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Tilting at Windmills

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June 15, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

ANONYMITY....President Bush has agreed to create a huge marine protected area near Hawaii, which is great news. But check out this quote in today's LA Times story:"With a stroke of a pen, the president not only can accomplish the single largest act of conservation in U.S. history, but he can inspire the American public on the broader importance of our ocean and coastal environments," said a senior administration official who requested anonymity.Thank God for anonymity! Without it, how would brave truth tellers like this one get their message out?

Kevin Drum 12:03 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (68)

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Wonderful! We get a cherry on top of the pile of shit that is the Bush presidency! But what a delicious cherry it is!

Posted by: tryoung on June 15, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I really think it's a reflex at this point. If you know that reporters aren't going to insist on putting your name down, then why not ask for anonymity all the time?

Posted by: Christmas on June 15, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Bush loves the environment. He has done more to protect our Earth than anyone, ever. Check the facts, liberals, just check the facts. Wait, nevermind, don't bother. Just take my word for it.

Posted by: H on June 15, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

It's nice to see a liberal blog acknowledge one of Bush's many accomplishments, for once.

I see, though, that you can still find something to complain about. Apparently, in Kevin Drum's world, only democrats telling lies deserve anonymity; republicans telling the truth should be outed.

Frankly, I'm a huge critic of anonymous sources. But something that's verifiable and true isn't so bad. when the Times says something like, "An anonymous official inside the white house says the president eats puppies", that's much worse, and they do it all the time. This is an absolutely harmless case, though. Why do you object?

Posted by: American Hawk on June 15, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

These islands do not rise very much above sea level. So when the ocean grabs them back, do we lose sovereignty over our new National Monument?

Do we send barges of rocks out there to build mounds to retain our claims on those dots of land and keep that swath of ocean?

I guess the triggerfish don't care.

Posted by: Greg in FL on June 15, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK
The decision is a turnaround for the administration, which five years ago considered stripping more limited protections from the area that President Clinton had declared a coral reef ecosystem reserve. It's also a sharp departure for an administration that has pushed to privatize some federal lands and has designated less wilderness than most presidents over the last 40 years.

A turning point came in April, when Bush sat through a 65-minute private White House screening of a PBS documentary that unveiled the beauty of and perils facing the archipelago's aquamarine waters and its nesting seabirds, sea turtles and sleepy-eyed monk seals, all threatened by extinction....
Bush in recent weeks enlarged the boundaries of the new protected area, giving him bragging rights for creating the largest marine protected area in the world. At 139,793 square miles, it will be bigger than Australia's 128,960-square-mile Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

While its a nice and notable exception to the overall Bush policy, its still an exception to the overwhelming trend. Some conservatives may be up in arms that a PBS documentary may have had a role in getting this to happen.

Posted by: Catch22 on June 15, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Certainly Bush deserves some kudos for this move.

I think the reason for anonymity in this case is obvious, the comment is so embarassingly stupid that nobody would want their name associated with it.

Oh, and A.H., you are completely missing the point of Kevin's post, not that this is surprising.

Posted by: David P on June 15, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, I don't see what the problem is.

Posted by: Anonymous on June 15, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

The senior white house official is ashamed of the President's agreement to seemingly do the right thing. The request for anonymity in this case demonstrates that we have a deeply dysfunctional Administration.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 15, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Let me go out on a limb and conjecture that prior to this nobody had figured out how to make a buck off the reef?

Posted by: Tripp on June 15, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and A.H., you are completely missing the point of Kevin's post, not that this is surprising.

His point seems to be that a republican telling the truth doesn't deserve to remain anonymous, when newspapers routiline extend anonymity to lying democrats. I think newspapers should outright refuse to quote people who refuse to be identified. However, if they're going to continue the practice of extending anonymity, it should certainly be avaible to truth-tellers. Naturally, liberals-- whose only currency these days is lying about the president-- disagree.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 15, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

No, his point is why would an administration official saying something very positive about the president need or request anonymity.

