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Saturday, March 27, 2004

MEET THE KERRY ECONOMICS TEAM    Here they are. All Clinton re-treads -- and a couple of them about as dangerous as they come: Roger Altman and Gene Sperling. These guys never met a tax or a regulation they didn't like. Run screaming... Thanks to Bruce Bartlett for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:17 PM | link  

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Here's the link to New York Times "public editor" Daniel Okrent's column about corrections policy for Krugman and the other Times columnists. Okrent has also just posted an internal memo from Krugman's editor Gail Collins on columnist corrections, as well as a note about Krugman's Ari Fleischer misquotation.

I'll have a full comment on this later. As a quick-take, it seems like a cautious but sensible stance for Okrent. He suggests, correctly, that it's all in Gail Collins's hands now. That doesn't inspire confidence, unfortunately -- Collins is shameless in the way she covers up for her columnists, and in the arrogance and insularity of her response to readers.

All in all, I take Okrent's piece as a big victory for all of us who have fought so long and so hard to show that the emperors of the op-ed page are buck naked. More later.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:47 PM | link  

DOES "SOCIOLOGICAL JOURNALISM" HAVE TO BE ACCURATE?    This critic of David Brooks' many "boo-boos in paradise" thinks so. Thanks to Bruce Bartlett for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:55 PM | link  

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Tomorrow New York Times "public editor" Dan Okrent will publish his long awaited column on the Times's policy about corrections of its opinion columnists. Presumably he will argue for the elimination of what his previous column called "rowbacks," the correct restatement in the body of a subsequent story of an earlier error, but without reference to the earlier error.

So let us hope that the rowback in yesterday's Times editorial will be the last.

The editorial states, "...Condoleezza Rice felt obliged to correct Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that Mr. Clarke had never been 'in the loop."

Ironic, because the correction the Times should be talking about is its own correction of statements by columnist Paul Krugman on Tuesday and reporter Elizabeth Bumiller on Thursday that what Cheney said was that Clarke was "out of the loop." Check out the transcript of Dick Cheney's remarks to Rush Limbaugh. He never used the expression "out of the loop," yet it appeared that way, in quotation marks, in the Times -- twice. What Cheney said was:

"Well, he wasn't -- he wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff. And I saw part of his interview last night, and he wasn't -- ..."
The editorial making the rowback is, at the same time, introducing a whole new error that needs to be corrected. What justifies the editorial's attribution of the word "never" to Cheney?

The issue here isn't about the Times making stupid little mistakes. It's about watching the "newspaper of record" trash its own reputation one day at a time by refusing to admit its mistakes and correct them.

Thanks to reader Carol Vitucci for turning me on to this.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:37 PM | link  

Friday, March 26, 2004

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Does this blog have the smartest readers on the web, or what? Here's reader Mick Wright with some virtuoso follow-up fact-checking on Paul Krugman's Tuesday New York Times column on Richard Clarke, building on the piece I published here the same day. Here's Mick...


"Dick Cheney... says that Mr. Clarke was 'out of the loop.' (What loop? Before 9/11, Mr. Clarke was the administration's top official on counterterrorism.)"

That's not entirely correct. Clarke was one top official, working under National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. But his job was more or less duplicated by other top officials at the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, and the Pentagon. In fact, one of the reorganization efforts Bush championed after 9/11 was a restructuring of the FBI and CIA's counterterrorism efforts to prevent duplication and missed communication between the two agencies.

Just because Clarke did not meet regularly with the President does not mean that Bush was not being briefed on terrorism.

Condoleezza Rice says,

"Before Sept. 11, we closely monitored threats to our nation. President Bush revived the practice of meeting with the director of the CIA every day -- meetings that I attended. And I personally met with George Tenet regularly and frequently reviewed aspects of the counterterror effort."

She continues, saying,

"Dick Clarke did, by the way, brief the President once when he asked to and decided in the middle of the threat period in June to brief the President on cyber security. That's what he chose to brief the President on."

