Define ‘Extremely Hard’

Howard Kurtz reviews the CNN debacle in his column today, an extension of his blog post at The Trail last night. He leads with CNN’s expression of regret over the inclusion of General Keith Kerr, a member of Hillary Clinton’s campaign steering committee on gay and lesbian issues. But at the end, Kurtz includes this strange defense from CNN’s Washington bureau chief David Bohrman:

Bohrman said he had no problem using questioners who have voiced support for other candidates as long as they are not donors or formally affiliated with any campaign. “We bent over backwards to be fair,” he said. “We’re not perfect. But we tried extremely hard.”

Extremely hard? That seems very questionable, as James Joyner points out in a quote Kurtz includes just before this. Within minutes of the broadcast, bloggers using nothing more than Google unearthed Kerr’s connection to the Hillary Clinton campaign. With the other questioners, CNN apparently didn’t even bother to peruse their posted profiles on their YouTube accounts, where they could have easily discovered their professed support for their candidates.
The irony in this is that Google owns YouTube — and that Google paid for Kerr’s flight to St. Petersburg so he could participate in the debate. Apparently Google doesn’t know how to use its own product. Google didn’t broadcast the debate, however; that was CNN’s function, and their name lent this whatever journalistic credibility it had.
Memo to CNN: quit trying to excuse this away. No one tried “extremely hard” to vet these questions. Obviously, no one tried vetting them at all. The continuation of the pretense only damages your credibility even further than the debate did.
What a shame, too, because the questions themselves weren’t so bad. The plants revealed their own prejudices against the GOP, and the candidates did a good job of swatting them aside. The worst inclusions didn’t come from the plants, but from CNN’s decision to include insulting questions about Confederate flags and the Bible, which revealed CNN’s prejudices about Republicans. Mitt Romney gave the best response to this when he asked contemptuously why the flag question even got selected for a presidential debate. Otherwise, with just over 30 questions in the debate, most of them focused on policy in substantive ways and provoked perhaps the best intramural exchanges in the debates this year.
CNN blew it, and blew it big — and they didn’t try extremely hard to avoid it. They got extremely sloppy and careless, and they got caught.

Bhutto To Campaign In Elections

Benazir Bhutto has declined to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections in Pakistan — at least for now. Instead of uniting with Nawaz Sharif in his refusal to engage in the January 8th polls, Bhutto has announced her intention to run, while holding onto the option of withdrawing if conditions change. The move leaves Sharif in the cold, and perhaps hints of a rapprochement between Bhutto and Musharraf:

Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was gearing up on Friday for a January election as another opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, hoped to persuade her to boycott the vote.
Bowing to international pressure, President Pervez Musharraf stepped down on Wednesday as army chief and on Thursday, hours after taking the oath as civilian president, promised to lift emergency rule by December 16.
He also vowed that parliamentary elections would go ahead on January 8 and urged everyone, including Bhutto and Sharif, the prime minister he toppled in 1999, to take part on what he described as a level playing field.
Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, the country’s biggest party, said it had made a very difficult decision to take part in the election while reserving the right to withdraw.

Bhutto has some conditions for her participation. She wants the independent Elections Commission reinstated, and she also wants provincial allies of Musharraf suspended to keep any interference to a minimum. She’s not likely to get her wish on the latter, but it may not make much difference. Bhutto has an opportunity to marginalize Sharif, and she appears ready to grasp it.
Sharif finds himself in a tough spot. First, he didn’t get the same deal Bhutto received, and his criminal conviction for corruption leaves him ineligible to run for office anyway. With Bhutto rejecting his call for a boycott, Sharif risks having his party seriously underrepresented in parliament, which will leave the government in the hands of Bhutto and Musharraf.
Bhutto returned to Pakistan in hope of finding an alliance with Musharraf that would restore democracy and fight the terrorists — or at least that’s what the US hoped. That possibility remains, and it would keep Sharif and his party on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, if Musharraf really restores democracy. If Bhutto allies with Musharraf and the newly-civilian president continues his dictatorship by other means, Sharif will have avoided the taint of collaboration with a tyrant when the dictatorship eventually ends.
Sharif has a tough choice ahead of him. He will likely reverse himself and contest the elections, having left himself that opening. He didn’t return to Pakistan to become a political analyst.

