Schwarzenegger, The Burning Man? - November 6, 2003 -

Times Watch for November 6, 2003

Schwarzenegger, The Burning Man?

Charlie LeDuff interviews American Indians who suffered in the California wildfires for Wednesday's "In Scorched Hills, Tribes Feel Bereft and Forgotten"-and passes along anti-Schwarzenegger conspiracy-mongering.

Was the recall actually to blame for the fires? LeDuff writes: "A report is circulating among Indians that a white may have started the blaze, someone who harbored bad feelings against Indians after the recent election that led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. During the campaign, Indian tribes donated millions of dollars to Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and a lesser amount to Governor Davis."

LeDuff then gives the theories credibility by noting that Republican governor-elect Schwarzenegger criticized Indian special interests during the campaign: "Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who went on to be elected governor, criticized Indians as the type of special interests that had hamstrung state government. 'No one wants to say this was set to take out Indian country,' said Michele Nelson, a council member of the Rincon Indian Nation. 'But you've got to wonder with all the bad feelings around here about the recall. We got calls during the fire saying, 'That's what you Indians deserve.'"

For the rest of LeDuff's unusual take on the California wildfires, click here.

California | Disasters | Charlie LeDuff | Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Internet Gets Results

The Internet gets results: Responding to accusations of the concealed agenda of an opinion writer (which began on the weblog Hippercritical), the opinion page of Thursday's Times carries the following Editors' Note: "An Op-Ed article on Tuesday about Iraq's foreign debt should have more fully disclosed the background of its author, Mark Medish. Mr. Medish, an international lawyer and former Treasury official, represents corporations that are owed money by Iraq."

Corrections | Iraq War | Mark Medish | Opinion Page | Weblogs

Giving Saddam a Chance

Could the war with Iraq been avoided? Was Saddam willing to give peace a chance? A front-page story by James Risen suggests so. The Times plays up Risen's Thursday piece, "Iraq Said to Have Tried to Reach Last-Minute Deal to Avert War-Wary C.I.A. Rebuffed Back-Channel Proposal."

But Eric Umansky, who writes the Today's Papers column for Slate, cautions, "Before you get too excited: The [Washington Post], which plays follow-up and files a short dispatch, essentially dismisses the alleged backchannel.the Times' case that the backchannel offer was a serious missed opportunity relies heavily-in fact, almost exclusively-on the intermediary who approached Perle, a Lebanese-American businessman named Imad Hage. Hage details the various meetings he had with top Iraqi officials and how they were begging to do anything to avoid war. "At least [the administration] could have talked to them," says Hage, in the last, line of the article."

Umansky also notes the Times' major source may have credibility problems the Times failed to remark upon: "Though the Times doesn't mention it, Hage might have another job apart from his gig as Mr. Give Peace a Chance. According to an August Knight Ridder story, Hage is 'under federal investigation for possible involvement in a gun-running scheme to Liberia.'"

For more of the "last-minute deal to avert war," click here.

Imad Hage | Saddam Hussein | Iraq War | Richard Perle | Washington Post

The Republican's He-Man Woman Haters Club

The Times puts Bush's signing of the partial-birth abortion ban on Thursday's front page with a two-column story and huge photo from the signing ceremony (including such Times' favorites as Jerry Falwell and Attorney General John Ashcroft.)

Richard Stevenson's article, "Bush Signs Ban of Procedure for Abortion; Judge Quickly Steps In," emphasizes: "Before calling onto the stage with him the bill's main Congressional supporters, all men, he vowed to fight court challenges and promote a 'culture of life' defined by the protection of vulnerable children."

For the rest of Stevenson's take on Bush's signing of the partial-birth abortion ban, click here.

Abortion | George W. Bush | Richard Stevenson

California Education Down for the Count Due to Tax Cuts

Wednesday's piece by education writer Michael Winerip, "A Test for Schwarzenegger: Add Muscle to Bare Bones," fingers a familiar bogeyman for failing California schools: "After Proposition 13 was passed in 1978, capping taxes, California's spending on public education plummeted and never recovered. A new study by the Public Policy Institute of California says that even with relatively high teacher salaries, California spends '9 percent less per student than schools in the rest of the U.S.'"

Wrong. Lance Izumi of the Pacific Research Institute shows per-pupil spending in real terms is significantly higher today than it was before Proposition 13 was approved. In fact, real per-pupil spending in California was 60 percent higher in 1994-95 than in 1969-70. But not even that muscle-bound spending has lifted student achievement off the mat.

For the rest of Winerip on California education, click here.

California | Education | Lance Izumi | Proposition 13 | Michael Winerip

Jehl Buries Dirty Details of Demo Memo

Thursday's story by Douglas Jehl, "Republican and Democratic Panel Leaders Take Feud to the Senate Floor," talks of the bad blood on the Senate Intelligence Committee resulting from a memo written by a Democratic staffer on the supposedly nonpartisan committee. Yet Jehl buries the actual partisan contents of the memo. As quoted by the Washington Times, the Democratic memo suggests using the committee for political advantage: "We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration's use of intelligence at any time-but we can only do so once. The best time to do so will probably be next year." In other words, when Bush is campaigning for re-election.

As journalism professor Cori Dauber notes of Jehl's story in the Times: "The memo is mentioned, and quoted, but what seems to me to be the absolute guts of the memo-that an independent commission will be timed for political advantage-is never mentioned, just does not appear in the article, a startling omission, but one consistent with the 'boys will be boys, they're both doing it' frame. The article ends with Sen. Rockefeller's anger over the memo's disclosure, and Roberts' need to defend the Republican's use of the memo, a 'strong defense of Republican strategy.' Note that elegant turn-the discussion of the revelation that Democrats have a political strategy for the use of intelligence, that's the political strategy that needs to be defended here."

Reporter Jehl also fails to mention the angry criticism from the Democrat's own Sen. Zell Miller, who calls the memo "the first cousin of treason" and says "heads should roll." Instead, in an impressive bit of pro-Democrat turnabout, Jehl manages to portray the Republicans as being on the defensive and being forced to defend their own political 'strategy' over the memo.

For the rest of Jehl's story on the Senate's feud over war intelligence, click here.

Democrats | Iraq War | Douglas Jehl | Sen. Zell Miller | Sen. John Rockefeller | Senate

Reagan, AIDS and Pope Pius XII

TV critic Alessandra Stanley reviews the melodrama over the botched and biased CBS miniseries "The Reagans," and makes an analogy that could offend both Reagan supporters and the Catholic Church: "CBS had already cut the scene, invented for the film, in which Mr. Reagan says in response to his wife's worry about the AIDS crisis, 'They that live in sin shall die in sin.' When the scope of the disease emerged, historians mostly agree, Mr. Reagan was disengaged and averse to alienating his political base, but that might have been true of any president in office at the time. ('The Reagans' script seems to make him out to be closer to Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust.)"

(MRC President L. Brent Bozell wrote a column in March 2000 shredding the idea popularized by the book "Hitler's Pope" of Pope Pius XII as anti-Semitic, calling it "a slander of the highest order.")

Stanley also counts conservatives as hypocrites: "The opposition to 'The Reagans' was not a matter of principle, as some critics of CBS have maintained. Conservatives did not complain about the election-cycle timing or one-sided depiction of President Bush on 'DC 9/11: Time of Crisis,' a Showtime movie about the president's first days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Perhaps because it was written by Lionel Chetwynd, a well-known conservative filmmaker who painted a heroic portrait of Mr. Bush."

For the rest of Stanley on "The Reagans," click here.

AIDS | Catholics | "The Reagans" | Alessandra Stanley | Television