the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

November 29, 2005

Cillizza Strikes Again


I complained a while back about a gratuitous attack on Howard Dean by Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza. Since then I’ve seen more indications of right-wing hackishness in his blog, The Fix, but haven’t bothered to write about them — until today, when I ran across the third example of a pattern I’ve come to recognize. Cillizza has a habit of throwing in an irrelevant fact (often statistical) to tilt a story in a direction that favors Republicans.

The first time I noticed was last month, in the first installment of his “Friday Line” roundups of races to watch. He listed 10 Senate seats he thought might change hands, and then ended the post with “If every Senate seat listed above changed hands in 2006 — and I’m NOT saying they will — the Republicans would still keep their majority.” But he listed 6 Republican seats and 4 Democratic ones, so if all changed hands that would be a net gain of only 2 for the Democrats — and a pretty bizarre political event. If just the Republican seats flipped — a much more likely event, though still very unlikely — that would give the Democrats the majority. The statistic about all seats changing hands was completely irrelevant.

Then yesterday Cillizza wrote about Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s resignation and included this:

The San Diego-area district is tough sledding for Democrats; President Bush won an 11-point victory there in 2004, outperforming his statewide showing by 21 percent.

Now, the 11-point win by Bush means something, but how is the statistic at the end relevant? A Democratic candidate hoping to take the seat doesn’t need to outdo Kerry’s California percentage but only needs to beat whatever Republican is running. It doesn’t matter how much more Republican the district is than California as a whole; the only thing that counts is how Republican the district is in absolute terms (and how enthusiastic those voters are currently about the Republican Party). The “21 percent” number is just a distraction that makes things look better for Republicans, at least if readers aren’t paying attention.

Finally, today Cillizza gives us something that could be useful: a “Political Scandal Scorecard”. But as you may have guessed, he manages to slant it with an irrelevant fact. It’s not that he excluded anything going on in the White House:

We limited the scorecard to members of Congress and governors currently in office to keep the list manageable.

It’s that he violated his own restriction when he found that otherwise he could only work in one Democrat (Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich):

Former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.): Yes, we said we’re limiting this list to current members, but this is a fairly recent case so we’re making a small exception to the rule.

Ballance (interesting name for someone introduced only to supply fake balance) resigned from the House in June 2004, so he wasn’t even a recently departed member of the current Congress. What possible excuse is there for inserting him into the scorecard, except to slightly thicken the veneer of bipartisanship in the scandal list?

November 22, 2005

Cheney Roundup


I caught David Letterman’s monologue last night for the first time in months. You know that the idea of a Vice President for Torture is established in the public mind when a late night comic jokes about Cheney having his Thanksgiving turkey tortured by the CIA. Unfortunately, I fear that despite the supposed resurgence of “moral values”, opposition to torture is not a winning political strategy with the US public.

In any case, Dick Cheney’s recent emergence from his undisclosed location to growl at opponents of the administration’s Iraq fiasco has sparked various responses in the blogs:

Update (2:30pm): Dana Milbank, who was criticized here a while back, gets in a few jabs at Cheney today. I like the opening:

Vice President Cheney protested yesterday that he had been misunderstood when he said last week that critics of the White House over Iraq were “dishonest and reprehensible.”

What he meant to say, he explained to his former colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute, was that those who question the White House’s use of prewar intelligence were not only “dishonest and reprehensible” but also “corrupt and shameless.”

It was about as close as the vice president gets to a retraction.

November 17, 2005

Post Carrying Republican Spin, Again


The Washington Post is already letting me down in my (admittedly faint) hope that it would handle Woodward’s involvement with the Plame Affair properly. Today’s edition has a story headlined “Woodward Could Be a Boon to Libby” that starts like this:

The revelation that The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward may have been the first reporter to learn about CIA operative Valerie Plame could provide a boost to the only person indicted in the leak case: I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Legal experts said Woodward provided two pieces of new information that cast at least a shadow of doubt on the public case against Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, who has been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

It continues in that vein for several more paragraphs. So the headline and first half of the story are devoted to spreading the latest chaff launched by the Republican noise machine: the bizarre idea that somehow Woodward’s recent comments get Libby off the hook for his false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice, even though Woodward said nothing relevant to any of the charges.