The Irish Job

There’s nothing like a great heist movie. Whether you like it hip and ironic (Oceans Eleven), played for laughs (The Pink Panther), romantic (The Thomas Crown Affair), or gritty (Heist), they give us a vicarious thrill of the forbidden. And when people do try to make them a reality, it quickly loses its charm. For instance, it’s difficult to see how this would make good cinema:

Irish police were hunting for a beer bandit who stole 450 full kegs from the Guinness brewery — the largest heist ever at Ireland’s largest brewer.
National police said a lone man drove into the brewery — a Dublin landmark and top tourist attraction — on Wednesday and hitched his truck to a fully loaded trailer awaiting delivery to city pubs.
Diageo PLC, the beverage company that owns Guinness, said the brewery had never suffered such a large-scale theft before in its 248-year history.

Well, the joke’s on them. Only 180 kegs of it were Guinness stout. The rest of the kegs held Carlsberg and — the horror! — Budweiser. One can imagine the disappointment when the trailer gets unhitched and inspected.
Ireland has a history of hijackings and thefts in alcohol and cigarettes, although not usually from the brewery itself. The IRA used to finance its activities through such thefts, selling the beer cheaply and without the usual onerous Irish taxes to supporters and sympathizers among pub owners. Gangs continue this activity to this day, neither not unlike the Mafia in this country that ran similar activities.
Like I said, pretty charmless. Instead of Thomas Crown, it’s closer to Goodfellas. However, if you find yourself in Dublin, the brewery itself is anything but charmless. You can have a great pint of Guinness stout at a bar that provides one of the highest viewpoints of the entire city, after a great tour of the facility and the requisite souvenir shops.

Mr. Murtha Goes To Okinawa

John Murtha has spent most of the last two years demanding an end to the deployment in Iraq — well, apart from the time he spends porking up appropriations in the House. He has insisted that the war has been lost, and in January plotted to kneecap the surge before it began. Murtha has worked tirelessly to declare defeat this year, threatening the funding for General David Petraeus unless it gets tied to a retreat.
Tomorrow’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will contain the figurative redeployment of Murtha to Okinawa (via Hot Air and Bill’s Blog):

“I think the ‘surge’ is working,” the Democrat said in a videoconference from his Johnstown office, describing the president’s decision to commit more than 20,000 additional combat troops this year. But the Iraqis “have got to take care of themselves.”
Violence has dropped significantly in recent months, but Mr. Murtha said he was most encouraged by changes in the once-volatile Anbar province, where locals have started working closely with U.S. forces to isolate insurgents linked to Al Qaeda.
He said Iraqis need to duplicate that success at the national level, but the central government in Baghdad is “dysfunctional.”

No thanks to Murtha and his defeatist ilk in Congress, of course. If the Congressional Democrats had had their way in January, we would have abandoned the Iraqis to the terrorists and left behind a failed state and destroyed credibility.
I’ll give him a half-cheer for finally recognizing reality. Perhaps when the rest of the Democrats grow up, we’ll make some real progress.

NBC Needs A New Host, And A Media Alert

I’ll be on the Hugh Hewitt show at 7:30 pm CT tonight, talking about Mansoor Ijaz and probably a little about the CNN/YouTube debate as well. However, as an anonymous e-mailer points out, CNN isn’t the only network showing its bias today. In this YouTube, NBC host Erin Burnett thought she’d give George Bush the business — the monkey business, that is. She calls him a “monkey” as part of a report on Nicolas Sarkozy’s trip to China, and then backpedals when her guest scolds her:

“I don’t know what you mean, but that’s my President,” the man responds, after Burnett tries to say that she meant “monkey in the middle”. She then pretends that she meant Angela Merkel, or Joe Scarborough attempts to give her that out.
This is pretty pathetic, even for MS-NBC, a pseudonetwork mostly known for as the Keith Olbermann Asylum. I recall when reporters gave us reasoned, articulate reports on events and facts, not nonsensical name-calling. If NBC wants its news division to have more credibility than CNN, then they need to find another job for Erin Burnett. The deer-in-the-headlights look on her face shows that she understood her faux pas immediately.

