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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Where's Jodi? 

In a period which has seen Nedra Pickler rack up two Dean articles -- one on Roy Neel's Friday night "Rally the Troops" memo and one covering Gov. Dean's attack on Senator Kerry's "Johnny-come-lately" status when it comes to fighting special interests -- where is Ms. Wilgoren?

The Times strategy coverage is authored by Katharine Q. Seelye. (Oh goodie.) We also get an editorial entitled "Come Back, Little Deaniacs", which isn't nearly as condescending as the cutesy title suggests:

If the product of the Dean movement is thousands of young people who are slightly hardened to the lure of a charismatic candidate, but determined to keep on fighting for a better world, it will have been a success no matter what happens to the former governor of Vermont. That is the way politics, at its best, works. First you discover that your paragon of a candidate is all too deeply human. Then you realize that the real heroics come from you and your friends with the pamphlets, stolidly going door to door.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Exhibit B 

Dean Supporters Voice Frustration but Soldier On

What could have been a "whiny loser" article is actually fairly balanced and almost -- dare I say it -- uplifting. The only problem is that the youth angle persists somewhat. Most of those interviewed and have their ages listed are under 30. We know Ms. Hicks and Ms. Geto are over 30 but we don't see their ages listed. All of us who have volunteered for the Dean campaign know the average age is a lot higher than that.

Beg, Borrow & Steal 

Robin Toner writes a really nice piece -- which still only manages to scratch the surface -- on how some of Gov. Dean's opponents have co-opted his message.

Howard Dean may not have won a primary or caucus yet, a circumstance that led to a major shake-up of his campaign on Wednesday, but his mark on the party is unmistakable. His defeats are less a victory for the Democratic establishment than a sign of the other leading candidates' ability to adjust, and harness the energy originally tapped by Dr. Dean's insurgent campaign: the anger at President Bush, the opposition to the war with Iraq, the demand for a different direction in domestic policy.
Is this the NYTimes starting to give the Gov. some good press in hopes of building him up, keeping him in the race since he is undoubtedly the most fascinating candidate of this election cycle?

"What now?" 

As Corrine pointed out in comments the other day, the Campaign Desk had a little problem with Ms. Wilgoren’s and Mr. Justice’s attribution habits in their report of Joe Trippi’s departure.

And Bob in comments reports that he wrote to Mr. Okrent about Ms. Wilgoren’s lack of attribution in the piece she wrote following Gov. Dean’s Iowa loss:

Why does Jodi Wilgoren continue to bash Howard Dean? In the subject article she claims: Many Democrats say that perhaps the most profound shift in his fortune followed the capture of Saddam Hussein last month, when Dr. Dean declared the United States no safer. Opposition to the Iraq war had propelled his campaign, but his statement drew criticism and led many Democrats to question whether he could take on the president on the critical issue of terrorism. (My emphasis added).

Who are these unnamed Democrats? How many did she actually talk to? These unsourced opinions do not belong in a news article.
In light of those concerns bubbling up, its nice to see more direct quotes in today’s follow-up on the Neel/Trippi trade:

We hear from Gov. Dean of course, but also direct quotes from Roy Neel (new campaign manager), Don Beyer (treasurer) and Steve Grossman (national campaign chairman). But even with those quotations creating more of the “fully-cooked meal” Campaign Desk requested, I still felt the article just kind of…..ended. With no real wrap-up. But honestly, this is a very minor quibble for what amounts to a pretty thorough and well-presented picture of “what now?” for the Dean campaign.

Also, don’t miss Diane Sawyer’s mea culpa, a day late and a dollar short. Check out the video -- make sure to catch the very beginning for Ms. Sawyer's colleague's response to her "First we want to do something you don't see much in television news" opening.

And I know the NYTimes doesn’t take requests, but I wonder if they have anyone looking into this or this:

"In terms of the dirty tricks, I think we are seeing some of those in the primaries. You get used to it," he said. "It's not nice, it's not good for the democracy, but people do them."

Dean did not elaborate, but aides said they included telephone calls at odd hours with scripts that questioned Dean's ability to be "president for everybody" when his wife and children were Jewish and another that was just a loud scream.

Dean spokesman Jay Carson also told reporters fake e-mails had been sent out looking like legitimate Dean e-mail but including offensive lines.

One offered internships, but contained a paragraph that said: "due to close sleeping quarters, homosexuals will not be considered for this position," Carson said. Another, headed "Christians for Dean," contained the line, "due to the constraints of this organization, Muslims and Jews are not welcome," Carson said.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Wired.com 

The piece on "Adopt-a-Journalist" is up at Wired.com.

Good-bye New Hampshire 

Another state, another few delegates, on to fight another day. But lest we miss the point -- Howard Dean lost in New Hampshire:

When Howard Dean entered the crowded college gymnasium after his defeat in Tuesday night's New Hampshire primary, a full three minutes passed before he uttered his first word.

---

.....Though he had lost, he seemed unbowed and committed to continuing his insurgent race.

"The people of New Hampshire have allowed our campaign to regain its momentum," he told his supporters in a 20-minute speech that did not include a mention of the winner, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

---
Dr. Dean declared his double-digit deficit "a solid second," and his aides spent the afternoon searching for the best term for the finish, playing with medical metaphors like revival, remission and resuscitation.

But if they saw the results as a comeback, the campaign still sits at 0-2, with Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, having collected the first two losses of his political career in just nine days. Only a few weeks ago, the Dean camp was confident that victories here and in Iowa would send them sprinting toward nomination. Now, with two states in Mr. Kerry's column, they will have to race to catch his heels.
Hey, did ya hear Howard Dean lost in New Hampshire?

