September 2004, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Americans React To Rathergate, and trust the news media even less.
As media analysts and journalists wring their hands over the fallout from CBS News' faulty reporting relative to President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service, a new Gallup Poll finds the news media's credibility has declined significantly among the public. The Sept. 13-15 poll -- conducted after the CBS News report was questioned but before the network issued a formal apology -- found that just 44% of Americans express confidence in the media's ability to report news stories accurately and fairly (9% say "a great deal" and 35% "a fair amount"). This is a significant drop from one year ago, when 54% of Americans expressed a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the media. The latest result is particularly striking because this figure had previously been very stable -- fluctuating only between 51% and 55% from 1997-2003.Some of us consider that decline in trust progress, as the public comes to share our sour view of the media.
As you'd expect, Republicans are more likely to have soured on the media than Democrats. For what it is worth, the poorer you are, and the less education you have, the more likely you are to trust the news media.
Apparent distrust of the media is consistent among other demographic groups, with one exception: those with lower levels of education and income are more likely to have confidence in the media's accuracy and fairness than those with more education and higher incomes. As an example, 51% of those earning less than $20,000 annually express confidence in the media's accuracy and fairness, compared with 36% of those earning more than $75,000. Also, 51% of those with a high school diploma or less express confidence in the media, while just 40% of those who have attended college do.I'm not sure journalists, as a group, understand just how much damage Rathergate is doing to them, though a few have caught on.
- 11:12 AM, 23 September 2004 [link]
A Brief History Of The Gender Gap: Democrats, the New York Times tells us, are becoming worried that John Kerry is losing support among women.
In the last few weeks, Kerry campaign officials have been nervously eyeing polls that show an erosion of the senator's support among women, one of the Democratic Party's most reliable constituencies. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week, women who are registered to vote were more likely to say they would vote for Mr. Bush than for Mr. Kerry, with 48 percent favoring Mr. Bush and 43 percent favoring Mr. Kerry.As I often do when I see arguments like this one, I turned to the large exit poll table that the New York Times prepares after each election. (The one I am using is from November 12, 2000 and covers elections from 1976 through 2000.) What those exit polls show is that the gender gap began in a specific election and has continued since. I think it was a reaction to the choices that voters saw then, and still see.
In 1976, Carter won 50 percent of the popular vote. He also won 50 percent of the men's vote and 50 percent of the women's vote. With nice symmetry, Ford won 48 percent of the total and 48 percent from each sex. In 1980, Reagan won 47 percent of the women's vote — and 55 percent of the men's vote. (Independent candidate John Anderson won 7 percent of the total and 7 percent from each sex.) In 1980, the Republicans won the support of a significant chunk of men and have never lost that support. The best that a Democratic candidate has done since then, among men, is Clinton's 43 percent in 1996.
So the gender gap was created by a net* movement of men to the Republican party — though journalists almost always think it was the other way around.
In every election since, except 1992, the Republican candidate has won at least 6 percent more votes from men than from women. Even in 1992, men who left Bush did not move to the Democrats; instead, they voted for Perot, who won 21 percent of men's votes, but only 17 percent of women's votes. (Sometimes women are more sensible than men.)
Why men moved away from the Democrats seems obvious enough to me, though it surprised the Democratic party. The movement came almost entirely among white men, who are twice discriminated against by affirmative action, because of their race and their sex. Then too, Reagan, and the Republican candidates since, have been more willing to use force and the threat of force to uphold American interests, something men are more likely to find acceptable than women.
The same reasons, in reverse, explain why white women did not move toward the Republican party. White women, especially well-off, educated white women, are the biggest group benefitting from affirmative action. (There is some reason to think that their gains come at the expense of working class white men and their wives, by the way.) And no one should be surprised that women are, on the average, less willing to use force than men.
With this history in mind, let's return to the argument in the New York Times article. The same poll that showed a Bush lead of 5 percent among women (for registered voters) also showed an overall 8 percent lead. Which implies that he has an 11 percent lead among men. So, the poll found a gender gap of 6 percent, about what it has been since 1980, though less than in 2000**. Women have moved toward Bush in the last month — but so have men, and by about the same amount, assuming the poll is accurate. If I were a Democratic strategist, I would be worrying about the overall trend, not the loss of votes among women.
