PLAME REVEALED.According to David Corn and Michael Isikoff, Valerie Plame was neither a paper-pusher nor a lowly overseas agent at the time of her outing. Instead, she was the operations director for the clandestine Joint Task Force on Iraq, meaning she was in charge of the efforts to flip Iraqi scientists and gather information on Hussein's weapon programs. Over and over, the JTFI would turn a higher-up, only to run into denials of any WMD project whatsoever. The few Iraqis who came forward with evidence to the contrary were found to be fabulists or embellishers, some of whom were sent by Ahmed Chalabi's organization.
THE SPECTRUM OF PUBLIC OPINION. It is often said, correctly, that the spectrum of acceptable public opinion about Israel's actions is much broader in Israel than in mainstream U.S. publications. This Ha'aretzop-ed by Gideon Levy, who is known for his criticism of Israeli policy, is fairly typical of the sort of coverage you�d find in the Israeli press but never on a U.S. editorial page:
"EVERY STINGRAY IS A VERY REAL AND PRESENT DANGER." It was just last week, in his speech to the American Legion, that Donald Rumsfeld likened appeasement to "feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last." Then famed crocodile hunter Steve Irwin died -- in a tragic, fluke run-in with a stingray. The Corner's Cliff Maywasted no time in switching gears to draw the proper stingray-as-Islamofascism metaphor.
JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE BUSY SEASON. After five years during which Congress has abetted the president's power-grabs in the name of fighting terrorism, recent court decisions have forced the legislative branch finally to take action -- for better or worse. Jonathan Hafetzoffers a primer on the issues, including surveillance and detainee policy, that Congress will be confronting this fall, with the opportunity either to check the executive's claims of power or grant them official sanction.
TALKING ABOUT TALKING ABOUT. I'm basically agnostic on whether Democrats should welcome a national security debate this fall. If the Democrats weren't such a bunch of fools and knaves, a rollicking, high-intensity discussion over George W. Bush's failing war, bin Laden's surprisingly successful game of hide-and-seek, and the unpreparedness for disaster that Katrina exposed would be a welcome additive to the GOP's anxieties. But the Democrats often are a bunch of fools and knaves, so who knows how it'll wash out.
THE END OF UNIVERSALISM. Leave it to David Brooks to bury a recantation of long-held beliefs in a Labor Day weekend column. His Sunday column this week is significant, however, because it outlines a conceptual error that was common in conservative and neoconservative circles over the past five years, and which can still be found across the political spectrum. Writes Brooks:
I spent much of the 1990�s (that most deceptive decade) abroad � in Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. People everywhere seemed to want the same things: to live in normal societies, to be free, to give their children better lives.
AGAINST DOUBLE-SIDED ANONYMITY IN JOURNALISM. Last spring I was briefly involved in an unpleasant blogstorm for making the case against double-sided online anonymity, but the sorry case of Lee Seigel revives my concerns. Let me be clear: I have nothing against people using pseudonymns to write in comment threads (except when, as in Lee's case, they're writers working under the expectation that they always take public responsibility for their work), or who author blogs while cloaking their identities. It's a free country, and pseudonymous speech has a long tradition in American politics and a strong legal basis for continued protection.
ALL HAIL THE MORTGAGE MOMS. Just the other day, the TAP staff convened around our luxurious oak conference table, reclined in our high-backed leather chairs, and complained that this election was missing the key ingredient for pundits (Disclaimer: Not all the details of this story are precisely true): A clumsily named swing group. So far as we could tell, The Powers That Be had not yet lowered their Sword of Brooksian Characterization to designate a successor to the Soccer Moms, Office-Park Dads, or Security Moms of yore.
BROWN HANDS.This ad is being run in the 13th Congressional District of North Carolina by the Republican candidate, a true whackadoo named Vernon Robinson. Please read the text as quoted carefully. It is almost word-for-word the text of the famous "black hands" ad that Jesse Helms threw up at the last minute against Harvey Gantt in their bloody 1990 senatorial campaign. Apparently, there's a template for bigots in which you just fill in the name of the Other du jour. A hundred years ago, they'd have been talking about my grandmother.
There should be a simple rule written in huge neon signs in every newsroom: �You don�t know what politicians �think.��
The reason is simple. Politicians do not generally say what they think. They say what will advance their political careers. This is their job. (That is a bi-partisan comment.) If a reporter believes that she knows what a politician actually thinks then she is probably too close to this person to be able to cover them objectively. Reporters best serve the public by reporting what politicians say, and leave it to their readers to determine what the politicians might actually believe (if anything).