While the "Dean camp" may have been "confident", I never once heard Gov. Dean say he expected to win either Iowa and/or New Hampshire. Every time I saw him interviewed, he would say the media and pollsters may have declared him the frontrunner, but not a single vote had yet been cast. Now that votes have been cast, he remains optimistic and enthusiastic that we can still pull this out -- and I for one am not ready to give up on him yet. As someone succinctly put it over at Daily KOS, Gov. Dean "had our back" a year ago when we were all shaking our heads at how the Democrats were letting President Bush run all over them. Now we've got his back as he fights on.

Anyhow.....can someone help me figure out this next graph?

For months, Dr. Dean and his advisers have argued that they were the only ones running a national campaign. But they spent more time and probably more money in New Hampshire and Iowa than anyone else. Now, with the money and campaign organization to play in all seven of the states that vote next week, they have no clear path to a sure victory in any one.
Are Ms. Wilgoren and Nedra Pickler hanging out together on the campaign trail?

Saying you're running a national campaign and yet concentrating on the first two states first are not mutually exclusive. Let's say you've got a hundred bucks to spend on 20 states. Are you going to spend 5 dollars in each state or are you going to concentrate say, 20 bucks in each of the first two states and divide the other 60 bucks among the remaining 18 states? And being flush with money and ground troops in next Tuesday's primary states is certainly "no clear path to a sure victory", but I'd argue its a good start. What is Senator Kerry's "clear path to sure victory"? Or General Clark's? Or Senator Edwards'?

Finally, a mention of the Times coverage over at Common Dreams:

Times columnist Maureen Dowd and Dean beat reporter Jodi Wilgoren have distinguished themselves in their cynical disdain for Dean. Dowd's self-satirizing poses lost me long ago, but her condescending admonition to Dean and his allegedly unsupportive, unsavvy helpmate -- "physician, heal thy spouse" -- made me think that the Gray Lady's girlish spinster had finally shot her foot through the barrel of an empty joke.

Wilgoren strives daily to adopt a Dowdian tone, so terribly bored with the poses of politicians. Mrs. Dean is described contemptuously in the Sawyer interview -- "she looked lovingly at her husband and let out a little giggle" -- and Dean, struggling "to halt his dive in the polls" is portrayed on the stump as newly "unsure of himself," failing in one speech to use a stock line about how "even the Costa Ricans have health insurance for all their people." Isn't that just pathetic -- a camera-shy wife who loves her husband but puts her patients ahead of politics, and a candidate who doesn't always follow the script.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

"It made me wake up" 

Snippets from election eve in New Hampshire from the Clark, Dean, Edwards, Kucinich, Lieberman camps. And some may be surprised, but I have no complaints about Ms. Wilgoren's contribution. ;-)

She provides an even-handed (there's that word again), non-snarky summary of the dwindling moments on the NH campaign trail. I watched the Phillips Exeter event on C-SPAN and she portrayed it quite well and she concluded with that great quote from the fellow from Vermont.

At the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Manchester at noon, he was just starting a story about a man he had met the night before, a dishwasher from Richmond, Vt., who used the state's health insurance benefit to get a cavity replaced for $3.

"That's me, that's me!" came a cry from the balcony, and John Daly, 28, shouted out his own story.

"Some people heard Howard Dean scream and it made them run away," Mr. Daly continued. "I heard Howard Dean scream and it made me wake up."
Never let it be said I only post on the negative slant. ;-)

Glad to hear it 

Just found this exchange over at Suburban Guerrilla. I think Mr. Okrent is doing a very good job at responding as quickly and completely as possible to the concerns some of us have.

At least I'm glad to know I was not alone in being struck by that "generally tried to look as normal as possible" bit. I've thought a lot of about this particular phrase (ya have a lot of time to think when you're driving for miles and miles and miles). Perhaps I am being overly sensitive (this week has been rough both as a Dean supporter and due to other stuff) but saying they "tried" to look normal seemed to me a subtle way of saying that they weren't normal and they had to fake it for Diane Sawyer.

But I'll take Ms. Wilgoren's response to this phrasing at face value and I'll choose to believe she didn't mean to evoke the reaction Susan and I (and I'll bet a lot of others) had.

I was amused however by this part of Ms. Wilgoren's response:

Part of the idea was also to quash concerns about the Deans' marriage amid debate over Mrs. Dean's lack of involvement in the campaign, and the amount of time they spend apart.
Oh, you mean this debate? ;-)

Monday, January 26, 2004

Odds and ends 

Back from my trip and still getting caught up on all those things that build up while you’re away (housework, mail, bills, etc.). Before getting back to regular posting tomorrow, thought we should pass along a few items of interest from the last few days.

First off, I had a chat with morning with Noah Shachtman from Wired.com. He’s working on an “Adopt-a-Journalist” story. Will keep you posted.

CBS News has one of the few level-headed media responses to Gov. Dean’s Iowa concession speech:

I'm not being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, honest. But I don't think Howard Dean's "I Have A Scream" performance was weird, troubling, scary, revealing or nuts. I don't think it was a big deal in any way, shape or form. I thought it was standard pump-up-the-troops campaign stuff.
Salon.com talks about the Gov. and Mrs. Dean’s appearance with Diane Sawyer last week. (Subscription or free day pass available.):
As eager as we all may be to turn Judy Steinberg Dean into a symbol of something -- to tattoo "cold careerist bitch," "feminist role model" or "passive-aggressive wife" onto her body -- it turns out that she may just be a boring, sweet, smart Jewish girl who loves her family and her work. Journalists like me and Jodi Wilgoren and Maureen Dowd -- people who obviously like attention and are fascinated by power -- cannot fathom why a woman wouldn't be thrilled to be in the center of a political lightning storm. We try to cast her and re-cast her, chew on this mystery meat until we can name her. But that exercise apparently reveals more about us than it does about our subject.
And finally, thanks to that omnipresent Anonymous in comments, check out Media Whores Online:

Well, now there are new recruits. The most sickening of the bunch so far, is one Jodi Wilgorn of The New York Times. (Why are so many of these RNC flacks women? Therein lies a, er, tale, or many tales, which MWO will divulge in due course.) We'll have much more on young Jodi down the line. (There's so much that even we, the intrepid MWO, is having trouble processing it all.)
Now I’m not one to go ‘round spreading rumors*. Just thought that was an interesting tease, eh?

