Monday, December 15, 2003

Adam Nagourney screws Kerry campaign. But why? This is the sidebar to the sidebar to the sidebar. Adam Nagourney reports in the New York Times today on how the capture of Saddam Hussein might affect the Democratic presidential campaign. Toward the end appear two highly unusual paragraphs:

The strains this created were evident on Sunday. Mr. Kerry's press secretary, Stephanie Cutter, sent an e-mail message to news organizations listing remarks Dr. Dean had made over the past six months that she said demonstrated that his opposition to the war was "politically driven."

But Ms. Cutter, reflecting the concern among the campaigns that they not be viewed as turning a foreign policy victory to political advantage, put a note on the top of the statement demanding that it be reported as "background" and attributed only to a Democratic campaign.

On the face of it, this seems like Nagourney committed a gross breach of protocol. As best as I can tell, neither the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, nor the Washington Post exposed the Kerry campaign's role in putting out the poison e-mail. (Nor did any of them actually use it.) A search of Google News shows that apparently no one else did, either.

Did Nagourney have a justifiable excuse to out Stephanie Cutter? Should she have known better than to send out an e-mail demanding background treatment in advance, rather than receiving assurances before she sent out the e-mail?

Or did Nagourney just decide to screw the Kerry campaign?

This demands further explanation. I suggest that the Times' new public editor, Daniel Okrent, address it in his first real column this coming Sunday.

UPDATE: Nagourney has responded to this item.

The trial of the century. No, not Michael Jackson's - Saddam Hussein's! In today's Boston Globe, Vivienne Walt and Charlie Savage have a good overview of what is likely to be "the biggest human-rights case since Nuremberg."

Along the same lines, the New York Times' William Safire may be the only pundit so far to depart from the conventional wisdom - the C.W. being that Saddam showed cowardice by surrendering without firing a shot. Safire writes:

I think Saddam is still Saddam - a meretricious, malevolent megalomaniac. He knows he is going to die, either by death sentence or in jail at the hands of a rape victim's family. Why did he not use his pistol to shoot it out with his captors or to kill himself? Because he is looking forward to the mother of all genocide trials, rivaling Nuremberg's and topping those of Eichmann and Milosevic. There, in the global spotlight, he can pose as the great Arab hero saving Islam from the Bushes and the Jews.

Besides, those who are surprised that Saddam didn't come out shooting obviously didn't see NBC's Today show this morning.

In a surreal bit of play-acting, Matt Lauer had Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona (I think that was his name; I couldn't read it with a "7 News Stormforce" logo taking up the bottom quarter of the screen) lead him through a plywood model of the "spider hole" that had been whipped together overnight.

Surrounded by Christmas decorations, Francona crawled in and showed how difficult it would have been for Saddam - prone and looking up the barrels of a few M-16s - even to pull his pistol.

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