Posted by: David P on June 15, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

AH:

Why lie about the president when the truth is so much more damaging?

Posted by: Tim on June 15, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Our "liberal media" at work. This reporter has earned his cocktail weenies!

Posted by: Gregory on June 15, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't anyone find it interesting that even news that reflects well on the administration causes people within the administration to fear for their jobs?

Posted by: Derelict on June 15, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Have we checked this area for oil deposits? Let the exploratory drilling begin.

Posted by: Anonymous on June 15, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm I wonder if that was the... jean-michel cousteau series.

http://www.pbs.org/kqed/oceanadventures/

It was quite fascinating, and sad.

Fancy that George Bush taking advice from french marine biologists on PBS. He really might be the tragic weak king figure twisted and tortured by evil advisors who play upon his ridiculous fears and prejudices.

Posted by: jefff on June 15, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

No, his point is why would an administration official saying something very positive about the president need or request anonymity.

Possibly because President Bush is very modest, and doesn't trumpet his own accomplishments. The President might have requested that his aides not talk about it much, making his protecting the enviornment just another day at the office, wherein the president creates good policy but the press refuses to give him credit for it. Despite the president's admonishment, maybe the senior administcration official was sick of the press lying about the president all the time, but explained the situaiton, but didn't want to face the consquences.

I'm not thrilled with that. Again, newspapers should stop extending anonymity. However, it should be available to those who are telling the verifiable truth, and this qualifies.

AH:

Why lie about the president when the truth is so much more damaging?

Good point Tim. That bastard... is helping save the environment by protecting a marine area! What an asshole!


Posted by: American Hawk on June 15, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

No, his point is why would an administration official saying something very positive about the president need or request anonymity.

...and why a newspaper would grant anonymity to an Administration official tooting the President's horn.

Well, maybe it was Jeff Gannon...

Posted by: Gregory on June 15, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Will not be diving anywhere near there until I've determined which Bush crony will be getting which related contract.

Posted by: shortstop on June 15, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's nice to see a liberal blog acknowledge one of Bush's many accomplishments, for once.

There's only one other one - the Do Not Call list.

That's quite a legacy. Why, he's practically the new Truman!

Posted by: craigie on June 15, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

"An anonymous official inside the white house says the president eats puppies"

I knew it!

Posted by: craigie on June 15, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

With the stroke of a pen he addresses one of our most pressing environmental problems: converting a Clinton's coral reef ecosystem reserve into a national monument. In a dramatic shift in leadership styles, he bypassed what would have been stiff congressional opposition, the "prolonged rule-making process, and the inevitable legal action that follows" by choosing the almost dictatorial presidential action route.

This inspite of spirited lobbying by the 8 affected fishermen to extend the stop fishing date beyond 2012.

Posted by: rewolfrats on June 15, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well I guess this means there is ABSOLUTELY no OIL in this part of the ocean. :-)

Posted by: Robert on June 15, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Let me go out on a limb and conjecture that prior to this nobody had figured out how to make a buck off the reef?

I think it's more sinister than that. Next year, he'll be saying "since we protected this other huge area, we can now open the rest of the National Park System to drilling and Wal-Marts." You just watch.

Posted by: craigie on June 15, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

when the Times says something like, "An anonymous official inside the white house says the president eats puppies", that's much worse, and they do it all the time.

Real, non-baton-deep-throating AH: Please direct to any and all Times stories citing unnamed WH officials to effect GWB eats puppies.

The "anonymous" in this story results from the following process: the WH staff internal rules mandate that all on the record conversations with press must be explicitly cleared with one of a couple of point people. Any non-cleared contacts with press must be not for attribution only. This official had not explicitly cleared the press contact, so he had to keep the conversation not-for-attribution. The normal locution for such contacts is "a senior white house official".

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of recent press debacles at NYT and elsewhere, newspapers have adopted stricter rules requiring that reporters explain why they are not identifying a source. In this case, the normal locution was "who requested anonymity."

The basic take-away point here: this is what you get from a secretive Administration maniacally obsessed with controlling the flow of information and staying "on message", and a press that is finally starting to struggle with how to treat such an administration.