There has been much talk about how "security moms" are moving to Bush and the Republicans. So far, I have seen a general movement toward the Republicans, but no special movement among women, moms or otherwise.
(*I say "net" because men moved in both directions, but more moved toward the Republican party from the Democratic party than went the other way. If we could see all the changes, we might find that 6 percent of men had shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats, but 12 percent had gone the other way.
**The gender gap in 2000 was large enough to require some additional explanation. I have not seen a formal investigation, but can offer you this guess. I saw articles after the election saying that the report of George W. Bush's drunk driving conviction was especially likely to affect women's votes. It would be interesting to know whether that alone widened the gender gap beyond its usual 6 percent or so.
For many decades, the women's vote was, I believe, a little more Republican than the men's vote. The ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 did not bring women into the electorate in a rush. Instead, they trickled in, with their participation rate slowly rising. I believe it wasn't until the 1960s that women voted at the same rate as men. Wealthier, more educated women, who tended to be Republican, were more likely to vote than working class women and poor women.)
- 10:11 AM, 23 September 2004
Correction: Actually, women's level of voting didn't catch up to men's until the 1980s. See this post for more.
- 5:24 PM, 29 September 2004 [link]
The Damage Done By Mary Mapes: The Rathergate story is important, not because the intended smear against Bush was of any importance, but because it removed the curtain, temporarily, from the sleazy operation CBS is running. One story from that sleazy operation, Abu Ghraib, is having terrible consequences in Iraq.
The head of the militant group routinely shows visitors to his office in Basra the same set of pictures. The first is of an American soldier having sexual intercourse with a female Iraqi prisoner. Others include the familiar picture of Pte Lynndie England with an Iraqi soldier on a dog leash.Mary Mapes and CBS exaggerated Abu Ghraib and gave our enemies a propaganda weapon. They used it, and have added to it, since only two Iraqi women are now being held by American forces, women with the charming nicknames of "Dr. Germ" and "Mrs. Anthrax". American soldiers, Iraqis, and perhaps American civilians, may have died because Mary Mapes and the rest of the "mainstream" press were determined to use Abu Ghraib as a weapon against George W. Bush — regardless of the consequences.
(Mapes may also have broken the law, since the pictures she used to attack Bush — the same pictures now being used to inflame Iraqis — were classified secret, and she had no right to them. I am not a lawyer so I can't say for certain that she broke the law.)
- 10:26 AM, 22 September 2004 [link]
Hormesis Again: If you have been reading this site since December 2002, you may recall my discussion of hormesis, the idea that small amounts of dangerous substances can be beneficial, by stimulating an organism's repair mechanisms. There is evidence for hormesis from many substances, from arsenic to dioxin, in organisms as different as yeast, peppermint, and man. There is particularly strong evidence for hormesis effects from radiation.
The evidence shows that the effect of radiation on human health is not a linear one, but is a J-shaped curve. Exposure starts by being beneficial at low doses and only becomes harmful at higher doses. This effect is known as hormesis. A low dose of ionising radiation seems to stimulate DNA repair and the immune system, so providing a measure of protection against cancer.(Emphasis added.) Dick Taverne concludes that these findings destroy the "strongest objections to nuclear power". I disagree only on the "strongest" part, since I have always thought that the strongest objection to nuclear power was the problem of proliferation. (The weakest objection to nuclear power is the "dangers" of nuclear waste. If someone gives you that objection, you know that they don't know what they are talking about, or are not being honest with you.)
It is well that radiation is beneficial in small amounts, because China is about to go nuclear in a big way.
Late last year, China announced plans to build 30 new reactors — enough to generate twice the capacity of the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam — by 2020. And even that won't be enough. The Future of Nuclear Power, a 2003 study by a blue-ribbon commission headed by former CIA director John Deutch, concludes that by 2050 the PRC could require the equivalent of 200 full-scale nuke plants. A team of Chinese scientists advising the Beijing leadership puts the figure even higher: 300 gigawatts of nuclear output, not much less than the 350 gigawatts produced worldwide today.The Chinese are working hard on "pebble bed" reactors, which appear to have many advantages over conventional designs. The article doesn't say much about it, but going nuclear would also help China reduce its already very serious pollution problems.
