Though I printed Bateman's complaint, it's been my view all along that Frank Foer has been getting a raw deal in much of the discussion of L'Affaire Beauchamp in the press. The right wing enjoyed The New Republic's trouble because, editorially, the magazine has reversed itself on the war, and hence, put itself on the side of those who hate America. And there's no question that it was a mistake for TNR to publish the piece in the first place, given how little experience Beauchamp had as a writer and the incendiary incidents he alleged to have witnessed.
But all editors make mistakes. Since then, Foer has done his best to try to get to the bottom of the story and simultaneously be fair to his writer. This was made doubly difficult by the refusal of both Beauchamp and the U.S. military to cooperate with TNR in trying to do so, and in fact, as far as I can tell -- without speaking to Foer about it -- deliberately frustrating those attempts.
The situation is, in many aspects, similar to the CBS Dan Rather mess, as the story has yet to be proven true or false, but remains insufficiently documented. TNR's handling of the problem -- and Foer's ultimate mea culpa -- is in decided contrast to CBS' willingness to hang everyone out to dry because of the pressure it came under; firing everyone involved and then paying out millions in hush money to keep them quiet. (Only Rather didn't get paid off, as the company was apparently relying on his past millions and reputation for institutional loyalty to keep him quiet. More here.) It also stands in stark contrast to the manner in which TNR itself treated its past transgressions in this area under editors Andrew Sullivan and the late Michael Kelly -- the former who enabled Ruth Shalit's serial plagiarism and appointed Stephen Glass to be head of fact-checking, and the latter, who, when confronted by the victims of Glass' lies, replied, for instance, to Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "Mr. Jacobson, you lied, and you lied because lying supported your thesis, and you attempted to cover up your lie .. I await your apology to Stephen Glass and this magazine." (You can find that somewhere in What Liberal Media?)
So granted the initial error, Foer has done his best under nearly impossible circumstances to be fair both to the truth and to the individuals and institutions involved, which is why it is more than a little annoying to find the young intern who no doubt helped cause the entire mess with her then-boyfriend, now husband and her crappy fact-checking pissing all over him in The New York Observer.
They report: "It was Ms. Reeve, 25, who, while working at TNR as a reporter-researcher, had recommended Mr. Beauchamp -- not yet her husband at the time -- to the magazine's editors.
"I think Scott [Beauchamp] thought Frank was on his side, you know? And that he understood that he was in a really difficult situation and so would be patient until Scott got out of Iraq," Ms. Reeve said. "I don't think Scott realized the limits on Frank's patience."
She adds: "[Scott] survived the war, he's coming home, we're newlyweds, it's Christmas," she said. "I'm living in a romance novel. It's kind of hard to be down."
How nice for you. Now go away...
Also classy, per usual, is this quote from Martin Peretz: "' Certainly in retrospect we shouldn't have published them. ... They did not meet the highest standards of proof. ... There was certainly no editorial decision to trash the United States Army, because as you know, The New Republic has a very -- what shall I say? -- careful view of the war,' said Mr. Peretz."
"Careful" in the sense that drunken soldiers and bulls in china shops are also careful ...
(Speaking of the Observer, why am I now quoting it when previously I said you couldn't believe anything in it, based on my own experience? I guess it's improved, at least insofar as the care it appears to demonstrate regarding media stories, which is all I can really address.)
Poor Norman Finklestein. (Marty is right by the way. If only Finkelstein had divorced his first incredibly wealthy wife for a second even more incredibly wealthy wife who bought him a magazine that he then (almost) proceeded to destroy, he could say and write any crazy (or even racist) thing he wanted and people would still treat him with respect -- at least to his face. (To be fair to Finkelstein, he has at least written quite a few books, something some people have been too busy marrying and divorcing wealthy women and (almost) destroying once-great magazines to do ...)
Noam and Norman: If only Finkelstein had been an invention of friendless Marty Peretz's fervid imagination, he, too, would not be in this mess ...
Case just about closed.
Want to argue about The Washington Post's inexcusably unfair and intellectually indefensible story on Barack Obama's secret Muslim identity? Do it here.
Blogger Glenn Greenwald's recent takedown of Time's Joe Klein was a can't-miss media story that raged online. Yet for two weeks, Howard Kurtz at The Washington Post managed to miss it. Our man Boehlert is on the case, so I don't have to be, here.
Printed without comment from Romenesko:
"On the Media"
Mark Silva told President Bush at last week's press conference: "I can't help but read your body language this morning, Mr. President. You seem somehow dispirited, somewhat dispirited." Bob Garfield asks the Chicago Tribune newsman: "Why all of a sudden with the Dr. Phil?"
Well, because throughout the press conference the President was exhibiting a very dour, downbeat manner. He normally comes out, he's ready to go and he's upbeat and loud and combative. And, you know, he came out -- he was soft-spoken, and the more he was asked about the disparities between everything he's been saying and what this report reveals, he just appeared glummer and glummer, if that's a word. ...My interest was trying to get him to get off that programmed path and sort of deal more candidly. ...I think that's a healthy, good thing in a press conference, to get somebody to talk from the heart.
Speaking from my own heart, if I had a time machine and could do only one thing to change history, I think I would go back and make sure this fellow kept drinking.
Marty Peretz, 9/19/06:
That the Jews are not quite rational in their political thinking has been obvious for years. But this schizophrenia takes the irrationality more than a few steps beyond the accustomed norm. The poor Europeans: They will have to make all this logical.
Posted by M. Duss
This actually happened. Let's hope we're not giving any crazies any new ideas by mentioning it. I'll be touring in March and April for Why We're Liberals.
If you want to arrange an event where I speak and sell books, and you've got a group that does this kind of thing, drop me a line and I'll see what we can do. It helps a great deal if you have a) direct flights from a New York airport; and b) are not too far away; and c) live in a place with good food, music, etc.
Name: Tahoe Rick
A brief point of clarification regarding Charles' Friday post: Mr. Romney is a former bishop, which is a lay position in all cases. An LDS bishop serves about five years on average, then is succeeded by another member of the local congregation. There are thousands of bishops in the church. Mr. Romney's former position will have little to do with whatever influence the church may exert on his campaign or presidency.
The profound ignorance of various members of this administration is troubling enough. But even more disturbing is the way they are not the least bit embarrassed about it. Perino seems utterly untroubled that someone in her position knew nothing about a pivotal event of the late 20th century. Bush, of course, flat-out boasted that he does not read newspapers.