*A free “Wilgoren Watch” t-shirt to the first person who knows this reference -- without resorting to Google.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

NPR story is up 

"On the Media" has posted their "Adopt-a-Journalist" piece airing this weekend on NPR.

Also be on the lookout for an "Adopt-a-Journalist" piece coming from Wired.com.

I'll be back home on Sunday so hopefully there will be fewer self-referential posts and more posts about the NYTimes coverage.

Friday, January 23, 2004

"Normal" 

I don't have time (and frankly can't stomach finishing the article right now) to fully discuss tomorrow's hit piece....errr....article headlined "On TV With His Wife, a Softer, Gentler Dean". Up until now, I have been reluctant to use a term like "hit piece", but what other term can be used for stuff like this:

On "Primetime," Mrs. Dean mostly sat, smiling, in a brick-red sweater set, as her husband fielded Ms. Sawyer's questions, on topics like Saddam Hussein and the couple's first date. The pair explained their respect for each other's careers — she is a physician in private practice who has rarely joined her husband in political events — emphasized their commitment to their two children, discussed the current low point of the campaign, and generally tried to look as normal as possible.
Yes, let's repeat that last bit:

The couple....generally tried to look as normal as possible.
The obvious implication from that wording: they're not normal.

Mr. Okrent -- is that an acceptable usage in a news piece?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

On the Media 

This evening, I had a brief phone interview with Brooke Gladstone, host and Managing Editor for NPR’s “On the Media” program. They are planning a feature on the “Adopt-a-Journalist” idea this weekend. She asked me a few questions about the Wilgoren Watch and had me read a short bit from an earlier post. On their website, you can find when the program airs in your area or listen to the program online after it begins airing.

Along the same lines, we get a brief mention in the Toronto Star – I am glad to know Ms. Wilgoren is reading our posts (and your comments?) and taking them in the spirit in which they are offered – constructive criticism.

Still on the road, so check out these analyses of the NYTimes coverage over at Fact-esque and Reading A-1, dedicated to looking at what the Gray Lady considers worthy of arguably the most valuable piece of media real estate in the world - their front page.

UPDATE: I just noticed the Toronto Star piece is from the AP -- glad to see they are also paying a little attention to the blogs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Wilgoren pulls a Fineman 

In today’s NYTimes, we learn “Dean is Subdued”. As we read through the piece, we see Ms. Wilgoren’s thesaurus was working overtime. How many variations on the “angry” theme can we find? The article is sprinkled with mentions of “the outsider's tirade”, “the scowl of outrage”, “a growling and defiant Iowa concession speech”, “too hot”, and an “unusually ferocious speech”.

I’m not necessarily criticizing Ms. Wilgoren’s references to Monday night’s speech (although one or two variations would probably have sufficed) -- he kindof asked for it. But I question why Gov. Dean’s version of why he was so animated was buried near the end of the piece:

Asked later at the news conference about his unusually ferocious speech the night before, Dr. Dean said he had been focused on thanking the rowdy crowd of true believers, not expanding his appeal to the people watching on television.

"Last night there were 3,500 people there who had worked for weeks in Iowa," he said, "and I thought I owed them the reason they came to the campaign, which was passion."
How often will this perfectly-reasonable explanation be repeated by those who have played and replayed the clips? I'm sure they'll rush it right into tomorrow's copy.

Ms. Wilgoren continues with a little sleuthing:

While the candidate himself said he had not had a chance to consider what had gone wrong in Iowa, or how to avoid repeating the mistakes this week, senior campaign aides huddled at their headquarters here searching for a second act. They were stuck in a kind of Goldilocks syndrome, aware that Monday night's shouting by Dr. Dean was too hot, and Tuesday morning's rebound too cold. But they were still somewhat divided about what to do.

One top strategist said the campaign would put all its energy into a do-or-die New Hampshire push, while another said that instead of yanking staff members from 17 other primary states, Dr. Dean would use his flush treasury to force the other candidates to compete on several fronts at once.
Am I missing something here? Are these two tactics mutually exclusive? Isn’t it possible – and more than a little practical – that they will do both simultaneously? What real advantage would they have in pulling paid staffers in from seventeen different states, away from their ongoing work, for a contest that is less than seven days away? Or is this an attempt to create the aura of a campaign in disarray and disagreement, where no such reality exists? I guess only time will tell.

Which brings us to probably the lowest point I have seen in the numerous articles Ms. Wilgoren has produced for the NYTimes since last summer. She pulls a Fineman. As many of you might know, in a recent Newsweek story, Howard Fineman created quite a stir by culling quotes from Blog for America to find negative comments to support his “analysis”.

I guess Fineman should be flattered – but imitating hackery is very unbecoming to the Gray Lady:

But the approach may have backfired: many of the faithful who post to the campaign's Web log questioned whether the wheels were coming off.

"Let's get our candidate under control!" wrote Jesse from NH.

"The tone of Governor Dean has become more combative to me, and less inspiring," posted T in Austin, Tex.
Admittedly, Ms. Wilgoren apparently goes the extra step Fineman did not and got an actual quote from a blogger (a Steven Romero from Baton Rouge).

But shouldn’t this be sufficient? How do Ms. Wilgoren and her editor justify truly blind quotes from anonymous posters on a blog? How do they know “Jesse from NH” isn’t oh, let’s say Dick Cheney and “T in Austin, Tex.” isn’t ummmm….Karl Rove just trying to stir things up? (Forgive the hyperbole and help me try to justify why these blog comments masquerading as "quotes" should appear in a NYTimes article.)