(The hormesis argument may also apply to arsenic. The regulations that the Bush administration accepted, after falling into Clinton's trap, may set the level of arsenic below optimal levels and make those in areas with high levels of arsenic slightly less healthy than they would be otherwise.)
- 9:48 AM, 22 September 2004 [link]
From The Beginning Of Rathergate, I have argued that the journalistic failures shown by their treatment of the forged documents implied that there were many other false stories from CBS, or cockroaches, as I have started to call them.
Others have come to the same conclusion. Here, for example, is "Patterico".
And I've said this before, but it bears repeating: don't fool yourself believing that this is the first time this has happened.And some of Noemie Emery's questions to Dan Rather show that she has the same suspicions — as everyone should.
We wonder whether you always go "expert" shopping when you get the wrong answers from the first experts you consult and they try to warn you away from a story.Now let me broaden that argument. Rather's producer on the forged documents story was Mary Mapes. There is every reason to believe that she used the same bogus methods on other stories that she did on this one. Many around her should have been able to see the flaws. But she is always described as respected.
Mapes is a popular producer at CBS News, which she joined in 1989.Strong stories, perhaps. But were they all true? I have my doubts.
I think there is strong reason to suspect that neither she nor CBS are exceptional. People go back and forth between the major networks all the time, so her reputation at CBS is probably her reputation in the industry. What she has been doing for decades there was not just acceptable, but admirable, at least so her coworkers say. We can be nearly certain that there are many more false stories, many more cockroaches, to be uncovered at 60 Minutes. We can be almost as certain that there are many more in the rest of CBS, and at the other networks.
- 6:56 AM, 22 September 2004 [link]
Want To Know More About Dan Rather's "Unimpeachable Source"? Here's a USA Today article that shows why no one should believe Bill Burkett, at least on the subject of George W. Bush.
In earlier conversations with USA TODAY, Burkett had identified the source of the documents as George Conn, a former Texas National Guard colleague who works for the U.S. Army in Europe. Burkett now says he made up the story about Conn's involvement to divert attention from himself and the woman he now says provided him with the documents. He told USA TODAY that he also lied to CBS.There's a homeless man in Kirkland who sits downtown and passes out accusations about some weird poisoning conspiracy. He's harmless, as far as I know, so nearly everyone leaves him alone. Given the standards at CBS, I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see his accusations appear on 60 Minutes — if he were to make his target George W. Bush.
(And I can't help adding this: The last time I saw the homeless man, he was wearing a Kerry button in his cap.)
- 8:47 AM, 21 September 2004 [link]
Too Few Homeless: That's the problem at a local shelter.
WOODINVILLE -- Members of a homeless encampment here are moving out at a faster rate than others are moving in, so Tent City 4 backers say they plan to spread the word about the camp.If I were feeling cynical, I would suggest that the Tent City 4 backers simply hire people to pose as homeless, so they could fill up their shelter. But that would be wrong because these shelters encourage some people to stay homeless. I don't mind moral play acting by well meaning people — if it doesn't damage anyone else. But I have become convinced that these shelters, like most other forms of welfare, damage the recipients. And that is why I oppose them.
(This article, about a homeless man who smeared feces over produce at a local Safeway, indicates the problems many of the homeless have, problems that can not be treated at a tent city.
Those not in this area may need to know that Woodinville is a Seattle suburb a few miles north of the much better known Redmond. Poverty is not a large problem there.)
- 7:25 AM, 21 September 2004 [link]
Worth Reading: If you are tired of looking at fakes so inept that even Dan Rather was able (with some help) to recognize them as fakes, you might want to read Geitner Simmons' fine piece on Soviet forgeries during the Cold War. And he has a companion piece mentioning two great Soviet successes, the toppling of British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald in the 1920s, and the Soviet success in planting the idea that the CIA was involved with the Kennedy assassination, first with New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, and then with movie maker Oliver Stone.
- 1:45 PM, 20 September 2004 [link]
CBS Executives Have Told Dan Rather that he must admit the National Guard documents were forgeries, at least that's how I interpret this New York Times story.
After days of expressing confidence about the documents used in a "60 Minutes" report that raised new questions about President Bush's National Guard service, CBS News officials have grave doubts about the authenticity of the material, network officials said last night.But they aren't sure Rather will accept the obvious, even though he may no longer trust the likely source of the frauds.
