October 25, 2007

Foer Still Spinning

Franklin Foer has perfected his impersonation of a gyroscope in a vacuum -- he can't stop spinning. The editor of The New Republic spoke with Howard Kurtz yesterday about the release of the transcript of his conversation with Scott Beauchamp and the Army conclusions that Beauchamp had fabricated the stories he wrote for TNR. Instead of acknowledging what everyone else knows now about Beauchamp's fabulism, Foer insists that the improbable stories his erstwhile Hemingway spun have been verified:

Despite the contentious conversation, Foer continued to defend the article days later. He did so again yesterday, reiterating that other soldiers whom the magazine would not identify had confirmed the allegations.

While Beauchamp "didn't stand by his stories in that conversation, he didn't recant his stories," Foer said in an interview. "He obviously was under considerable duress during that conversation, with his commanding officer in the room with him."

While the discussion "was extremely frustrating and engendered doubts," Foer said, Beauchamp defended his story in a subsequent conversation that was conducted with no superiors present.

Did he? Then why hasn't TNR published the transcript of that conversation? After all, I'm certain that one of the reporters or editors in the room for that call must have recorded the conversation, if for no other reason than to make sure they had his affirmation on the record. That's what reporters do when trying to ensure accuracy and verification....right?

Instead, we see today that TNR still has not responded to the release of the Army documentation. No one has even addressed the story at The Plank, TNR's staff blog. No one, from Martin Peretz on down, has bothered to give an explanation for the transcript in which Foer threatened Beauchamp with his wife's job if he recanted, or the named soldiers in the Army report who denied Beauchamp's claims. All Foer can do is to argue -- through Kurtz -- that he has verified the stories with anonymous sources.

I find it hilariously ironic that Foer refuses to defend himself and TNR in his own magazine, but instead goes whining to Howard Kurtz -- at the newspaper that he demanded Beauchamp refuse to engage. I wonder why Kurtz didn't ask him about that, and ask Foer why he was talking to the Post when he didn't want Beauchamp to do so. Foer's hypocrisy knows no bounds.

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» Scott Beauchamp's Redemption from Flopping Aces
Michael Yon on the Scott Beauchamp story, and redemption:As the real story unfolded, The New Republic looked increasingly culpable and ridiculous trying to hide behind a fact-checking process that was clearly stuck on the difference between fact and fa... [Read More]

» The New Republic's shame from Public Secrets: from the files of the Irishspy
I've written before (here, here, and here) about the scandal regarding The New Republic's publication of articles by a US soldier in Iraq, Scott Thomas Beauchamp, describing barbaric behavior on the part of our soldiers. They were also complete lies. [Read More]

Comments (19)

Posted by Richard of Oregon | October 25, 2007 8:23 AM

Foer seems to be from the Dan Rather school of Journalism. After awhile, it seems a little sad to watch someone persist in denial when the time to pack it in and go home is long since past.

Posted by sissoed | October 25, 2007 8:25 AM

Don't jump to the conclusion that in the second conversation, Beauchamp defended the accuracy of his story -- look again at the statement: "Foer said, Beauchamp defended his story." A defense of the story is different than a defense of the accuracy of the facts alleged in the story. Perhaps Beauchamp's "defense" of the story was "fake but accurate." The "defense" might not have been an "affirmation" but an excuse. Who knows?

Posted by docjim505 | October 25, 2007 8:37 AM

Cap'n Ed: Franklin Foer has perfected his impersonation of a gyroscope in a vacuum -- he can't stop spinning.

No, no, no. He's not "spinning". "Spinning" is when you try to put the best face on a bad fact, for example: "I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain't bad."*

"Lying" is when you fabricate a complete untruth, as in, "I did not have sex with that woman."

It would appear that Foer is outright lying:

While the discussion "was extremely frustrating and engendered doubts," Foer said, Beauchamp defended his story in a subsequent conversation that was conducted with no superiors present.

Or maybe Beauchamp was lying and Foer, in desperation, continues to believe this fabulist.

Either way, what's happening isn't spin: it's lying.


