- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2014

No wonder the public is wary of the media in all its permutations. The information universe has become a kind of freewheeling exercise in news aggregation and instant content sharing, driven by buzz and enabled by the Internet. Consider this: On one side there is Rick Perlstein, an author who has reportedly borrowed creative phrases and facts from another author, but not offered attribution in the published product, instead referring readers to an online site for footnotes. Mr. Perlstein has written a new book titled “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” which a Publisher’s Weekly review says essentially “snuffs out any nostalgic glow” about the 40th president.

Then we have Craig Shirley, a Reagan historian and conservative who has written about Reagan extensively. Mr. Shirley says that Mr. Perlstein lifted language and facts directly from his own work, “Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All,” published a decade ago, and without direct attribution. There is a single reference: Mr. Perlstein wrote in his acknowledgments, “Craig Shirley’s book on Reagan’s 1976 campaign saved me 3.76 months” in research time.

Mr. Shirley’s attorney contacted publisher Simon & Schuster on July 25, citing Mr. Perlstein’s use of entire passages from the Shirley book, and claiming he had also altered the information, while appearing to position himself as if he had “discovered and developed” the facts himself, the lawyer says. The burly publisher, however, stands by their author, referring critics to Mr. Perlstein’s website, and the online references to Mr. Shirley’s book. Mr. Shirley, in turn, now wants copies of Mr. Perlstein’s book destroyed, a public apology from the publisher and money for damages therein. The pair are now players in a cliffhanger.

“This is something I would never do. Most respected historians would not do this, so draw your own conclusions. Even if you concede that information must be free, it doesn’t mean you can lift phrases, sentences and paragraphs verbatim and not cite the author,” Mr. Shirley tells Inside the Beltway.

“It doesn’t matter if you say the citations are in some phantom place online. These citations don’t doesn’t contain corresponding scripts and superscripts, and they could be changed at anytime. And it’s still plagiarism,” says Mr. Shirley.

THE EVER-EVOLVING PRESIDENT OBAMA

Watching the White House is like watching Wall Street: The stock goes up, the stock goes down. The people cheer, the people boo. Such is the case with President Obama,who is likely counting the nanoseconds until he escapes to Martha’s Vineyard for 14 days of vacation later on Saturday. But the weekly grades just keep on coming. Not long ago, pollster John Zogby gave Mr. Obama an F, followed by a D for job performance. Now the president’s score has crept up to C-plus, with a knuckle rap for Republicans.

“President Obama finally won a few fights this week, and one key loss — the House decision to sue him for not enforcing laws — probably helped the White House. On the whole a better week,” says Mr. Zogby, who cites Mr. Obama’s tougher sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin as a positive influence. A victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals upholding the Affordable Care Act as health policy and not taxation didn’t hurt, along with growth in the gross domestic product, new jobs and increases in both consumer spending and business investments.

“Meanwhile, it helps to have stupid opponents,” Mr. Zogby adds, critical of “the idiotic bill” authorizing House Speaker John A. Boehner to sue Mr. Obama. “Gallup says that Congress’ job approval is 7 percent, which is 4 points less than the 11 percent who think Hamas is justified in its current bombings. That makes the president’s 42 percent approval rating look a lot better.”

AND IN SUMMATION

“The president denies his failures instead of learning from them.”

— Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, in the weekly Republican address.

THE VACATION COUNTDOWN

A small factoid for the benefit of all, the White House included: President Obama departs the nation’s capitol for Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday. Essentially, he has 120 hours until lift off. And as a curious aside, Hillary Rodham Clinton will arrive on that very same Martha’s Vineyard in approximately 216.

She is due for a book signing on the island on the afternoon of Aug. 13, appearing at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven to promote her current memoir “Hard Choices.”

THE KILTY PARTY

Surely there is ballyhoo elsewhere. But Scotland has its own a dilemma to ponder. After two years of referendums, the Scottish people will vote next month on whether they should become an independent nation, ending a 307-year union with England. Aye, but it’s complicated. Independence would not guarantee Scotland’s membership in the European Union or NATO; they could lose Britain’s financial support. Then again, a free Scotland would attract outside investments. Policies would be of their own creation.

Things are dramatic; public opinion polls sketch an engaged but divided public. Scottish first minister and separatist Alex Salmond will debate his rival “Better Together” chairman Alistair Darling on live TV Tuesday; Mr. Salmond, the British press notes, is taking advice from a “happiness guru and lifestyle coach” to get his points across.

Naturally, Americans also want to debate the idea, and there’s an event to parse out the quandary — Sept. 18 at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, featuring the organization’s lead strategist Iain Murray and Cato Institute Vice President David Boaz, two smart laddies indeed. “Could an independent Scotland become the envy of its former partner in the south?” the organizers asks. And of course, they have one more comment for attendees: “Kilts welcome.”

‘AMERICA’ HOLDS THE LINE

Theatergoers have not forgotten about “America: Imagine the World without Her,” the feature-length documentary from Dinesh D’Souza and “Schindler’s List” producer Gerald Molen that has often bought actual cheers from movie audiences since its debut on July Fourth. Now there are some numbers, these compiled by David Bloom, an analyst for The Wrap, an industry publication.

” ‘America’ becomes the No. 6 political documentary,” he says, calling the film a “box-office milestone” which surpassed Michael Moore’s ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’ on the popularity roster.

“D’Souza’s book of the same name also had a major milestone, hitting No. 1 on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list,” Mr. Bloom notes.

The movie has made over $14 million at the box office, and it does attracts heavy duty Hollywood media. Florida state Sen. Alan Hayes plans to introduce a bill that would make “America” required viewing for students in the state’s 1,700 Florida public high schools and middle schools — a phenomenon first reported in none other than the Hollywood Reporter.

POLL DU JOUR

93 percent of Jewish Americans have “sympathy” with Israel in the Gaza conflict; 2 percent have sympathy with Palestinians, 5 percent cite both.

80 percent of Republicans who attend church regularly side with Israel, 7 percent with Palestinians; 13 percent cite both.

79 percent of Mormons side with Israel, 11 percent side with Palestinians; 10 percent cite both.

66 percent of Protestants and other Christians side with Israel, 14 percent side with Palestinians; 20 percent cite both.

59 percent of Catholics side with Israel, 17 percent side with Palestinians; 24 percent cite both.

55 percent of Democrats who attend church regularly side with Israel, 20 percent with Palestinians; 25 percent cite both.

45 percent of those “with no religious identity” side with Israel. 25 percent with Palestinians; 30 percent cite both.

Source: A Gallup poll and aggregate numbers from surveys of 14,000 U.S. adults conducted 2001-2014 and released Friday.

Engaging drivel and derring-do to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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