As I’ve said before, I’m not a journalist and don’t pretend to be. I realize “blogs” are such a new phenomenon that there may not yet be a rule about quoting anonymous posters -– but doesn’t common sense tell ya you probably shouldn’t be doing it in “the paper of record”?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Catching up 

Since last we blogged, we had a mini-explosion in Judith Steinberg Dean punditry, a pseudo-endorsement by Pres. Jimmy Carter, an admittedly disappointing third-place finish in Iowa, and a much-talked-about concession speech/battle cry (more on Ms. Wilgoren's take on this later).

(Oh, and our little baby blog – not yet one month old – gets a mention in both NYTimes Public Editor, Daniel Okrent’s column on Sunday and in the post-Iowa edition of The Note. As Scout points out in comments, The Notefellows did a sort of winner/loser summary out of Iowa, including the "Wilgoren Watch bloggers" in the latter category. If I stopped reading The Note about six months ago because I was tired of the even-then-untrue “the media is giving Dean a free ride” spin, does that still make the Wilgoren Watch a loser? Can we all now agree the so-called “free ride” has come to an end, guys?)

Back to the Times. Since blogging has been light due to being on the road, I’ll point you to this analysis of Mr. Okrent’s column at Economists for Dean. I would definitely like to see a follow-up by Mr. Okrent after the Judith Steinberg article last week and the cottage industry which sprung forth from it. Regardless of how far it may have fallen (“Table for one, Mr. Blair?”), many columnists and local newspapers undoubtedly take their cues from the Times.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Get Judy 

When I first read Ms. Wilgoren's piece on Dr. Steinberg the other day, I wrote about potential spin points certain parties could pull from it. At the time, I certainly didn't realize Ms. Wilgoren's article would generate and/or legitimize an overnight cottage industry of folks who feel they are qualified to analyze the Deans' marriage and lifestyle choices.

In comments, Roger brings up today's column by Maureen Dowd. (Go check out his analysis at Hellsheet.) This blog wasn't intended to become a "Defend Judith Steinberg" site but Ms. Dowd's column is a beauty to behold.

I don't have the time nor the energy right now to discuss the various ways in which Ms. Dowd's commentary is,shall we say, remarkable. I'm not sure which is more inappropriate, declaring the Deans are "in need of some tips on togetherness" or having the audacity to question Dr. Steinberg's staying behind in Vermont while Gov. Dean repatriated his brother's remains in Hawaii. Perhaps they decided it was best she stay behind to care for her patients and more importantly the Deans' two children? But the bottom line -- who in the hell annointed Maureen Dowd as the person entitled to pronounce this very personal decision as "odd". (Yeah, yeah, she uses the CYA phrasing "some thought it odd" but that's pure punditese bullcrap. I'm sorry, I'm trying to stay objective on this piece of tripe but to be frank, not having much success.)

She declares the Deans have an "unusual" relationship and then goes on to describe the spouses of some of his rivals for the Democratic nomination.

While Elizabeth Edwards gazes up at John from the front row of his events here, while Jane Gephardt cheerfully endures her husband's "Dick and Jane" jokes, while Teresa Heinz Kerry jets around for "conversations" with caucusgoers — yesterday she was at the Moo Moo Cafe in Keokuk at the southernmost tip of the state — Judith Steinberg has shunned the role of helpmeet.
Call me a wierdo, but somehow I feel more comfortable with a couple whose married life doesn't seem to revolve so tightly around winning this nomination battle.

(My memory is not that great so please correct me if I'm wrong, but did Laura Bush receive 1/10th this much analysis in the past four years as Judith Steinberg has received this week? The week prior to the Iowa caucuses? Just a coincidence, I'm sure.)

Perhaps the most revealing line of Ms. Dowd's:

Since the frugal, no-frills couple does not subscribe to cable TV, she has not even seen much of the virtual campaign, and has to go into his Vermont campaign headquarters if she wants to watch a debate.
In other words, Dr. Steinberg likely doesn't give a flying flip what Maureen Dowd and her kind think of her. And that simply isn't allowed.

P.S. - I'm going to be on travel the next week and a half so blogging is going to be light-to-nonexistant. Many thanks for the many kind comments of folks who have visited so far. Please use the comments section to keep me notified of any breaking stuff.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Got to spin 'round 

Thanks to Scout in the comments section, we find the Spin Machine is already in overdrive, taking their cue from Ms. Wilgoren's front-pager on Mrs. Dean:

A CANDIDATE AND HIS WIFE

I’m not sure how it all shakes out if, heaven forbid, Howard Dean became president—would Mrs. Dr. Dean really stay home and practice medicine and pick up the dry cleaning? I doubt it.
MRS. DEAN'S NO MOMMY

Don't miss near the end of the Mrs. Dean piece, where we see how Shelburne's finest will be greeted warmly by the left, since she can't cook and won't be entering phony bake-offs like Hillary Wynette Clinton.
DEANS ON MARRIAGE

A reader makes a good point: I think you missed commenting on the most disturbing part of that quote. "I just think she should do what she needs to do for her own happiness and satisfaction." So, in light of these thoughts, how does Howard define marriage?
I guess I’m missing something here, but why the hell is it any of our business what role Mrs. Dean plays in Gov. Dean’s political life? We’re electing him, not them. The right-wing bitched and moaned when Bill & Hillary said they would be a “two-for-one” special – vote for Bill and Hillary comes with him. Now they’re bitching and moaning that Gov. Dean has a spouse who couldn’t care less about politics.

Question: if Gov. Dean is the one all the wingers want Bush to run against, why are those working so hard to tear him down?

Answer: They’re bluffing. They know he can win. And it scares them. That’s why they’re spinning so furiously before the first caucus or primary results are announced.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Act III, scene 2 

Last week we mentioned the press has a certain script to follow. Dean as insurgent. Dean as frontrunner. Dean peaks.

Well, they do not disappoint. Act III, scene 2: Dean falters.

