Wednesday, June 29, 2005


As Shug Avery said to Whoopi Goldberg’s character near the end of “The Color Purple,” “Oh Ms. Celie, I feel like bloggin’!” Specifically, I feel like blogging about a few Democratic Senators:

1) John Kerry – As some of you may remember, fate plucked the Commonwealth’s junior senator out of a well deserved obscurity and made him the Democratic Party’s 2004 nominee for president. After a bitter and hard fought campaign, I think it’s safe to say that Kerry endeared himself to nobody. Shortly after his defeat, the liberals who thought they loved him realized they only had those feelings because he wasn’t George W. Bush, a trait it turns out he had in common with roughly 300 million other Americans. It’s now clear that the prediction I made way back in August came true: Kerry did indeed become an elongated version of Michael Dukakis, respected by few, loved by fewer still. A recent Daily Kos straw poll showed a whopping 2% of the site’s readers favored Kerry in 2008.

And yet Kerry refuses to go away. In my lifetime, every presidential candidate who made it to the finals and then lost slinked away; at the very least, they didn’t harbor some fantasy that they remained important public figures, much less put that fantasy on public display on a recurring basis.

And yet John Kerry continues to act like he’s the “shadow president” pronouncing on what he would do if he were president (which pretty much consists of making wordy and portentous pronouncements, surprisingly enough). This is normally where I would supply a link to Kerry’s op-ed piece in the New York Times yesterday. But I’m not going to do that. There’s no reason why you should indulge Kerry’s emotionally unhealthy habit of feeling like he’s important; actually, if you read his piece and the Times is reporting the numbers of readers of the piece to the Senator, you would be enabling him. Needless to say, I will take no role in such an unhealthy process.

As for the Times, their motives are transparent. For a few terrifying hours on Election Day, it looked like “President Kerry” was about to become a reality. This was a golden moment for the Times-people no doubt, much as the hours before Pickett’s Charge were a golden moment for members of the Confederacy. By indulging the fantasy that Senator Kerry actually matters, the Times harkens back to a golden hour when all looked right with the world. Can one truly blame them? After all, they are human beings first, bloodless pseudo-journalists second.

2) HARRY REID suggested a small slate of potential Supreme Court nominees that President Bush should consider. All four members of Reid’s slate are Republican Senators: Mike DeWine, Mel Martinez, Mike Crapo (who?) and Lindsey Graham (what, Hagel wasn’t interested?).

On a related note, over the past weekend I also suggested list of potential SCOTUS nominees to the White House. Among my “nominees” were Judge Judy, Joseph Wapner who I’m pretty sure is still alive, and Simon Cowell. While none of these three have had appellate court experience (like the Senators), all three of them have at least been judges (unlike some of the Senators) and their judicial temperaments have been viewed by a large swath of the American republic.

But what’s more important is the fact that I have more credibility to suggest such a list than does Harry Reid. Harry Reid is a major figure of a putatively major political party known as the Democrats; that party lost the last presidential election. That means they don’t get to choose the next Supreme Court Justice.

I know I’m being blunt as a spoon here, but it does seem like Senator Reid needs a little Civics lesson. The fact that his list excluded Texas Senator John Cornyn, the only member of the Senate with appellate court experience I’m pretty sure, shows what a purely craven political play this is. And the fact that he thinks that Supreme Court Justice is an entry level position as long as you’ve proven yourself smart enough to win election to the Senate (giggle) shows a stunning disregard for the Supreme Court and an even more stunning surfeit of regard for the Senate.

3) TED KENNEDY – Loyal readers of Soxblog know that I eschew the cheap laugh and the cheap shot. I tend not to make fun of Michael Moore’s weight, for instance, because to do so would be cruel, shallow and just too damn easy. Sure, every now and then a sucker punch sneaks through but that’s more because of blogging fatigue than by design. So take the following with that in mind.

Senator Kennedy has a piece on the Daily Kos today titled “Accountability on Iraq.” So Ted Kennedy is going to lecture on us accountability? You’ve got to be kidding me. Ted Kennedy holding forth on accountability is like…honestly, I can’t come up with a fitting simile.

