Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This morning's Times has no sports and all news on the front page

"Missteps Cited in Kerik Vetting by White House" ( is a front page story on this morning's New York Times that has already resulted in e-mails. The article carries Elisabeth Bumiller's byline and "was reported by Elisabeth Bumiller, Eric Lipton and David Johnston."

Dealing with the implosion that was the failed Bernard Kerik nomination, the article demonstrates that Bumiller can write a hard news story still. That said, the article has a number of flaws. Chief among them, no one's on the record except a "spokesman" for Mr. Kerik. A front page story that depends upon unnamed insiders is questionable. At the very least, when questioning the vetting process of this nomination, the reporters could have gone to any number of people in former administrations (such as Clinton's, Reagan's, Carter's, Ford's, George H. W. Bush's, etc.) to get an on the record statement about vetting to contrast what unnamed persons described as the was Kerik was vetted or not vetted.

The reporters may have spoken to people who served in previous administrations (paragraph ten, inside on A26, appears to suggest that that it did) but there no one named in this front page story that relies on the statements and recollections of unnamed sources.

That's a serious problem but, as Kara noted in an e-mail, "this is not the sort of superficial writing I've come to expect from Bumiller's pieces." Brad has a problem with this statement:

Since then, Mr. Kerik has had to answer questions about his connections to a New Jersey company suspected of having ties to organized crime and his use of an apartment, donated as a resting spot for police officers at ground zero, where he conducted an affair with his book publisher, according to someone who discussed the relationship with him.

Brad can't believe that the publisher goes unnamed and says that "everyone knows it's ____."
I've read that it's ____ online. I'm not sure whether that's been confirmed or not. If it has been confirmed (or even speculated on in print), then she should have been named.

[Unless I'm mistaken, the woman in question, who is a publicly known person, was named on The Al Franken Show. By the way Franken is on his way to Iraq to entertain the troops so Joe Conason is currently filling in for Franken. He's doing a really good job so you may want to give the show a listen.]

The impression that readers are left with is that Bush because "everyone at the White House knew that Mr. Bush liked Mr. Kerik" he was placed "in the special category of 'this guy's our guy'
and the vetting of Kerik failed as a result. Who was responsible for the vetting?

"Mr. Gonzales, who is himself in the middle of a background review as Mr. Bush's nominee for attorney general, spent hours grilling Mr. Kerik, the official said." Alberto Gonzales, infamous for the torture memos, is now being nominated to head the Justice Department but he's unable to properly vet the nominee to head Homeland Security? I'd argue this raises issues about Gonzales' own qualifications to head the Justice Department.

Jennifer Steinhauer's "A Mayor Who Has Learned How to Kiss a Baby" strikes Kara, Ben and Mara as "snide." The article on Michale Bloomberg does have op-ed moments that might better be served in an op-ed as opposed to a front page story.

Geraldine Fabrikant's "Settlements Seen In U.S. Inquiries Into Time Warner" ( is worth a read but it too would benefit from having an on the record source.

The Red Rooster III was 90 miles out of San Diego on an afternoon in July when it came across a fisherman's dream, a school of albacore tuna. Suddenly, the charter boat's skipper, John Grabowski, saw a rod flying in the air as a passenger, a 72-year-old man, seized up with a heart attack. Mr. Grabowski ran to get the portable defibrillator kept on board.
Shocked with the device, the man appeared to revive, but more shocks were needed. They never came. The device signaled that it was out of power and failed to work again. A replacement battery did not help because its power had been drained. Soon afterward, the man died.

That's the beginning of Barry Meier's must read piece "Flawed Device Places F.D.A. Under Scrutiny" (

Also check out "Iraq Campaign Raises Questions of Iran's Sway" ( by John F. Burns and Robert F. Worth:

Many American and Iraqi officials say the talk of Iranian influence here reflects what they call a more plausible fear: that Shiite dominance in Iraq, coupled with Shiite rule in Iran, would reshape the geopolitical map of the Middle East. The development would be particularly threatening to Sunni-ruled states that border Iraq and run down the Persian Gulf, the officials say, carrying as it would the threat of increasing unrest among long-suppressed Shiite populations.
"What they are really voicing is their angst over the transition from a Sunni-led state to a Shiite-led state," one Bush administration official involved with policy toward Iraq said after the remarks by Mr. Yawar and King Abdullah. "That touches emotional, religious and historic chords and signifies changes that they don't like. It's a big emotional hurdle for the Sunnis in the region to accept."