Commentary Magazine


Topic: San Francisco Chronicle

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

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Pelosi Credits Iran’s “Goodwill” for Surge Success

In an interview yesterday with the San Francisco Chronicle, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claimed the U.S. troop surge failed to accomplish its goal. She then partially credited the success of the troop surge to “the goodwill of the Iranians,” claiming that they were responsible for ending violence in the southern city of Basra.

Asked if she saw any evidence of the surge’s positive impact on her May 17 trip to Iraq she responded:

Well, the purpose of the surge was to provide a secure space, a time for the political change to occur to accomplish the reconciliation. That didn’t happen. Whatever the military success, and progress that may have been made, the surge didn’t accomplish its goal. And some of the success of the surge is that the goodwill of the Iranians-they decided in Basra when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Iranians.

This is an inexcusable slander. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki brought the Sadrists militias to their knees in a month-long battle that enabled Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc to rejoin the government. Furthermore, when Pelosi met with Prime Minister al-Maliki in Mosul she sang quite a different tune. She had “welcomed Iraq’s progress in passing a budget as well as oil legislation, and a bill paving the way for the provincial elections in the fall that are expected to more equitably redistribute power among local officials,” and stated, “We’re assured the elections will happen here, they will be transparent, they will be inclusive and they will take Iraq closer to the reconciliation we all want it to have.”

Discounting the success of the American military, denying the accomplishments of U.S. allies, and giving the credit to our most dangerous enemies seems like an especially productive week for a Democrat on Capitol Hill. After Nancy Pelosi’s post-Iraq hat trick, there’s really no need for Barack Obama to make this trip after all.

UPDATE: Ace has more on Iran’s “goodwill.”

In an interview yesterday with the San Francisco Chronicle, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claimed the U.S. troop surge failed to accomplish its goal. She then partially credited the success of the troop surge to “the goodwill of the Iranians,” claiming that they were responsible for ending violence in the southern city of Basra.

Asked if she saw any evidence of the surge’s positive impact on her May 17 trip to Iraq she responded:

Well, the purpose of the surge was to provide a secure space, a time for the political change to occur to accomplish the reconciliation. That didn’t happen. Whatever the military success, and progress that may have been made, the surge didn’t accomplish its goal. And some of the success of the surge is that the goodwill of the Iranians-they decided in Basra when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Iranians.

This is an inexcusable slander. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki brought the Sadrists militias to their knees in a month-long battle that enabled Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc to rejoin the government. Furthermore, when Pelosi met with Prime Minister al-Maliki in Mosul she sang quite a different tune. She had “welcomed Iraq’s progress in passing a budget as well as oil legislation, and a bill paving the way for the provincial elections in the fall that are expected to more equitably redistribute power among local officials,” and stated, “We’re assured the elections will happen here, they will be transparent, they will be inclusive and they will take Iraq closer to the reconciliation we all want it to have.”

Discounting the success of the American military, denying the accomplishments of U.S. allies, and giving the credit to our most dangerous enemies seems like an especially productive week for a Democrat on Capitol Hill. After Nancy Pelosi’s post-Iraq hat trick, there’s really no need for Barack Obama to make this trip after all.

UPDATE: Ace has more on Iran’s “goodwill.”

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Down the Memory Hole

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the book review editor of a major newspaper, and a book has been written by someone who was a high-level public official deeply involved in what has been the biggest and most controversial story of the past half-decade.

This official has been mentioned in news stories in your paper on hundreds of occasions, your paper’s editorials have regularly railed against him and his colleagues, and your paper’s op-ed columnists have penned an entire oeuvre of scathing indictments of the policies he helped implement. The official, subjected to years of obloquy in your pages, writes an account of his involvement in the story that by any fair estimation is not just detailed and serious, but one of the most important and useful of its kind to date. Do you choose to review the book, or do you simply pretend that it was never written?