Vice President Cheney put it this way:

"It was as though [Clarke] clearly missed a lot of what was going on. For example, just three weeks after the -- after we got here, there was communication, for example, with the President of Pakistan, laying out our concerns about Afghanistan and al Qaeda, and the importance of going after the Taliban and getting them to end their support for the al Qaeda. This was, say, within three weeks of our arrival here."

It seems that Dick Clarke is suffering from delusions of grandeur, just as Paul O'Neill did. It was O'Neill who claimed that Bush did not tolerate discussion in the Cabinet meetings but then turned around and said that the Bush team went back and forth on Iraq immediately upon taking office. As Treasury Secretary, O'Neill had little business discussing Iraq or even foreign policy. Similarly, Dick Clarke had little business attending regular meetings with the President, especially if his primary emphasis was cyber security, the briefing topic he chose in the midst of increased chatter about overseas terrorist attacks, and the realm where he was demoted to in October 2001.


"Did the Bush administration ignore terrorism warnings before 9/11? Justice Department documents obtained by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, show that it did. Not only did John Ashcroft completely drop terrorism as a priority it wasn't even mentioned in his list of seven "strategic goals" just one day before 9/11 he proposed a reduction in counterterrorism funds."

Krugman got his pre-9/11 "reduction in counterterrorism funds" reference from the liberal Center's website here:

"this document shows that Ashcroft was planning to ignore the FBI's specific requests for more translators, counterintelligence agents and researchers, mentioned above. It additionally shows Ashcroft was trying to slash funding from counterterrorism and grants and other homeland defense programs before 9/11."

This, of course, is hogwash. If you look at the document, you'll see that every item mentioned related to terrorism was either absorbed by another agency, covered by other funding, or running a surplus from years previous. Here is a link to the Budget Request.

Krugman and the liberals at this think tank would have us believe that Ashcroft cut funding for antiterrorism. That couldn't be further from the truth. In the four years between 2000 and 2004, FBI funding increased by more than 50 percent.

Furthermore, the Bush Administration was changing its response to terrorism. It would no longer focus on fighting al Qaeda defensively with the Department of Justice. Instead, Bush was interested in proactive, offensive measures. It seems that Bush was taking the advice of the FBI's top counterterrorism official, Dale Watson:

"In 1998, when I became Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division after the East Africa bombings, I realized the FBI was reacting to these terrorist acts with no forward thinking to prevent them. In late 1998, it became clear that no matter how many resources the FBI put into the program, we were never going to stop every act of terrorism. The solution would be to position ourselves in the best proactive stance to counter this threat."

Unfortunately, it seems that Watson's realization escaped Richard Clarke. As a Pentagon spokesman put it, "Richard Clarke is missing the context. It's not clear he understands what the global war on terrorism was about."

If Clarke was "out of the loop," it was only because he failed to understand or react to the real threats to national security during the decades that he was responsible for doing so, and failed to stop any of the terrorist attacks that have befallen our country over the last 10+ years.

Furthermore, it was Clarke's job to keep the administration "in the loop," not the other way around.

Apparently, he was too busy for that: "A senior official also said Rice twice complained directly to Clarke about his rare appearances at her senior staff meetings. In one e-mail, Clarke responded he was 'too busy' and that after he missed another meeting Rice responded that he would have a 'problem' if he did not start attending."

When the White House discovered Clarke's ignorance, they demoted him. When Krugman discovered it, he rejoiced.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:40 PM | link  

JOKE OF THE DAY    Conservative secret weapon?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:16 AM | link  

Thursday, March 25, 2004

LYING IN PONDS ON KRUGMAN, PART 4    Ken Waight's piece on "Substance and Accuracy." Nothing new to readers of this blog.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:58 PM | link  

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Krugman's column today:
"Sometimes there's no magic in the free market in fact, it can be a hindrance."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:56 PM | link  