Dickie Scruggs, Hillary Fundraiser

The buzz around Trent Lott’s departure from the Senate had focused on his familial connections to now-indicted Mississippi lawyer Dickie Scruggs, Lott’s brother-in-law. However, the political connections go in an entirely different direction. Scruggs has had his latest fundraiser canceled — by Hillary Clinton (via Memeorandum):

A Dec. 15 fund-raising event for Hillary Clinton at the home of prominent Mississippi trial laywer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs is off, now that Scruggs has been indicted for bribery.
Bill Clinton was set to be the star attraction at the event at Scruggs’s Oxford, Miss., home. Hillary Clinton wasn’t scheduled to attend. It was the first event that Scruggs, who made a fortune suing the tobacco industry in the 1990s, had offered to host for Clinton, a campaign spokesman said. It was canceled on Wednesday, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided his home and the federal indictment was announced. …
Over the years, Scruggs has been a generous donor to Democrats, but he’s also given money to Republican candidates. He gave $4,200 to Clinton’s Senate campaign in 2005 but hadn’t made a donation yet to her presidential bid. Scruggs’s brother-in-law is Sen. Trent Lott (R., Miss.), who just announced his intention to leave the Senate before the end of the year.

Norman Hsu, the Fujian donor scandal, Peter Paul, and now Dickie Scruggs. It seems rather more like a pattern than a series of coincidences, doesn’t it?

Give Up, And We’ll Consider It A Deal

Osama bin Laden seems rather desperate to get the Western nations out of Afghanistan. In a new audio tape partially released by al-Jazeera, Osama tells Europeans that the American-led invasion of Afghanistan was unfair, because Mullah Omar’s government didn’t know about the 9/11 plot. Osama insists that he kept it very quiet:

Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden called on the Europeans to stop helping the United States in the war in Afghanistan, according to excerpts of a new audiotape broadcast Thursday on Al-Jazeera television.
Bin Laden said it was unjust for the United States to have invaded Afghanistan for sheltering him after the 9/11 attacks, saying he was the “only one responsible” for the deadly assaults on New York and Washington.
“The events of Manhattan were retaliation against the American-Israeli alliance’s aggression against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, and I am the only one responsible for it. The Afghan people and government knew nothing about it. America knows that,” the al-Qaida leader said.
The message appeared to be another attempt by bin Laden to influence public opinion in the West. In 2004, he offered Europeans a truce if they stopped attacking Muslims, then later spoke of a truce with the United States. In both cases, al-Qaida then denounced the countries for not accepting its offers.

At the time, Osama claimed it as retaliation for “occupying” Saudi Arabia, but let’s not quibble. He has once again admitted 9/11 as an al-Qaeda operation for whatever twisted reasons suit his purpose. At least that much should put to rest most of the lunatic-fringe truther conspiracies — if the conspiracy lunatics had any rational thought at all.
Let’s take him at face value on his claim of injustice, though. If he was correct, then he should have told Mullah Omar to extradite him and his AQ fanatics to the United States before the invasion. We offered Omar the opportunity to do that before we invaded Afghanistan, but Omar refused to surrender Osama or his henchmen, specifically because he said the US lacked proof of Osama’s involvement. If Osama objected to an invasion that we specifically declared would remove Omar from power, perhaps he should have tapped Omar on the shoulder and said, “Hey, bud, I have something important to tell you …”
To take this line of thought even further, we could declare the deal still open. Let Osama and his AQ nutcases deliver themselves to the American military for detention, completely and without any conditions, and we will help broker a political solution for Omar’s survival. The Afghans appear willing to have some sort of reconciliation with the Taliban if they would stop trying to reinstall their dicatorship, and we could help find common ground, if any exists. But until Osama and the entire AQ network surrenders to us, then the war continues.
If Osama wants justice, let him take that deal. If Omar wants to survive this war, he could simply give up Osama, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the rest of the AQ lunatics. Until then, we offer Osama and Omar a healthy cup of shut the hell up.

The Six-Week Emergency

How long does it take to get to the end of a political emergency? Longer than it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, but shorter than it takes to get to the next election, at least in Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf now says he expects to cancel the PCO that sent his nation into a paroxysm of unrest by December 16th, the first time that he has given an end date for the state of emergency:

Musharraf’s decision to end emergency rule by Dec. 16, revealed in a television address to the nation, came the same day he was sworn in as a civilian for his second five-year term as president. He resigned as army chief on Wednesday.
Seeking to end months of political crisis, Musharraf urged Pakistan’s leading opposition figures — former prime ministers Sharif and Benazir Bhutto — to participate in the Jan. 8 parliamentary elections. …
In announcing an end to the four-week state of emergency, Musharraf went partway toward meeting the opposition’s concerns but said nothing about restoring the judges he purged or changing the makeup of the caretaker government.

