What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 19, 2007

Ruth Ann Responds

Here's Ruth Ann Dailey's defense of her offensive Pelosi Smear column.

Turns out her defense isn't very strong either. She sets out via a timeline to support a position that only she (and a few other wingnuts to the right Tony Snow) still seems to think is true. We know Ruth Ann can do better than this. We've seen Ruth Ann do better than this. But I guess she doesn't want to admit her mistakes and this column is just a complicated dance to make her charges seem less out there than they actually are.

Here's how she starts the column. She probably doesn't get the irony at the end of the first paragraph (but then again, she probably wouldn't):

It's rarely worthwhile to revisit a recent topic, but the writing of, and response to, last Monday's column is too interesting to pass up. It gives unusual insight into a modern irony: Despite the Internet's vast resources, people can find as much news, or as little, as suits their agenda.

Many people first noticed the flap over Rep. Nancy Pelosi's military airplane around Feb. 7 or 8, when the nation's bigger media began covering it. But good and undisputed reporting had been under way for a full week.

She uses the word "undisputed" here. Remember that.

She begins her defense of her smear where it began, with this article in the Washington Times. Hardly a credible source nowadays. That quote by Abraham Lincoln had been debunked last August, and yet the paper that Ruth Ann Dailey is relying on for its journalistic credibility took more than two days to issue a correction after it was reminded that Lincoln never said it.

Good choice, Ruth Ann.

Anway, this is what Ruth Ann Daily wrote:

The Washington Times, widely considered a conservative newspaper, was the first to break the story on Feb. 1, when both Pentagon and Bush administration sources revealed details of stalled negotiations with the speaker of the House.

"The sources ... said she is seeking regular military flights not only for herself and her staff, but also for relatives. ... The speaker's legal counsel is spearheading the talks." [emphasis in original]

Watch carefully those ellipses. She's combined two different sentences (from two different paragraphs) into one. Here's the source of the first:
The sources, who include those in Congress and in the administration, said the Democrat is seeking regular military flights not only for herself and her staff, but also for relatives and for other members of the California delegation. A knowledgeable source called the request "carte blanche for an aircraft any time."
Why omit the phrase between those commas? I'm not sure. This is the second paragraph of the WashTimes article, by the way. Four paragraphs later (the article's sixth) there's the other half of Ruth Ann's sentence:
Sources said Mrs. Pelosi's request goes beyond what Mr. Hastert received. The speaker's legal counsel is spearheading the talks.
Looks like she's lumping all the "sources" into one pile and then attributing any of the information from one to any of them. But the first quote is obviously from a political source and the second (owing to it's placement in the article) is obviously a defense source. Why? Just take a look at this. It's the previous two paragraphs in the Washtimes article:

Mrs. Pelosi's request is not new for a speaker, who is second-in-line in presidential succession. A defense source said the speaker's regular access to a military plane began after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, who was speaker at the time, started using U.S. Air Force planes for domestic travel to and from his district for security reasons. A former Hastert aide said the congressman did not use military planes for political trips or regularly transport his family.

The defense source said Mr. Hastert requested a plane with good communications so he could conduct legislative business. The military flights increased to the point the speaker used a military plane for many, if not all, flights to his Illinois district, the former aide said.

It's a small point, but take a look at the detail that isn't there. The sources are all unnamed and are from the administration and Congress (can we guess which party?) and much later the Pentagon. Lumping them all together makes them all seem to fit together.

Eventually in her time line of sources she gets to some actual names:
Also on Thursday, House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood stated that the initial request for Ms. Pelosi's airplane had come from him, as well as an insistence on nonstop flights.

An Associated Press article on Mr. Livingood's role and on the White House's defense of Ms. Pelosi adopted the tone of breezy dismissal apparent in Tony Snow's word, "silly." Most irate readers I heard from e-mailed a copy of this article, often via political blogs, as if AP's brief, tardy coverage was definitive.

You may not think the AP coverage is, but Livingood's statement certainly is definitive, Ruth Ann. Far more definitive than the "unnamed sources" of the Washington Times' coverage. For those who may have missed it, here's Livingood's statement (in its entirety):

As the Sergeant at Arms, I have the responsibility to ensure the security of the members of the House of Representatives, to include the Speaker of the House. The Speaker requires additional precautions due to her responsibilities as the leader of the House and her Constitutional position as second in the line of succession to the presidency.

In a post 9/11 threat environment, it is reasonable and prudent to provide military aircraft to the Speaker for official travel between Washington and her district. The practice began with Speaker Hastert and I have recommended that it continue with Speaker Pelosi. The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable. This will ensure communications capabilities and also enhance security. I made the recommendation to use military aircraft based upon the need to provide necessary levels of security for ranking national leaders, such as the Speaker. I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue.

Also, I'd think that this does dispute the Washington Times' story, doesn't it? Something Ruth Ann failed to point out. Here's more of what Tony Snow said:
Well, I'll reiterate our position. The question -- the RNC has put out a statement on Speaker Pelosi and travel arrangements, and I'll just repeat our position, which is, as Speaker of the House, she is entitled to military transport, and that the arrangements, the proper arrangements are being made between the Sergeant of Arms office in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Defense. We think it's appropriate, and so, again, I think this is much ado about not a whole lot. It is important for the Speaker to have this kind of protection and travel. It was certainly appropriate for Speaker Hastert. So we trust that all sides will get this worked out.
So when she says that the stuff that's in the Washington Times is "undisputed" she's, well, wrong, isn't she? Tony Snow himself said that the arrangements were being made by the Sergeant-at-Arms and the DOD, not Pelosi's office, not Murtha's. Looks like THE WHITE HOUSE is disputing the story that Ruth Ann Dailey is on the record saying is "undisputed."