THE SIDE OF THE ANGELL    Hopefully you were able to plow through all the economics jargon in Wayne Angell's Wall Street Journal op-ed to get to the money quote at the end:
"Only hysteria, an outburst of emotion and fear, could produce the irrational response of the Congress and the public to the supposed danger of federal debt left to our children and grandchildren. Save your outbursts for reining in the growth rate of government spending. Then we will be able to keep tax rates conducive to faster increases in output and thereby add to both the well-being of our people and to future tax receipts available to the Congress."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:46 PM | link  

RAINES BLAMES    A sick body rejected a sick organ when Howell Raines was expelled from the New York Times. Now Raines writes for The Atlantic, blaming a "calcified front page" and a "change-resistant newsroom" for his manifest failures. Thanks to Jill Olson for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:01 PM | link  


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:15 AM | link  

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

LYING IN PONDS ON KRUGMAN, PART 3    More of the same (the same good stuff). Tomorrow Ken Waight says he'll write on "But What About Substance and Accuracy?" Should be interesting -- but Gentle Ken is always loathe to criticize on this level, and may well be out of his sphere of expertise here. We'll see.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:04 PM | link  

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It's a letter to the editor from former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer stating the true circumstance of his statement that Americans must "watch what they say, watch what they do," which had been quoted by Paul Krugman in his Monday column to imply that Bush policy was to tell citizens "to accept the administration's version of events, not ask awkward questions." Fleischer's letter simply recounts the facts of the statement's true context, much as I did here yesterday. It never accuses Krugman of misrepresentation.

We've seen this before, where Krugman is not required to admit error or to run a correction, but rather the Times runs a letter from someone who was wronged by misquotation or mis-statement of fact. This is not a correction at all. No fault is admitted. It simply stands as a battle between two "opinions" of what really happened -- Krugman's, and Fleishcher's. As a columnist corrections policy, this is not acceptable.

In the past, we've seen Krugman make snarky responses to such letters on his personal website. He hasn't posted there for a long time -- having learned, apparently, that he only makes things worse by fussing and fuming when he's been caught out. Let's see what he does this time.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:21 AM | link  

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

"LYING IN PONDS" ON KRUGMAN, PART 2    Here's part 2 of Ken Waight's five-part series on Paul Krugman. Writing on "cross-over" columns, those in which the columnist criticizes members of his own party, he notes,
Of course Mr. Krugman has occasionally criticized Democrats in his columns, but it's usually done tactically in the context of much sharper criticism of Republicans. An example of an almost-crossover was a September 2000 column with the promising title "Gore's Tax Problems". The column does contain substantive criticism of the Gore-Lieberman economic plan, but in the end, Mr. Krugman judged the plan as "merely uninspiring" when compared to George W. Bush's "grossly irresponsible" tax plan. Relative to the rest of Mr. Krugman's NYT canon, that column qualifies as harsh treatment of Democrats. The point is not whether his views on that subject were valid, but rather that Mr. Krugman has simply been utterly unwilling to offer undiluted criticism of any Democrat, on any subject, for a span of 400 columns.
Waight is being too hard on Krugman. He's forgotten two columns -- here and here -- in which Krugman criticizes Democrats for the act of criticizing Democrats!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:26 PM | link  

"LYING IN PONDS" KRUGMAN SERIES    Here's the first of five, from Ken Waight -- always worth reading.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:09 PM | link  

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These are too good to waste on Joke of the Day. Thanks to Jameson Campaigne.
"The White House begun airing their TV commercials to re-elect the president, and the John Kerry campaign is condemning his use of 9/11 in the ads. He said, it is unconscionable to use the tragic memory of a war in order to get elected, unless of course, it's the Vietnam War." - Jay Leno

"John Kerry has promised to take this country back from the wealthy. Who better than the guy worth $700 million to take the country back? See, he knows how the wealthy think. He can spy on them at his country club, at his place in Palm Beach, at his house in the Hamptons. He's like a mole for the working man." - Jay Leno

"I'm worried about John Kerry, he's so confident now that he's already planning his White House sex scandal." - David Letterman