Here, let me try again: Ted Kennedy holding fort on accountability is like Bruce Springsteen lecturing on the importance of articulation and pronunciation. It’s like George Steinbrenner discussing the importance of civility and class. It’s like John Williams speaking on the beauty of a minimalist approach to scoring films. It’s like Larry King holding a seminar on conducting hard-hitting interviews. It’s like…

Gosh, none of those really work, do they? None of them capture the absurdity of a Democratic Party that has been reduced to promoting Ted Kennedy to the forefront to lead little pep-talks on accountability. Ted Kennedy, a man who inarguably has spent much of his life dodging accountability in full public view.

It’s enough to make a blogger almost speechless.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Monday, June 27, 2005


First, I want to apologize for the light posting/non posting of the last ten days. I perhaps should offer you a fuller explanation rather than such a barebones statement of regret, but doing so would nudge me perilously close to Andrew Sullivan too-much-personal-information territory. Please just take my word for it that there was a good reason for my unplanned hiatus, and it had nothing to do with spooning or sleep Apnea. (Nor did it have anything to do with my joy over the Red Sox rediscovering their mojo, but lord knows that would have been a good enough reason to stop posting.)

I’ll be back to full blogging speed tomorrow, but in the meantime I’ll give you my thoughts on the admittedly stale Karl Rove story by now. As you all know, a short while ago Rove famously suggested that in the wake of 9/11 liberals desired shall we say a less muscular response than conservatives. Democrats subsequently called foul, suggesting that Rove was unfairly accusing and tarnishing the entire opposition with the same untruthful smear; gosh, they were pissed – they were so mad, you would have thought he had done something really outrageous like compare American troops to Nazis or the Khmer Rouge or something. Meanwhile, Republicans yawned.

Whenever the subject was debated on television, whoever was defending Rove would inevitably point out that Rove wasn’t talking about the Scoop Jackson Democrats (or the tyrannosaurus rex or the dodo bird, for that matter), but was instead referring to the fringe of the Party –, that Michael Moore fellow (as Donald Rumsfeld hilariously referred to him on Fox News Sunday yesterday), and other occupants of the far left. Viewing Rove’s speech in its entirety, this is obviously correct – Rove was talking about a very specific form of liberal.

Now here’s what I find funny: In an effort to rebut Rove’s hypothesis, many liberals have pointed to polls from the week of 9/11 with results like this one:

Should the U.S. take military action against those responsible? Yes: 93% of Republicans, 86% of Democrats, 76% of independents

Should the U.S. take military action against those responsible for attacks, even if it means innocent people are killed? Yes: 74% of Republicans, 64% of Democrats, 67% of independents

What if that meant going to war with a nation harboring those responsible for the attacks, then should the U.S. take military action against those responsible for the attacks? Yes: 74% of Republicans, 61% of Democrats, 65% of independents

What if that meant thousands of innocent civilians may be killed, then should the U.S. take military action against whoever is responsible for the attacks? Yes vs. No: Republicans 66% to 16%, Democrats 55% to 28%, independents 60% to 19%.

You’ll note that all of the above responses from the questions above leave a sizable minority of Democrats who wanted the less muscular response that Rove mentioned. What’s more, we know who these people were (and still are). Hint: One of them wasn’t Joe Lieberman. Additional hint: One of them sat next to Jimmy Carter during the Democratic National Convention. Final hint: Another one of them probably was Jimmy Carter.

The Democrat’s problem was and still is that this minority makes more noise than the rest of their party combined. Their additional problem was that their presidential nominee lacked the intestinal fortitude to give any kind of Sista Souljah speech where he could have shown that he wasn’t enthralled by this wing of the party. When you come up wanting in comparison to Bill Clinton in the political courage department, well, that’s even more embarrassing than almost pulling straight D’s in your freshman year at a second tier Ivy League institution.

Having said all of that, I don’t like Rove’s comments, not even a little. While I have no patience for the “he’s questioning our patriotism” whining, at this point in time virtually every person knows the Michael Moore types and what they’re all about and that Michael Moore and Ted Kennedy have more in common than their physiques. A lot of liberals changed on 9/11, and if you don’t believe me check out Little Green Footballs’ archives from that week. The ones who deserve scorn are the ones who either subsequently let their hatred for George W. Bush trump all in subsequent years or were so intellectually frozen in amber when 9/11 came along that they were incapable of offering a rational response in the first place.

