links for 2008-05-17
New York Times Death Spiral Watch (Tom Friedman Edition)

Robert Waldmann on E.J. Dionne (Washington Post Death Spiral Watch)

If the Washington Post is going to survive four more years, it is going to have to train its columnists to fact-check Republicans before they take their word. It's not hard. But it is not done.

Here is Robert Waldmann on E.J. Dionne:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: The excellent E.J. Dionne has a nice column about Republican panic. He notes, among other things, that the iron party discipline appears to be breaking. Mainly, he interviews Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn). Corker hints at something very important

And Corker said voters did not believe the Republicans were "solving the major problems," notably guaranteeing Americans health coverage. "We just haven't been responsible," Corker said. "We deserve to be where we are. I hope we right ourselves."

Oh my. That is a Republican senator who just said that he wants to guarantee Americans health coverage. Corker is saying that if the Democrats are looking for a few Republican votes for Cloture on health care reform in 2009, he is ready to deal.

However, I am going to focus on something very unimportant. Corker was the only Republican to win a close race for the Senate in 2006, so he is a natural person to ask what the other Republicans are doing wrong. However, Corker's version of the 2006 Tennessee senate race is totally false.

Yet the national party almost blew the race near the end, Corker said, by running an ad that many saw as racist. The commercial, aired without Corker's knowledge, included a young, blonde, white actress declaring that she had met Ford "at the Playboy party." It ended with her whispering the words: "Harold, call me."

Corker was furious, and not just because his six-point lead melted into a four-point deficit. The party eventually pulled the radioactive ad, and Corker won narrowly.

At the time, lefty bloggers argued that the ad would help Corker, then argued that it had helped Corker. I wasn't following it, but it seems that ABC news agreed with Corker's recent claim that the ad backfired

You can guess the rest.

Hard data, that is polls, show that lefty bloggers were right, that ABC news was clueless and that the excellent E.J. Dionne allowed Corker to lie mislead about recent history by cherry picking two polls, which, in contrast to the overall average of polls, suggest that his support fell when the ad aired.

The ad came out in late October 2006. In September and early October, the polls were almost exactly tied. At the time of the ad controversy, Corker pulled ahead. Then he won. I recall that, at the time, people argued that the shift occurred because Ford confronted Corker at a Corker campaign event and not because of the ad. No one dinied the shift and the coincidence in timing. Two years later an agreed fact has made it down the memory hole.

Here is the report with a graph of polls from

E.J. Dionne should know better than to leave a Republican's fact claim unchecked.