"John Kerry will be the Democratic nominee for president. Democrats finally found someone who is Al Gore without the flash and the sizzle." - Craig Kilborn

"Kerry has already begun his search for a running mate. They say that because John Edwards still has $50 million in campaign money, Kerry might pick him. Pick him? Hey, for $50 million, Kerry will change his position on gay marriage and marry him." - Jay Leno

"Yesterday Senator John Kerry changed his mind and now supports the ban on gay marriages. I'm telling you this guy has more positions than Paris Hilton." - David Letterman

"According to a new study, Botox injections can help back pain. So you see, that's why John Kerry had all that Botox - his back was killing him from all that flip-flopping on issues." - Jay Leno

"An Internet report claims that John Kerry had an affair with a young woman, but that she still loves him and will deny it. When asked if this was similar to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, a spokesman said 'Close, but no cigar.'" - Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live

"Over the weekend, John Kerry - the big John Kerry juggernaut moves on - he won primaries in Washington D.C., Nevada and, I think, Canada. And he's so confident that he's started nailing that intern again." - David Letterman

"The head of the AFL-CIO endorsed John Kerry, saying, 'The time has come to come behind one man, one leader, one candidate.' Then he said, 'And until we find that man, we will have to endorse John Kerry.'" - Conan O'Brien

"The Democrats are all over this. Democratic strategists feel John Kerry's war record means he can beat Bush. They say when it comes down to it voters will always vote for a war hero over someone who tried to get out of the war. I'll be sure to mention that to Bob Dole when I see him." - Jay Leno

"John Kerry said today that he wants to get rid of tax cuts for the rich and his wife said, 'Hey, shut up! What's the matter with you?! Are you nuts?!'" - Jay Leno

"They had a profile of John Kerry on the news and they said his FIRST WIFE was worth around $300 million and his SECOND WIFE, his current wife, is worth around $700 million. His intern (with whom he supposedly had an affair) was worth several more million. So when John Kerry says he's going after the wealthy in this country, he's not just talking.
He's doing it!" - Jay Leno

"In his big victory speech last night, Senator Kerry said that he wanted to defeat George Bush and the 'economy of privilege.' Then he hugged his wife, Teresa, heir to the multi-million dollar Heinz food fortune." - Jay Leno

"A new poll shows that Senator Kerry's support in the South is strongest amongst blacks. Kerry's appeal to Southern blacks is obvious. He is an ultra-liberal, ultra-wealthy white man who lives far, far away." - Dennis Miller

"The big winner on Super Tuesday was Senator John Kerry. He won 39 percent of the vote, which is pretty good, and begs the question, why the long face?" - Jay Leno

"In his speech last night, John Kerry said this was the beginning of the end of the Bush administration. I agree. Sure, it will probably take another five years, but this is it." - Jay Leno

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:05 PM | link  

Hi! In today's column ["Krugman: Winning by Intimidation" and on NRO "The Intimidators"] paragraph 2, you write that Clarke "blam[es] everybody in the administration but himself." Actually, in the 60 Minutes interview, Clarke at least once, possibly twice, acknowledged that he probably shared blame for anti-terror failures. Click here to see his quote: "There's a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too."

Kerry Tatlow

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:01 PM | link  

INSIGNIFICANCE BY ASSOCIATION    From today's Wall Street Journal: "Howard Dean's 'interesting theory' that President Bush could have averted the 9/11 attacks has generated a catalogue of equally interesting theories -- not merely on the Internet, or from the likes of Tim Robbins and Paul Krugman, but on the 2004 campaign trail. The theorists run the gamut from the obscure and insane..." Thanks to Caroline Baum for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:46 AM | link  

JOKE OF THE DAY    Dumb, but funny.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:55 AM | link  

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Paul Krugman's New York Times column today is about the secrecy and dishonesty of the Bush administration, and how it punishes people who blow the whistle. You know, people like Richard Clarke, yet another disgruntled ex-administration official with a book to sell who appears on "60 Minutes" to sell it. That's right, the "counterterrorism czar" who, last time he appeared on "60 Minutes," when he was serving in the Clinton administration, displayed his profound grasp of the dynamics of Islamofascist terrorist operations by saying of the attack on the USS Cole, "It was a very large explosion, and did very extensive damage, and shows a great deal of sophistication with explosives."