The book I’m talking about, of course, is War and Decision, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith’s account of his role in the Iraq war. And it is being subjected to an astonishing and shameful blackout from many of America’s biggest newspapers. Noting the decision of the Washington Post and New York Times not to review the book, Rich Lowry wrote, “Apparently it’s OK to heap every failure in Iraq on Feith’s head, but then to turn around and pretend he’s a figure of no consequence when he writes a book.”

Curiosity got the better of me, so I checked to see whether the book has been reviewed by other large newspapers. The MSM does not disappoint: There has been no mention of War and Decision in USA Today, the LA Times, NY Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, or Miami Herald. What charming behavior from our nation’s journalism professionals. You would think the book interfered with the preferred narrative or something.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the book review editor of a major newspaper, and a book has been written by someone who was a high-level public official deeply involved in what has been the biggest and most controversial story of the past half-decade.

This official has been mentioned in news stories in your paper on hundreds of occasions, your paper’s editorials have regularly railed against him and his colleagues, and your paper’s op-ed columnists have penned an entire oeuvre of scathing indictments of the policies he helped implement. The official, subjected to years of obloquy in your pages, writes an account of his involvement in the story that by any fair estimation is not just detailed and serious, but one of the most important and useful of its kind to date. Do you choose to review the book, or do you simply pretend that it was never written?

The book I’m talking about, of course, is War and Decision, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith’s account of his role in the Iraq war. And it is being subjected to an astonishing and shameful blackout from many of America’s biggest newspapers. Noting the decision of the Washington Post and New York Times not to review the book, Rich Lowry wrote, “Apparently it’s OK to heap every failure in Iraq on Feith’s head, but then to turn around and pretend he’s a figure of no consequence when he writes a book.”

Curiosity got the better of me, so I checked to see whether the book has been reviewed by other large newspapers. The MSM does not disappoint: There has been no mention of War and Decision in USA Today, the LA Times, NY Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, or Miami Herald. What charming behavior from our nation’s journalism professionals. You would think the book interfered with the preferred narrative or something.

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Slavin Gets It Wrong

Barbara Slavin’s op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle tackles the question of Iran in order to rebuke what she considers as growing “war talk” within the Bush Administration–although the White House Press Office today strongly rebuked the Jerusalem Post for publishing an article that attributed such war talk to the President, and denied any of its assertions. After criticizing this newfound militancy, Slavin explains why Iran would not be so much of a problem for the West after all. In her defense of Iran’s motives and intentions, Slavin mentions Tehran’s nuclear nuclear program only once–though Iran’s nuclear program is the principal reason why an outgoing Bush Administration might contemplate at all a military strike.

There are many reasons why a military strike poses significant risks and has potentially very serious consequences. But to ignore the the consequences of the alternative–that Iran succeeds in its nuclear pursuit–is not the most intellectually honest thing to write, though it spares Slavin from the troublesome exercise of having to list the likely consequences of Iranian success. And this is what’s truly missing from the debate about Iran–what would happen if Iran succeeded in its pursuit? Slavin dismisses Iran’s comparison with either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union–but while at some levels Iran may not be comparable to either, Iran remains wedded to a revolutionary ideology. A revolutionary power, by definition, will seek to change the regional status quo and to remake the world in its own image. In this trajectory, it will eventually find itself embroiled in war, even if that is the result of plain miscalculation. Slavin reassures us that the Iranians will not overstretch:

A country whose boundaries have barely changed since the 16th century, Iran is not able to or interested in recreating the Persian Empire and is not about to become a second Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. As Mohammad Atrianfar, a veteran publisher who is close to former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told me recently in Tehran: “We are not going to stretch our legs beyond the capacity of our carpets.”

The problem with that statement is that neither Nazi Germany nor the Soviet Union believed they were overstretching until it was too late. Nuclear capability will give Iran the kind of umbrella of impunity that will allow it to double its mischief in the region without fear of retribution. Do you like the way Hezbollah and Hamas behave in their respective domains? You will love it when Iran has nukes! Do you find it hard to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict now? Try when Iran’s nukes enable its proxies to up the ante. Are you worried about Shia unrest in Kuwait and Bahrain? Prepare for more trouble when Iran’s nuclear bomb casts a shadow on those countries. Do you think oil prices are too high? Save for a cold winter, when Iran’s speedboats swarm the Gulf and harass supertankers. Do you really think anyone will risk a nuclear showdown for any of the above?