If Musharraf expected this to smooth the waters, he will be disappointed. Nawaz Sharif, who just returned to Pakistan, has decided to boycott the Parliamentary elections anyway. Sharif has a conspicuous ally in cricket star Imran Khan, who staged a brief hunger strike when Musharraf’s forces detained him in the first days of the emergency decree.
Will Benazir Bhutto join Sharif? So far, she has played coy. Her spokesperson says that decision has not yet been made. Bhutto pledged to boycott the elections if all other parties did, but clearly Musharraf’s PML-Q will contest for seats on January 8th. Bhutto and Sharif have mostly opposed each other for the last two decades, and are unlikely allies even against Musharraf. Bhutto’s return was widely seen as a way for Musharraf to marginalize the religious elements that bolster Sharif, but the PCO split Bhutto away from Musharraf, at least for now. A decision to campaign could allow Bhutto to win a significant parliamentary faction at Sharif’s expense.
The end of emergency rule is a welcome development, although the judiciary shake-up doesn’t instill confidence in the rule of law for Pakistan. Had Musharraf used this time for a massive strike against the radical Islamists, perhaps that would have been more encouraging. As it is, it looks more like an attempt to secure his own power while offering little against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Heading Right Radio: CNN Debate Debacle, Economic Non-Debacle

Note: This post will remain on top until show time; newer posts may be found below.
Today on Heading Right Radio (2 pm CT), Rob Neppell, aka NZ Bear, joins us to debate the debate. Did CNN have it in for the Republicans, or did they just get incompetent in researching the questioners? We’ll take your calls on this question, so tune up your dialing fingers!
In the second half, we’ll talk about the economic outlook with our friend King Banaian from SCSU Scholars. The economics chair of St. Cloud State University will explain the latest economic numbers showing an almost 5% annual growth rate in the third quarter, and talk about the risks hyped by the media in the last few weeks.
And if we have time, I’ll explain why Vista sucks.
Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation! And don’t forget to join our chat room!
Did you know that you can listen to Heading Right Radio through your TiVo service? Click here for the instructions. Also, you can subscribe to Heading Right Radio through iTunes now by clicking this link:
Add to iTunes

Striking Writers Cancel Democratic Debate

This story goes well with the CNN brouhaha today, even if it makes little sense. The December 10th Democratic debate on CBS from Los Angeles got canceled — due to the writers strike. Leading Presidential candidates refused to cross a threatened picket line (via Hot Air):

A labor dispute which has darkened US light entertainment and chat shows claimed another victim on Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of a CBS News debate among Democratic White House hopefuls.
The debate, scheduled for Los Angeles on December 10, was nixed after candidates including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said they would refuse to cross a picket line that the Writers Guild of America Union had threatened to set up.
“CBS News regrets not being able to offer the Democratic presidential debate scheduled for Dec. 10 in Los Angeles,” CBS said in a statement.
“The possibility of picket lines set up by the Writers Guild of America and the unwillingness of many candidates to cross them made it necessary to allow the candidates to make other plans.”

Oh my, where to start with this one? First, the writers have no business picketing a debate. They don’t script the questions (the news division does that), and unless the candidates concede that they script the answers, the Hollywood writers have no involvement in the process at all. If the writers decided to picket a town-hall forum in LA for Hillary Clinton, it would be just as ridiculous.
Given that, the surrender to the union is risible. The Democrats can’t even stand up for the public’s benefit from seeing their own debate! How will they stand up to special interests if elected to the presidency? Not one of them appears to have the testicular fortitude to point out the irrelevance of a presidential debate to the writers strike, nor the will to demonstrate their commitment to open political discourse by crossing the line and exposing it for a fraud.
The Republicans couldn’t have written a better script, not even if they could hire a Writers Guild member.
ADDENDUM: Still trying to figure out the Democratic message on this. Is it that DVD residuals are a higher public interest than Democratic presidential primary elections? That union disputes somehow derail the democratic process? We held a presidential election in the middle of our Civil War, but apparently the Copperheads of today can’t even debate the issues in the midst of an entertainment-industry walkout.
Let’s have a poll to see which message works!

What is the message from the Democrats’ cancellation of the Los Angeles debate because of the Writers Guild strike?

Free polls from