Nice going, Ruth Ann.

And yet she valiantly continues:
Close reading of all the news available, however, reveals that none of the reports cancels others out. For instance, Mr. Livingood's initiation of the request doesn't mean that Ms. Pelosi, her staff and Mr. Murtha didn't also make requests -- or, in Mr. Murtha's case, threats. They did. This reporting has not been disproven; indeed, Ms. Pelosi's first statements on the conflict confirm her involvement, and Mr. Murtha has boasted of his role.
It's also not disproven that the flying spaghetti monster created the universe. No proof of it either. Too bad she doesn't include any quotations to support what she's asserting. Here's one:

Pelosi said she would be happy to fly on commercial airliners but said the House sergeant-at-arms office urged her to continue Hastert's practice of using Air Force transport. She said she was informed on her first trip home that her plane would not make it across the country.

"I said well, that's fine, I'm going commercial," she told Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren. "I'm not asking to go on that plane. If you need to take me there for security purposes, you're going to have to get a plane that goes across the country, because I'm going home to my family."

Her nest part is pretty egregious.
But people who would savage George Bush for asserting the sky is blue fell all over themselves to embrace the White House's support of Ms. Pelosi, forgetting that it might simply be savvy political posturing: The White House got to speak softly while some House Republicans wielded a medium-size stick, just as Washington headed into congressional debate on the Iraq surge.
My god, is she saying the White House is lying? Well she uses the phrase "savvy political posturing" but "lying" covers it. She wants us to think that Tony Snow played "good cop" to the Congressional Republicans "bad cop" and that 1) the "bad cops" are speaking the truth and 2) the "good cop" (i.e the White House) knows that it's manipulating the truth.

This is how far Ruth Ann Dailey, faithful Republican, had to go to support her smear: The White House is lying about it.

I'll leave it at that.


Whigsboy said...

This is crap. I called the PG last week and spoke with an editor who has some role with the opinion column. He told me to let Ruth Ann know about my concerns with the column and if her response was unsatisfactory, to go to the executive editor, David Shribman.

Well, I'm off today, so I'll be giving Mr. Shribman a call. One of his featured columnists just admitted that, for this Feb. 12 column, she relied almost exclusively on a Feb. 1 Washington Times article and that statements made by Livingood and Tony Snow somehow do not contradict the unnamed sources in the Washington Times piece. Hey, Ruth Ann, is their a rule against columnists picking up the phone and doing their own reporting? Count Novak does it all of the time e.g., that Plame thingy.

I'll report back on whether I get a response from Mr. Shribman.

Whigsboy said...

Also, David, you tend to give Ruth Ann too much credit. I know you've had occasion to talk with her personally, but she is a serial liar and - regardless of whether she can be charming in person - is not deserving of respect. She basically admits in this column that she willfully omitted facts that would have discredited her argument. People like that are worthy only of polite dismissal at best and open disdain at worst.

EdHeath said...

This does seem to be one of those stories where whatever the truth is gets lost in partisan bickering. The opinion piece in the PG yesterday about evolution is another good example, where conservatives twist the truth about what science wants to say about evolution and load the argument with religious issues. A line from “An Inconvenient Truth” comes to mind as well. Gore was saying that of peer reviewed scientific articles, something like 3% presented the idea that there was some doubt about global warming, while either 50% or all the articles in the non-peer reviewed popular press presented both sides of the “debate” (I forget which). Where I’m going with this is that Ruth Ann and other conservative pundits have found that by repeating accusations and stereotypes over and over, they can make a lot of the muck stick. Liberals may do it too, but for the life of me I can’t think of an example (because I tend to believe Krugman, I guess).

I made the suggestion before that the Sergeant At Arms might be trying to score points with the new speaker by accommodating her or making the request, and I stand by that as a possibility. I'm not saying it is particularly improper, just that it could be a bureaucrat trying to make a bosses life more comfortable. On the other hand, the Speaker's position in the line of succession makes plausible the need for secure transportation. It is also possible Murtha made some rash statement. IMO, (and on another topic) he might have scared off some republican House support for the non-binding resolution with his talk about changing the upcoming Iraq budget request. But this is just my opinion of what could be, and should be viewed in the context of what has been six very partisan years, where democrats have been called traitors and worse (even recently).

Ruth Ann could have talked about how lobbyists are already finding ways around the new congressional rules, but she chose to go after an easy to understand issue that would likely resonate with Pittsburghers, the Speaker using a luxury airplane to fly home like our state legislature uses luxury cars on our dime. Conservatives will agree with her, liberals will disagree, apparently politicians are interested in other issues and meanwhile she lost the opportunity to make clear her reasonable point, that democrats as well as republicans sometimes take advantage of the system for their own gain.

Anonymous said...

whigsboy, I know that Shribman responds to emails (often early in the morning). I don't know how much luck you'll have getting him on the phone.