Posted by: brooksfoe on June 15, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they are going to move the Gitmo prison to an even more isolated place?

Posted by: craigie on June 15, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

W is looking forward to his next "vacation", when he can go out to his new reef and clear some brush. Please, nobody tell him.

Posted by: craigie on June 15, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Incidentally, anybody try to verify that this is "the single largest act of conservation in US history"? How do they measure that? Size of reserve? Number of threatened species? Degree of threat to the species? Does someone do an estimate of how many species are likely to be locally decimated without establishment of a reserve, and how positive the reserve's impact will be?

Or do they use the more standard approved GOP method of cost-benefit analysis: making shit up?

Posted by: brooksfoe on June 15, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Let me go out on a limb and conjecture that prior to this nobody had figured out how to make a buck off the reef?

The 8 affected fisherman come from the larger islands and have a rapidly shrinking profit margin because of rising fuel costs. Under the new rule they also don't have to stop fishing until 2012.

Other commenters are correct about petroleum. There is a 0% chance of petroleum generation and accumulation along a subtropical midoceanic hot spot chain. The ocean is oligotrophic and the sediment thickness too thin. The companies do not even have to think about it.

Posted by: rewolfrats on June 15, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk,

when newspapers routiline extend anonymity to lying democrats.

If they are anonymous, how could you possibly know their political affiliation? Smarter trolls please.

Posted by: Edo on June 15, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Incidentally, anybody try to verify that this is "the single largest act of conservation in US history"?

Good question. I would certainly consider Theodore Roosevelt's establishment of the system of National Park & National Forests, as well as the plethora of game and bird preserves to be a contender for that distinction. Of course, this would be based on the estimate that President Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres.

Posted by: Edo on June 15, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

(chagrin)...okay I suppose the 230 million acres was not all protected in a single act. My point remains however.

Posted by: Edo on June 15, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'll see your anonymity and raise you 3 obscurities, 2 sources not for attribution and one hidden motivation.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 15, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, this would be based on the estimate that President Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres.

None of which, as far as we know, were golf course water hazards.

Posted by: shortstop on June 15, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

It ain't often I say this but, Good work, George.

Posted by: Quinn on June 15, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Flashback: Pres Clinton creates the Staircase-Escalante Monument with the stroke of a pen and catches hell for overstepping his bounds.

Posted by: utahguy on June 15, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's opponents don't like to acknowledge his environmentalism. There's no Sierra Club article praising his home for its environmentally correct, enerty efficient, recycling design. (I won't even contrast it with John Kerry's 5 or 6 wasteful mansions.) Where's the credit for reversing Saddam's destruction of the Baghdad wetlands? Some call them the :Garden of Eden."

Bush's failing isn't that he doesn't support environmentalism; the fact is that some environmnetal organizations are run by aggressivve liberals who always attack Republicans. Similarly, around 15 years ago, Newt Gingrich led a move to dramatically increase New York State's parklands. He was nevertheless blasted by these liberals.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 15, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

I was also amused by this part of the story:

Initially, Bush was going to propose that the area be protected as a national marine sanctuary. But he wanted to move faster, a senior official said.

"Because it's a presidential action, under the authority of a congressional act, it becomes law immediately without going through a prolonged rule-making process and the inevitable legal action that follows," a top aide said. "We can immediately begin with protection and management."

Even when he does something good, he's impatient with procedure and consensus.

Posted by: thump on June 15, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK


AMERICAN HAWK: President Bush is very modest, and doesn't trumpet his own accomplishments.

If you think modesty is an unwillingness to talk about the things one has done (drugs, shirked guard duty, bankrupted companies, killed thousands, brought misery to millions) and a willingness to invent things one hasn't done ("been to war," "I'm a uniter," "restored faith in the presidency," "mission accomplished," "found WMD," "work hard--it's HARD!")--if that's how you define modesty--then, yeah, Bush is very "modest." But why strain the definition of that word when "liar" fills the bill so effortlessly?