Those who persevere into the last part of the article will see that it completely contradicts the first part:

According to the statement Woodward released Tuesday, he did not appear to provide any testimony that goes specifically to the question of whether Libby is guilty of two counts of perjury, two counts of providing false statements and one count of obstructing justice. The indictment outlines what many legal experts describe as a very strong case against Libby, because it shows the former Cheney aide learned about Plame from at least four government sources, including the vice president — and not a reporter, as he testified before the grand jury.

Randall D. Eliason, former head of the public corruption unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District, said he doubts the Woodward account would have much effect on Libby’s case, and dismissed such theories as “defense spin.”

“Libby was not charged with being the first to talk to a reporter, and that is not part of the indictment,” he said.

Why is the Post presenting the Republican spin as the headline and lead of the story, with the actual facts and the contradictory analysis presented only many paragraphs in? It’s bad enough when the cult of “balance” results in articles giving equal weight to an outrageous lie on one side and truth on the other, but in this case the lie has become the story and the truth is relegated to a footnote.

Update (8:45am): Americablog looks at the New York Times story, which has a different take on the consequences of Woodward’s revelation. The Times headline is “New Disclosure Could Prolong Inquiry on Leak”, and it contains an interesting nondenial by Cheney’s office about whether the vice president leaked Plame’s identity to Woodward.

November 16, 2005

The Cancer on Journalism


The Plame Affair has eroded the credibility of many journalists and commentators, and it remains to be seen whether the New York Times can recover from the severe self-inflicted wounds it suffered because of its special treatment and lax supervision of Judith Miller (who is finally leaving the paper — no doubt for a lucrative new career as a right-wing commentator). Tim Russert has put himself in the position of interviewing people about events in which he is himself involved while acting as if he knows nothing. Bob Novak has become even more obviously a Republican hack than he was already.

Now the cancer is touching Washington Post celebrity reporter Bob Woodward, who testified Monday before Patrick Fitzgerald. Woodward has been a constant commentator on the case, always playing down its significance and defending the administration. Now he’s saying that he was a very early recipient of the leak of Plame’s identity, and that it came from someone other than Scooter Libby, someone he won’t name:

Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.

In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

Why is this coming out only now? One thing that’s certain is that the Plame investigation isn’t over yet, despite the hopes of Republicans.

Let’s hope for the sake of our hometown paper (flawed though it is) that the Post does a better job of handling the Woodward situation than the New York Times did with Miller.

November 2, 2005

WaPo Watch


(A continuing series in which we dump on the allegedly liberal Washington Post-It Note.)

From an online chat with Steven Pearlstine:

Maryland: It seems like environmentals won’t be happy until humans have died off (from the cold?)and trees and animals retake the planet. Do environmentalists have families to feed and homes to heat?

Steven Pearlstein: They used to like the idea of eating brown rice and vegetables by the wood stove. Now, I guess, the wood stove is environmentally incorrect.

What could be more fair and balanced than reducing the entire environmental movement to a cliche? Like we’re all “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading” left-wing elitists. (That quote was from the Club for Growth, by the way, which, presumably is where Mr. Pearlstein learned all about the “enviros”).

I resent that characterization, and I’m going to write this Pearstein creep an angry letter just as soon as I finish reading poetry to my bonzai plant.

October 31, 2005

Post Wants Democratic Surrender on Social Security


Recently Matt Yglesias was wondering what happened to the supposed Social Security crisis. Only a few months ago, the press was full of the idea that something must be done, immediately, and Democrats couldn’t afford to be the “Party of No” and simply oppose Bush ideas for “reform” (really phaseout) of the system. When Bush utterly failed to sell his plan to the American people, the media suddenly stopped talking about the “crisis” entirely, so how serious could their concern have been?

Unfortunately Yglesias spoke too soon. It will probably be lost in the uproar over the Alito nomination (the huge dark cloud that goes with the silver lining of the failure of Miers), but the Washington Post editorial board today decided to revive the idea of the Social Security crisis:

The Bush administration’s declining fortunes have buried the prospect of Social Security reform. Congress was never keen: Democrats united against personal accounts; Republicans were divided as to what sort they wanted. But although President Bush’s critics may celebrate this defeat, delaying Social Security’s reform makes the eventual change only harder. Both sides should acknowledge their contributions to this debacle — and reengage.