I’ve never cared for crude generalizations like Rove, even when they’re not entirely inaccurate.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Friday, June 17, 2005


So what do you think about “The Campaign Against Terrorism?” What’s that you say? You’ve never heard that nomenclature before? That you’ve always heard it referred to as a war against terrorism and given the thousands that have died here, that have died in Israel, that are dieing in Iraq, and the millions that are imperiled across the world, “war” always seemed like the right word?

Well, not according to the New York Times. In its latest poll, the Times changed the wording of the question that had historically read, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the war on terrorism?” to the more than slightly different, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the campaign against terrorism?”

The cynics amongst us might suspect that this is just another example of push-polling from what Mickey Kaus refers to bitingly but accurately as the house organ of American liberalism. And such cynicism would be fed by the fact that the Times’ re-wording of the question is not reflected in Times-people’s Robin Toner’s and Marjorie Connelly’s report on the poll’s results. Toner and Connelly write that, “Still, Mr. Bush continued to have majority support for his handling of the war on terrorism - 52 percent - one of his strengths throughout his 2004 re-election campaign.” Perhaps it was an innocent error and the Timesettes didn’t actually read the poll that they were reporting on.

But let’s for a minute try to see things through the Times’ pollsters’ eyes. “Campaign” isn’t necessarily a less meaningful word than “War.” After all, history is chock full of great campaigns that school children still study after they’ve learned everything they need to know about the Seneca Falls Convention and extinct but noble primitive cultures.

Just from the last century, we have the lengthy and perilous “Cold Campaign” that pushed the entire world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon. And who can forget World Campaign II and World Campaign I (the Campaign to end all Campaigns) where America rescued Europe twice in the span of three decades from its own follies. Going back a bit further, one can still read great yearns about “The Campaign of the Roses” or America’s own “Civil Campaign.”

And let’s not forget that to the mind of the typical Times person, “Campaigns” are about as serious as anything can get. Bill Clinton schooled the Democratic Party on the perpetual campaign, and the campaign to get Bush has been a constant for them ever since Bush came to office.

All that being said, it appears as if the left wing is developing a severe metaphor problem. They’re constantly adjusting their metaphors in the wrong direction. So, for instance, one could perhaps have a serious argument about what should and what should not happen at Gitmo. But when you begin analogizing the facility to the Gulag and the American troops to Nazis, you just look dumb. Really, really dumb, like Dick Durbin dumb.

And now from the other side of the struggle, a war whose stakes could scarcely be higher is turned by the magical power of left wing metaphor into a “campaign.” Seriously, one would think all politics aside, a newspaper based in New York would be able to recognize the war on terror for what it really is.

Alas, the self-proclaimed reality based community has failed itself yet again.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


When I was in law school, I had an on-campus interview with a representative of the Dade County Prosecutor’s office which was then being run by a minor national celebrity named Janet Reno. My interviewer asked me the following hypothetical question (or “hypo” as those in the law refer to it): “You’re a prosecutor. You have a potential offender who you think is guilty but you’re not sure beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt. Do you bring the guy to trial?”

I pondered for a moment and said no. I elaborated that it is a prosecutor’s job, to the best of his ability, to do justice. Because I was not sure of the offender’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it would not be in mind just if this individual was convicted of this crime. Therefore, it would be my ethical duty to not bring the case.

As Homer Simpson might say, “Swish.” The interviewer smiled and told me I was the first person all day to get the question right. (In retrospect, it was probably the high point of a rather undistinguished law school career.) Because of my deft handling of that hypo, I received a call back to the Dade County home office and even an audience with Mother Justice herself, Janet Reno. (I really owe it to posterity to blog about that encounter on some other occasion. Really – it’s a great story.)

Anyway, with the preceding as our intellectual framework, let’s take a look at the Michael Jackson case. He’s a freak, no doubt. If ever a person looked like a child molester, it’s him. His habit of sharing his bed with young boys is, to use a crass term from the vernacular, at the very least fucked up.