Consider this as well: Iran might lend its nukes and ballistic missiles to friends like Venezuela, to get San Francisco within range. It would not be overstretching–Hugo Chavez will surely pick up the bill to pay the costs of the exercise. Unbelievable? Why? Fidel Castro did it with the Russians in 1962–so why shouldn’t we expect a not a rerun, given that Iran’s revolutionary vocation, as an anti-Western power aspiring to change the world to its own image, does not need to overstretch. It will suffice to have some allies, friends and supporters to bankroll and supply, under its nuclear umbrella, in order to make this world an infinitely more dangerous place.

War might be premature–but war talk, as a reminder to Iran that it will pay a steep price for staying the course, is a better option than what Slavin has to offer.

Barbara Slavin’s op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle tackles the question of Iran in order to rebuke what she considers as growing “war talk” within the Bush Administration–although the White House Press Office today strongly rebuked the Jerusalem Post for publishing an article that attributed such war talk to the President, and denied any of its assertions. After criticizing this newfound militancy, Slavin explains why Iran would not be so much of a problem for the West after all. In her defense of Iran’s motives and intentions, Slavin mentions Tehran’s nuclear nuclear program only once–though Iran’s nuclear program is the principal reason why an outgoing Bush Administration might contemplate at all a military strike.

There are many reasons why a military strike poses significant risks and has potentially very serious consequences. But to ignore the the consequences of the alternative–that Iran succeeds in its nuclear pursuit–is not the most intellectually honest thing to write, though it spares Slavin from the troublesome exercise of having to list the likely consequences of Iranian success. And this is what’s truly missing from the debate about Iran–what would happen if Iran succeeded in its pursuit? Slavin dismisses Iran’s comparison with either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union–but while at some levels Iran may not be comparable to either, Iran remains wedded to a revolutionary ideology. A revolutionary power, by definition, will seek to change the regional status quo and to remake the world in its own image. In this trajectory, it will eventually find itself embroiled in war, even if that is the result of plain miscalculation. Slavin reassures us that the Iranians will not overstretch:

A country whose boundaries have barely changed since the 16th century, Iran is not able to or interested in recreating the Persian Empire and is not about to become a second Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. As Mohammad Atrianfar, a veteran publisher who is close to former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told me recently in Tehran: “We are not going to stretch our legs beyond the capacity of our carpets.”

The problem with that statement is that neither Nazi Germany nor the Soviet Union believed they were overstretching until it was too late. Nuclear capability will give Iran the kind of umbrella of impunity that will allow it to double its mischief in the region without fear of retribution. Do you like the way Hezbollah and Hamas behave in their respective domains? You will love it when Iran has nukes! Do you find it hard to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict now? Try when Iran’s nukes enable its proxies to up the ante. Are you worried about Shia unrest in Kuwait and Bahrain? Prepare for more trouble when Iran’s nuclear bomb casts a shadow on those countries. Do you think oil prices are too high? Save for a cold winter, when Iran’s speedboats swarm the Gulf and harass supertankers. Do you really think anyone will risk a nuclear showdown for any of the above?

Consider this as well: Iran might lend its nukes and ballistic missiles to friends like Venezuela, to get San Francisco within range. It would not be overstretching–Hugo Chavez will surely pick up the bill to pay the costs of the exercise. Unbelievable? Why? Fidel Castro did it with the Russians in 1962–so why shouldn’t we expect a not a rerun, given that Iran’s revolutionary vocation, as an anti-Western power aspiring to change the world to its own image, does not need to overstretch. It will suffice to have some allies, friends and supporters to bankroll and supply, under its nuclear umbrella, in order to make this world an infinitely more dangerous place.

War might be premature–but war talk, as a reminder to Iran that it will pay a steep price for staying the course, is a better option than what Slavin has to offer.

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Tom Lantos, R.I.P

Congressman Tom Lantos died yesterday morning at the age of 80. A Hungarian survivor of the Nazi death camps who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, there was perhaps no other member of Congress who better understood the promise and potential of America. Lantos lost most of his family during the Holocaust, and unlike the vast majority of his colleagues, he experienced genocidal totalitarianism–and the consequences of appeasing it–first hand.

As such, Lantos was the most vociferous advocate on behalf of international human rights in the House of Representatives, spending much time and effort drawing the body’s attention to crises around the world from Burma to Darfur. While Lantos was a fervent critic of the Bush administration’s handling of the post-invasion reconstruction of Iraq, he never apologized for his decision to vote in favor of the United States overthrowing a murderous dictator. He was also a strong supporter of Israel during his near three-decade tenure in Congress.

This report in the San Francisco Chronicle covers some of Lantos’s many achievements in the House.

Upon announcing his retirement from Congress last year, Lantos issued a statement which read, in part:

It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust … could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.

Few people in public life better embodied, or conveyed, the American immigrant experience than Tom Lantos. This country–and the world–is a lesser place without him.

Congressman Tom Lantos died yesterday morning at the age of 80. A Hungarian survivor of the Nazi death camps who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, there was perhaps no other member of Congress who better understood the promise and potential of America. Lantos lost most of his family during the Holocaust, and unlike the vast majority of his colleagues, he experienced genocidal totalitarianism–and the consequences of appeasing it–first hand.

As such, Lantos was the most vociferous advocate on behalf of international human rights in the House of Representatives, spending much time and effort drawing the body’s attention to crises around the world from Burma to Darfur. While Lantos was a fervent critic of the Bush administration’s handling of the post-invasion reconstruction of Iraq, he never apologized for his decision to vote in favor of the United States overthrowing a murderous dictator. He was also a strong supporter of Israel during his near three-decade tenure in Congress.

This report in the San Francisco Chronicle covers some of Lantos’s many achievements in the House.

Upon announcing his retirement from Congress last year, Lantos issued a statement which read, in part:

It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust … could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.

Few people in public life better embodied, or conveyed, the American immigrant experience than Tom Lantos. This country–and the world–is a lesser place without him.

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Obama’s Photophobia

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.

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Obama Backs Illegals’ Licenses–Again

Barack Obama has at last decided to declare himself on a specific policy. The problem is it’s not a policy regarding Americans. Well, that’s one of the problems. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.

What about the American community? Can we weigh in on this important and controversial issue? It’s actually hard to get at the worst aspect of this horrific policy. There’s the rewarding of illegal behavior and the enticement to remain undocumented. But the gross national security compromise takes the cake. A November 2, 2007 article by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal discusses how undocumented driver’s licenses lead to voter fraud. Fund points out:

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.

So, the decisive Barack Obama finally shows up, and he’s a nightmare. Why is Obama sticking to this ruinous course, after Hillary and Edwards backed away from the issue? “Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration.” Actually, he’s drawing comparisons between himself and Clinton on the issue of race-pandering. This is a dumb, offensive, and dangerous policy, and any Democratic candidate who doesn’t think it will cost them in the general election is a little too hopeful for his own good.

Barack Obama has at last decided to declare himself on a specific policy. The problem is it’s not a policy regarding Americans. Well, that’s one of the problems. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Peña, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.

What about the American community? Can we weigh in on this important and controversial issue? It’s actually hard to get at the worst aspect of this horrific policy. There’s the rewarding of illegal behavior and the enticement to remain undocumented. But the gross national security compromise takes the cake. A November 2, 2007 article by John Fund in the Wall Street Journal discusses how undocumented driver’s licenses lead to voter fraud. Fund points out:

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.

So, the decisive Barack Obama finally shows up, and he’s a nightmare. Why is Obama sticking to this ruinous course, after Hillary and Edwards backed away from the issue? “Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration.” Actually, he’s drawing comparisons between himself and Clinton on the issue of race-pandering. This is a dumb, offensive, and dangerous policy, and any Democratic candidate who doesn’t think it will cost them in the general election is a little too hopeful for his own good.