Stay tuned for Act IV.


Spinning Wheel 

Today's NYTimes has a pretty balanced piece on Gov. Dean's wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg. Even though it was hyped by Matt Drudge with a cryptic "Where is Mrs. Dean?" headline, it isn't going to give him any mileage -- at least not yet.

But is it possible that some of the issues brought up by this (and several similar recent articles here, here, and here sortof) might be the harbinger of things to come? Perhaps we should be on the lookout for negative spins on these points:

Some Dean backers see Dr. Steinberg as a role model for independent women balancing careers and children, but others in the campaign increasingly regard her absence as a potential liability for a candidate who is known for his reluctance to discuss his personal life or upbringing. Yet the topic is all but off-limits with the candidate. Voters also have begun to ask about a marriage in which the partners are so often apart -- she skipped Dr. Dean's birthday-party fund-raiser, the family-oriented Renaissance Weekend, even the emotional repatriation ceremony of his brother's remains in Hawaii.
Potential spin: if Mrs. Dean doesn't think enough of him to be there for these events, what's wrong with him and/or their relationship?

In her book, "The President's Partner: The First Lady in the 20th Century," Ms. Gutin outlined three broad categories: "ceremonial" (Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower), whose White House role was mainly entertaining; "emerging spokeswoman" (Jacqueline Kennedy, Pat Nixon), who seized the podium to promote issues important to them; and "activist" (Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford). Dr. Steinberg, she said, fits nowhere.
Potential spin: Because she doesn't fulfill any of our pre-conceived notions, she isn't fit to be First Lady. Of course, we have moved solidly into the 21st century now so maybe its time we add a new category to Ms. Gutin's list: "Working First Lady". ;-)

Most of the time, wearing sensible slipper-flats and no makeup or earrings, Dr. Steinberg can be found in an unadorned medical office she shares with two colleagues in the suburb of Shelburne, where the snapshots under the desk's glass top have not been changed since it belonged to her husband, before he became governor in 1991.
Potential spin: (and this is the one which will tick me off the most if it happens) she's a "plain Jane" not glamorous enough to be in the White House.

Or she might be puttering around their five-bedroom ranch-style house near Lake Champlain, writing a list of chores -- fix the toilet, change the light over the stoop -- for Dr. Dean to tackle on his rare days home. Or racing through Hannaford's supermarket in sneakers at 10 p.m., her list of bananas, milk, wheat bran, low-fat fudge bars, aluminum foil, tea bags, Gatorade, lemonade and grapefruit ordered according to aisle location.
Potential spin: she's nothing but a banana-peeling, milk-guzzling, wheat bran-eating, low-fat fudge bar-chomping, aluminum foil-using, tea/Gatorade/lemonade-drinking, grapefruit-splitting, anal retentive freak. (Sorry, I just couldn't help myself on that one. Have you seen these awesome postcards responding to that "Club for Growths" ad?)

Dr. Steinberg said she is simply too busy to get involved in the campaign. Along with her work, and a bimonthly book group, she has volunteer commitments at Burlington High School, where the Deans' son, Paul, 17, is a senior (their daughter, Anne, 19, is a sophomore at Yale).
Potential spin: "You mean she doesn't care enough about her country to make sacrifices in her personal life to serve as First Lady???" This, of course, would come from the same folks who have been screaming for years about how Democrats are not "pro-family" -- but since when has hypocrisy stopped them?

(Please note: I'm not accusing Ms. Wilgoren of propogating any of these "spins". I'm merely saying we know how many of the myths about Al Gore started as seemingly innocuous trivia and were repeated until they were accepted as true. And we need to be on guard this time around.)

Letters, we get letters 

This little blog has been up exactly three weeks today. During that time, we’ve attracted attention from Atrios (we’re not worthy) and Ms. Wilgoren herself. Yesterday, we got a mention from Howie Kurtz over at the Washington Post and have received some very nice compliments from lots of nice people. (Only one negative comment I’m aware of. Oh well, if you don’t like it, Timmy Russert says there are 4,999,999,999 other pages on the internet for you to visit. Has anyone fact-checked this yet?)

I was told today by a lady named Karen that we also got mentioned on C-SPAN one day last week (who knew?) and there’s word the NYTimes ombudsman, Daniel Okrent, may be covering some of our concerns in an upcoming column. Best of luck to two other upstarts, The Patricia Wilson Watch and Fact-Esque, which is going to be covering the work of Calvin Woodward at the AP.

All these little baby Howlers, should be fun.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Compare & Contrast 

All the pundits are going on and on about how the internet has changed the world of political campaigns. They talk about how Gov. Dean and (to a lesser extent) General Clark have revolutionized online organizing and fundraising. One thing they haven’t discussed much so far is how the internet might just influence the way members of the media behave this time around. (Gee, I wonder why that hasn’t come up yet?)

For example, a little Googling allows us to compare two or more different accounts of the same event literally at the click of a mouse. This provides us with a clearer picture than we might have received from any single account and at the same time, allows us to get some idea of which details are considered important by the various journalists in question.

Much has been made in the last couple of days about Gov. Dean “losing his temper” at an event in Iowa on Sunday. (Fox News surely must have worn out the videotape, they reran it so many times.) Google tells us Reuters was the first to offer up a report, written by Patricia Wilson. (Don’t forget to visit our new compatriot at Patricia Wilson Watch.) She was followed by Nedra Pickler writing for the AP and then Ms. Wilgoren for the NYTimes.

What we can cobble together from these stories:

1) According to Ms. Pickler, Gov. Dean allowed Mr. Ungerer to speak his peace for nearly three minutes (a detail missing from both the Wilson and Wilgoren stories) before telling him to sit down and shut up.

