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January 13, 2004

WEIRD JOURNALISM....This article by Chris Suellentrop in Slate yesterday is just weird. It's a collection of six statements by Wesley Clark that supposedly show that he "has the same propensity [as Howard Dean] for speaking imprecisely off the cuff." In other words, he's sort of a nutcase.

But I don't get it. Whether you agree with them or not, the statements themselves all seem like pretty ordinary campaign rhetoric to me and the only thing that's weird about them are Suellentrop's jokey headlines for each one. Here's what Clark really seems to have said:

  • George Bush didn't pay much attention to al-Qaeda before 9/11 even though he was warned about how dangerous it was.

  • Bush was so obsessed with Iraq that he didn't put enough resources into Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden.

  • Iraq wasn't much of a terrorist threat before the war, but it is now.

  • 55 million people have read a book in which the United Nations is portrayed as the Antichrist. This is ill-informed.

  • Angry young men are fertile ground for terrorist recruiters.

  • President Bush still doesn't seem willing to put the effort into Afghanistan that it would take to find Osama.

Am I missing something here? What, really, is Suellentrop's point in mischaracterizing what Clark said?

UPDATE: According to my commenters, Suellentrop says that his "headlines" were supposed to be ironic. They were the kinds of hysterical things that Fox News attaches to practically everything that comes out of Dean's mouth and he was trying to show what would happen if Clark got the same treatment.

Well, that sure didn't come out right, did it? I mean, that's actually sort of a funny idea, if it was really Suellentrop's intention, but you need to actually say that if you want people to get the joke.

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 13, 2004 11:06 AM | TrackBack


Comments

I think he is generating GOP talking points.

Posted by: Carol at January 13, 2004 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Clark is being attacked for being right.

The media is terrified that the 2004 race will become rather blase. That Bush will drop like a rock in the polls, and they'll really have nothing to report about.

And furthermore, any reporting, will need to be, by necessity of the situation, positive!

Such reporting, bores most of their audience, and is to be avoided.

I mean, come on. Do you really think an expose on how the Dean or Clark grassroots have went to their community and convinced them for the need for change? And how it's acting as a positive social force on the nation?

Do you think that's going to sell papers/make ad buys?

These guys are desperate for a horse race.

They'd rather a politician speak in tongues like Kerry or Lieberman, than be blunt and truthful like Clark or Dean. It's easier to spin that way.

Posted by: Karmakin at January 13, 2004 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Salon has great articles on something like this:
Salon

The writers / reporters in the media are lazy and insecure (loved being charmed by Bush).

The owners are rabidly pro-Republican / consolidation / tax cuts.

Someday, perhaps / I hope, something like the Internet will allow more people to bypass the corporate media.

Posted by: MattB at January 13, 2004 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

You aren't missing anything. Suellentrop obviously wants to be one of the Kool Kids, and this article is a perfect imitation of Tim Russert's interview style.

Posted by: son volt at January 13, 2004 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, so when the media is goring your guy's ox, then you get all up in arms about it?? I had thought better of you, Kevin.

Suellentrop was absolutely pounded on in the Fray, for the points you discuss. Suellentrop responded to the Fraysters with a "clarification." Here it is:

"I was obviously too oblique, given the number of readers in the Fray (and my inbox) that have objected to this piece. My point was simply that Wesley Clark's statements aren't being treated like Howard Dean's statements.

"Perhaps it's because Dean is the front-runner and therefore his statements are receiving a higher degree of scrutiny. (That's my guess, by the way.) Or perhaps it's because Clark's supporters are right, and the fact that he was a general inoculates him somewhat from this kind of criticism.

"Is Clark really the "electable Dean," or does he just seem that way because he's being judged by a different standard for now?"

Posted by: Dan Perreten at January 13, 2004 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I think that he is the editorial alter ego of Nedra Pickler, or she's the journalist alter ego of him. Most of his Slate pieces (apart from the Matrix = Harry Potter article) cover Democratic debates, pull quotes out of context, and basically engage in front-runner dumping-on.

Posted by: norbizness at January 13, 2004 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Chris Suellentrop went easy on Clark.

Just a few days ago, Clark said he can guarantee "with 100% certainty" there won't be any future attacks on U.S. soil by Al Queda if he is in office.

(ConcordMonitor.com, Friday January 9, 2004 edition.)

That is nutty.

I think there are alot more than just 6 crazy statements from Clark.

Posted by: Kevin Gregory at January 13, 2004 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

The headlines clearly attempt to change the intent of Clark's words.

Posted by: poputonian at January 13, 2004 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Am I missing something here? What, really, is Suellentrop's point in mischaracterizing what Clark said?

Whatever it is, I'm missing it too.

I guess he had to think of something to write about besides sweaters and this is all he could come up with.

Posted by: Sovok at January 13, 2004 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

This is an important learning moment for all those Clark (and other candidate's) supporters who are giggling at the shots being taken at Dean, particularly those Democrats who are piling on with unfair claims (that would be you, Reverend Sharpton).

Whoever wins the nomination, or even appears to be close to winning the nomination, the Democrat is going to get even worse treatment than Gore.

A Democratic primary contest should not be a Republican-directed assassination party.

Once this thing turns into Dean, Clark and maybe Edwards, the three of them ought to have a meeting about this. They ought to go head to head on the issues on which they differ. They ought to all run as Democrats.

I know. I am dreaming.

Posted by: James E. Powell at January 13, 2004 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

"Am I missing something here? What, really, is Suellentrop's point in mischaracterizing what Clark said?"

Well, Suellentrop is characterizing Clark's six statements one way, and you are characterizing them in a different way, Kevin. Of the two of you, SOMEBODY is mischaracterizing the statements. But I don't think it is Suellentrop.

Posted by: Al at January 13, 2004 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Dan: I don't read the Fray, so I didn't see Suellentrop's response.

However, he seemed to be deliberately trying to suggest that Clark was saying things he wasn't. The NYT article on Dean's wife, by contrast, was entirely accurate. Some people might not see it as flattering (although it doesn't bother me), but it was both accurate and newsworthy.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at January 13, 2004 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

It was a bad article, but people ought to cool it before bashing Suellentrop. He does pretty good work in general, and it's pretty unfair to make a knee-jerk assumption that he's a Heather or something just based on one link. I don't agree with your evaluation, Norbizness, and the comparison to Pickler is just off the wall.

Posted by: JP at January 13, 2004 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

If Madonna is conviced, that should be enough for us all. Let's lay off Clark.

Posted by: Dave S. at January 13, 2004 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Suellentrop wrote the original "sweater" article, and he saw that piece backfire in an embarrassing way in the spectre of Maureen Dowd. Just trying a new tactic, trying to be more substantive but ending up equally frivolous?

Actually, the intent of these earlier Slate articles was not bad, and Suellentrop is a lively writer. I'm imagining a bit too lively of late. But his objections to Clark's comments are bizarre. The full quotes from Clark make total sense: it's Suellentrop's boldfaced characterizations of them that are crackpot. Even the most far-flung of them. Indeed, 55 million people HAVE bought the insane, Moon-funded Tim Lahaye books that paint the UN as a force of evil and offer promises of Armageddon, in which the world will be saved when Israel's Jews are converted to Christianity during the Rapture. Clark is damned right to question the state of the voting public's influences.

The comments on Iraq, terrorism, and OBL are completely rational fare. I'd say Suellentrop is simply hard up for anything to criticize, and is reaching, reaching to parse some statements to feed to the crowd looking for Dr. Strangelove. I don't think it's GOP talking points, but I suspect an attempt to say, look Dean's not the only one who says weird stuff he has to retract; Clark does it too. Well, nice try Chris, but it doesn't work.

As a last thought: this all sure does contradict the current meme about Clark that is floating about (again).... namely, that he is a Republican in sheep's clothing.

Posted by: samela at January 13, 2004 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: Both the article on Dean's marriage and the Suellentrop piece were all about interpretation of facts. Facts were that Clark said those things and that Judith Steinberg works full-time and doesn't campaign with her husband. Both Wilgoren and Suellentrop put negative spin on those facts. I agree with you that Suellentrop's negative spin was much, much worse than Wilgoren's (and I think his clarification is bizarre -- if that was the point he was making, well, why didn't he just say so?). But the Wilgoren piece was still problematic because of the spin and the innuendo.

A swing voter friend of mine read that and thought the article was saying that the Deans' marriage is terrible and they are about to break up; there is, of course, no concrete evidence of that -- and I've read in numerous other places that the two are madly in love to this day. But I think his response was a perfectly reasonable reading of the tone of the piece.

Posted by: Dan Perreten at January 13, 2004 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Pretty much all the statements Clark is being attacked for are close to things that Dean has said. Establishment journalists consider the range of acceptable opinion to correspond to opinions typically given on the [McNeil]-Lehrer News Hour or whatever they call it now, which includes Republicans and congressional Democrats. People like Dean and Clark are not in the club. The only way for Clark to get in the club is to start claiming that, say, Bush policies are correct but he could do a better job of execution.