(*) "Mars Attacks!" (1996). Dir. by Tim Burton. Spoken by Jack Nicholson (President James Dale)

Posted by TomB | October 25, 2007 8:45 AM

Liberals and the Left live in a skewed, virtual world, where only the Right has a duty to strictly adhere to the proofable truth. (Do I sound as Ann Coulter yet? Wait, there is more.).
Anything stated by a Liberal has to be assumed to be true (even if he or she stated the opposite a few minutes earlier) and he or she is entitled to all the due process, including the Supreme Court opinions, if anybody dares to differ.
This is contrary to any statement made by a person on the Right, which has to be assumed to be a lie, unless proven true, supported by tons of documents and a consensus of a Liberal council.
They were giving themselves this advantage for a long time and many has problem accepting reality of the Internet, Google and Blogs.

Posted by capitano | October 25, 2007 8:54 AM

When Dick Morris told Bill Clinton that his polling indicated that the American voters would support Clinton's impeachment if he admitted that he had lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, Clinton responded that "...we'll just have to win then."

The only thing missing here is the DNA evidence.

Posted by glenn | October 25, 2007 9:26 AM

It's clear that Franklin has TNR ownership solidly behind him and that the Beauchamp stories are policy.. If they weren't he would have been fired for malfeasance when it became obvious that he and the TNR staff were "adjusting" the facts of the case and that Mr Beauchamps stories were BS. TNR has had problems with "facts" for quite a while. Ran phoney stories under three (that we know about) editors. I'll bet that if the last ten years content of the magazine were fact checked as well as the Beauchamp stories were you could redefine TNR as "Modern Fiction"

Posted by adk46er | October 25, 2007 9:27 AM

Got to agree with docjim505 this is not spinning - they're not at the spinning stage yet. Before they can start spinning they have to admit to facts, which to date they seem unable or unwilling to do. Oh and isn't it priceless when Foer (ever the truth seeker) brings Scott Beauchamp's wife into the mix; basically telling Scott his personal life is going to suffer if he recants.

Oh what a terrible web TNR weaves...

Posted by rbj | October 25, 2007 9:27 AM

To paraphrase Maxwell Scott in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
When the Narrative doesn't fit the fact, print the Narrative.

Foer is just too invested in this to back up and admit he's wrong/been hoodwinked.

Posted by Clyde | October 25, 2007 9:33 AM

While it's all very nice that the truth is coming out now, I knew that Beauchamp was a liar months ago. Sadly, this is a game of whack-a-mole, because the left-wing MSM and the Hollywood media complex will continue to lie about the state of the GWOT in general, and Iraq in particular.

Don't believe me? What are the latest movies about those subjects? Rendition and Lions For Lambs, the latter being Robert Redford's vehicle to opine "The problem isn't those who attacked us, the problem is US." And you know he means it. Why is it that the only believable character in the trailer was Tom Cruise as a Republican Senator, asking "Do you want to win the War on Terror?" The answer, for Redford, is obviously "No!"

And there will be more Beauchamps popping up again as soon as their media enablers can arrange it. Believe it!

Posted by Sarge6 | October 25, 2007 9:37 AM

The bit "He obviously was under considerable duress during that conversation, with his commanding officer in the room with him." jumped out at me. One, it wasn't anyone close to being Beauchamp's CO (i.e., company or battalion commander), it was his his squad leader, a staff sergeant. Two, to say his NCOIC put him under duress on the call was precisely the opposite of what happened. The few times the squad leader interjected, he was actually facilitating things for TNR's benefit. He advised that yes, Beauchamp could share documents with them. More importantly, he volunteered his opinion that it was "perfectly fair" that Beauchamp not talk to the WP or NW before TNR, because TNR was the one with the "reputation on the line" and so they had "the real say so." So that guy's role in this was to steer Beauchamp into doing right by TNR, yet Foer threw him under the bus to keep pushing the army interference theme.

Posted by unclesmrgol | October 25, 2007 9:37 AM


Ack, ack, ack!*

First rule of movie quotation: don't give away the movie.

(*) "Mars Attacks!" (1996). Dir. by Tim Burton. Spoken by Martian Ambassador (Martian Ambassador)

Posted by Gerry | October 25, 2007 9:37 AM

No, the cover-up doesn't get you - it's stopping the cover-up that does. Bill Clinton just kept on stonewalling and will soon become First Jerkleman.

Posted by Richard of Oregon | October 25, 2007 10:46 AM

TNR - Isn't that Progressive talk for The New Reality?