2) According to Ms. Wilson, the crowd reacted to Mr. Ungerer with “scattered hisses and boos” and to Gov. Dean with cheers, while Ms. Pickler says Gov. Dean's smack-down of "Mr. Fix-It" received “enthusiastic applause”. We don’t get any picture from Ms. Wilgoren of what the audience thought of this exchange. For all we know from the NYTimes account, the audience members were ducking for cover in case Gov. Dean started throwing chairs -- we're just kindof left to wonder on our own.

3) Among these three, we get the most complete quotations of what the two gentleman actually said from Ms. Wilson. (After last week’s debate, we all know getting quotations right is evidently not Ms. Pickler’s strong suit.)

Now I’ll grant you, this “temper tantrum” wasn't the main focus of Ms. Wilgoren’s ground-breaking expose (yaawwwwnnnn) of Dean and Kucinich attending the same church service Sunday morning. So I don’t necessarily expect her to go into great detail although since she decided to tack it on, it would have been nice.

Perhaps most telling in all this is a little detail all three of our brave correspondents left out: apparently Mr. Unger also included them in his rebuke. Check out Glen Johnson’s account from the Boston Globe:

The former Vermont governor, taking a question from the audience after his standard stump speech, found himself being criticized for condemning the policies of President Bush and, with the assistance of the press, showing no respect for authority.

"It just makes me furious when the political media and the columnists slam, bam, and bash Bush," contended Dale Ungerer, 67, a registered Republican from Hawkeye.
That’s right, friends. Mr. Ungerer was “furious” at the “slam, bam and bash Bush” rhetoric but he blamed this not only on Gov. Dean, but also on the media & pundits – definitely not the impression we get from either Reuters or AP or the NYTimes. Wonder why none of the other correspondents picked up on that?

Kudos to Mr. Johnson for including an important nuance -- which will get undoubtedly get buried in the race to blow the whole incident out of proportion.

Dear anonymous 

Our baby blog rates a mention today from the Washington Post today:

First there were blogs. Then there were blogs about blogs. Then there were blogs slamming news organizations. Now Jodi Wilgoren, who covers Howard Dean for the New York Times, finds there is a blog devoted to critiquing her work.

She laughs about Wilgoren Watch (whose author remains anonymous), saying she and her fiance were among the few who signed up for updates. The fledgling site had 2,715 visitors as of last week.

"I don't think this is a big movement," Wilgoren says. "I get e-mail every day from Dean supporters who think I'm insane, and I get some very thoughtful reactions. This is a campaign filled with people on the Net voraciously communicating with each other."
Then there were snippets in pseudo-blogs by "media critics".

Mr. Kurtz - I've had an e-mail address posted since day one. I'm not out to become famous nor do I feel a need remain anonymous like Atrios. All it takes is an e-mail saying, "Who are you?" (Actually, my name has already appeared in one of your previous articles in the Post.....small world, eh?)

I'm just a Howard Dean supporter who wants to do his part to keep an eye on the media coverage. Pretty simple, really.

Welcome (Patricia) Wilson Watch 

What have we started? ;-)

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Tsunami 

Did you ever feel like you were surfing on a little wave which suddenly got a lot bigger than you expected? Welcome to my tsunami.

It seems like there has been some talk this weekend about an “Adopt-a-Journalist” plan bubbling up through the blogosphere. Check out Atrios and PressThink. I guess my cyber-ears should have been burning because my little baby blog was mentioned once or twice.

Listen folks, I’m not a journalist and never pretended to be. I’m just a guy (veterinarian by trade) living in Northern Virginia who supports Gov. Howard Dean in his run for the White House and happens to know a little about HTML. I’m not a “Deaniac” (I abhor that term because it implies a level of mental disease which my psychiatrist assures me I don’t possess) and I’m not a “Deanie-baby” (alas, I’m closer to 40 than 35). I just a citizen who has volunteered money and time to the campaign and hopes to be a delegate to the Democratic convention in Boston after Gov. Dean wins the nomination. I’m not a stalker and couldn’t care less what this blog “means” in the larger sense.

I’ve been reading coverage of Gov. Dean for the past 8 months or so and more often than not, find myself shaking my head at the inaccuracies and/or outright distortions of him and his views and our campaign. During that time, Ms. Wilgoren’s articles in the New York Times stood out for several reasons.

More often than not, she does a pretty good job of covering the campaign but I’ve noticed several themes develop, one of those being a repeated mention of Gov. Dean’s “difficulty” in attracting minority support. I attended rallies for Gov. Dean in Philly in July and Arlington, VA, in August and I saw plenty of non-white faces at both events, so the overall media focus on this has seemed a little overblown to me. I’m glad to see a lot of polls since then (he’s pulled ahead in SC for example, where African-Americans make up a large part of the Democratic electorate) and the number of endorsements from minority office holders have confirmed my belief in Gov. Dean’s candidacy.

Secondly, I clearly remember the little interview with Ms. Wilgoren in the middle of C-SPAN’s coverage of the Sleepless Summer Tour. I used her quote in my inaugural post in December because I think it pointed to an interesting lack of….I don’t know…insight?

I found it interesting that she didn’t yet grasp the extent to which the Dean campaign was about more than the war or the rallies or the DFA blog. It really does seem to be about a fundamental shift in how we, the people, might actually be able to have some say in what happens in our country again. Saying Howard Dean is about the anger or about the internet is just lazy bullshit and everyone on the street knows it. I guess I just wanted to see how long it takes the NYTimes and their representatives to grasp it too.

Thirdly, I’ll admit to joining Bill Safire in enjoying a little bit of alliteration now and then – but if I ever get as obnoxious about it, please shoot me – and “The Wilgoren Watch” has a bit of a ring to it. (Thanks, Nathan.)

Let me add, I hate the term “Media Whore” because of its misogynistic implications, although I’m sure I’ve used it once or twice online, as it is pretty much part of the popular jargon in the blogosphere. I have nothing personal against Ms. Wilgoren and I have attempted to be nothing but respectful to her on this blog – I just want to make sure she and her editors know we are paying attention to how they portray our party and Gov. Dean.