Krugman acts shocked that the Bush administration has anything less than a kind word to say about the counterterrorism czar on duty on September 11, who's now saying "I told you so" and blaming everybody in the administration but himself.  Krugman quotes Vice President Dick Cheney saying Clarke was "out of the loop," and White House spokesman Scott McClellan saying it's "more about politics and a book promotion than about policy." Krugman calls those gentle chides "character assassination."

Okay, then. If that's character assassination, then what do you call what Krugman does to former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in this column? In the column's first paragraph, Krugman writes:

"After 9/11, the administration's secretiveness knew no limits Americans, Ari Fleischer ominously warned, 'need to watch what they say, watch what they do.' Patriotic citizens were supposed to accept the administration's version of events, not ask awkward questions."

Fleischer said this in response to two questions from reporters at a White House press briefing fifteen days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The first was about disparaging remarks about Sikh-Americans made by Republican congressman John Cooksey, and the second about remarks by comedian Bill Maher that American soldiers are cowards while the 9/11 terrorists were not. Fleischer said,

"'s a terrible thing to say, and it [sic] unfortunate. And that's why -- there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party -- they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is."

The remark simply wasn't about accepting "the administration's version of events" or about not asking "awkward questions." It was about not making racist remarks in what could be a potential lynch-mob environment -- and about not calling American soldiers cowards.

Does Krugman's vicious distortion of Fleischer's statement flatly runs afoul of the New York Time's ethics guidelines? Well, yes and no. They state: "In every case, writer and editor must both be satisfied that the intent of the subject has been preserved." What a wonderfully Timesian rule! How beautifully inward-looking! There's no requirement that the intent actually has to be preserved -- it's that people who work for the Times have to be satisfied. I have no doubt that Krugman and his editor Gail Collins are mightily satisfied.

What would Times "public editor" Daniel Okrent say? Here's a clue. He wrote about the ethics of quotations on January 4, after a Times story caused a furor by eliminating a few key words from a Bush statement on gay marriage. He said:

"...we just have to hope that quotations are rendered accurately and fairly. (Is this a shot across the bows of columnists, editorial writers and the public editor? You bet it is.)"

That means it's only a matter of time (and we hear it will be a very short time indeed) until Okrent comes out with his long-anticipated commentary on the matter of fairness, accuracy and corrections on the Times editorial page.

What, we may wonder, has taken Okrent so long? Maybe it's because the Times plays as rough with anyone who criticizes its sacred cow columnists as Krugman says the Bush administration does with its enemies.

Times executive editor Bill Keller publicly called Okrent's January 4 column "an ill-informed swipe." By Krugman's standards, that's character assassination.

And how about what Krugman himself said about me on national television -- that I "stalked" him "personally"? That's character assassination by anyone's standards.

And how about the Times sending an FBI agent to intimidate a harmless female limo driver in Cincinnati who sent Krugman an email criticizing him, which she described to me as "a 'nasty' letter with, however, ZERO threats."

And how about the Times using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to shut down a web page put up by Krugman Truth Squad member Robert Cox of the National Debate blog? The page was a perfect trompe l'oeil replica of the Times web site's corrections page -- but listing all the corrections of errors by columnists that the Times is afraid to publish (including a number of Krugman howlers that you read here first). The page is back, now bearing text that declares it is a parody.

Does it seem that a corporate policy of fear and intimidation aimed at critics is emerging here?

It's like Paul Krugman said in a recent interview on the "Lateline" show on Australian television. He was asked to react to my trademark characterization of him as "America's most dangerous liberal pundit." He said, "Well, look this is good...let them hate as long as they fear."