But the witnesses against him were grifters, plain and simple. They had a habit of pulling shakedowns against celebrities and others. That doesn’t mean the child wasn’t violated by Michael Jackson. But it does mean that in honestly assessing this case which essentially came down to a freak’s word against that of some conmen, there was no way one could find that Michael Jackson was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

So what the District Attorney tried to do is make this case sort of a career achievement award for Jackson. He tried to make the trial about Jackson’s numerous other alleged misdeeds rather than the particular case at hand. To put it charitably, this is extra-legal. While the jury was free to consider Jackson’s past, ultimately the decision of whether or not to convict came down to whether they believed Jackson committed the specific crimes related to this specific family. Given the family’s shady history, a guilty verdict would have been a mild form of jury nullification.

Before moving on from the DA, one additional point: We all know that he’s spent more than a decade trying to get Jackson. And this was the strongest thing he came up with – a bunch of conmen with a history of extortion who were apparently at it again. While I’m as pre-disposed as the next guy to think Michael Jackson is a pedophile, perhaps the fact that a decade of scrutiny produced this piece of crap case suggests maybe, just maybe, he’s an incredibly weird guy who’s guilty of no crime.

One final point and then we’ll probably never discuss Michael Jackson here again. One of the primary aims of prosecuting and incarcerating pedophiles is because of the truly horrendous danger they pose to society. That, however, is not the case here.

It is highly unlikely that Jackson will be applying for a job as a school bus driver in the near future or be the offensive line coach on your child’s Pop Warner team. And certainly concerned parents can tell their children that if a pale man standing under an umbrella held by an enormous individual offers to take them to his home amusement park to see his giraffes to just say no. Any sentient parent knows to not let their child have unsupervised play-time with Michael Jackson, just like any sensible girl might know that commencing a torrid affair with O.J. Simpson might not be the best of ideas.

As for people who will have as their takeaway from this case that celebrities can get away with anything, I’d ask you to reconsider that evaluation. Only celebrities get ten years of Inspector Javert type scrutiny, and only a celebrity would have been brought to court over such a weak case.

Michael Jackson may have been guilty, but this jury did the right thing.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


For those of you who have been left high and dry by my unplanned and unannounced vacation from blogging the past seven days, I again apologize. What can I say? Like many of you, I was consumed with the Michael Jackson jury deliberations and thus unable to focus long enough to blog effectively.

The good news, though, is the drought has ended. Not only am I offering the blog-post you’re reading now for your consumption, I also have an article up on the Weekly Standard’s website about John Kerry’s military record dump. Because this essay will be one of my acclaimed “behind the music” sort of posts regarding that story, I suggest you go read the Standard story first. Go ahead- I’ll be here when you get back.

Did you like it? Good. Here’s some behind the scene’s stuff:

1) It is unlikely that Globe reporter Michael Kranish and I will be sharing any long walks on the beach in the near term future. He was extremely offended at the insinuation that the Globe hasn’t proven itself 100% trustworthy in the past and that thus his personal assurances without appropriate supporting documentation were unlikely to make believers out of those inclined to be skeptical.

2) What’s not particularly well remembered is that the Boston Globe was riding shotgun with Dan Rather and Mary Mapes as they were driving the Tiffany Network’s credibility over the cliff last summer. Since CBS’ malfeasance was so outsized, the Globes’ malfeasance has since been largely forgotten. But not by everybody. If you don’t believe me, check out Polipundit this morning. She seems to have a nice long memory just like mine.

3) Back to Kranish for a minute. I’m not generally the over-sensitive type and my feelings don’t bruise easily especially where strangers are concerned. But it does seem like Kranish has a little problem with being snippy. When he spoke with Thomas Lipscomb, a writer for the Chicago Sun Times and a Senior Fellow at the Annenberg Center (I’m not sure what being a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center entails, but it sure sounds like nothing to sneeze at), Kranish was, in Lipscomb’s words, “not happy at being pursued by my questions.”

And then, when Kranish received an email from Mickey Kaus on the subject, he again responded in a curt and border-line hostile manner. Come on, Mike! This is Mickey F’ing Kaus we’re talking about. Show a little respect!

4) The Globe’s managing editor, Helen Donovan, as she had been when we discussed the Fenway Parking brouhaha a couple of months ago, was on the other hand once again a complete delight. And this was in spite of my bothering her at 7:00 p.m. on a Friday evening. Perhaps Ms. Donovan might want to consider holding press relations seminars for some of her reporters if the Globe continues to persist in its policy of being part of the story rather than just covering stories.

