Joe Conason's Journal

Slate throws a Clinton tantrum, Sullivan spreads a bum rap and Dr. Susan Block wonders of the Rigas family: "Do you think they understand bondage now?"

By Salon Staff
Published July 26, 2002 4:06PM (EDT)

Andrew Sullivan responds
He answers my question about charges (below) he changed his site without apologizing for an error about Bob Rubin: "I fixed a couple of typos and a date change within about ten minutes of posting. I typed enron when I meant citigroup and I confused the month when rubin left the administration with when he joined citigroup. I fixed within minutes of posting - something I do if I spot an obvious error, typo, or even sometimes just a horrible sentence after I double-check the site, and check my notes or sources. nothing nefarious. It would be stupid to post something, catch an error in it, and not immediately correct after posting if I see something wrong. That's part of the process of writing in real time with no editor or fact-checker. In this case, amended within a few minutes. Someone really eagle-eyed might have noticed if they read two versions immediately after each other in the afternoon. But the point was the same and nothing else was changed."

Of course, the month when Rubin joined Citigroup is not a minor error but a critical issue here. I'm not an expert on the dubious journalistic standards of blogging, so I don't know whether it's OK to erase and rewrite ten minutes later instead of noting a correction. I invite further comment from other readers who observed the changes Sullivan made. [Posted: 1:21 p.m. PDT, July 26, 2002]

Clinton tantrum
When Bill Clinton shows up, some journalists are simply unable to cope. They can't argue with his comments about past Republican political conduct; his latest remarks about his own administration's efforts to improve corporate accountability, frustrated by Republicans in Congress, are true -- and they know it. So they scream "Monica!" or "Marc Rich!" Even smart Jack Shafer can suffer a Clinton tantrum. This time he snipped the facts to suit himself, complaining repeatedly that Clinton gave Rich "a complete pardon" -- without mentioning the pardon conditions that made Rich vulnerable to enormous civil penalties if he ever sets foot in this country. I don't know whether anybody has noticed, but more than 18 months after Clinton's ill-advised pardon, Rich is still in Switzerland. Somehow I don't think he'll be coming back.

Sullying Rubin
For several days, talk radio and other right-wing media have been blazing with attacks on the character of Citicorp co-chairman Robert Rubin. Copying carefully from the Republican blast-fax as if it were an illuminated manuscript, the usual suspects are blaming the former treasury secretary for everything from Enron's fall to excessive equity valuations. The motive is obvious enough: sully the Clinton administration's reputation for skillful economic management so that the gang in charge now won't look as bad, and undermine Rubin's criticism of Bush fiscal policy. (If you want to understand what Clinton and Rubin did right, aside from being lucky, see the remarkable Web site of Brad DeLong, the Berkeley economist who served as Rubin's deputy for economic policy.)

The anti-Rubin excretions reprise the old Whitewater methodology: Wherever the facts are unhelpful, ignore them or snip them to fit. Consider the sample available at, where conservative pseuds pick up a lot of bad habits and false information. Sullivan repeated a GOP canard about Rubin's involvement in a complicated Enron "prepay" deal with Citicorp. If true, this would have cast his attempts to help the company, which held enormous loans from his bank, in a worse light. But the dates didn't fit, because Rubin didn't join Citicorp until months after those questionable loans were completed. Caught midfabrication, others are now alleging that he changed the text (see letter by Ruthalice Anderson) without admitting this gross error. (We've asked him if this is true, and are awaiting an answer.)

Blasi misrepresentation is one of the hallmarks of his style, a problem I've addressed before. The busy blogger could keep a lot of people employed monitoring his mistakes and inventions (and maybe they could also take a cut of those Paypal bucks). The Daily Howler used to issue frequent and amusing corrections of his work, but Bob Somerby has been preoccupied lately with his Augean-scale cleanup of the Ann Coulter pigpen. Fortunately there is another Sullivan "fan" at Counterspin Central who administers the required discipline with admirable regularity, perspicacity and wit.

The Economist defects
Here's another bad omen for the Texas regime. Suddenly, those GOP-friendly writers at the Economist magazine believe the world would be more prosperous and secure with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.

The Revenge of Dr. Suzy
Jimmy Breslin is a national treasure, as he would be the first to admit, but he hasn't lost his edge. His column on the First Amendment feud between the Rigas family and L.A. cable sex goddess Susan Block kills with laughter. The indefatigable Suzy, nemesis of Ken Starr and Laura Schlessinger, never misses a cue. "Do you think they understand bondage now?" she quipped while her erstwhile censors paraded around lower Manhattan in handcuffs.
[Posted: 9:15 a.m. PDT, July 26, 2002]

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