Mourning In America

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

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Saturday, June 26, 2004
Defining Decency Down Will FCC Chairman Michael Powell's well-publicized crusade for civility on the broadcast airwaves block the networks from broadcasting this year's vice presidential debate?

Earlier this week Mr. Cheney apparently told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to "go f---" himself. MIA is forced to say "apparently" because our friendly neighborhood paper, The New York Times, evidently considers Cheney's language too extreme for publication.

Leahy's sin? Daring to ask for an inquiry into why the Vice President's office was involved in reviewing Defense Department contracts with Halliburton, the company Cheney used to run.

Despite the Times' skittishness about so much as quoting Cheney accurately, the press simultaneously served as stenographer for the GOP's blustering excuse-mongering, approaching the story as a "boys will be boys" event. Reporters tried to demonstrate their fairness by adding boilerplate "both sides are responsible" lines in their stories, but failing to provide any supporting evidence of leading Democrats acting similarly.

"The vice president is a tough human being, and he's very honest, and his integrity is his most cherished attribute,'' said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah. "I don't blame anybody for standing up for their own integrity.''

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said, "I think the vice president said what he meant to say and felt better after he said it.''

The rest of the chattering class failed to acquit itself much better. Andrea Mitchell told Don Imus Friday morning that the incident reflected how both sides have brought the discourse to a new low. Um, Andrea, there are no reports of Democrats using guttural language on the floor of the Senate. Leahy certainly didn't give as good as he got. Mitchell apparently got her talking points from this uncontested Ray LaHood quote to the Associated Press:

LaHood said things started going downhill a year ago, when a slew of Democratic presidential candidates began criticizing President Bush.

The White House response, "these things happen," is fine as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. They're right -- mistakes happen, and people say things in the heat of an argument that they later regret (although all evidence was that this wasn't much ofan argument, and to the extent that it was, it was only over Cheney's refusal to exchange common pleasantries with a lawmaker).

But in a civil society, mistakes are followed by apologies. There have been none. Instead, Cheney's been boasting to our old friend Neil Cavuto about how good it felt, and how ``A lot of my colleagues felt what I said badly needed to be said.''

Let's hear the President's evangelical friends join his defense on this.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Met Fans Can be Gracious Congratulations to Jose Contreras and his family, who were reunited in Miami yesterday after his wife and two daughters defected from Cuba.

And congratulations to the New York Mets, who surged back over .500 with a stirring comeback victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

This weekend's subway series could be fun. Contreras (you know -- Tom Glavine without the wins or a ring) is scheduled to make his first post-reunion start against Steve Trachsel on Saturday. Let's go Mets!

Monday, June 21, 2004
Question: In what alternative universe does Joe Torre feel justified in comparing Jose Contreras (the Cuban emigre whose picture appears in Webster's alongside "unfulfilled potential") to past Cy Young winner (and current contender) Tom Glavine?

Answer: In the world of smugness that is the Yankees -- where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and all the players are "above average."

From this morning's NY Times, we get this spectacle of Torre trying to defend his sensitive, yet overpriced foreign superstar's losing performance against the Dodgers on Sunday night:

Contreras, as usual, was a victim of one bad inning, but Torre emphasized the positive.

"We may be going out of our way to find some things," Torre said. "Tom Glavine has lots of trouble in the first inning. Pitchers do that; a lot of times they have bad innings. Sometimes it's good enough to beat you. If we can get that bad inning down to two runs, we can be better. I was pleased with his outing."

What Torre neglected to mention was that despite the "bad innings" (which, by the way, is a slanderous lie, at least in light of Glavine's performance this year), Glavine has managed to win more than 250 games in his career, and is a key cog in the pitching rotation that currently boasts the lowest ERA in the major leagues!