Posted by: jayarbee on June 15, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

When Bush, himself, speaks off the record he is described as a "senior administration official" -- so check to see if his arm is sprained from patting hiw own back.

Posted by: Scorpio on June 15, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

His point seems to be that a republican telling the truth doesn't deserve to remain anonymous, when newspapers routiline extend anonymity to lying democrats.

You really are dumb as dirt, Chickenhawk. What Kevin is wondering is why an official would request anonymity for a positive story. Unless that official didn't see it as positive?

See, it's pretty simple. Even you could get your pea brain to understand it.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on June 15, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with jayarbee 100 percent.

Posted by: shortstop on June 15, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

"An anonymous official inside the white house says the president eats puppies"

I thought that was Cheney?

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on June 15, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I thought that was Cheney?

He eats full-grown Great Danes.

Posted by: shortstop on June 15, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Since Bush did it, it is either doomed to failure in whatever goal is allegedly sought or there is a sinister hidden agenda not yet recognized by the public and the anonymous tipster doesn't want to be associated with either.

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 15, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

A turning point came in April, when Bush sat through a 65-minute private White House screening of a PBS documentary that unveiled the beauty of and perils facing

And that, my friends, is how policy happens in the White House!

Posted by: Constantine on June 15, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

For the slow members of the class (that would be you, AH), Kevin's point of this post is to point out the sheer absurdity of the white house and the press depending and nuturing these "anonymous" quotes. It's promoting this pointless culture of using "anonymous senior officials" -- whom everyone in washington knows -- to spout talking points.

Posted by: Constantine on June 15, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, six years after Clinton protected this area from drilling, harvesting, and general exploitation by declaring it a Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve and one year after the State of Hawaii passed legislation banning all fishing -- Bush stepped in to declare it a Marine Sanctuary.

Probably figured it wasn't worth the court fight and would give him cheap points with environmentalists, for once.

Posted by: Windhorse on June 15, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

One more very important point here. Bush declares marine sanctuary; spends Iraq trip talking about minor details of nation-building and governance and other "nuanced" mushy-headed stuff; proposes multilateral talks with Iran; talks about investigating oil-company profiteering and moving to alternative fuels...

Bush's last-ditch strategy for an agenda that will save the GOP majority in Congress? Talk like a Democrat. (On foreign policy and domestic policy, that is. Then toss out a couple of gay-bashing pro-flag cultural wedge issues for the religious freaks.)

Will it work? Hard to believe it will. If the public wants someone who'll negotiate with Iran, preserve the environment, promote alternative fuels and step up foreign aid and nation-building, they'll vote for a Democrat.

Posted by: brooksfoe on June 15, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Probably figured it wasn't worth the court fight and would give him cheap points with environmentalists, for once.

So much cynicism in one so young.

Posted by: shortstop on June 15, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what he said that didn't make the story.

Posted by: Scott Herbst on June 15, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

So much cynicism in one so young.

Yes, it's a burden being this youthful and vibrant and yet so cynical.

Fortunately both my youth and cynicism are equilibriated by my preternatural wisdom and intoxicating sensuality.

Oh, and anonymous sources on a puff piece like this. What's up with that? ;)

Posted by: Windhorse on June 15, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Based on past experience, I would reserve judgment on whether this is such a positive move or just PR. How many cool sounding initiatives has the Bush Administration announced, only to quietly kill them through underfunding and neglect?

Remember all those glowing stories about Bush's initiative to fight AIDS in Africa? My understanding is that little if anything came of it. These guys go for the positive headline in the hope that that's all people will remember - often true.

Posted by: Virgina Dutch on June 15, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

How many cool sounding initiatives has the Bush Administration announced, only to quietly kill them through underfunding and neglect? Remember all those glowing stories about Bush's initiative to fight AIDS in Africa?

Good point, Virginia. And let's not forget hydrogen cars, manned trips to the Moon and Mars -- Homeland Security -- Americorps, modernizing the electrical grid, investments in alternative energy, et al.

Lotsa pretty talk, little serious action.