Should the pundits succeed in bringing Dean down, they will then turn to Clark and try to bring him down in much the same way.

Posted by: Joe Buck at January 13, 2004 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, duh.

It depends on how you interpret what the dude said. You interpret it differently than others because you're a liberal-iberal-iberallly-liberal. I think what the dude said was pretty lame.

Also, you mentioned that this seems to be 'ordinary campaign rhetoric.'

I agree, but I don't think that it's a good thing. So it's okay to say somw quasi-boneheaded things because...well because others have said quasi-boneheaded things in the past?

Beats me.

Posted by: bj at January 13, 2004 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

This kind of stuff doesn't bode well for our chances. I don't see a Democrat able to win given the hostile attitude the press has taken the last few years towards them. Any Democrat is going to be starting with a handicap versus the free ride Bush has gotten from the press. This is basically Republican talking points, printed for free by a willing member of the press. Not a dime spent from GWB's war chest to get this add into print. And the Dems haven't even decided on a candidate!

And I used to think that the 'media bias' folks were just tin-foil hat nutjobs. Well, as it turns out, some of those on the Right weren't: they were twisted Machiavellians willing to lie through their teeth to create a bias exactly opposite of what they were talking about.

We've got problems folks (those of us in the Center, which is what Democrats are, and those on the Left of there). It may be time to bow down to our Republican overlords, or get the heck out of Dodge.

Clark is essentially speaking the truth as he sees it. Nothing there seems to be off the cuff or hot-headed. All of those points are issues of serious discussion with real value to sway votes. If a journalist can seriously get away with writing that this is just nonsense talk from Clark, something is wrong.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at January 13, 2004 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote:

[#3] Iraq wasn't much of a terrorist threat before the war, but it is now.

What Clark said: "The president was not and has not been held accountable yet for misleading the American people. He is continuing to associate Saddam, Iraq, and the problem of terrorism. Yet the only terrorists that are in Iraq are the people that have come there to attack us."

Clark is wrong. Saddam gave shelter to a number of terrorists during the '90's, including the mutt, Abdul Rahman Yasin, who master-minded the first attempt to blow up the WTC in 1993. He also gave shelter to Abu Nidal, a particularly nasty Palestinian terrorist.

Saddam also allowed his secret police and intelligence service to have some contacts with al-Qaeda (I'm not claiming these contacts had anything to do with 9/11; there's no evidence of that). Those contacts between in 1990 and continued right up to the start of the war as documented by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and included contacts with such terrorists as Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim, who bombed our embassies in Africa. Tariq Aziz met with bin Laden in 1998 in Baghdad. Saddam also sponsored the al-Qaeda affiliate group Ansar-al-Islam, which had camps on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Iran border. There's more evidence from documents found in Iraq that Saddam had contact with Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda point man for 9/11, but it isn't clear at all whether Saddam had fore-knowledge.

Saddam also had contacts with several Palestinian terrorist groups and paid families of those who committed homicide bombing attacks on Israel.

In summary: there was a clear pattern of working with terrorist groups that Saddam thought would be to his advantage later.

Is the terrorist problem in Iraq greater now? Depends on the viewpoint -- we've now drawn them out so that we can deal with them. A number have come into the country to fight us, so numerically there's no question there is more now. But we can get at them whereas we couldn't before -- we didn't know who they were let alone where they were. Now we can hit them, capture and interrogate them, look at their papers, and build the kind of intel that everyone agrees we need to have to fight the WoT.

General Clark is flat-out wrong to say that there was no terrorist problem in Iraq before the war. Saddam sheltered terrorists and had contacts with several terrorist groups, and that is indesputable in the historical record.

Posted by: Steve White at January 13, 2004 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

So the "headlines" for each quote are not supposed to accurately reflect what Clark said. They are supposed to be examples of how the pundits would be portraying the things that Clark said, if the media were treating Clark the same way they are treating Dean.

That's actually a great idea for an article, and a point worth making. Too bad this one is so "obliquely" done that few will get the point.

Posted by: cs at January 13, 2004 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

"55 million people have read a book in which the United Nations is portrayed as the Antichrist. This is ill-informed."

This about the only quasi-loopy statement in my mind. It smacks of book burning idiots dealing with Harry Potter and its ecnouragement of "satanism". Still not as bad as that lot but the shadowy categorization of what amounts to a series of books is a bit silly.

Everything else seems pretty defensible if not outright correct.

Posted by: Ryan at January 13, 2004 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Al, you ignorant slut,

Its not that Kevin has one interpretation of the things Clark said and that Suellentrop has another so that Kevin is likely to be wrong and Suellentrop likely to be right. Actually, Suellentrop, who wrote me a nice note in reply to my complaint about this essay, implicitly acknowledges that his headline/interpretations of what Clark has said was meant to be in the spirit of the hysterical, false, fox news kind of coverage (explicitly false) that Dean has received. The fact that Suellentrop has received tons of email criticism for his own essay precisely because the parts he wrote do not reflect what Clark was saying seems, on its face, to be proof that Kevin's criticism isn't misplaced, and nor is it a case of "he said/he said" post modern uncertainity. The fact is that Clark's statements are neither untrue, nor confusing, nor particularly hard to understand. Suellentrop says he was simply trying to show that Clark, like Dean, can and will be m isrepresented by the press corps. And he seemed happy to throw out the first ball.

aimai

Posted by: aimai at January 13, 2004 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: 55 million people have read a book in which the United Nations is portrayed as the Antichrist. This is ill-informed.

What Clark said: Fifty-five million voters are "ill-informed" dupes of the Christian right? "Now, there's one party in America that's made the United Nations the enemy. And I don't know how many of you have ever read that series of books that's published by the Christian right that's called the "Left Behind" series? Probably nobody's read it up here. But don't feel bad, I'm not recommending it to you. I'm just telling you that according to the book cover that I saw in the airport, 55 million copies have been printed. And in it, the Antichrist is the United Nations. And so there's this huge, ill-informed body of sentiment out there that's just grinding away against the United Nations."

This is a really silly thing for Clark to say. Sure, 55 million copies of the book have been printed.

How many people read the latest trash bio on the latest Hollywood person? The latest silly romance novel? The latest John Grisham novel? For that matter, how many people have read Lord of the Rings?

C'mon folks, escapist literature, including the classic summer beach novel, is a staple of American culture. Clark tries to score some rhetorical points which I suppose will fly with y'all on the left. Most of us in the middle know better.

Not one of Clark's better quotes.

Posted by: Steve White at January 13, 2004 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

One of the Kossians emailed Sullentrope who confirmed that his intent was to show how Clark's statements would look if they were written up under the standards used for Dean.

Basically, he wrote misleading headlines for bland statements, something Dean's undoubtably familiar with.

Apparently, pretty much everyone missed his point. I understand there's a followup planned, but with this many people scratching their heads, I'd expect a quick update.

Posted by: Morat at January 13, 2004 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I think Suellentrop's right to point out that Clark is being held to a different standard than Dean. The real story should be that both are saying some really really intelligent things, and that is remarkable in politics. Instead, for Dean it is read as looniness. And for Clark, we'll see . . . In any case, it's a fair point.

So if you're going to complain about it, it seems an appropriate complaint would be that NO candidates should be pilloried for speaking sense. Not that Suellentrop is pointing it out.

Posted by: emptywheel at January 13, 2004 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

It depends on how you interpret what the dude said. You interpret it differently than others because you're a liberal-iberal-iberallly-liberal. I think what the dude said was pretty lame.

I think we should all be able to make our own interpretation of facts, bj. The trouble with this kind of 'journalism' is that the author's glosses of what Clark said contain little to no resemblance to what Clark said. The author is trying to tell us what our opinion should be, and he is doing based in zero evidence given. That is not journalism. It is not even intelligent Op-Ed. It's just plain junk

Posted by: Timothy Klein at January 13, 2004 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Steve White:

Of course, Clark didn't say 55 million *voters* at all (and, in fact, we can presume that a) the number is probably too high and b) some large proportion of readers are not voters at all (too young?). He simply observed that, if the number of copies printed equals the number of readers, you've got a very large number of people who are reading something that demonizes the UN.

Have you read the books? check out the blog, is it "the right christians" for a page by page recap. That will help you nice people in "the middle" figure out what real escapist literature looks like.

Posted by: aimai at January 13, 2004 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Al % Steven White,
You are a couple of right-wing, Bush ass-kissing dipshits!

Posted by: shrubster at January 13, 2004 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Welcome to our world, Clarkies. Sorry it's happening to your guy, too. He's definitely my second choice so far, and I've seen him as a good back up in case Dean's out of it.

To repeat the point, this is going to be done to any effective Democratic candidate.

Posted by: A Texan in Maryland at January 13, 2004 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: Angry young men are fertile ground for terrorist recruiters.