Its pretty simple really. I’m a lifelong Democrat who – like many of us – was caught off guard by the degree to which Al Gore was mistreated by the media in 2000. I just want to do my little part to mount a little “pre-emption” in case the same treatment is applied to Gov. Dean this time around.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Welcome Ms. Wilgoren 

It appears we have a celebrity in our midst. Since being established on Christmas Eve, my little blog has attracted 16 "regulars" who have signed up for the Yahoo Group! e-mail list to be notified of new posts.

Including, it seems, one Ms. Jodi Wilgoren from the NYTimes. Welcome, Ms. Wilgoren. Please feel free to share with us any comments or thoughts you have on our new little community we're building here.

Atrios is on the case 

Atrios is covering "Caucus-gate" as well. He sheds some light on the history of one Ms. Lisa Myers from NBC.

And as a bonus, he has the transcript from Paula Zahn's shameful performance earlier this evening....and the Joe Trippi smackdown. ;-) It was pretty cool seeing Zahn flail about when she realized someone with a "D" behind their name would actually stand up to her smear-job.

Let's go to the video tape - update 

Dean for America has just posted a more complete transcript of the now-infamous caucus discussion. It reveals the extent to which first NBC, then the NYTimes, then CNN chose to quote Gov. Dean out of context, putting it in the worst possible light, naturally.

This is what we're up against, people. We can't let them win. This election is too important.

Act III 

Well, at least they are consistent. We all knew the script.

Act I - Dean as insurgent
Act II - Dean as frontrunner
Act III - Dean has peaked, AKA "Buyer's Remorse"

Yes, the script, it must be followed.

Only a few weeks ago, Jenny Briggs, an Iowa State University graduate, was all set to enthusiastically support Howard Dean in the caucuses. But now, with the vote 11 days away, Ms. Briggs said she is having second thoughts as she watches Dr. Dean stumble through his difficult days of the presidential contest.

"I had listened to him on TV, and I thought he sounded pretty good," Ms. Briggs said, standing in the town square in Newton, Iowa. "It turned out he was too good to be true."
How conveeeenient. Plenty of former Dean supporters are found all over Iowa, obviously having received their copy of the script from those "in the know" and following along like good little lambs. But just to make sure we have all our bases covered.....

Given that Dr. Dean has drawn many new Democrats into the process, and given the intensity of his supporters, no one in Iowa is suggesting he is in serious trouble now. Among the campaigns now conducting nightly counts of supporters, there is a rough consensus that Dr. Dean is in front, followed by Mr. Gephardt, with Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards fighting it out for third.
Get ready for Act IV - Dean defies expectations, packs his bags for Boston. ;-)

Let's go to the video tape 

Let's take a few moments to compare today's Tape Shows Dean Maligning Iowa Caucuses with its immediate source material, Tale of the tape on Howard Dean.

Ms. Wilgoren and her compatriot, a Ms. Rachel L. Swarns, open by relating Gov. Dean's comments from January 2000 about the caucus system on a Canadian opinion show called "The Editors":

Four years ago, Howard Dean denounced the Iowa caucuses as "dominated by special interests," saying on a Canadian television show that they "don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people, they represent the extremes."

Videotapes of the show were broadcast on the NBC Nightly News on Thursday, less than two weeks before the Jan. 19 caucuses, the first contest of the Democratic nominating race. The tapes show Dr. Dean arguing that the lengthy caucus process in which neighbors gather to debate their preferences is inconvenient for ordinary people.

"Say I'm a guy who's got to work for a living, and I've got kids," he said on the show on Jan. 15, 2000. "On a Saturday, is it easy for me to go cast a ballot and spend 15 minutes doing it, or do I have to sit in a caucus for eight hours?"

A moment later, he added, "I can't stand there and listen to everyone else's opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world."
Now, I know Iowans love their role in our democratic process and I have to assume that on some level, they enjoy the caucus process, but even Iowans would likely admit the process is "inconvenient for ordinary people."

But of course, to Ms. Wilgoren and Ms. Swarns -- and to Gov. Dean's opponents -- espousing what should be a fairly obvious -- if impolitic -- conclusion will be talked to death as yet another "gaffe". Never mind this was four years ago, never mind Gov. Dean has spent nearly two years committing himself to this process and to learning about Iowa voters.

As we have learned over and over, growing, learning and maybe even -- wait for it -- changing ones perceptions as one gathers new information and has new experiences (!!!!!) is obviously not allowed on the campaign trail.

Now lets go to the videotape. From the MSNBC story, we find a more complete (although still out of context) recounting of Gov. Dean's caucus opinions back in 2000:

“If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests in both parties,” he said. “[And] the special interests don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people. They represent the extremes. And then you get a president who is beholden to either one extreme or the other, and where the average person is in the middle.”

He added, “Here's what happens: Say I'm a guy who's got to work for a living, and I've got kids and so forth. On a Saturday, is it easy for me to go cast a ballot and spend 15 minutes doing it, or do I have to sit in a caucus for eight hours? … I can’t stand there and listen to everyone else’s opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world.”
By reading the MSNBC article and watching the video tape (available at the MSNBC site), it is obvious the "I can't stand there and listen" quote is him still relating to the "guy who's got to work for a living".

Ms. Wilgoren and Ms. Swarns choose to split that last section into two separate paragraphs, possibly leading a casual reader who hadn't seen the source material to believe Gov. Dean was saying that he himself doesn't have time to listen to "everyone else's opinions". But I'm sure misleading the reader wasn't their intention. Right?

I'm sure they also didn't intend to mislead the reader about the fuller picture emerging from the MSNBC story. Some of the notions which didn't make it into the NYTimes story:

As reported by Lisa Myers on NBC's “Nightly News,” Dean comes across in these tapes as having a wide-ranging intellect, a sharp tongue, and shifting views on some key issues.