Posted by: Windhorse on June 15, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK
Good point, Virginia. And let's not forget hydrogen cars, manned trips to the Moon and Mars -- Homeland Security -- Americorps, modernizing the electrical grid, investments in alternative energy, et al.

Americorps wasn't a Bush initiative.


Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Americorps wasn't a Bush initiative.

I know, neither was putting a man on the moon the first time. I was referring to Bush hyping AmeriCorps for its civic value and then ignoring it when its finding was slashed.

More lip-service.

Posted by: Windhorse on June 15, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Well, now we know where the oil isn't.

Posted by: SFOtter on June 15, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

I, too, find ah's comment "Bush is very modest, and doesn't trumpet his own accomplishments" to be silly almost beyond belief.

Bush trumpet accomplisments he hasn't even accomplished! Like "middle class" tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the rich. And don't forget that publicity-soaked "Mission Accomplished" stunt.

What does ah think would have happened if this "anonymous offical" had spoken on the record? Seriously, can any rational person think Bush would call him or her on the carpet?

I can think of only two reasons this person would request not to be named. First, they were not authorized to speak with the press, and it doesn't matter how nice the things you say are, press is to be so solidly walled off in this Administration that saying anything to them can land you in hot water. Or second, that this person is in such a position that noboby would take them seriously if they were identified. For example, Karl Rove ... a senior administration official, surely, but so political that everyone would write off his comment as more partisan bs.

I can't remember where it was suggested or where it is in force, but this is a good example of why newspapers who use anonymous quotes should identify just WHY they are anonymous. The official requested to remain anonymous BECAUSE ...

Posted by: Cal Gal on June 15, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Help me out here - I am trying to think of other examples...

It seems to me that Bush, in serious trouble, is pulling some plays out of the old Clinton playbook for pleasing Americans. Clinton did something almost exactly like this in a Western state during one of his trouble spots.

Am I over-thinking this? Are there other examples where Bush is following the Clinton playbook? I kind of felt like Bush's immigration stance, which conservatives hated, was an attempt at emulating some third-way politics.

If he just had a powerful democratic party he had to appease we might see more behaviors like this...

Posted by: RR on June 15, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

549 days left, 549 days left....

Posted by: Dorothy on June 15, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

WHAT! 949 days left!!! WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Posted by: Dorothy on June 15, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK
What does ah think would have happened if this "anonymous offical" had spoken on the record? Seriously, can any rational person think Bush would call him or her on the carpet?

Probably; after all, he was probably directed to make the statement anonymously, so if he had gone on the record, that would have been disloyal.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 15, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, he signed off on a mine safety thing the other day too. Clearly, this is the new smoke directed up the media's ass.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on June 15, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Possibly because President Bush is very modest, and doesn't trumpet his own accomplishments.

Right.

Two words: Mission Accomplished.

But as soon as it became obvious that said mission wasn't accomplished, the administration blamed the Navy for the banner. It passed the buck, as usual.

Posted by: Ken on June 15, 2006 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

President Bush has agreed to create a huge marine protected area near Hawaii, which is great news.

This is another moment that calls for a full stop, and a moment to reflect with satisfaction on the significance. Otherwise you'll have forgotten it day after tomorrow when you complain what a disaster the Bush administration has created in the environment.

Largest marine protected area yet created. And by Bush. It is great news.

Posted by: republicrat on June 16, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK


republicrat: Largest marine protected area yet created. And by Bush. It is great news.


unless you remember that...

another president created the reserve,

and how bush initially tried to gut it...

and then with poll numbers in the toilet...

bush flip flops...


"Even the most noble ends do not justify any means" - G.W. Bush 8/9/01

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 16, 2006 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

That's a great quote. The guy is a veritible psychopath out on a rampage who is terrifyingly in charge of the country... But if noble ends don't justify drastic means, or even "any means", why did he lie about 9/11 from day one and forge the Bin Laden confession tape? (See physics911.net for more info).

Posted by: Jon Molnar on June 18, 2006 at 4:43 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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