Sound familiar? It should. It's a quote from Emperor Caligula. And it was the title of Krugman's March 7, 2003 Times column. Krugman's called it the "perfect description of George Bush's attitude toward the world." His reaction? "...what I feel, above all, is shame."

But now? When the fear is on the other foot? "Well, look this is good..."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:50 AM | link  

Monday, March 22, 2004


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:11 PM | link  

IF IT'S NOT ONE GORY MOVIE, IT'S ANOTHER    "Dead" dethrones "Passion" at the top of the charts. Thanks to Irwin Chusid for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:29 AM | link  


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:09 AM | link  

CLARKE COUNTERPOINT    Thanks to reader Dan Good for pointing out this oustanding piece from Powerline refuting the latest bit of coordinated Bush-bashing in the media -- charges by Clinton administration security officials that "we told you so" on Al Qaeda.
"Where to begin: the mind boggles at such shamelessness. To state the obvious, in late 2000 the Clinton administration was STILL IN OFFICE. If there were steps that needed to be taken immediately to counter the al Qaeda threat, as they 'bluntly' told President Bush's transition team, why didn't they take those steps themselves?

"More broadly, of course, the Clinton administration was in power for eight years, while al Qaeda grew, prospered, and repeatedly attacked American interests..."

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:05 AM | link  

Sunday, March 21, 2004

DEPT. OF KNOWING WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT...   Another letter from one of the many soldiers who have been reading this blog from Iraq, this one a lieutenant colonel who is just returning stateside.

My mobilization tour has ended, and I am back from Iraq. Two quick observations pertinent to Iraq and liberal lies, whether propagated by Krugman or others.

If Spain was attacked by Al Qaeda in revenge for Spain's support of the US in the toppling of Saddam Hussein, then Al Qaeda and Saddam must have been much closer than the liberals tell us. They claim that Saddam had no connection to worldwide terror. Or when confronted with Abu Nidal and Abbu Abbas, or Saddam's payments to families of the Palestinian homicide bombers, they respond that at least he had no connection to Al Qaeda, our real target in the war. Then comes Al Qaeda, vaporinzing their arguments along with 200 Spanish commuters. Of course, they could have maintained their "no Saddam-Al Qaeda connection" argument, and simply recognized that Spain was a target because they support the US in Afghanistan and in the secret intelligence efforts, and because Spain is now also a bastion of liberal democracy, thus an anathema to Al Qaeda and the other Islamic extremists.

But, that would have meant admitting that Bush has been right about the threat that the islamo-fascists pose to the entire civilized world. So, they would rather stick to an illogical argument that derives into easier sound bites: "Spain was attacked because they supported Bush in his failed policy in Iraq. Don't support Bush."

Congressional Democrats have latched on to certain phrases that no doubt have come from focus group reactions. The most used are "Bush and his go-it-alone strategy," or "Bush and his unliteral approach," or something similar. I had just landed in the US heading to McDill AFB when I heard Rep. Jim Davis (Democrat, 11th District, Florida, home of McDill) on the radio saying that he, too, had just returned from Iraq, and his primary concern was the go-it-alone approach, and that this seem to come from SecDef Rumsfeld. If one looks at Rep. Davis' website, he made the same observation about unilateralism after a trip last October. Now, if Rep. Davis, who supported the war, visited the palace where the Coalition Provisional Authority is headquartered, and where I spent much of the past two months, then he simply could not have missed the representatives of dozens of our allies who are readily apparent in the hallways and offices. There are 34 other nations with troops officially on the ground, plus a couple of others who are not official members, but nonetheless have personnel directly engaged. The coalition divisions controlling all of Iraq south of Baghdad are composed entirely of non-US troops. The only conclusion I can reach is that such Democrats, who could not have missed the evidence, have chosen to lie out of political expediency. My only consternation is that the facts and the truth are not readily available, nor do journalists, who should have an obligation to the facts, ever challenge such assertions. Mostly, these lies insult our allies who have placed their citizens in harm's way for our common cause.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 6:27 PM | link