What Clark said: "Young men in an Islamic culture cannot get married until they can support a family. No job, no marriage. No marriage, unhappy young men. They get real angry, they feel real frustrated, they feel real powerless. And a certain number of them are being exploited in the mosques by this recruiting network."

This might be the one intelligent quote in the bunch. Young Muslim men in Arab and Pakistani culture indeed can't get married until they have a job. They also can't get married until they have familial permission and sometimes permission of the tribal chief or elders. Meanwhile, the elders can marry several women (and do because they have the means of support), decreasing the pool of available women. The elders and mullahs in fact live off these young men, and provide temporarty and make-work jobs so that they can then take most of the money back. This is a major problem in Arabic and Pakistani societies.

How might you solve this? I'm sure General Clark could think of a multilateral, UN-sponsored program that would employ lots of European UN staffers (thus solving their job problem :-) but ultimately that would succeed like any other UN social program. As in, zero.

Or you could do a GWB and push for democracy, human rights, economic development, respect for women, respect for minorities, and property rights. That would allow these countries to grow and provide jobs and a future.

Now of course the tribal elders and learned mullahs will be opposed to such a push, because again they make their living in part on the sweat of the young'ins. They're quite happy to keep their societies down as long as they personally are on top. So I guess they'll have to get out of the way. So it might require some "persuasion".

Anyone seriously think that Gen. Clark would do anything more than talk earnestly about this problem? Neither do I.

Posted by: Steve White at January 13, 2004 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

cs:

I actually "get" the point. And you are 100% accurate in that everything that comes out of Dean's mouth is distorted beyond recognition by a hostile (juvenile?) media. That Clark sympathizers like Kevin Drum are offended just shows that the article accurately captures the effect of the typical Dean article on Dean sympathizers. Note to Clark sympathizers: your guy is not exempt. I suggest that all of us (Clark and Dean supporters) pool our resources against an almost unbelievably malign national media and demand accuracy in reporting--not Sponge-brain Bunnypants' talking points.

Posted by: fear is the mind killer at January 13, 2004 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

aimai: thanks for the clarification of what Suellentrop was TRYING to do. I never thought he was a bad guy. I do, however, believe he missed the mark if that was his intent. The article gives the impression that he indeed believes in his own mischaracterizations, so the point is lost. Secondly, it suggests that all characterizations of all candidates' statements are twisted. That's not always true. Sometimes they do say stupid stuff. None of these examples fit the bill.

Posted by: samela at January 13, 2004 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

"He simply observed that, if the number of copies printed equals the number of readers, you've got a very large number of people who are reading something that demonizes the UN."

Is there something inherently wrong with that?

Posted by: Ryan at January 13, 2004 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think you're missing just how similar the Suellentrop piece and the Wilgoren article really are.

It's all about narratives.

Dean's narrative seems to be that he is "angry," "pessimistic," and, more recently "prone to gaffes."

Clark's narrative is becoming that he is "robotic," and "crazy."

Some journalists--like Suellentrop--spread these narratives innocently. Some are simply biased, and others are actively malicious.

But no matter how they spread, the narratives tend to stick around.

This isn't conspiracy-theory stuff, it's just the way it seems to work.

Posted by: praktike at January 13, 2004 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Steven White:
"This is a really silly thing for Clark to say. Sure, 55 million copies of the book have been printed.

How many people read the latest trash bio on the latest Hollywood person? The latest silly romance novel? The latest John Grisham novel? For that matter, how many people have read Lord of the Rings?

C'mon folks, escapist literature, including the classic summer beach novel, is a staple of American culture. Clark tries to score some rhetorical points which I suppose will fly with y'all on the left. Most of us in the middle know better."


You may know better, but LaHaye's following does not. They take the book of Revelations seriously, not as just a fictional summer beach read, and Armageddon and the second coming of Christ is a foundation of their faith. This shapes their view of the world and how we should be living in it.


Posted by: Skeptic at January 13, 2004 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin and in fact was struck when I'd read Suellentrop's piece how much smarter the Clark quote was than the summary. Upon reflection, he's aiming for humorous restatement (much like Matt Yglesias's review of weekend op-eds in TAPPED, which I enjoy). But the result is less humor and more reductio ad absurdum.

As for the Left Behind quote, can people calm down? Clark didn't call for book burning and I don't think he was making a mountain out of a molehill. These books aren't pop culture products in the way that Grisham or John Woo. They’re an attempt to find a pop culture form for what’s perceived to be a nonfiction account of reality according to Revelations. They’re not primarily about the UN, certainly, but they do say something about the general climate fearing international political bodies.

Posted by: Chris in Boston at January 13, 2004 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

aimai,

I don't know whether the quotation from Suellentrop posted above in this thread is the same as what you received from him. The quotation above does NOT concede that the characterizations made by Suellentrop are wrong or improper. It merely states that Suellentrop is putting them out there for the purpose of showing that Clark's statements aren't being scutinized in the same way Dean's are.

Accordingly, I'm going to stand by my assertion that Suellentrop's characterizations are more accurate than Kevin's.

Posted by: Al at January 13, 2004 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Steve White

"Or you could do a GWB and push for democracy, human rights, economic development, respect for women, respect for minorities, and property rights."

OK, now let us take actions rather than words.

Property rights: Bush got the land he needed for his stadium seized by eminent domain.

Democracy: Look at Florida and how hard the Republicans fought to keep all the votes from being counted.

Human rights: I think not being hungry counts as a basic right. Bush thinks that no child in Texas was ever hungry. He also thinks that every death row inmate in Texas got a fair trial even though some of the trials were two days with sleeping and/or drunk defense attorneys.

Economic development: Texas is near the bottom in most measures. Bush did not do anything to improve the ratings.

Posted by: ____league at January 13, 2004 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

"As for the Left Behind quote, can people calm down? Clark didn't call for book burning and I don't think he was making a mountain out of a molehill."

Calm reigns supreme. I just thought the quote was silly. Red meat I suppose but silly nonetheless.

"These books aren't pop culture products in the way that Grisham or John Woo."

True.

"They’re an attempt to find a pop culture form for what’s perceived to be a nonfiction account of reality according to Revelations."

Indeed they are probably the most popular of the what-if genre of political, historical & cultural books.

Posted by: Ryan at January 13, 2004 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding the comparisons between the Suellentrop piece and the Wilgoren piece... I think the folks asserting that they are similar miss the point. The crucial difference between them is that Suellentrop's piece is about important topics (even if you assert that he is wrong in his argument), while Wilgoren's piece is irrelevant fluff. Any similarities between them are made irrelevant by this crucial difference.

Posted by: Al at January 13, 2004 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be very conmfortable with Clark in the White House for four years or more. I see a track record giving me great faith in his unswerving principles, over decades, and refusal to harm the US, namely his army career. I have the same confidence where Kerry is concerned, my first choice. But Clark would be just fine. I know what he believes in, not just what he says for his fan base.

Posted by: John Isbell at January 13, 2004 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

One truly obvious point that some people may have missed - there's a whole bunch of books in the Left Behind series, about 11 or 12 I think (and, no, I haven't read them), so we're not talking about 55 million people, we're talking about 5 million.

Posted by: Devin McCullen at January 13, 2004 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

"Slacktivist" (see URL) is doing the Left Behind recap. It is highly entertaining, and offers a very cogent critique of the theology behind the series.

Posted by: baaic at January 13, 2004 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Another way in which Suellentrop's ploy to intentionally mischaracterize Clark's comments in order to suggest that this is what is being done to Dean fails in one more regard (aside from the fact that the ploy is not at all transparently tongue-in-cheek). Its logic is flawed. "I can mischaracterize Clark in silly ways; therefore all characterizations of another candidate are as silly." Well, anyone who took Logic 101 will find the problem there. I am not saying that journalists have not mischaracterized Dean's statements at times, or even many times, but we must take each case individually and check it against the evidence. To try to make a point about Dean by making silly mischaracterizations of Clark proves nothing. Dealing with the lazy, biased media takes more than just calling "whore"--it takes dedicated, time-consuming, thoughtful analysis, on a case-by-case basis.

Posted by: samela at January 13, 2004 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

White wrote "Or you could do a GWB and push for democracy, human rights, economic development, respect for women, respect for minorities, and property rights. That would allow these countries to grow and provide jobs and a future."

And the Iraqis really appreciate it, just like every other group that has ever had a new system, no matter how much demonstrably better than the old, forced on them at the point of a gun.

BTW, does this mean Bremer ISN'T going to continue hiring the SAME thugs that Saddam used for "enforcement", using the SAME techniques to reach an end?

(waiting now for the post-WWII "but we used Nazis to keep the trains running" bullshit rejoinder)

Posted by: Jeff Boatright at January 13, 2004 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Steve White wrote:
C'mon folks, escapist literature, including the classic summer beach novel, is a staple of American culture. Clark tries to score some rhetorical points which I suppose will fly with y'all on the left.

Yeah, but just you try writing a television program which makes Ronald Reagan look bad, and you'll see that there's little tolerance for escapism on the right.

--Kynn

Posted by: Kynn Bartlett at January 13, 2004 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Even wierder, Clark has said some extremely poorly considered things lately*, but Sullentrop didn't bother mentioning them.

* (E.g., that if Clark is elected president, no domestic terrorism will occur, or that life begins at the moment a mother chooses to have a baby, or that if he chooses judges who follow the law and the constitution, he will automatically screen out any pro-life judges).

Posted by: J_Mann at January 13, 2004 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

"One truly obvious point that some people may have missed - there's a whole bunch of books in the Left Behind series, about 11 or 12 I think (and, no, I haven't read them), so we're not talking about 55 million people, we're talking about 5 million."

Excellent point. After a brief reading of their website, it appears they have 12 books in the fiction section, about 8 books in their "non fiction" section. In addition, they have political, military and a kids series

To provide a little more context, I think the Harry Potter series is over 200 million prints.

Posted by: Ryan at January 13, 2004 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Not really weird journalism it is "attack journalism" and therefore not journalism at all.

This is precisely why Clark is the best choice for you Democrats. Given his 3+ decades of service and devotion to America these kinds of hatchet pieces don't really sink in. Whereas with Dean they would bite and hold.

Clark is beyond reproach it terms of mental acuity, honesty, and love of country.

Let's elect this guy now...we need him.

Posted by: Republicans for Clark at January 13, 2004 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

"One truly obvious point that some people may have missed - there's a whole bunch of books in the Left Behind series, about 11 or 12 I think (and, no, I haven't read them), so we're not talking about 55 million people, we're talking about 5 million."

OTOH, a survey funded and conducted in 2001 by the independent marketing Barna Research Group found that nearly one of every 10 adults in America had read at least one "Left Behind" book (source: Minneapolis Star Trib, 4/5/03).

Important caveat: said study was commissioned by the "Left Behind" publishing house. Also says nothing about what these people actually thought of these books.

Posted by: Jon at January 13, 2004 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Yeah, but just you try writing a television program which makes Ronald Reagan look bad, and you'll see that there's little tolerance for escapism on the right."

Hmmmm....is this an unconcious admission that the Reagan miniseries was leftist escapism?

Sorry...just having a little fun with you.

Posted by: Ryan at January 13, 2004 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

That's insane!!! The media jumped on Clark for anything that came out of his mouth from the beginning of his bid for the nomination in September, while the same media has been applying teflon to Dean from the very beginning. Only recently has the press begun holding Dean up to the same standard as Wes.

As far as Chris's piece in Slate today, apart form the headline this is a great piece on Wes. My response:

Well, it's funny how some see "loose", and others see "brave and true". These comments from Wes are on the mark. For this writer to say they're evidence of loose lips only goes to show his lack of cognitive ability-or whoever made up the healdine-and this article will only flesh that out, while showing that Clark is right about all those things he says. Rarely have I ever seen an article that's meant to be negative-judging, again, by the headline-but be in essence so helpful to its subject.

Thanks Chris! Keep it coming!

Posted by: karmick at January 13, 2004 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it's like a "Bushism" thing.

If you're on the other side, the sentences are the funniest things in the world. "WHAT A LOON! WHAT HORRIBLE LANGUAGE! LOL! ROTFL! WE'RE BOUND TO WIN NEXT ELECTION CYCLE!!!"

But if you happen to be on the same side... "I really don't see what the humor is. You can obviously see what the man was trying to say. Boy, those people on the other side of the spectrum are really clutching at straws, aren't they? We're bound to win the next election cycle."

Posted by: Jaybird at January 13, 2004 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Now Mickey over at Slate is pushing the idea that Clark is just "too weird" to be president.
So now the scorecard is Bush:president; Dean:too angry to be leader; and Clark: too "weird" to be leader.

I'm glad the race and the candidates are being defined for me in simple terms that I can understand. I'd be lost otherwise.

Posted by: carsick at January 13, 2004 01:02 PM | PERMALINK

I hereby charge Kevin with insufficient rigor in his understanding of the media!

His update says that Suellentrop's misinterpretations "were the kinds of hysterical things that Fox News attaches to practically everything that comes out of Dean's mouth and he was trying to show what would happen if Clark got the same treatment."

But it's not just Fox News that does this to Dean, it's every d*mn news outlet out there. Certainly the Washington Post. Certainly virtually every talking head show.

I suggest the following homework assignment for Kevin: read the big Salon article today on the media's treatment of Dean.

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/01/13/dean_media/index.html

It'll sear your eyes, even if you're not a Dean supporter, because Suellentrop is almost certainly right: if Clark were the frontrunner, he'd be getting the same treatment. Indeed, when Clark first announced, a lot of the press was brutal (Howard Fineman in Newsweek was particularly vicious and snide).

Posted by: Dan Perreten at January 13, 2004 01:08 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

Are you the world's biggest flamer? You're like the guy who argues that the Onion is supposed to be fair and balanced news. Jeez, it's SATIRE; that you find it "more accurate" than Kevin's analysis shows your propensity to rabidly hate anything anyone you don't like says rather than engage things in rational thought and discussion.

If you have nothing better to do with your life, find something.

Posted by: Justin at January 13, 2004 01:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Now Mickey over at Slate is pushing the idea that Clark is just "too weird" to be president.
So now the scorecard is Bush:president; Dean:too angry to be leader; and Clark: too "weird" to be leader.

I'm glad the race and the candidates are being defined for me in simple terms that I can understand. I'd be lost otherwise.:

I saw the Faux News take on the last time Dean supposedly got mad. I thought his behaviour was perfectly appropriate (and that is after Faux News presentation)

Actually the scorecard is: Bush:clueless noncompassionate lying president; Dean:was a good governor and is not willing to be a doormat; and Clark: still learning how to be a politician but learning fast.

Everybody makes stupid statements. The real question is how many and how stupid. From what I can tell Bush wins easily on both counts.

Posted by: ____league at January 13, 2004 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

ooh! ooh! I get it now!!

Dean is ANGRY. Clark is CRAZY. Bush is WARM & FRIENDLY.

See how easy that was? Who needs campaign issues when you have one-word reductive memes?

Posted by: Bobo at January 13, 2004 01:26 PM | PERMALINK

>I don't see a Democrat able to win given the hostile attitude the press has taken the last few years towards them.

The hostile press is an obstacle, but remember what they did to Gore in 2000, and that he won the election nevertheless.

This year, some elements of the press are speaking the truth about Bush. So we're actually a little better off than we were in 2000.

Posted by: grytpype at January 13, 2004 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

"President Bush still doesn't seem willing to put the effort into Afghanistan that it would take to find Osama"

Regardless of whether Osama is to be found in Afghanistan, Bush doesn't seem to be willing to put the effort there into trying to make it a reasonable imitation of western democracy.

Posted by: raj at January 13, 2004 01:29 PM | PERMALINK

'Now Mickey over at Slate is pushing the idea that Clark is just "too weird" to be president.'

This is a big theme of Mickey buddy Andrew Sullivan. Prime GOP talking point on Clark is that he's insane. Don't forget what the Bushies did to McCain: you know, maybe he "lost it" back there in the jungles of Vietnam. Same storyline would be out front right now if Clark were the frontrunner.

***

'I saw the Faux News take on the last time Dean supposedly got mad. I thought his behaviour was perfectly appropriate (and that is after Faux News presentation)'

OH! Freaking NPR did this on Sunday night! They did nearly 20 minutes, supposedly on Dean's Vermont record, but they only interviewed Dean opponents (a Republican and a radical leftist), then did a Q-and-A between the host and a Vermont journalist; the host only asked pointed, "scandal"-type questions.

But the best, best part was when the host talked about Dean's anger -- angry guy, angry guy -- and then played some tape of Dean sounding supposedly angry . . . and he sounded perfectly reasonable.

I swear, Jon Stewart's take on this really was the best. It's like the Onion: reality has gotten so bad that satire only has to duplicate reality to be satirical. Or something.

Posted by: Dan Perreten at January 13, 2004 01:31 PM | PERMALINK

A joke? Kind of like when David Brooks was "just joking" when he said that anyone who criticizes neocons is anti-Semitic?

I'm so sick of these hacks. But it's nice to see them run and hide behind lies when they get called on their bullshit.

Posted by: billj at January 13, 2004 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

Clark's words, like Dean's, are being distorted according to script: that is, they're both looney. Amazingly, Dean was governor for a decade and Clark was SoCom, SACEUR, etc. but somehow no one noticed until these brilliant journalists uncovered the truth for us. Like the favor they did us warning us about that liar, Al Gore. God knows we might be stuck with a president who thought Love Story was written about him! I'm so glad we got the guy who thinks trillion dollar deficits don't matter.

Posted by: billj at January 13, 2004 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

A few years ago, I checked out a book from the "Left Behind" series, thinking it was S/F--right up his alley, interest-wise.

He started reading it, then stopped. Told me why. I read a bit. And, yes, the Christian-right/they're all bad/and we're all good message came out loud and clear. Enough that a ten-year old could understand it.

Posted by: Laura at January 13, 2004 01:45 PM | PERMALINK

"or that life begins at the moment a mother chooses to have a baby."
Ampersand at Alas, A Blog devotes a lot of attention to feminist issues such as abortion. He has a long post on the Clark position alluded to here, citing the whole exchange including Clark's thesis that a woman, ON THE CONTRARY, has a right to abort up to the moment before birth. Though Clark wouldn't like such a decision at all, it's not his body. Radical feminist Ampersand is now considering switching to Clark.
It's hard to keep track of data, about candidates for instance, when the reverse of their positions is presented as theirs. Sadly it happens too often to keep track of. You can't stem the flood. My own tiny part is to work hard at not making claims I'm not in fact sure of, because I really don't want to feed others false data. Really not.
As I say, the exchange is at Alas, A Blog.

Posted by: John Isbell at January 13, 2004 01:47 PM | PERMALINK

Stephen:

"Or you could do a GWB and push for democracy, human rights, economic development, respect for women, respect for minorities, and property rights."

How's that working out in Afghanistan so far?

Posted by: lazarus at January 13, 2004 02:10 PM | PERMALINK

"How's that working out in Afghanistan so far?"

Quite well!

Perhaps you missed it - it probably isn't part of the MoveOn talking points - but Afghanistan has a new constitution, which establishes a democratic government, affords women 25% of the parlimentary seats, and respects minority rights, such as minority language right. In addition, Afghanistan's economy is booming, notwithstanding the continued instability.

We know you lefties see the glass 1% empty, instead of 99% full, though...

Posted by: Al at January 13, 2004 02:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well, for what it's worth, Kevin, both Josh and Andy "fell" for it too.

Posted by: GFW at January 13, 2004 02:40 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Steve White

You typed "What Clark said: Fifty-five million voters are "ill-informed" dupes of the Christian right? "Now, there's one ".

Your statement is clearly false.
There is no evidence that Clark ever said "fifty-five million voters are "ill-informed" dyupes of the Christian righ?" That sentence was written by Suellentrop in one of the faux summaries of quotations of Clark. It is not what Clark said, as you claim.

You should understand that, in an article about what someone said, words that are not in quotation marks are not what the person said. Your criticism of Clark is entirely based on the argument that not everyone who buys a book believes what is written in it. In other words that what Clark said does not imply what Suellentrop suggests (perhaps humorously) Clark said and what you directly, unequivocally and falsely claim that Clark said.

This is not a question of interpretation. You made a false claim of fact. Notice from aimai's criticism of you comment that you appear to have convinced aimai that Clark said something that Suellentrop does not quote him as saying. Now unfair interpretations and parodies of unfair interpretations are one thing. False claims of fact are another.


The false claim is potentially damaging to Clark. Your error is that when quoting an article which contains a quotation you did not bother to quote only the part in quotation marks. I personally think this reaches the level of reckless disregard for the truth.

Of course it is possible that you personally heard Clark say "Fifty-five million voters are "ill-informed" dupes of the Christian right? " and that, by pure coincidence that corresponds exactly to something that Suellentrop wrote outside of quotation marks. In that case, I apologise.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann at January 13, 2004 02:57 PM | PERMALINK

Al, just wondering, have you ever posted a comment that did not directly contradict whatever Kevin said?

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 13, 2004 03:14 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans for Clark nailed it way up there on the comments list...sure, the media will level the same type of attacks on Clark as they are doing on Dean. But they will have a much, much harder time making the attacks on Clark stick, because Clark's resume refutes them. Clark has credibility that Dean never will. He is just a better nominee.

Posted by: MQ at January 13, 2004 03:14 PM | PERMALINK

I hate to break it to you guys but some people who read the Left Behind series believe very strongly in the rapture, Armageddon and the anti+ christ. I know this because my mother is one of these people. Does she know the difference between fiction and reality? Yes. Does she believe that the books represent what she and millions desperately hope for? Yes. They are escatologists. They believe that Armageddon will purge the world of this "system of things". They could care less what happens to social security because the "signs" all point to the "end".. They love Dubya cause he's born again. Clark is absolutely right to be concerned about this large group of people. Saying it's just silly to worry about them is a dangerous attitude. They have the conviction of David Koresh and they have no problem with burning to ash you and the rest of the country in their pursuit of the Apocalypse.

Posted by: redkimba at January 13, 2004 03:15 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

you've got to be kidding about Afghanistan. I think things are going better in Iraq. There is basically no formal law outside of Kabul, the Taliban is resurgent in the Pashtuni regions, and warlords rule the countryside. The constitution isn't relevant if it can't be enforced in practice - because Karzai's government has no clout outside of Kabul. Any cursory reading of the news on Afghanistan makes this clear - Al, you're the delusional one.

I'm personally more bullish on Iraq than Afghanistan, where I think things are going OK if not great. Iraq has a much greater chance of becoming a decent society than does Afghanistan. Of course I could be wrong on both counts.

On Steve White and Tim Lahaye, I suggest anybody read Left Behind, do a little research into Lahaye before dismissing this series as "pure escapism." Lahaye believes in a "literal" reading of Revelation and other selected passages from the Bible which support his end-times world view. Indeed, he has a whole series of "nonfiction" interpretations of current events that accompany the Left Behind series with titles like "Are We Living in End Times?" Granted, not everyone who has read a book in this series buys into the Lahaye/Hal Lindsey world view - indeed, I have read some of this stuff - but there are a lot of people that do. This apocalyptic/end times stuff is kind of scary, and has the potential to (is?) dangerously distort American foreign policy, particularly with someone so solicitous of the Christian Right in the White House.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 03:17 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, on the "end times" thread, a quick book pick. Paul Boyer's "When Time Shall Be No More" offers a very good overview of Christian apocalyptic thought.

We are rightly concerned about Islamic extremism, which is clearly a threat to the world. But we should also be wary of the religious extremists in our own midst as well.

Ben p

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 03:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Al, just wondering, have you ever posted a comment that did not directly contradict whatever Kevin said?"

I dunno. I have probably also reacted to other posters as well. But, as to Kevin's posts, let's face it, I disagree with them probably 90% of the time. Moreover, I find little value in posting some variant of "Right on!", which seems to be many of the posts. Do you find my comments offensive merely because they contradict Kevin's posts?

Posted by: Al at January 13, 2004 03:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Clark is absolutely right to be concerned about this large group of people."

Wrong, the lumping of those who read the book and those who take it literally is political idiocy. I don't think that was Clark's point necessarily. He just was throwing some red meat to the "he's not liberal enough" crowd but slamming the Christian right and defending the UN in one swoop. I doubt Clark is really worried but I still find it silly. Compare and contrast your reaction with a republican candidate stating he is worried that people have read Das Kapital.

"Saying it's just silly to worry about them is a dangerous attitude. They have the conviction of David Koresh and they have no problem with burning to ash you and the rest of the country in their pursuit of the Apocalypse."

Ahhh the leap from book readers to heavily armed cultists.

No worries, the government seems to have figured out how to deal with such people. But isn't that kind of attitude what made parts of the Patriot act possible. Think reading lists and librarians.

Posted by: Ryan at January 13, 2004 03:45 PM | PERMALINK

Al wrote: "Quite well!"

Bwaahahahahaha!!! Al, you never cease to amuse. Trust me, your role as clown prince of Kevin's comments is secure.

Posted by: PaulB at January 13, 2004 03:46 PM | PERMALINK

Al wrote: "Do you find my comments offensive merely because they contradict Kevin's posts?"

No, just hilarious because they're so ill-informed and illogical. But hey, keep 'em coming.

Posted by: PaulB at January 13, 2004 03:47 PM | PERMALINK

Al:
Do you find my comments offensive merely because they contradict Kevin's posts?

I don't find your comments offensive, usually, and I have never found them offensive simply because you disagree with Kevin. I find your posts a little annoying, usally, as they are often so blindingly partisan, but such is life.

I would give it to you that you aren't a troll: you post some comments that really make sense (but they seem to be the minority).

It's an open forum. Keep it coming, I say.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at January 13, 2004 03:57 PM | PERMALINK

Ryan, you didn't get my point or Clark's wrt the Left Behind crowd. No one is arguing that censorship or the patriot act is a good thing. I am simply pointing that these people are zealots politcally as well as religiously. They would have been so regardless of the series. They are not concerned with the temporal issues of this world. They focus with single minded intensity on the next world. In many ways they #do# resemble terrorists. Their belief is absolute. There is only one "truth" for them and they have the exclusive rights to it. They vote for Dubya because he pushes their buttons. Are they a cult? Yes, in many ways they resemble a cult in their rejection of the world and their cognitive dissonance. And they are obsessed with Christian media and Fox news, their leaders, who demonize anyone not with them. There are a lot of them and they vote for the evangelical candidate. I don't advocate that we try to court them but we need an analogous force in the democratic party to counter balance them. The Deaniacs are not what I had in mind. We need to think outside the box on this one or think of a way to derail them.
Like I said, my mother and my brother are in this crowd and I have seen the irrational up close and personal. It ain't pretty. When I found out that my mom left everything to me in her will in case of rapture, I knew I had to take it seriously.

Posted by: redkimba at January 13, 2004 04:18 PM | PERMALINK

Al, regarding your comment...

"Moreover, I find little value in posting some variant of "Right on!""

I fail to see why approval has no value or informative content to it. Please explain a bit more.

Posted by: ch2 at January 13, 2004 04:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ben P - Re your comment about what's happening outside Kabul, you must be reading different news accounts than I am. Just last month I read the following:

"Afghan warlords hand over weapons
By Amir Shah, Associated Press, 12/3/2003

GONDI VOLGA, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's two main northern warlords handed over dozens of tanks and heavy guns yesterday, putting aside their personal hostility and placing a measure of trust in the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

The action by Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Mohammed, whose armies have been attacking each other for two years, is a small triumph for the fledgling government's attempts to gain control over the provinces."

(http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2003/12/03/afghan_warlords_hand_over_weapons/)

Heck, months ago the central government seemed to be doing well vis-a-vis the regional warlords:

"Afghans collect $56m revenue
Wednesday July 09, 2003 (0509 PST)

BAHRAIN, July 09 (Online): Afghanistan has collected $56 million in revenue from provincial governors and warlords since the end of March, President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said.
"Since the process of collecting national revenues has started we have so far collected $56m," Jawed Ludin told reporters following a cabinet meeting.

"It's very promising, it seems that the process is working," he said. Anti-Soviet fighter and warlord Ismail Khan, governor of western Herat province, alone has handed over at least $20 m to the central government."

(http://paktribune.com/news/index.php?id=31420)

Given where it started, it is going to take a long, long time for Afghanistan to become a well-governed country. But that doesn't mean that a lot of progress hasn't already been made.

Posted by: Al at January 13, 2004 04:31 PM | PERMALINK

Ryan,

The "Left Behind true believers" - if you will -are a MUCH larger force in American life than you believe. Look at polling data on the issue. I believe pollingreport.com has some good data about such reviews. Certainly, I wouldn't be as simple-minded as to believe that "number of Left Behind series books purchases = number of hardcore apocalyptic true believers," but I know the number of people who hold such beliefs is large, perhaps 5-10% of the population if one is to extrapolate from the figure Gallup released two years back that 59% of Americans believe the world will end as foretold in the Bible (certainly the question asked was misleading and open to different interpretations by respondants, and almost certainly inflated, but still . . .).

The fact that Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth" - the "Left Behind" of the 1970s - was the highest selling "nonfiction" title of the decade (29 million copies, I believe)should tell you something. Just because you perhaps don't know people like this doesn't mean they don't exist in large numbers - they just don't run in the same kind of circles that bloggers on liberal political web sites do. Like redkimba, I know for example that my girlfriend's grandmother and certain other members of her extended family hold beliefs similar to these and vote for Bush/support Bush because he is a born-again Christian.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 04:36 PM | PERMALINK

. . . in other words, they don't care about tax policy, the deficit, the environment, the subtleties of foreign policy - they like Bush because they see him as being on the right side theologically - that he will be on the "winning" team when the rapture happens and thus America will be on the right side of their version of Biblical prophecy. (and it is just their version - the view Lahaye/Lindsey/John Hagee peddle is JUST ONE view (and a disreputed, marginal view in theological circles)among many)

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 04:41 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

fair enough. I by know means have the full picture. I'm sure these things are happening. Again, I think it depends in part what news sources one hears. There's good and bad things happening in Afghanistan, as in Iraq - distrust optimists and pessimists both is my mantra.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 04:43 PM | PERMALINK

sounds like a case of starting with a conclusion and trying to work backwards.

Posted by: kevin at January 13, 2004 04:44 PM | PERMALINK

"by NO means" that is. Freudian slip? Or not? I'm not sure if I know what one is exactly or if this would qualify as one.

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 04:45 PM | PERMALINK

What sounds like "pretty ordinary campaign rhetoric" to you sounds like extreme partisan dishonesty to me. Your "what Clark really meant" summaries aren't honest representations of what he said. I'd say Suellentrop mischaracterized less than you did.

Posted by: Reg at January 13, 2004 04:55 PM | PERMALINK

Suellentrop just point out that Dean is every bit as electible as Clark if not more so....

Clark really has no political experience. That's really big minus. Bush is more likely to get Clark there then Dean in no foreign policy experience.

Clark is avoiding the debates because Clinton is directing the show so after Clark finally does hit the debate circuit-it's bye bye.

Posted by: Cheryl at January 13, 2004 04:55 PM | PERMALINK

Come to think of it, the LaHaye crowd (and I use that tem generically) is going to be especially motivated to vote in the 2004 election. Bush is only allowed one more term in office. That means no more than 4 years, 10 months til the end comes. All of their hopes and dreams hinge on him winning. My question is what are they going to do to ensure the proper outcome?

Posted by: redkimba at January 13, 2004 04:55 PM | PERMALINK

Timothy Klein - thank you, I think.


"I fail to see why approval has no value or informative content to it. Please explain a bit more."

ch2 - That's actually a good question. I don't often comment on posts on sites where I usually agree with the opinions expressed, such as Tacitus or Drezner. (Indeed, even my wife occasionally asks me to express approval more often!) So perhaps it's just me... OTOH, I find the value in posting is to try to convince people that my opinion is right. And I don't find posts that just approve of someone else's opinion to be particularly convincing...

Posted by: Al at January 13, 2004 04:56 PM | PERMALINK

OTOH, I find the value in posting is to try to convince people that my opinion is right.

Al, the problem with so many of your posts is that not only are you not right, you're not even wrong.

Posted by: Thumb at January 13, 2004 05:23 PM | PERMALINK

Al, it's one thing to differ on particular issues (or, in your case, every single issue Kevin happens to write about) but when your comments invariably contain something like... let's see...

"Kevin's 'comparison' is asinine."

or

"Of the two of you, SOMEBODY is mischaracterizing the statements. But I don't think it is Suellentrop."

It starts to seem more like your basic position is "Every single thing Kevin says is wrong." Most of us think Kevin is a pretty smart guy, and most of the bloggers you apparently frequent do as well. It's almost as if you go out of your way to express discontent. On every single liberal blog. Like Matthew Yglesias'.

"This is why it fits in with the other stereotypes mentioned in the ad - "sushi-eating" and "latte-drinking". These aren't mentioned because they're referring to Japan or Italy, but rather to the stereotypical Americans who eat sushi and drink lattes.

Surprised this escapes you, Matthew.

Posted by Al at January 11, 2004 04:00 PM"

And you just go on and on and on... like when I said the ad engages in stereotyping.

"It's not offensive because the people being stereotyped - the elite intellectual, the yuppie, the upper middle class - are not subject to the same type of discrimination as the poor blacks stereotyped by your example. Surprised a compassionate liberal like you wouldn't understand that."

I'm glad you give Matthew and I the benefit of the doubt, with your always being "surprised", unlike poor Kevin here. Apparently you know he's just a dumbass, and have to let the world know. Immediately. Any time he posts anything.

And the parade continues, when somebody points out that Vermont has only two Starbucks.

"Why is this valid? Instead of Starbucks, let's use, say, Dunkin' Donuts. THEN let's see which state has more per capita.

Sheez. You would never succeed in a research field...

Posted by Al at January 11, 2004 04:31 PM"

Apparently that person fell into the "dumbass" category along with Kevin, hence the lack of surprise. And really, why shouldn't they? Isn't it patently obvious that anyone who happens to like the taste of latte must be some sort of "elite intellectual, yuppie, or upper middle class"? Of course, they're genetically predisposed! The fact that Starbucks is an expensive, upper-class place (which is exactly the stereotype you admit the ad perpetrates) has nothing to do with it! I bet if you walked into a Vermont Dunkin' Donuts, you'd see effeminate men in sweaters, having a fondue party, because (obviously!) any liberals in a given area flock to the nearest source of lattes. It's Al's law!

Folks, (let me channel Rush for a minute here) Al is a troll. Which is fine, except that he refuses to stop posting in a thread until someone responds, and (being a troll) he quickly dominates the topic. I shouldn't even be writing this, really.

So, from this point forward, don't acknowledge Al. Simple!

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 13, 2004 05:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah. The Matthew Yglesias threads in question.

http://www.matthewyglesias.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=2314

http://www.matthewyglesias.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=2313

Also, it's tough to take a guy with a fake email address seriously. Anyone disagree?

Besides Al? ;-)

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 13, 2004 05:32 PM | PERMALINK

I use a fake email also, I've gotten enough email from kooks after posting on supposedly moderate liberal blogs.

Posted by: Reg at January 13, 2004 05:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think its obvious to anybody, (especially Dean supporters) that Clark is no more electable than Dean, and Suellentrop shows that clearly with his collection of quotes. Here is another that will certainly show up in a Bush campaign commercial against Clark (after showing pictures of cheering Iraqis and toppling Saddam statues:

"Kind of crazy. Not patriotic. Not smart. I don't think it was a patriotic war. I think it was a mistake, a strategic mistake, and I think that the president of the United States wasn't patriotic in going after Saddam Hussein."

Posted by: Reg at January 13, 2004 05:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Al, the problem with so many of your posts is that not only are you not right, you're not even wrong."

That made my night. Thank you.

Posted by: beefmother at January 13, 2004 07:09 PM | PERMALINK

Aimai wrote in response to me: He [Clark] simply observed that, if the number of copies printed equals the number of readers, you've got a very large number of people who are reading something that demonizes the UN.

Sure. The Harry Potter books demonize something else. Tom Clancy novels, John Grisham novels, Graham Greene novels all demonize someone else. In a novel, that's called an "antagonist", and a novel is supposed to have one.

So if the Left Behind series has the UN as an antagonist, so what? It's a plot device. Clark sounded rather lame in commenting on it, UNLESS he was attempting to speak to y'all on the left, in which case he certainly succeeded. Just remember, the left can help elect a President, but it can't elect one without help.

Posted by: Steve White at January 13, 2004 07:14 PM | PERMALINK

Reg,

You have just described the bloodiest, most costly campaign commercial ever.

But now I understand the real reason we invaded.

Posted by: Sovok at January 13, 2004 07:16 PM | PERMALINK

Skeptic comments, You may know better, but LaHaye's following does not. They take the book of Revelations seriously, not as just a fictional summer beach read, and Armageddon and the second coming of Christ is a foundation of their faith. This shapes their view of the world and how we should be living in it.

You might be news to you, but most fundamentalist Christians are well-grounded in the world. They're pretty decent folks and generally don't wish to cause offense. They're quite aware that Revelations is a book of the Bible, and LaHaye's novels are, well, novels.

Yes, fundamentalist Christians see the world and their lives through the Bible. I don't see anything wrong with that as long as they don't harm anyone else. I feel the same about Islam, which is why I'm willing to squash the Islamist terrorists flat -- they DO mean harm.

Posted by: Steve White at January 13, 2004 07:19 PM | PERMALINK

Are you auditioning for comedy central Reg?

I think its obvious to anybody, (especially Dean supporters) that Clark is no more electable than Dean, and Suellentrop shows that clearly with his collection of quotes.

There is nothing inherent in anything Clark said that makes him "unelectable."

You know I bet if Suellentrop had actually paraphrased paragraphs of President Bush's remarks and pretended that Clark had said them... you would have made the same remarks.

You remind me of one of those wine tasters who pretends to a sublime palate, but whose tongue is actually tone deaf.

Seriously, you need to not demonize Clark merely because he is now a Democrat. This man is a serious self-made American in the finest sense of the word. Impeccably honest, god-fearing, and country loving. His appeal should cut across all party lines except for the fanatics at the edges.

It is a shame he had to choose a party. That unfairly made him an immediate target to both edges of wingnuts. But then, I suppose those people are going to hate no matter what.

Posted by: Republicans for Clark at January 13, 2004 07:20 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff Boatright opines, And the Iraqis really appreciate it, just like every other group that has ever had a new system, no matter how much demonstrably better than the old, forced on them at the point of a gun.

BTW, does this mean Bremer ISN'T going to continue hiring the SAME thugs that Saddam used for "enforcement", using the SAME techniques to reach an end?

(waiting now for the post-WWII "but we used Nazis to keep the trains running" bullshit rejoinder)

Nope, no Nazi rejoinder from me. Only good Nazi is a dead or imprisoned one. Ditto for the Ba'athists. Try them fair and then hang them fair.

As far as I can tell from the news in Iraq, Bremer is vetting people carefully to ensure that Ba'athists, particularly high-level Ba'athists and those who have committed crimes against humanity, are NOT involved in the reconstruction. His deeds seem to match his words, and that's good -- that's something that liberal and conservative should be able to agree upon.

Bremer so far is using US forces, plus re-trained and re-constituted Iraqi police and border forces, to maintain order. Everything I've read so far is that the Iraqis are vetted. If you know something different feel free to enlighten.

Posted by: Steve White at January 13, 2004 07:24 PM | PERMALINK

Kynn writes: Yeah, but just you try writing a television program which makes Ronald Reagan look bad, and you'll see that there's little tolerance for escapism on the right.

Would you tolerate a libelous program about Jack Kennedy? Neither would I. Nor one about Ronald Reagan.

My response in either case: turn off the TV and opine (loudly) that the people responsible are fuckwits.

Something wrong with doing that?

Posted by: Steve White at January 13, 2004 07:26 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, fundamentalist Christians are not bad people - in fact, at least on a surface level, I've liked the fundamentalist Christians I've liked.

My problem is is that such a group can distort policies in dangerous ways if they tend to view the world through the lens of their interpretation of Revelation. Its kind of like when James Watt said there's no point in doing anything to conserve resources or worry about pollution or global warming, because the world is ending soon anyway, and what's more, environmental degradation is simply a sign that end times are near. And remember, Watt was Secretary of the Interior (?) for at least part of Reagan's administration.

Similarly, I think this group distorts US policy towards the Middle East in important ways, because they believe for example that the Temple of Mount needs to be destroyed in order for Christ to return. And that Palestinians have no right to any of the land they are currently on. And so on, thus making it very hard for the US to take necessary steps in this process because they are so organized and emphatic on this issue. Talk about a "special interest" group.

The idea that there are probably millions of people out there wondering if Howard Dean or Wesley Clark is in fact the antichrist worries me a great deal. If it doesn't worry you, then I guess will agree to disagree.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 07:30 PM | PERMALINK

Robert Waldman: please learn to recognize an errant copy and paste, and the quote marks that clearly separated Clark's comments.

Posted by: Steve White at January 13, 2004 07:35 PM | PERMALINK

How about beating up on Clark because all his points are wrong, or else so obvious as to be worthless?

* George Bush didn't pay much attention to al-Qaeda before 9/11 even though he was warned about how dangerous it was.

Um, he was running a review of how we dealt with terrorism in the past, and how we needed to change our (failed) approach. It was the first 8 months of his Administration, and he figured he had more important things on his front burner. He was wrong, but it's not like Democrats, especially anyone connected to the Clintons (who screwed up dealing with Osama for 8 years), are qualified to attack Bush for that.

For that matter, people who scream, even now, about "racial profiling" every time law enforcement officers look cross-eyed at Muslim males aren't allowed to bitch about the failures that lead to 9/11, because their PC bullshit was a great impediment to fighting the terrorists (see investigation of the "20th hijacker").

* Bush was so obsessed with Iraq that he didn't put enough resources into Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden.

Complete load of crap. We invaded Iraq 15 months after Tora Bora, the idea that we couldn't use troops in Afghanistan because we needed them to invade Iraq 15 months later is ludicrous. The problems we had had nothing to do with lack of troops, and everything to do with political constraints on the use of force (see stories about bad guys who weren't killed because it took too long to get authorization to shoot them).

Besides, Osama's dead. He died in one of those caves. It's difficult to find and identify his splotch, is all.

* Iraq wasn't much of a terrorist threat before the war, but it is now.

More crap. Saddam was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. That's terrorism, unless you believe murdering Jews never qualifies as terrorism.
Saddam was trying to get WMD. Whether or not he had them, he would have had them if the sanctions stopped. Once he had them, again, there is no reason to think he wouldn't use them, again, either himself, or via the terrorists he was supporting (what was Abu Nudal doing in Baghdad).

Now, the Iraq terrorists threaten Iraqis and the US Army. Far better than them threatening Israelis, and American civilians.

* 55 million people have read a book in which the United Nations is portrayed as the Antichrist. This is ill-informed.

The UN is a vile, corrupt, at best useless organization that gives dictators and has-been countries a place to spout off and pretend they're great countries.

How many million people have read books claiming the 9/11 attack was done by Mossad, or the US Government? What is that? Democrat campaign literature?

* Angry young men are fertile ground for terrorist recruiters.

Gee, do you need to be a General to figure that out?
That is why W wants to bring democracy, and free markets, to the Middle East. Why is it that the Democrats are so opposed?

* President Bush still doesn't seem willing to put the effort into Afghanistan that it would take to find Osama.

Osama is dead. If he's not dead, he's ineffective. We've got a world wide war against terrorism going on here, and Afghanistan is no longer a big threat to us, so we're using our resources elsewhere. That's called intelligent leadership.

Earth to Clark, and any Democrats who think Clark's head isn't completely shoved up his butt: How many attacks on the US has Al Qaeda managed since 9/11/2001? 2 (Malvo, and the LAX shooting)? Fewer?

How many attacks have we scored on them? Afghanistan. Iraq. Hundreds of millions of dollars seized. Hundreds of their members captured, thousands killed (counting the Taliban). Saddam. His sons. Libya turning snitch. Saudi Arabia getting a tiny bit more serious about the terrorists.

IOW, however Bush is arraying our forces, from here in the bleachers, it looks like he's doing a damn good job, because we're winning. When you ignore that, and yap and whine about W's "incompetence", you sound like a bunch of teenagers sure your parents are "idiots".

Let's compare Clark / Bosnia with Bush / Iraq:
Clark: Milosevic was just elected to the Serbian Parliament.
Bush: Saddam was captured, is being interrogated, will have a public trial, and will then be executed.

IOW, Clark: poseur; Bush: Pro.

Posted by: Greg D at January 13, 2004 07:38 PM | PERMALINK

Not only is Bush not a poseur, he looks really great in a flight suit!

Posted by: Sovok at January 13, 2004 07:45 PM | PERMALINK

Arg, now there will be a 300-page chain reaction of "Fisking".

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 13, 2004 07:48 PM | PERMALINK

Dang if this post of Kevin's isn't becoming a flytrap for angry conservative males.

Is Greg D the 5, 10, or 20th of that ilk to respond to the bulleted list as if they are actual Clark quotes?? (rather than facetious mock-ups of the actual quotes?)

Conclusion: angry conservative males don't read very well. Which, of course, doesn't say much for their IQ.

Posted by: Straight-eye for the queer guy at January 13, 2004 07:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'll just say this:

Greg D, did you ever read "Operation Ignore"? Didn't think so. And until you do, you can't really disagree with me when I point out that the number of terrorist attacks under Clinton (Described by Condi Rice, pre-9/11, as "obsessed with bin Laden") was 0. Over 8 years.

Yes, that's right. Obsessed with bin Laden. That's what our NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR said before 9/11. Is this the words of a "Pro"? Good God, are you daft?

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 13, 2004 07:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ryan, Steve, other folks who think Clark is obviously making too much over the success of the Left Behind series because probably only five million people or so regularly buy the books: I think you've got things precisely backwards. The number of people who more or less "buy" a certain viewpoing is always going to be much, much smaller than the number of people who literally buy that viewpoint's best-selling book. Take any issue in the news, and this will be pretty obvious.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer at January 13, 2004 07:53 PM | PERMALINK

Greg D,

Yeah, the Bush administration is great if you liked what happened to Rome - democracy into empire. Not saying its happened yet, but I'd like Bush to be a little more interested in American democracy, liberty, economic security, and opportunity rather than using the Constitution et al as talking points for an increasingly overextended military mission.

Of course, terrorism is a threat - this is axiomatic. But it is not an excuse for everything else Bush and co want to do - and I'm not talking about Iraq here.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 08:00 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know anything about Clark other than what I hear him say. I haven't heard him say anything sensible at all on Iraq. Gephardt, Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards, all at least sound normal, and Dean I can understand.
Clark just sounds nuts.

Posted by: Reg at January 13, 2004 08:00 PM | PERMALINK

"the Bush administration is great if you liked what happened to Rome - democracy into empire"

This is just fucking stupid.

Posted by: Reg at January 13, 2004 08:02 PM | PERMALINK

Greg,

If we take your suggestions to heart, we have no allies. If we have no allies, we can no longer be effective on the world stage/taken seriously because we will have no moral standing. We will be the rogue nation.

These problems will be compounded by the fact that are industrial base is being eviscerated, we are increasingly a debtor nation, dependent on China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, etc.. Even having a college degree is no longer a guarantee of job security. Our economy is house of cards, resting debt and borrowing.

And to think, when the house tumbles within the next ten years or so, we can thank our current administration for rolling out a red carpet to the whole ugly process.

Its called imperial overstretch.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at January 13, 2004 08:08 PM | PERMALINK

I got Clark's nutty words about Iraq right here:

If efforts to resolve the problem by using the United Nations fail, either initially or ultimately, the US should form the broadest possible coalition, including its NATO allies and the North Atlantic Council if possible, to bring force to bear.

Force should not be used until the personnel and organizations to be involved in post-conflict Iraq are identified and readied to assume their responsibilities. This includes requirements for humanitarian assistance, police and judicial capabilities, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance, and preparations for a transitional governing body and eventual elections, perhaps including a new constitution. Ideally, international and multinational organizations will participate in the readying of such post-conflict operations, including the UN, NATO, and other regional and Islamic organizations.

Force should be used as the last resort; after all diplomatic means have been exhausted, unless information indicates that further delay would present an immediate risk to the assembled forces and organizations. This action should not be categorized as “preemptive.”

- Wesley Clark, testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, 26 September 2002

Clark nailed it, Bush ignored it, now Bush will pay the price in November - mark my words.

Posted by: Sovok at January 13, 2004 08:09 PM | PERMALINK

Crazy Wesley Clark quotes:

"[U]ntil the moment of birth, the government has no right to influence a mother's decision on whether to have an abortion."

Yikes, talk about extremist.

"I believe I’m the only person in the race . . .that can carry the South for this party"

Right, I bet his abortion stance will help alot.

"Nothing is going to hurt this country - not bioweapons, not a nuclear weapon, not a terrorist strike - there is nothing that can hurt us if we stay united and move together and have a vision for moving to the future the right way."

Is this his homeland security strategy?

"[The administration] is trying to dishonor the very Americans who are over there serving and fighting and dying by not letting us welcome the remains back home."

Bush WANTS to dishonor the soldiers?

"I still believe in e=mc², but I can't believe that in all of human history, we'll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go... I've argued with physicists about it, I've argued with best friends about it. I just have to believe it."

Okaaaay.

Now here is Clark the neocon:

"I think [Rumsfeld is] an inspired choice. He's got great experience. He's got great international stature. He knows the issues."

"[Saddam]is not only malevolent and violent, but also unpredictable. He retains his chemical- and biological-warfare capabilities and is actively pursuing nuclear capabilities."

_______

Is this guy not a flake? Yikes. If I was a Democrat, I'd be worried how this guy is going to stand up in the long campaign stretch. As a Republican, I don't know what will be more entertaining, Deanie blowing his fuse or Clark flaking out. I hope they run on the same ticket.

Dean/Clark in 04!

Posted by: Reg at January 13, 2004 08:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote,

It's a collection of six statements by Wesley Clark that supposedly show that he "has the same propensity [as Howard Dean] for speaking imprecisely off the cuff." In other words, he's sort of a nutcase.

There's a difference between speaking imprecisely and being a nutcase. Howard Dean often speaks imprecisely, without thinking, making it easy for his opponents to characterize him as a nutcase.

Clark makes statements that some might consider impolitic, but there's nothing imprecise about anything he was quoted as saying in the article. Suellentrop's "paraphrases" were imprecise.

Clark makes fewer statements in need of clarification, and when he does clarify something he is in better position to defend himself than Dean.

There's a big difference between Dean's "interesting theory" that Bush was tipped off about 9/11 and Clark's statements that "President Bush . . . was warned that the greatest threat to the United States of America was Osama Bin Laden."

Posted by: rachelrachel at January 13, 2004 08:46 PM | PERMALINK

Someothers may have made this point, but it is stupid to accept the excuses that folk like Suellentrop, or Brooks, et al make after the hit and run job. If you get a meek little apology you should write back with the equivalent of stick it where the sun don't shine, or alter your behavior.

Posted by: Eli Rabett at January 13, 2004 08:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Am I missing something here? What, really, is Suellentrop's point in mischaracterizing what Clark said?"

Why is it that when one agrees with another's questionable comments, semantic arguments become paramount, yet when one disagrees with another’s comments all of a sudden the inferred rises to the fore? Partisan politics perhaps...

In other words, yea, your missing something – it’s called consistency.

Posted by: bains at January 13, 2004 09:44 PM | PERMALINK

IOW, Clark: poseur; Bush: Pro.

Damn, that's priceless. I guess it is possible to sell anything.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at January 13, 2004 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Let's face it. Suellentrop was assigned to shadow Clark for a week, is presumably really a Dean supporter, and couldn't find anything terribly negative to write, so has used his column to either do cute pieces about shopping for a sweater (I didn't mind that piece, I thought it was intended to show the playfulness and good humor of Clark's relationship with the traveling press) or to seek a way to try to shore up Dean by imagining the kinds of attacks the media might make if Clark were in the front-runner spot.

Well, I bet he is incredibly red-faced at the moment, full well understanding that his column failed to make its point. If I were a conspiracist, I'd think he'd failed to state his intentions purposefully. As it stands, I think he's fairer than that ... just failing on both form and logic. Yet to judge from many of the comments here, which actually fail to see the "ironic" intent and seem to think Clark's statements are indeed really flaky, I'd have to give this column the grade of "miserable failure."

Sorry, Chris ... I think you did a pretty good job in the series. This was a boner.

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