Times Watch for July 15, 2004
Front-Page "Rumors" of Cheney Resignation
White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller tries to stir up some controversy in the Bush camp with a rumor that nonetheless makes the front page of the "news" section Thursday.
Right off she admits that this one (Cheney resigning!) is a bit of a stretch: "In the annals of Washington conspiracy theories, the latest one, about Vice President Dick Cheney's future on the Republican ticket, is as ingenious as it is far-fetched. But that has not stopped it from racing through Republican and Democratic circles like the latest low-carb diet."
Even the headline reads: "Hear the Rumor on Cheney? Capital Buzzes, Denials Aside." That doesn't stop the Times from giving the "rumor" front-page play.
The gist: "The newest theory-advanced privately by prominent Democrats, including members of Congress-holds that Mr. Cheney recently dismissed his personal doctor so that he could see a new one, who will conveniently tell him in August that his heart problems make him unfit to run with Mr. Bush. The dismissed physician, Dr. Gary Malakoff, who four years ago declared that Mr. Cheney was 'up to the task of the most sensitive public office' despite a history of heart disease, was dropped from Mr. Cheney's medical team because of an addiction to prescription drugs."
Bumiller then uses this conspiracy theory to advance negative remarks about Cheney: "But even some Republicans are now questioning whether Mr. Cheney should stay on the ticket. As one House Republican said, conspiratorially, outside the House chamber this week, 'Watch Cheney.' Another Republican member of Congress said that Mr. Cheney was increasingly viewed as a political liability." Then she cites Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report, who, after stating Bush needs to shake up his campaign, concludes: "Cheney may need to watch his back."
For the rest of Bumiller's rumor-mongering, click here.
" Elisabeth Bumiller | George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Dick Cheney
Speaking Frankly, Opposing Gay Marriage = Homophobia
Wednesday's Arts section features a Stephen Holden review of "Let's Get Frank," a highly flattering portrait of liberal Rep. Barney Frank, the openly gay congressman from Massachusetts who was an ardent defender of Bill Clinton in the days of Monica Lewinsky and impeachment.
While Holden points out Frank's liberalism and Frank's own sex-related scandals, he also seems to embrace Frank's partisan viewpoint: "His step-by-step description of how the anti-Clinton forces set out to destroy the president is an astute, Congressional insider's take on political strategy. When anti-Clinton forces could offer nothing more than unprovable charges of Mr. Clinton's misconduct, they were forced to concentrate on perjury and the definition of sex. The film awkwardly sandwiches the drama of the hearings (many of the clips are taken from C-Span) with recycled tidbits of right-wing homophobia: the Rev. Jerry Falwell's condemnation of the Teletubbies for alleged gay advocacy, and former Representative Dick Armey's public slip of the tongue in referring to Mr. Frank as 'Barney Fag.'"
(Falwell's always gotten a bad rap for his alleged hysteria over Tinky-Winky, the "gay Teletubbie." Falwell didn't start it; the purple puppet was a camp icon among gays long before Falwell got to it.)
Holden and Frank then condescendingly conclude that the lack of public outcry over the idea of gay marriage proves Americans aren't as bigoted as those right-wing homophobes: "All the sturm und drang hasn't destroyed Mr. Frank's faith in the people's tolerance and common sense. 'Most Americans aren't nearly as homophobic as they were brought up to think they were supposed to be,' he says. And the relative lack of public hysteria around the issue of gay marriage suggests he may be right."
For the rest of Holden's review/interview on Barney Frank, click here.
" Jerry Falwell | Barney Frank | Gay Marriage | Stephen Holden | Movies
Bill Maher, Groupthink Victim
Left-wing columnist Barbara Ehrenreich thinks "droidlike conformity" in the United States cost former "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher his job: "I trace the current outbreak of droidlike conformity to the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when groupthink became the official substitute for patriotism, and we began to run out of surfaces for affixing American flags. Bill Maher lost his job for pointing out that, whatever else they were, the 9/11 terrorists weren't cowards, prompting Ari Fleischer to warn (though he has since backed down) that Americans 'need to watch what they say.'"
Wrong. As Times Watch has noted in the past, "Politically Incorrect" was canceled in May 2002, a full eight months after Maher made his comments.
For more of Ehrenreich, click here.
" Columnists | Barbara Ehrenreich | Gaffes | Bill Maher | Terrorism
Bush Right on Uranium, but Marquis Misses the Scoop
Christopher Marquis covers the British report on problems with prewar intelligence but misses a big part of the so-called Butler Report validating Bush's assertion that Saddam Hussein was shopping around for uranium in Africa.
First, Marquis wrongly asserts Bush mentioned Niger in his 2003 State of the Union address (an ingrained error at the Times): "It also defended British officials in the case of an apparently erroneous British report on Iraq's nuclear ambitions that made its way into President Bush's State of the Union speech last year claiming that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium in Niger. The Butler report confirmed that Iraqi officials had visited Niger in 1999, and the British government had several different sources insisting that the purpose was to buy uranium. But it added, "the evidence was not conclusive that Iraq had actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium, and the British government did not claim this."
But Marquis neglects to mention another fascinating tidbit from the Butler report, which validates Bush's mention of uranium in the State of the Union: "We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government's dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that: 'The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa' was well-founded."
For Marquis' story on the Butler report in full, click here.
" Britain | Iraq War | Christopher Marquis | Niger | Uranium
FMA "Writing Bigotry Into the Constitution"
Wednesday's lead editorial, "Politicking on Marriage," omits some facts about the gay marriage debate to make conservatives appear cynical.
Cynical, and bigoted. Discussing the debate leading up to the Senate vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would forbid states from allowing same-sex marriages, the Times editors snarl: "Liberals and moderates opposed to writing bigotry into the Constitution are being joined by a growing number of conservatives who see nothing conservative about federalizing marriage law or turning America's most essential legal document into an election-year football. Early in the election season, Republicans seized on gay marriage as a promising cultural issue to use against Democrats. Republicans have been working hard to put referendums against gay marriage on individual state ballots to draw religious conservatives to the polls in November."
Besides the offensive characterization of gay marriage opponents as bigots, the Times also engages in a selective view of the gay marriage debate. The myth of Republicans conjuring up a wedge issue to use in 2004 ignores the fact that it was liberal gay rights activists (and sympathetic courts) in Massachusetts that put gay marriage on the agenda in the first place. On this issue, the Bush administration is not acting, but reacting.
For the rest of the gay marriage editorial, click here.
" Editorial | Gay Rights | Massachusetts