- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

A media setup

Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts, who is embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, orchestrated hostile questions from two soldiers to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday, Matt Drudge reports at his Web site, www.drudgereport.com.

Major media in the country gave the story big play, depicting the questions about a lack of armor for vehicles as an embarrassment to Mr. Rumsfeld.

However, Mr. Drudge yesterday published a purported e-mail from Mr. Pitts in which the reporter brags about how he set up Mr. Rumsfeld and inspired a media frenzy.

“I just had one of my best days as a journalist today,” Mr. Pitts said in the e-mail. “As luck would have it, our journey North was delayed just long enough (so) I could attend a visit today here by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts. Before hand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have. While waiting for the VIP, I went and found the Sgt. in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd. …

“The great part was that after the event was over the throng of national media following Rumsfeld — The New York Times, AP, all the major networks — swarmed to the two soldiers I brought from the unit I am embedded with.”

The reporter added: “I have been trying to get this story out for weeks — as soon as I (found) out I would be on an unarmored truck — and my paper published two stories on it. But it felt good to hand it off to the national press.”

Ready to scream

“Suddenly, Democrats are getting a queasy deja vu feeling that they’re in danger of following Howard Dean right off a cliff — by tapping him as Democratic national chairman a year after running away from him as presidential nominee,” the New York Post’s Deborah Orin writes.

” ‘Our biggest problem is if Dean wins. Our second biggest problem is if he loses — because then the Deaniacs will go nuts,’ says a veteran Democratic activist, speaking of the contest for the next leader of the Democratic National Committee.

“Of course, the Democratic Party’s liberal wing will cheer lustily if the antiwar Dean becomes their party’s new face, but Republicans will cheer even louder — ‘Can I contribute to his campaign?’ Republican pollster Ed Goeas asks impishly.

“Dean phobia is so great, Dem insiders say, that backers of potential rivals for DNC chief, like Clinton loyalist Harold Ickes, are already lobbying by claiming, ‘If you don’t back my guy, it’s going to be Howard Dean.’ ”

Sharpton’s fee

All of Sen. John Kerry’s one-time rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination eventually lined up to support him as the nominee, but only one got paid for it — the Rev. Al Sharpton.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid Mr. Sharpton $86,715 in travel and consulting fees to compensate for his campaigning for Mr. Kerry and other Democratic candidates, according to reports to the Federal Election Commission.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Sharpton said he was paid for travel, but he didn’t know how much he had been reimbursed.

“They asked me to travel to 20 or 30 cities to campaign, and I did that,” Mr. Sharpton said. “What am I supposed to do, donate the cost of airfare?”

But records show that although most of the money was to reimburse travel expenses, Mr. Sharpton was paid $35,000 as a “political consulting fee” 15 days after the election. The consulting fee was first reported this week in the Village Voice.

DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera said the party paid Mr. Sharpton at the request of the Kerry campaign.

Liberal racism

“On Monday we noted Sen. Harry Reid’s remarks about Justice Clarence Thomas, who Reid said is ‘an embarrassment to the Supreme Court,’ and hasn’t ‘done a good job as a Supreme Court justice’ because his opinions are ‘poorly written.’ Since the incoming Senate minority leader did not give a single example of a poorly written Thomas opinion, we surmised that Reid was likely stereotyping Thomas as unintelligent because he is black,” James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web Today column at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“Our observation has some liberal Democrats on the defensive. MediaMatters.org — David Brock’s Web site that bravely exposes conservative bias by conservative commentators — says our comments ‘follow a pattern among conservatives of attacking Democrats and progressives whenever they criticize minority nominees appointed by President Bush’ (though it’s hard to see how, given that the current President Bush hasn’t appointed Thomas to anything). ‘Democrats have approved far more conservative minority judicial appointees than they have opposed,’ MediaMatters insists. Some of their best friends. …

“[Freelance journalist] Josh Marshall says the suggestion of racial bias on Mr. Reid’s part is among ‘the most risible accusations of racism.’ (Yes, this is the same Josh Marshall who thinks it’s invidious to point out that Democrats do very badly among nonblack voters.) Mr. Marshall adds that in his own opinion Thomas is a ‘mediocre’ justice.

“But neither Marshall nor MediaMatters nor any of the readers who’ve written to take issue with our Reid remarks have offered a single example of a Thomas opinion that is poorly written (in Reid’s, or anyone else’s, opinion). Since disparaging the intelligence of black people is a familiar racist trope, and since liberal commentators such as Maureen Dowd have so disparaged Thomas in expressly racial terms, we’d have to say the insubstantiality of the objections make us more confident that we were right about what Reid was up to.”

‘Read my lips’

The American Conservative Union yesterday hailed President Bush’s statement that “We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this [Social Security] problem.”

“President Bush drew a sharp line in the sand this morning when he categorically ruled out raising the payroll tax on working Americans to pay for the transition costs of Social Security reform,” the ACU’s Donald Devine said.

“This was a ‘read my lips’ moment. ACU expects President Bush will keep his word and oppose any Social Security reform plan that would raise the payroll tax,” Mr. Devine said.

Powell’s future

Outgoing Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he has no interest in running for governor of New York, despite a poll suggesting he might be able to win the 2006 contest.

“What I have repeatedly said over the course of roughly nine-plus years is that I have no interest in political life,” Mr. Powell told reporters in Brussels as he wrapped up what is likely to be his final official trip abroad.

“I will not be running for office even in my beloved home state of New York, as flattering as that poll might be,” he said.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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