But officials decided yesterday that they would most likely have to declare that they had been misled about the records' origin after Mr. Rather and a top network executive, Betsy West, met in Texas with a man who was said to have helped the news division obtain the memos, a former Guard officer named Bill Burkett.Burkett led Mapes, unless all the accounts are wrong, where she desperately wanted to go.
This story is important for what it shows about the shoddy and partisan practices at one of our major networks. There are, I am sure, many more such "cockroach" stories, as I have begun to dub them, many more false stories that do not rest on such easily disproved evidence. Nothing in this article makes me think that CBS will do the right thing, which would be to clean house, and to look at all the stories that producer Mary Mapes has done. The New York Times, presumably relying on interviews with CBS officials, describes her as "one of their most respected producers". That alone shows just how large their problem is, how many cockroaches infest CBS.
(I assume all of you have seen Charles Johnson's superimpostion of the forgery with his own Microsoft Word memo, but you may not have seen this Washington Post comparison of a real memo with one of the forgeries. A grade school kid could see that the two had different origins, even though one of the "most respected" producers at CBS couldn't.)
- 5:59 AM, 20 September 2004
More: The CBS statement and the Dan Rather apology were slightly worse than I expected — and I wasn't expecting much. There was no apology to President Bush, no admission that Bill Burkett should never have been trusted in the first place, and no admission that their own experts had told them not to run the stories. Most of all, there is no sign that they intend to look for other bogus stories, other cockroaches.
Tim Blair does a line-by-line analysis of the CBS statement, for those who want still more. Today, talk show host Michael Medved started playing Dan Rather statements with a laugh track added, an even better response.
- 1:21 PM, 20 September 2004 [link]
"Pick A Message, Any Message": The New York Times, getting desperate, had four columns of advice for John Kerry yesterday, from Donna Brazile, Bob Kerrey, Paul Glastris, and Leon Panetta. The Times' "pick a message" headline for former Republican Panetta's op-ed was a little misleading, but only a little.
Above all, he needs to be simple and direct with voters. For too long, the campaign has played with too many messages. Mr. Kerry must develop a single, simple, succinct message: "We need a safer and stronger America" might work. Then he needs to stick to it every day.Odds against Kerry picking a single, simple, succinct message? At least 100-1, assuming you exclude Kerry's favorite, "Do You Know Who I Am?"
(Didn't know Panetta, the former Clinton chief of staff and former Democratic congressman, was once a Republican? It's true. In fact, he worked for Nixon, but in 1970 was fired as head of the Office of Civil Rights at the department of Health, Education and Welfare. The next year Panetta switched parties, and in 1972, defeated an incumbent Republican congressman.
It has always amused me that, when Clinton needed to bring some order to his administration, he turned to Panetta, the former Republican, and David Gergen, best known for his work for Reagan.)
- 5:06 AM, 20 September 2004 [link]
Sunday Is A Good Day For This Question: What kind of believer is George W. Bush? This Washington Post article wanders around but convinces me that Bush is what he says he is, a Methodist.
George W. Bush is among the most openly religious presidents in U.S. history. A daily Bible reader, he often talks about how Jesus changed his heart. He has spoken, publicly and privately, of hearing God's call to run for the presidency and of praying for God's help since he came into office.Many on the left (especially in the media) fear Bush's faith, There is more than one reason for that, but perhaps the largest is that Bush does not observe their taboo against religious beliefs for white Christians or Orthodox Jews. They understand that a politician might need to have a religion, especially in some areas, but they are dismayed to learn that the politician believes in it, except, of course, for minorities, They are comfortable with the hypocritic observances of a John Kerry, who attends Catholic services only when he wishes to make a political point. They don't mind open electioneering by Clinton and Kerry in black churches, along with many religious references, but they oppose the same thing in white churches (where it is much less common) by Republicans,
If this article is accurate, and I see no reason not to think so, the left has no reason to be so fearful about Bush's faith.
(For more, see this commentary on the article by Eric Scheie of Classical Values.)
- 11:27 AM, 19 September 2004
For Still More, see this very interesting discussion at the Chicago Boys, and this informative article from the author of God and George W. Bush. No, Bush is not a "fundamentalist", a term that has a fairly precise meaning for theologians, but is used mainly for abuse by secular leftists. Bush's faith is "unconventional only in its openness to other faiths".