Yet he also shows that he’s much more consistent on issues — like affirmative action and trade — than some of his opponents give him credit for. And despite the constant complaints that Dean has no foreign policy experience, he demonstrates a good grasp of international affairs.

According to Ann McFeatters, the Washington bureau chief for both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade who has also been a regular guest on the show, the Dean you see on “The Editors” is the same Dean you see on the campaign trail. “He is very smart, likes an argument, likes to claw around and through a problem, and does speak his mind,” she said.

---

And Dean seemed to display a sharp tongue a few times on the show. In an April 1998 discussion on welfare policy, one panelist remarked that 80 percent of children who are born to single mothers end up on welfare. Dean lashed out at that statement. “That is absolute crap. This is absolute unmitigated garbage.” (Welfare experts at the Brookings Institution and at the Center for Economic and Policy Research say Dean is most likely correct, certainly according to welfare rolls in the 1990s.)

But other frequent guests on “The Editors” don’t believe that Dean ever demonstrated a temper. William Powers, a media critic at National Journal magazine, notes Dean always relished a good debate on the show. “He was combative and seemed to enjoy the combat.” But Powers, who wrote a 2002 article in National Journal about Dean’s appearances on the program, stresses he was never the angry person that his critics accuse him of being. “You never got a sense of real hostility.”

I never saw him to have a temper. I saw him shoot from the hip,” added R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., the conservative editor in chief of the American Spectator who often sparred with Dean on the show. “That’s a difference.” Tyrrell says, however, that Dean was often prone to “talk down to everyone around him.”

Still, despite the controversial statements, the flip-flops, and occasional heated comments, Dean’s appearances on “The Editors” also show he has been more consistent on some issues than his opponents say he is. Although in 1995 he once said that affirmative action should be based on class rather than race — a statement that rivals like Al Sharpton and Dick Gephardt have pounced on — Dean was extolling the virtues of affirmative action back in a 1997 appearance. “I think that this country needs affirmative action in order to succeed as a diverse society,” he said.

In addition, while Dean has been critical about free trade on the campaign trail, some of his opponents have blasted his earlier support of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Yet in a February 1998 episode of “The Editors,” Dean said he was already having second doubts about that support. “I’m a little nervous about NAFTA. I was a big supporter four years ago. I’m worried about the condition of Mexican workers around the maquiladoras. And I had hoped that NAFTA would boost the Mexican standard of living.” Such a statement seems to contradict Gephardt’s current argument that Dean’s doubts about NAFTA and free trade are an “11th-hour conversion.”

---

And finally, even though his experience in government hasn’t extended beyond Vermont’s borders, his statements on “The Editors” demonstrated a fairly good understanding of international affairs.
Are the caucus quotes going to cause him some headaches in Iowa? Sure -- but we'll see how the Dean campaign handles this issue in the days to come. I've got enough faith in Iowans to suspect they'll quickly filter through the NYTimes/Kerry/Gephardt spin.

Are the more positive aspects revealed by Lisa Myers in her NBC report going to alter the conventional wisdom about Gov. Dean being short-tempered, anti-black or suddenly flip-flopping on issues like NAFTA? I'm not gonna hold my breath.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Bradley to endorse Dean 

Bill Bradley to Back Dean is a straightforward piece previewing tomorrow's endorsement. To quote the un-esteemed Drudge.....developing.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Judge Not? 

Following along with several recent pieces about how Gov. Dean is dealing with religion on the campaign trail, Ms. Wilgoren offers an article entitled "Dean Narrowing His Separation of Church and Stump". (Cute, huh?)

In it, we learn that although Gov. Dean prays everyday, he prefers to keep it private.

On the plane he declined to detail his prayer ritual but described how a 2002 trip to Israel deepened his understanding of the connections between Judaism and Christianity.
We learn that although religion was part of his upbringing, he doesn't go to regular services these days.

Dr. Dean grew up spending Sundays in an Episcopal church, and attended religious boarding school, but became a Congregationalist after the Episcopal church he belonged to in Burlington, Vt., refused to yield land for a bike path around Lake Champlain that he championed. His wife is Jewish and their children observe both traditions, though the family stopped attending services years ago after scolding sermons about once-a-year attendees.
We learn that while he has read the Bible, he doesn't have it memorized book-for-book, page-for-page.

He named Job as his favorite New Testament book, then later corrected himself, noting that it is in the Old Testament.
In case you missed that, Ms. Wilgoren mentions it again.

Asked his favorite New Testament book, Dr. Dean named Job, adding: "But I don't like the way it ends." "Some would argue, you know, in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different," he said. "I think, if I'm not mistaken, there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later."

Job, the Old Testament story of a righteous man who suffers hardships as a test of his faith, ends with the Lord restoring his fortunes and the protagonist living to be "an old man, and full of days." Some scholars have posited that the original ending may have been more dour.

An hour after his comments, Dr. Dean returned to the clutch of reporters, saying he realized he had misspoken because Job is not in the New Testament.
And in case you still don't get the point, she hammers it home by shoe-horning in a clarifying quote from the campaign.

His press secretary, Doug Thornell, telephoned late Friday night to say that Dr. Dean did not mean to imply he was some kind of expert.

"He obviously has read the Bible and knows the passages fairly well," Mr. Thornell said, "but just in terms of having a theologian's knowledge of the Bible, he doesn't want to pass on the impression that he does."
Would one mention of this scriptural faux pas be enough? Probably. But for some reason, Gov. Dean's less-than-perfect knowledge of the Bible rates three mentions in Ms. Wilgoren's book.

One wonders if she is familiar with a certain passage from the book of Matthew and mirrored in many other religions and belief systems: "Judge not, that you be not judged."

----------------------------------------

For a rather-more-balanced recount of that same interview on Friday night, check out Matea Gold's piece for the Los Angeles Times. Gold also mentions Gov. Dean's mistake.

But only once.

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