Thursday, October 18, 2007

Swift-Boating Tumulty

UPDATED 10/19 at bottom

I'm here to tell you I'm shocked...shocked and appalled, even, that the left-wing blogger at Horse's Mouth is pleased with Ms. Tumulty's coverage, and is confident enough that she share's his point of view, to openly encourage her to follow the story on the "smear the sick kid" crowd (as if she hasn't done enough to parrot their campaign line from the start).

Not surprising, though, considering she also quotes another left-wing blog, Think Progress, and cites it as if it's a credible source. How ironic. An essential component of their health care strategy is to accuse anybody who questions their poster family campaign, designed to deceive people into supporting their agenda, of mearing/sliming/swift-boating the families, especially the children. This plan is hinged on a particular incident involving Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's communications director, Don Stewart, and a blogger for Free Republic named icwhatudo. That's a rather creepy name, and unfortunate because it plays right into the paranoia and Brown Shirt fantasies already plaguing much of the reality based community. Nonetheless, Tumulty and her cohorts know they can't refute most most of the information in his post. All they have is that he was wrong about the schools, which he admits, and which was echoed in the e-mail sent out by Stewart. According to Tumulty and her cohorts, Stewart and icwhatudo are guilty of spreading bogus smears of Graeme Frost. First let's examine how Mr. Stewart himself explains what happened.

Here's Stewart in the news story in The Courier-Journal in Louisville:
A week ago yesterday, Stewart said, he sent an e-mail to reporters covering the insurance issue, alerting them that "bloggers have done a little digging and turned up that the Dad owns his own business (and the building it's in), seems to have some commercial rental income and Graeme and a sister go to a private school that, according to its Web site, costs about $20k a year -- for each kid -- despite the news profiles reporting a family income of only $45k for the Frosts.

"Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?" Stewart asked in the e-mail.

He explained yesterday that such e-mails are "part of regular conversation with reporters."

"I pointed out something that had been in the blogs for a couple of days and had been of increasing interest, but I also raised skepticism as to the content," Stewart said.

Hours later, he said, he sent two follow-up e-mails waving reporters off.

A plain reading of that will lead an honest person to conclude Stewart received information pertaining to the story, that he was skeptical of, and relayed it to reporters. Shortly thereafter he discovered the information was no good and sent another email saying as much to reporters. So, what's wrong with what he did? Is it suspect because his sources were bloggers? Okay, if you believe his information was unreliable because it came from blogs, that's an arguable point, though not everybody will agree with it in all instances. Where's the smear of Graeme Frost ?

Karen Tumulty, Time Magazine's National Political Correspondent since 2001, had this to say about the actions taken by Mr. Stewart:

"In this case, with few exceptions, most journalists saw the smear for precisely what it was--and wrote it that way." (emphasis mine
Wow. She's certainly gives the impression she's accepted it as a given with her casual use of the word. Is it a smear because it the subject matter consists of financial and asset information for the Frost family? Hey, you Democrats pushing this are to blame for that. The profile of the Frost family published in Baltimore Sun lists their income at $45,000/year. It also includes this interesting bit:
"I am incredibly thankful," said Frost, who works full time for a medical publishing firm. Her husband, Halsey, is a full-time woodworker.

From the profile we get the kind of work they do, their income, and the picture of them in their kitchen. Noticeably absent from the profile is any mention of Graeme Frost or his Democratic Radio Address. Keep all this in mind for later reference.

Shortly after the Sun article began circulating around the blogosphere people started commenting on it. Someone at Free Republic (one of those right-wing blogs) looked at the picture of the family in their kitchen and speculated that the counter-tops look like granite, which The Associated Press dutifully reported on October 10th, adding that the family had responded that they're concrete. That tidbit is presented in the AP article as the only question conservative bloggers had raised. That alone could be laughed off, and if your only source was AP you'd have probably thought that's all there was to the story.

What AP left out was
a lot of other information icwhatudo included in the Free Republic blog post two days earlier. Some of that information is what Don Stewart relayed to reporters the next day. As you'll recall, part of his correspondence with reporters included his questioning whether the family had been properly vetted by their handlers. Presumably, he provided reporters with the link to his source article from which he got the information.

On October 8, the same day Stewart says he sent the emails to reporters, Think Progress posted a story titled Rightwing Launches Baseless Smear Campaign Against 12 Year Old Recipient of SCHIP. If the title isn't a hint that perhaps the objectivity and accuracy of the post should be questioned, then the URL will make it abundantly clear:

Attacking Graeme Frost. Upon reading the post it becomes clear that it's a blatant misrepresentation of what was posted at Free Republic. A link to the post is provided, but the authors of these types of posts, especially at a place like Think Progress, can be reasonably certain very few people who frequent the blog will click the link to read it themselves. They'll take the what's written in the smear story at face value because in that the inhabitant prefer not to visit right-wing sites. They don't want to give them traffic and they fear catching cooties.