5) Let’s face facts: This Kerry 180 thing stinks to high heaven. There are only two explanations for why it was handled in the manner in which it was. One is that Kerry and his supporter(s) knew that the media organs in question would be sufficiently incurious to muck the rake and see if there was anything untoward going on here. Given that he chose his hometown newspaper and the nation’s most disreputable left wing daily as his exclusive sounding boards, this would make a modicum of sense.

I do think, however, a more plausible explanation is that Kerry figured doing it in the manner that he has would infuriate his foes. If the past week’s machinations were intended as a finger in the eye of Paul O’Neil and company, Kerry and company can consider the mission accomplished.

6) Of course, I was the only guy in America who was rolling the dice on Kerry’s full records revealing him as a dunce at Yale. So while those consumed with admittedly more significant issues were justifiably ripped, for me my pet issue was dealt with comprehensively and satisfactorily. As far as the more significant issues are concerned, take heart: There too, truth will out.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Monday, June 13, 2005


Sorry for the light blogging the past week. I'll be returning to action tomorrow. Thank you for your patience.

Now go run along and enjoy all the Michael Jackson analysis.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, June 07, 2005



It was August of 2004. The Red Sox were beginning a hot streak that would lead to their first title in 86 years, and a young Air America was keeping the country in stitches with its piquant blend of topical humor and delusional ranting.

And an obscure blogger suggested a theory that was contrary to the conventional wisdom: John Kerry was a ditz.

As most readers of this site know, I was that obscure blogger. And I based my theory on informed speculation that Kerry’s grades at Yale were probably dreadful. In one critical passage of that soon-to-be legendary posting, I even speculated that Kerry’s grades at Yale were probably so bad, they could even be labeled “sub-Bushian.”

This theory was picked up by the big boys in the blogosphere and other various media. Kaus linked it, Reynolds linked it, and Coulter plagiarized it without attribution. Needless to say, the theory wasn’t very popular amongst those on the left. After all, Senator Kerry had a famously nuanced mind, especially when compared to President Bush’s primitive Manichaean grey matter. To Kerry’s supporters, the suggestion that Kerry’s intellect was inferior to the president’s was greeted as a particularly vile form of blasphemy.

But today, proof has come and Soxblog has been vindicated. The Boston Globe obtained a copy of Kerry’s undergraduate transcript and it is inferior to Bush’s (even though the Globe insists on calling them “virtually identical”). The Globe refers to Kerry as a “lackluster” student; not to quibble with Globe reporter Michael Kranish’s choice of words, but four D’s in one’s freshman year (as Kerry received) suggests a performance considerably more execrable than “lackluster.” Yes, “execrable” would have been a better word. Other more apt words would include “awful”, “pitiful”, and, yes, “sub-Bushian.”

As I said when I wrote the piece, I don’t consider undergraduate grades to be a particularly vital indicator of one’s intelligence. But then again, to be perfectly forthcoming, I have selfish reasons for thinking that way.

But the reason the inquiry regarding Kerry’s grades was important was because, as the Globe acknowledges in today’s story, “During last year's presidential campaign, John F. Kerry was the candidate often portrayed as intellectual and complex, while George W. Bush was the populist who mangled his sentences.” An interesting use of the passive construction there, no? Whoever could have been doing such “portraying?” Why, none other than left wing publications like the Globe and the Times!

My point wasn’t that Kerry’s performance at Yale proved that he was intellectually inferior to Bush. My point was that there was absolutely no reason to believe that Kerry was an intellectual giant. Intellectual giants leave footprints indicating as much. Bill Clinton, for instance, didn’t receive four D’s during his freshman year at Georgetown and this was in spite of coming from Nowhere, Arkansas, where Kerry had attended a series of the country’s (and Switzerland’s) finest prep schools.

And yet the Globe and others portrayed Kerry as an intellectual behemoth because…well, I think we all know why. And while the blogosphere raged for a week after my post on the subject of Kerry’s intellectual bona fides, the subject never crossed over into the mainstream media. Only seven months after the election did the subject arouse the Globe’s curiosity.