Posted by E. Marsalis | October 25, 2007 11:04 AM

I could never understand the regard that H. Kurtz is held to in the Righty Blogesphere. He gets the interviews, but asks no hard questions. His esteem is a mystery to me.

Posted by Jack Okie | October 25, 2007 12:53 PM

Let me acknowledge I have from time to time been accused of being a Pollyanna.

I'm wondering if this episode has helped Beauchamp grow up, i.e., something he said in the phone conversation: "what's important to me right now is taking care of the people to the left and right of me". Maybe he was playing to his squad leader, but maybe his fellow soldiers have given him the opportunity to leave the "jerk Beauchamp" behind and become a real soldier himself. That Beauchamp would be worth a thousand Hemingways.

Posted by John | October 25, 2007 5:12 PM

I'm gonna float this out there, please don't kill me.

I know quite a few guys that served in the military. Nice fellows but not so ramrod straight-laced that I can't see any of them doing some of the things Beauchamp alleges. You're out in the field, hanging with your buddies, a little looser than you might be at home cause the job is making ya nuts...

Suddenly that kook Kowalsky swerves the Bradley at a dog in the street and that becomes the afternoon's game as you make the rounds, hooting and hollering.

I know that in a time of war everyone wants to believe that our soldiers are incapable of even the slightest moral infraction, but Abu Ghraib did not happen in a vacuum. People are fallible. We've been there a long time and shit happens, shit *way* worse than Beauchamp alleges.

So Beauchamp takes his anecdotes, maybe spruces 'em up a little so they seem more serious than they really were and sends 'em off to TNR.

Then the shit hits the fan and the army has to investigate these stories, so they call in the troops who now swear that none of it happened or they'll be in trouble.

His squad mates give Beauchamp crap about putting them in hot water; Beauchamp realizes he screwed the pooch and now just wants it all to go away, so he clams up in the interview with a superior present.

He later calls Foer to say that it really did happen but can't admit it on the record or he'll be disciplined.

Doesn't really sound so far-fetched, does it? I'm enjoying watching TNR twist in the wind as much as anyone -- but to suggest that the moral character of our armed forces precludes the possibility of any of this actually occurring is disingenuous.

Ya seen the Abu Ghraib photos? A guy on a leash? I don't relish the notion but it is perfectly possible that some of this happened they way he reported it.

Now, back to our schadenfreude. : )

Posted by S. Gallimore | October 25, 2007 6:29 PM

I'm curious if Foer or TNR is looking for another reporter. I'm sure Bobby Caina Calvan would fit right in...

Does anybody believe the oh-so-right media anymore?


Posted by sherlock | October 25, 2007 7:13 PM

...to suggest that the moral character of our armed forces precludes the possibility of any of this actually occurring is disingenuous.

No, I am afraid that to suggest that the anger against Beauchamp's stories is based on arguments that such behavior is impossible is itself disingenuous!

Even if you can find a few such arguments among the tens of thousands of comments that have been made on this issue, the impossibility of such behavior has clearly never been the core argument against the story... it has always been that the contrived nature of the stories and sophamoric moralizing... "("Tell me, would you have done that in Indiana?"), does not pass the smell test, leading to the conclusion that they represent an attempt to smear the military, and by extension, discredit the war it fights for us.

We need not be perfect, and neither do those whom we admire, to demand that those who speak about any of us be truthful and fair. Is that so hard to understand?

Posted by John | October 25, 2007 8:14 PM

>>> "leading to the conclusion that they represent an attempt to smear the military, and by extension, discredit the war it fights for us."

I'm with you 100% on that one. TNR printed the story because they wanted it to be true, whether it was or it wasn't.

And there's no doubt that he flat out lied about the IED woman story. All I'm saying is that some of it could be based on fact.

But none of that exonerates TNR for wanting and printing a story designed to make the military and the war look shameful. They could print a thousand positive stories about our forces in Iraq or Afganistan -- but they're not interested in that.

Blinded by Bush Derangement Syndrome they leaped to print a story without ever considering the implications of the author refusing to go on record with it.

As fate would have it, misbehavior in uniform is subject to disciplinary action and when push came to shove, the author had no choice but to hang them out to dry. Karma.

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