The same day the Think Progress piece was posted, ABC News blog Political Radar posted a story titled: Dems' Poster Child Faces a Firestorm. Quite a contrast from the TP article. First of all it uses the poster child formulation which reveals that the writer, at least, believes the whole melodrama was a staged political stunt. The post has the same link to the Free Republic used by Think Progress. However, it quotes directly from the posting, without the twisting and distorting employed by TP. In effect this exposed the real Smear Story for what it is. To compound the offense, the word smear isn't even used in the story! It was all too much for Karen Tumulty. She went right to her blog at Time's Swampland and put up a very short post titled: Graeme Frost: Swift-boating a Seventh Grader. A new S word as Smear became Swift-boat. Perhaps she recalled memories of the Kerry campaign. The post contains two sentences. The first is:
This, apparently, is what passes for a policy debate these days.
The link takes you to ABC Political Radar story. The second sentence is:
UPDATE: Think Progress gives us the electronic paper trail.
You can probably guess which post that link goes to. Yet she posted it casually, without comment or qualification, as if it's somehow a legitimate and undisputed paper trail. She apparently felt reassured enough to pen, the next day, an article for Time Magazine online titled: : The Swift-Boating of Graeme Frost , in which she repeats many of the talking points in the Think Progress post, apparently without bothering to check out the claims.

At this point the conversion was complete. A journalist at a prominent, mainstream media outfit, one which trumpets it's supposed neutrality and objectively, had become a portal and advocate for the world-view of the most dishonest and stidently partisan elements of the left, those who consider the truth optional in political endeavors and smearing political opponents is standard. In essence, a mindset exactly like the one she believes wingnuts possess. As I said earlier, ironic as hell.

Here's a chilling quote from Tumulty in regard to Dan Stewart and his alleged smearing that, perhaps inadvertently, admits the real objective of all this :
I suspect that the next time something like this happens, Stewart won't be so quick to hit the Send button.

Side Notes:

I know, I haven't commented on Michelle Malkin's role in all this yet, mainly because when Tumulty published her Swift-Boating screed Malkin's activities weren't yet known to her, or if they were she didn't mention them in her piece. I'll elaborate on Michelle's saga in my next post. As a teaser here's another quote from the Louisville Courier Journal story:
"Forgive me if I already told you this, but a blogger that I trust (and who hadn't written anything on this issue yet) tells me that after spending a lot of time on this, they now believe there's no story there, that the family is legit," Stewart wrote in one e-mail, according to the text he provided to The Courier-Journal.
Has it been determined yet who that mystery blogger was?

Links featured in my next post:
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Coverage & Access | New NPR/Kaiser/Harvard School of Public Health Poll Examines Views of SCHIP
H.R. 976 - the Bill Bush vetoed
NPR/KFF/HSPH Survey: Public Views on SCHIP Reauthorization: Topline (Poll) PDF
Keiser Family Foundation

Update: I need to comment more on why I put this cartoon up. Here's another remarkable quote from the Political Radar post linked above:
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office became aware of the Frosts through a healthcare interest group, FamiliesUSA, Democratic leaders turned to Graeme to deliver the party's weekly radio address Sept. 29.
So we have a direct connection between the Frosts and Families USA, a Soros funded outfit that promotes the spread of leftism and socialism. Their name is a ruse to sucker people unfamiliar with the issues over to their agenda.

About Families USA - Their ads were playing all over the lefty blogosphere. I noticed them in the run up to the vote yesterday, often at places that were first to go with the smear/swift-boat/slime/stalk distraction. I happened to be looking at memeorandum at the time. It was amazing how many posts popped up around the same time with variations on the same theme and very words. Wow. It's enough to make someone prone to such thinking believe it was a coordinated campaign.

Anyway, I love the picture because it contains, in one picture, three of the big lies involved in the campaign.

The little kid with the sign? That lie is from Families USA.

Limbaugh, Malkin, and the rest of the wingnuts? They're reminding us of John Kerry and his unfortunate (for him) encounter with the Swift-Boat Veterans for Truth. That comes right from Karen Tumulty. She has an interesting history with Swift-boating and John Kerry. Here she is interviewing him September 12, 2004. You'll notice the only time she mentions the Swift-boat campaign is while asking Kerry what he thinks of them. Of course he gave the stock answer; the the attacks are just awful and George Bush should call them off. Nowhere does she ask about the specific charges they make. I guess at that point she had already decided his critics were simply a smear group and therefore everything they say can be ignored.

The couple talking about smear campaigns represents lefties who have the words smear or slime or variants thereof in the titles of their articles. Paul Krugman, Think Progress, Huffington Post, and countless others apparently had the same original inspiration at the same time.

I'll update again as soon as I have the stuff ready for the Kaiser connection and more.