I will close on this note: Graduate school grades are often a far more reliable indicator of intellectual firepower than undergrad performance. My sneaking suspicion is that a peek into Kerry’s performance at Boston College Law School would reveal yet another performance, like his time at Yale and the United States Senate, that could only charitably be described as lackluster.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Sunday, June 05, 2005


The Los Angeles Times had a headline yesterday that blared, “Pentagon: Koran Defiled.” The Boston Globe and New York Times treated the incidents at Gitmo with similar outrage. Meanwhile, I was left to wonder alone whether Daniel Pearl was given a Torah to pray from before his beheading, and, if so, was that Torah treated in an appropriately reverent manner.

Here’s what happened at Gitmo: One guard kicked a Koran, another three Korans had run-ins with water balloons and a fifth Koran had some urine inadvertently (and only possibly) splashed on it. Dozens of other Korans were desecrated by the prisoners themselves to protest whatever prisoners in a war on terror might be inclined to protest.

Although the Times does acknowledge that the United States government distributed 1600 Korans to the prisoners, it doesn’t say what a ducky thing this was to do, especially considering that the Koran’s recipients are hell-bent on America’s destruction. One can even imagine a candidate of the John Kerry ilk solemnly lamenting, “I find it appalling that we’re giving prayer-books to terrorist prisoners when some townships can’t afford new school books for our children.”

If you’re getting the sense that I don’t think much of this latest scandal or the media’s appalling coverage of it, give yourself a gold star. It’s become pathetic how the media has lost any sense of proportion, and how it allows the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

But that’s not really what I want to say with this piece. Here’s my main point: Someday inevitably there will come another 9/12, the somber day after another disastrous terrorist strike. And virtually every American will remember the halcyon days when America felt so at ease that it stood by idly subscribing to newspapers and periodicals that made front page news out of a single kicked Koran.

And on that day, that 9/12 that sadly waits somewhere down the road, I’d like to say there will be hell to pay for the media that have covered this war in such an unabashedly America bashing manner. But there will be a far worse penalty than that – irrelevance.

There’s a popular country music song at the moment called “My Give a Damn’s Busted.” For most of the readers of this site, I bet, your “give-a-damns” were busted on 9/11. And every time we think of taking it into the shop and having it repaired, the media give us good reason to leave the darn thing inoperable. Is this what we’re supposed to get hot and bothered about? Our country is so decent that it provides our enemies with 1600 Korans. Five of those Korans are dealt with less than reverently. Still, 1595 out of 1600 ain’t bad, especially when you consider the fact that our enemy when dealing with prisoners prefers to skip the distribution of holy books and skip right to the beheadings.

None of this is to say that America is incapable of outrages and that such outrages when they occur shouldn’t be promptly and aggressively addressed. And the miss-treatment of the five Korans was wrong. But front page news? Not in my book. The problem is, the media (in its desperate attempt to relive its glory days of hobnobbing in parking garages with embittered G-men passed over for promotion) is perpetually trying to create new and embarrassing scandals.

So a warning to the Times and the L.A. Times and the Globe: Irrelevancy is barreling down the tracks. Brace yourselves.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Friday, June 03, 2005


It is no secret to Soxblog readers that I’m a huge fan of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. I got to know him reasonably well while volunteering for him in 1994, and I consider him to be one of the finest people I’ve ever known and without a doubt the most impressive politician I’ve ever met.

So for a Romney fan, this was a pretty good week: He scored the unlikely Daily Double of gracing the covers of both The Weekly Standard and The National Review at the same time. This is the right wing political junkie equivalent of the then-little-known Bruce Springsteen being on the cover of Time and Newsweek back in 1975.

But for Mitt, the experience has been dampened by his putative ace consultant Mike Murpy offering National Review the following mind-blowingly stupid comment: “(Romney’s) been a pro-life Mormon faking it as pro-choice friendly.” (Sorry Mike, there’s no other way to put it – “mind-blowingly stupid” is actually somewhat charitable.) To go back to the Springsteen parallel, Murphy’s quote has had roughly the same impact as if Clarence “Big Man” Clemons had announced during that epochal week in 1975 that Springsteen really preferred chamber music and that the Boss didn’t even like automobiles.

Naturally the unfortunate Murphy quote has delighted Romney’s antagonists in the Boston media. The Boston Globe led its front page today with the rather unpleasant headline, “Adviser says governor faked stance on abortion.”

