report on Tehran. “However, that is not, in my view, sufficient.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was even less impressed with Iran. “It hasn’t answered questions about past activities in covert programs that they say they didn’t have,” she noted. Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was even more to the point: “They did not come clean.” Reports indicate that the Iranians have failed to explain, among other things, their possession of warhead designs and plans to shape uranium metal as well their conducting tests of high explosives.
Who else is reluctant to owning up to past nuclear weapon fibs? Well, that would be our friends the North Koreans. For almost two months they have failed to make a complete declaration of their nuclear programs, as required by an agreement hammered out at the Beijing-sponsored six-party talks, and have contradicted themselves on a number of occasions. Best we can tell, the North Koreans appear to be attempting to hide somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 kilograms of plutonium. More important, they are refusing to acknowledge the existence of their efforts to start a program to make bombs with uranium cores—something they boasted about in 2002.
What makes Iran and North Korea so hard to disarm? There are many reasons, of course. Yet this year has added one more: in order for there to be any further progress, they must make admissions that they have lied to the international community. And when will we know that they have made the critical decisions to give up their nuclear weapons programs? When they start talking candidly about their respective activities. Up to now, both Tehran and Pyongyang have made blanket denials and have refused to address the particulars of allegations made against them. Confession may be good for the soul, but it is absolutely essential for peaceful resolution of these two matters.
So all of this leads to one conclusion. If Iran and North Korea cannot tell the truth as to what they have done in the past, there will be only one other way to disarm them. Whether we like it or not, at some point we will have to face the implications of their mendacity.
The New York Times is learning about unintended consequences. Having run a shoddy piece about John McCain’s supposedly questionable judgment, the paper now finds itself having to defend its own integrity.
In response to overwhelming reader disapproval, Times executive editor Bill Keller wrote:
I was surprised by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision, with readers who described themselves as independents and Democrats joining Republicans in defending Mr. McCain from what they saw as a cheap shot.
The boomerang effect of this non-scandal and the way it has redistributed sympathies recalls another recent phenomenon that unfolded this primary season: the Clintons’ failed exploitation of identity Democrats. Hillary decided that winning the Democratic nomination was a crude matter of mathematics. Getting all of the white vote and most of the Hispanic vote would do the trick, and playing on those groups’ prejudices would secure their support. She and Bill intentionally isolated the white vote, pandering to a section of the electorate they thought would somehow fear Obama’s nomination. Not only did she begin to lose support amongst blacks (which presumably, she thought she could survive), but whites and Hispanics saw the effort for what it was and were repelled. In two months time, the Clintons gave Obama heaping chunks of every demographic group.
Could it be that the McCain flap marks the beginning of the New York Times’ trip Hillaryward? Times sales are already ailing, and if the paper continues to dig in on this discredited position it won’t help matters.
As for the Democratic candidates, they should note there’s another boomerang on its return: the Iraq war. The more Obama and Hillary attempt to garner partisan credibility by distancing themselves from the war that’s being won, the worse that boomerang will sting one of them in November when McCain gets his due for always supporting the effort. The law of unintended consequences is taking no prisoners this election season.
Is this a case of the fox guarding the henhouse?
Immerman is the man Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, appointed back in September to the position of “assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analytic integrity and standards.” Immerman also holds the position of “analytic ombudsman.”
Immerman’s job is to ensure that intelligence reports are created according to accepted norms and are vetted properly for accuracy and lack of bias. He also investigates complaints by others of shortcomings in the production of intelligence analyses.
But before assuming this position, Immerman was a professor at Temple University, where he adumbrated some views that make him a peculiar choice for a position of such high responsibility. I explore them — and their possible connection to the recent botched National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s WMD program — in If Michael Moore Had a Security Clearance, which appears in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard.
Here are the questions of the day:
How exactly did someone of Immerman’s particular political persuasion come to hold such a critical position in the intelligence community?
Will Mike McConnell keep him in his job?
What do readers of Connecting the Dots predict?