This is madness. The Democrats won decisively on the issue of Social Security, and now that Bush has lost the Post wants them to go back and compromise with him? Perhaps the system needs reform, but there’s no rush. If reform is needed, it’s better to wait until the White House and both houses of Congress are not controlled by a party that is opposed to the very existence of Social Security.

Update (7:25 pm): Yglesias noticed this post and wrote a followup over at TPMCafe.

October 6, 2005

More Hackery at the Post


I don’t want this blog to turn into all Post criticism all the time, and I realize that there are many different viewpoints among Post contributors, but I really don’t know what to make of the recent example of gratuituous Howard Dean bashing by Chris Cillizza in his blog, The Fix, on the Washington Post site. The article is called “Dean Pops Off”.

It’s perfectly understandable for Cillizza to snicker at Dean’s mistaken use of the phrase “hide the salami”, which was bizarre and humorous. The incomprehensible bit comes next:

Dean went on to suggest that he did not find it “very credible” that Vice President Dick Cheney was totally unaware of the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity to the media in 2003, adding: “The M.O. of the Bush administration is to discredit your opponents and attack them personally rather than attack them for their position.”

Don’t take my word for it. Click here to watch Dean yourself or read the transcript. And if the Republican National Committee has anything to do with it, you can expect to hear a lot more about these comments in the days to come.

It seems to me that we don’t need to wait for the RNC if commentators like Cillizza are willing to do the RNC’s work for them by portraying perfectly normal remarks for a party chair as somehow beyond the pale.

Can anyone explain to me what’s supposed to be outrageous about Dean’s comments on Cheney and the administration’s MO? Would Cillizza have blinked if Ken Mehlman as RNC chair had similarly criticized Democrats?

October 2, 2005

One of These Headlines Is Not Like the Others


Take a look at the headlines various news organizations chose to put on their stories about the GAO’s finding that the administration violated the law in paying commentator Armstrong Williams to shill for No Child Left Behind on his broadcasts:

Does one of them stand out as different? Yes, the headline in our “liberal” Washington Post puts the best spin on the story for the Bush administration — better even than those by Fox News or the Washington Times.

But speaking of the story itself, any bets on whether anyone responsible will have to suffer any consequences for breaking the law other than perhaps promising never to do it again?

September 13, 2005

Me on Milbank on Roberts


I was reading Dana Milbank’s account of the Roberts Confirmation hearings when I came across this passage (italics added):

“Are you sending us a message?” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked hopefully. Democrats labored to unmask Roberts as a fierce conservative, but they were largely thwarted.

The clock in Hart 216 neared 11 this morning, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Democrats’ liberal lion, was on deck to question Roberts. He tapped his pencil, fixed his tie, adjusted his glasses, scratched his brow, leaned his cheek on his fist and scowled down at the nominee. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.), two of the committee’s conservatives, left the room rather than expose themselves to the exchange.

What struck me about the passage was the use of subjective language in what is supposed to be a newspaper story. Thus the italics. I italicized what I believed to be more artful construction of a narrative, rather than something that can be verified.

I can’t help but wander if Milbank is a frustrated novelist. Which would explain his generally sarcastic tone, not to mention his tendency to lash out randomly at people.

If that’s the case, a tip to Mr. Milbank: since you referred to Kennedy as a “liberal lion,” it’s a better choice to say he “snarled” instead of “scowled.”

August 30, 2005

New Freedom Walk Sponsors: AOL, McDonald’s, Washington Times


The list of sponsors for the Pentagon’s “America Supports You” Freedom Walk grew by two today, with the addition of AOL and McDonald’s.

Also, although it’s not mentioned on the walk’s website, the Washington Times has offered to provide free advertising for the event. It’s possible that the Pentagon is hesitant to accept such an offer from a newspaper owned by Sun Myung Moon, a billionaire Republican funder and self-proclaimed messiah who was crowned last year in a ceremony attended by members of Congress in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. But Republicans have never been shy about associating with the paper before, so my bet is they’ll be adding it to the sponsors in a later site update. We wouldn’t want Fred Phelps to be the only cult leader associated (though in his case as an opponent) with the Freedom Walk.


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

Upcoming Events

See information on the revived DC chapter (2012).

DCDL Member Blogs

DCDL Speaker Links

DC Links

Liberal (Mostly) Blogs

Liberal Groups

Internal Links



Drinking Liberally

Recent Comments

Recent Posts


Search Blog



later entries • earlier entries

44 queries. 0.625 seconds