I’ve received several letters on this little tempest in a teapot, all of which I’ll try to address in what follows:

1) IS MITT PRO-LIFE? As Bill Clinton might put it, it depends on what the meaning of pro-life is. Here’s what Romney and his adviser told me when I interviewed him for a Weekly Standard piece: “While being personally pro-life, Romney promised during his 2002 campaign not to alter the Commonwealth's pro-choice laws.”

With all due respect, this isn’t exactly an inscrutably nuanced Kerry-esque straddle: Romney is pro-life, but he ran promising to respect and not change Massachusetts’ pro-choice laws. Furthermore, while in office, Romney has demonstrated his pro-life bona fides during the embryonic cloning rhubarb by clearly stating, “When sperm and egg unite, something goes from inanimate to animate. It is life.” He has pursued policies, and unpopular policies at that, that have been reflective of that view. If your definition of “pro-life” includes mandatory membership in Operation Rescue and/or implacable long-standing hostility to Roe v. Wade, then the issue of whether Mitt is or is not pro-life might be a bit trickier.

A more difficult issue for the Governor will be explaining his stance during his 1994 campaign against Ted Kennedy when he was a less conflicted pro-choice candidate. Alas, the Governor claims he has had an evolution on the matter similar to the one G.H.W. Bush underwent while under Ronald Reagan’s tutelage.

Buy it or not, Romney has been quite clear regarding his views on abortion and when life begins since his re-entry into politics in 2002. Anyone who thought he was philosophically aligned with the NARAL pro-choice position (which I’m pretty sure holds that a fetus becomes a viable life form once it graduates kindergarten) just hasn’t been paying attention.

I will add this personal note about Romney: For him, the issue of when life begins is decided by his heartfelt conviction that it starts when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Take it from a guy who knew him – on the matter of substance he’s a true believer in a way that few pro-life politicians are.

2) WHAT WAS MIKE MURPHY THINKING? I’ve promised some people that I would be nice in dealing with this subject. I’m told by folks who really know about these things that Murphy is a great guy and a political genius. Of course, I also know from my own body of knowledge that Murphy was the putative genius behind Lamar (!) Alexander’s embarrassing run for President in 1996. During that campaign, Murphy achieved the seemingly meaningless feat of transforming Lamar (!) from an empty-suit to an empty plaid shirt.

Okay, so let’s just leave it at this: Murphy really screwed the pooch with this one. He said something incredibly stupid and he’s apologized. Let’s forgive and move on.

But before moving on, the Romney people might want to think of suspending his media privileges. If Murphy is capable of a screw-up like this when talking to the friendly National Review, perhaps he shouldn’t be chatting it up with people from the Washington Post, New York Times and Boston Globe.

3) WAS NATIONAL REVIEW OUT OF LINE IN RUNNING THE QUOTE? Of course not. Frankly, I was surprised that I got a bunch of letters asking that question.

Here’s what you have to understand about writers – we love a good story. We love anything that’s delicious, even if it undermines our pre-conceived notions. More importantly, we have to deal with the facts that come to us in an intellectually honest way; if we don’t, then we’re writing propaganda, not analysis. Such is the path to Krugman-land.

Let me give you an example: I was doing a story on Lawrence Summers for the Standard. My main point was that he was getting unjustly pilloried by elements of the faculty. While interviewing his detractors, a certain story kept getting repeated: There was an allegation that Summers had invited some students into his office and while they were there he took off his shoes, took off his socks and put his bare feet up on his desk facing his visitors. Now, if that were true, his detractors would pretty much have had an open and shut case that Larry was in urgent need of some social refinement.

Alas, no one could point me to anyone who was in the room when President Summers’ allegedly naked feet allegedly plopped on the desk. A bunch of people knew the story, but it seemed no one knew where any of the witnesses could be found. From this, I deduced it was a fabrication or an exaggeration and didn’t put it into my story; I even mentioned how his foes had embellished his comportment issues into a series of urban legends.

But if it were true, I would have run it. The reader would have had a right to know about the incident. And as not just a polemicist but an analyst, it would have been my job to explain why it did or did not matter.

National Review did nothing wrong. Romney’s closest adviser suggested he was a fraud; how could they ignore such a thing?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett