Friday, April 02, 2004

WOLF BLITZER'S BAD TWO WEEKS. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and the Incomparable Bob Somerby are ganging up on CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Not that Blitzer doesn't deserve it. Blitzer - normally about as controversial as vanilla ice cream - was caught red-handed passing along some ugly, anonymous White House spin about former counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke.

Let's start with the transcript of Wolf Blitzer Reports from March 24. In an exchange with CNN's White House correspondent, John King, Blitzer asserted:

Well, John, I get the sense not only what Dr. Rice just said to you and other reporters at the White House, but what administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn't get a certain promotion. He's got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don't know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president.

Is that the sense that you're getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?

King's response indicates that he was at least partly appalled. Watch as he tries to get out from under the weird aspects of Blitzer's questioning:

None of the senior officials I have spoken to here talked about Mr. Clarke's personal life in any way. But they offer a very mixed picture. They say that he was a very dedicated, a very smart member of the senior White House staff, that he was held over because of his expertise in the Clinton administration on terrorism issues and the Bush administration, these officials say, wanted a smooth transition.

They also say, and many top Clinton administration officials support this, that Richard Clarke could be irritable. He could sometimes get angry at those who did not agree with him. That is an opinion shared in both administrations. And, in the end, of course, he did not get the No. 2 job at the Department of Homeland Security and he decided to move on.

Next up: Krugman. In his Times column this past Tuesday, Krugman included Blitzer in a wide-ranging roundup of Bush-administration smear tactics, writing:

But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."

This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics - even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power - to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics.

On Wednesday, Somerby incomparably skewered Blitzer's pathetic attempt to defend himself against Krugman's charge that he was used. Yesterday, Somerby was back, showing how Blitzer's idiocy had its roots in an interview he conducted with Republican Party spokesman Jim Wilkinson on March 22, when Wilkinson lied to Blitzer's face about Clarke and Blitzer didn't have the wit or the guts to take him on.

Today Krugman is back, putting a punctuation mark on the whole matter. He writes:

Stung by my column, Mr. Blitzer sought to justify his words, saying that his statement was actually a question, and also saying that "I was not referring to anything charged by so-called unnamed White House officials as alleged today." Silly me: I "alleged" that Mr. Blitzer said something because he actually said it, and described "so-called unnamed" officials as unnamed because he didn't name them.

To put it mildly, there is no excuse for Blitzer's laying down and then attempting to justify his asleep-at-the-wheel act. Any members of the national media who were still laboring under the misapprehension that they could get a straight answer out of this White House should have at least figured it out by last September, when Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press and flat-out lied to Tim Russert about (among other things) whether he still receives money from Halliburton. Russert was notably more energetic when he interviewed the president on February 8; the result, predictably, was a disaster for George W. Bush.

The White House couldn't have made it any clearer that lies and personal attacks will be crucial weapons in its campaign arsenal this year. If Wolf Blitzer isn't prepared, well, let him host a cooking show or something. It's war out there.

RON CREWS, HATE-MONGER. David Guarino reports in today's Boston Herald that a lesbian foster mother is being investigated for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl in her custody. Sadly, stories about foster parents sexually abusing their charges are hardly unusual. But get this:

"It appears that children in homosexual relationships are not as safe," said Ron Crews of the Massachusetts Coalition for Marriage. "Homosexual relationships are less safe."

Will Archbishop Seán O'Malley distance himself from his sleazy political partner? You can be sure he won't.

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