- 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.”

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