- 10:07 AM, 20 September 2004 [link]
Repression Of Dissent: Finally someone gets fired over Rathergate — a radio talk show host who criticized Rather on a CBS affiliate.
SEATTLE -- A radio talk-show host said Saturday he has been fired for criticizing CBS newsman Dan Rather's handling of challenges to the authenticity of memos about President Bush's National Guard service.The station may also have been unhappy with Maloney's criticism of their biggest draw, talk show host Dave Ross, who announced he was running for Congress, but kept his talk show job for weeks afterwards. (Liberal Democrat Ross is, or at least claims to be, a supporter of "campaign finance reform", but started his first campaign with a gross violation of the spirit of the laws. That's the kind of double standards I have come to expect from him. The station continues to promote Ross, which is understandable, but also a violation of the spirit of the campaign finance laws.)
I listen to Maloney from time to time and think he is one of the better local talk show hosts. There are some local slots where he would be a big improvement over the current host. Unfortunately, many of them belong to KTTH, which is owned by the same company that owns KIRO.
- 8:18 AM, 19 September 2004
More: The station manager, Ken Berry, is, naturally, denying that he fired Maloney because of Maloney's attack on Rather. Two interesting things left unsaid in the denial: First, Berry says that time crunch was the "primary reason" he fired Maloney, but does not say what the secondary reasons were. (I continue to think that Maloney's criticism of their star, Dave Ross, may have been one of the reasons, perhaps the primary reason, for the firing.) Second, Berry does not say that Maloney's ratings were low, which would be a reason to fire any talk show host.
- 6:29 AM, 20 September 2004 [link]
Who Knows More About Politics, Men Or Women? Men, as still another poll has found.
Another gender gap has appeared, this time on a poll testing men's and women's knowledge of issues in the presidential campaign. On the eight-question quiz administered to 1,845 adults, men were more likely on every question to give the right answer.John Tierney says that this knowledge gap "appeared". Actually, this difference in knowledge between men and women has been found in every poll that I have seen on the subject. Though men do not always do better on every knowledge question than women, they consistently have higher overall scores. (In some polls I have seen, women did better on knowledge questions about their local schools, and I think that the same may be true for the issue of abortion.)
Why the difference? Several reasons. Men are still better educated than women, on the average, though that is changing fast. Most important, men pay more attention to politics than women, especially the parts of politics that involve conflict and competition. And some of this knowledge difference may reflect the specialization reflected in the old joke, told by many (male) humorists.
(Don't recall the old joke? Here it is:
"My wife and I have decided to divide the decision making. She makes the decisions on the unimportant issues, like where we live and whether to buy a new car, and I make the decisions on the important issues, like our preferred strategy in Iraq and our stance toward North Korea.")
- 7:02 AM, 19 September 2004 [link]
Power Line Speculates that Rathergate may be helping Bush because even the smear stories are accompanied by pictures of Bush in his pilot's uniform. From this, many voters learn that Bush was a fighter pilot — which is impressive. And, based on a small and unrepresentative sample, women voters seem to think he looks cute.
And so far the response is unanimous. Every woman who has emailed us agrees that the photos of W. in his National Guard uniform are a plus. The most common adjectives are "adorable" and "cute," with a number of readers adding "wholesome" and "clean cut." And Bush seems to pass the ultimate test; one reader, whose name we'll protect, wrote: "Even my lesbian associate commented how cute Bush looked in his uniform just yesterday when she passed by a TV it was on."In a later post, they have pictures of Kerry and Bush from that era, so you can make up your own mind on the second point.
- 5:38 AM, 17 September 2004 [link]
55-42: That's Bush's lead in the latest Gallup poll.
In a new Gallup Poll, conducted Sept. 13-15, President George W. Bush leads Democratic candidate John Kerry by 55% to 42% among likely voters, and by 52% to 44% among registered voters. These figures represent a significant improvement for Bush since just before the beginning of the Republican National Convention.Let's see. Allocate the undecided voters proportionately and round off to the nearest percent and we get 57-43 for the two party vote. Do those numbers sound familiar? Well, you may have seen them here.
- 5:12 AM, 17 September 2004 [link]