Mourning In America

A New York Democrat on politics, journalism, and the Mets

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Friday, April 16, 2004
Who Says Dickens is Dead? I think the Daily News led with a "Great Expectations" reference in its Apprentice coverage this morning:
After surviving 13 weeks of bickering and backstabbing, cigar mogul Bill Rancic landed himself a pip of a new job. The 32-year-old Chicagoan flashed a million-dollar smile and victoriously punched the air as television viewers nationwide watched his new boss, billionaire Donald Trump, anoint him winner of "The Apprentice" reality show last night. [emphasis added]

Not sure what else they could mean. has a bunch of definitions -- including "A disease of birds, characterized by a thick mucous discharge that forms a crust in the mouth and throat," or "the crust symptomatic of this disease" -- but none of them seem to fit...

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
The Emperor's Bad Tie The fact that no one in the administration saved the president from himself when he wore that distracting tie to tonight's press conference seems to be a decent metaphor for the flow of information in the White House more generally. Worse, the President doesn't seem to care all that much.

Today's case in point? The Presidential Daily Briefing for August 6, 2001 -- the one headlined "Bin Ladin [sic] Determined to Strike in U.S." Apparently, one of the reasons that report did not spark a more active response from the Bush administration is that it was accompanied by the assurance that the FBI was conducting 70 "full-field investigations." The problem is that no one knows where that number came from. But don't look for the White House to get to the bottom of it.

Q: ... today in the September 11th hearings that the acting director of the FBI at the time now says the FBI tells him that number was wrong, that he doesn't even know how it got into your PDB.

Have you learned anything else about that report since that time? And do you now believe you were falsely comforted by the FBI?

BUSH: No, I heard about that today, obviously, and my response to that was, I expect to get valid information. As the ultimate decision maker for this country, I expect information that comes to my desk to be real and valid.

And I presume the 9-11 commission will find out -- will follow up on his suggestions and his recollection, and garner the truth...

But of course I expect to get valid information. I can't make good decisions unless I get valid information.

Some unabashed partisans would question his ability to make good decisions even with valid information, but I digress. The 70 investigations line reassured Bush that we were doing all we could to head off Bin Laden's schemes. That line was a lie. But rather than expressing any fury over it, Bush is leaving it up to the 9/11 Commission to sort it all out? It just makes no sense to me.

Trite, Yet Absurd Excuse of the Night

After 9-11, the world changed for me, and I think changed for the country. It changed for me because, like many, we assumed oceans would protect us from harm. And that's not the case. It's not the reality of the 21st century. Oceans don't protect us. They don't protect us from killers.

He actually used the ocean metaphor twice during the press conference. But it's absurd. Remember, the administration's principal national-defense priority pre-9/11 was a missile defense system to protect us from attacks by rogue states in Asia.

The government did not fail to appreciate the danger posed by al Qaeda before 9/11 because the Bush administration thought we were protected by the world's largest moat. They simply thought other threats -- chiefly the risk of a nuclear-missile attack from North Korea or China -- were more pressing. They turned out to be wrong. As Josh Marshall has pointed out, that's forgiveable. Refusing to adjust your strategy to recognize that the threat posed by trans-national terror networks is greater than that posed by traditional states like Iraq is not.

What the Heck ... ... is up with the President's tie in this press conference? It looks like a swirling test pattern. Presumably the administration will soon announce that the presidential wardrobe consultant is yet another of the Clinton holdovers in the Federal bureaucracy who have lain in wait for years, conspiring to find the moment to humiliate Bush...

Monday, April 12, 2004
My New Favorite Bishop? Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (formerly of Newark!), shows that at least some of the nation's Catholic leadership isn't ready to turn its back on the church's inclusive, evangelical calling in favor of a descent into a marginalized, radically right-wing instititution.

In the Newsweek article linked above, McCarrick seeks to defuse some of the calls for John Kerry's excommunication from the blindered Catholics who believe one's standing abortion is the litmus test for one's spirituality.

“I would find it hard to use the Eucharist as a sanction,” he said gently. “You don’t know what’s in anyone’s heart when they come before you. It’s important that everyone know what our principles are, but you’d have to be very sure someone had a malicious intent [before denying him communion.]” McCarrick is surprisingly humble, and a reluctant judge. “It’s between the person and God,’’ he said.

Pay special attention to author Melinda Henneberger's repeated references to those who would criticize McCarrick's words as "as more watered-down Catholicism Lite." Although she doesn't name names, those opinions are out there, in the hearts of people like Catholic League bully Bill Donohue (who's currently obsessed with Kerry's martial status), and Father C.J. McCloskey, who leads the innocuously named "Catholic Information Center" -- the people looking for a smaller "more orthodox" church.

I'm glad McCarrick's voicing the other side.

Sunday, April 11, 2004
Tabloid War Daily News star sports columnist Mike Lupica weighs in on the laughably right-wing NY Post's headline about Condoleeza Rice (see below):
If Condi Rice was was a champ the other day, I just want to know in what weight division?

We Read the News Sports Section So You Don't Have To! Elsewhere this morning, T.J. Quinn shows why sportwriters shouldn't be writing political contributions stories:
When Don Fehr, baseball's union chief and the most powerful labor leader in the universe, cuts a check for a political donation, who usually benefits?

Two of the Senate's most conservative members, both from union-hostile "right-to-work" states: Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).

McCain spent much of this morning trying to convince NBC's Tim Russert that he's not planning to run for Vice President on the Democratic ticket with Sen. John Kerry. Meanwhile, foaming-at-the-mouth Republicans in places like National Review Online have been known to refer to this war hero as a "traitor" for daring to voice concerns about some of George Bush's policies and starkly negative campaign tactics. Taken together, it seems a stretch to label him among the Senate's "most conservative" members.

Dream Ticket Until his vociferous denial of any interest in the job, McCain's appearance on Meet the Press almost sounded like he was campaigning for the VP's post. He echoed Kerry's call for expanding the military and repealing the most unfair of Bush's tax cuts to pay for it.

Make no mistake, a Kerry-McCain ticket is unlikely and would pose all sorts of problems: It could only grow out of the sense that the country has been so grievously wounded by this administration that McCain and Kerry can come to an agreement to set aside, or at least de-emphasize the important issues on which they differ (abortion, increased government spending), in favor of finishing the job right in Iraq, rebuilding our overstretched military, and returning our fiscal picture to some semblance of long-term balance. The entrenched interests in Washington might never let it happen -- accusing both sides of being "traitorous."

But listening to them, you can't help but think that this could be a ticket that might be the antidote for the poison public discourse that plagues the nation now. McCain would actually try to convince people to make compromises in their beliefs for the greater good, rather than pretending that we can continue to have it all -- increased security, better schools and economic opportunity, and lower taxes. Kerry would ensure that the entire country is included in theat opportunity. Plus, it would be fun.