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Heroes of the First Amendment

What happens when good or not-so-good reporters do bad things? In most cases, probably nothing. Usually, no one ever finds out. Two recent episodes illuminate a very different scenario.

The first has come to light through an Editor’s Note in the New York Times. It turns out that a Times reporter, Kurt Eichenwald, wrote a $2,000 check to a young man, Justin Berry, who was the main subject of his 2005 article about sexual exploitation on the Internet.

Eichenwald, who is no longer with the Times, had not disclosed this payment to his editors. It emerged into view only in the course of criminal proceedings involving one of Berry’s sexual contacts. “Times policy forbids paying the subjects of articles for information or interviews. A member of Mr. Berry’s family helped repay the $2,000,” says the note.

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What happens when good or not-so-good reporters do bad things? In most cases, probably nothing. Usually, no one ever finds out. Two recent episodes illuminate a very different scenario.

The first has come to light through an Editor’s Note in the New York Times. It turns out that a Times reporter, Kurt Eichenwald, wrote a $2,000 check to a young man, Justin Berry, who was the main subject of his 2005 article about sexual exploitation on the Internet.

Eichenwald, who is no longer with the Times, had not disclosed this payment to his editors. It emerged into view only in the course of criminal proceedings involving one of Berry’s sexual contacts. “Times policy forbids paying the subjects of articles for information or interviews. A member of Mr. Berry’s family helped repay the $2,000,” says the note.

Okay, case closed, and we can thank the Times for its candid disclosure–unless, that is, there is more here than meets the eye. Like why did that money change hands in the first place? According to the editorial note, “Eichenwald said he was trying to maintain contact out of concern for a young man in danger, and did not consider himself to be acting as a journalist when he sent the check.”

But the same day the Times editorial note appeared, Eichenwald offered a different answer to the Associated Press: he “explained he had sent the teen a check as part of a ploy to learn his true name and address.”

All of this smells fishy. The two conflicting explanations for the payment do not fit together so readily, do not fit with the story that Eichenwald wrote–which omits mention of the payment entirely–and do not fit with common sense. Even if Eichenwald was acting as a concerned citizen, as he says, and not as a journalist, would he really part with $2,000 of his own money with no expectations of getting a story and no strings attached? Count me skeptical.

There are other question marks as well. Justin Berry, Eichenwald had reported, was a cocaine addict; did the infusion of cash do him good or serious harm? And what induced one of his relatives to help pay the $2,000 back–a lot of money, after all? Was it to help the reporters and editors at the New York Times abide by their ethics rules? It doesn’t make sense. There are other odd connections between Eichenwald and Berry as well, as we learn from Jack Shafer’s sleuthing in Slate.

But even if we go along with the Times editorial note and pretend not to notice the various fish scents still hanging in the air, how should we assess reportorial conduct in the second of the two cases I mentioned?

Reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle were fed confidential grand-jury testimony about steroids produced by the BALCO “food supplement” firm being consumed by professional athletes. The source of the illegal grand-jury leak, it has now come to light, was a BALCO lawyer by the name of Troy Ellerman, who then turned around and used the resulting Chronicle story to ask the court for a mistrial, claiming that the leak made it impossible for his client to get a fair trial.

Here’s where the Chronicle reporters stepped over a line. They didn’t give Ellerman cash for the leaked information but offered him payment in kind: silent participation in his fraud on the court. Indeed, even after Ellerman demanded a mistrial based upon his own leak to the press, one of the Chronicle reporters dropped in on him to gather even more secret grand-jury information.

Ellerman has pleaded guilty to four felony counts of obstruction of justice. The Chronicle reporters do not face charges. But how was the public, and the cause of justice, served by their part in this charade?

Who is watching the watchdogs? How do we know how many other journalists are out there proudly holding up the banner of the First Amendment while doing shady things? How, in particular, do we know what kind of inducements highly competitive journalists are giving to sources in order to receive what might be a Pulitzer-prize-winning leak?

The answer is: we don’t.

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