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Tilting at Windmills

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May 30, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

DOBBISTRY....David Leonhardt has a pretty brutal takedown of Lou Dobbs in the New York Times today, much of which focuses on Dobbs's claim that we've seen a meteoric rise in leprosy cases over the past three years thanks to a tidal surge of illegal immigration. Here's the nutshell summary: two years ago a correspondent on his show said, "There were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years." Lesley Stahl challenged him on this a few weeks ago on 60 Minutes, and the next night Dobbs had on the same correspondent, who repeated the claim: "Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy."

Now, this turns out not to be true. It's 7,000 cases over the past 30 years, and the annual incidence of leprosy in America has been both low and fairly stable during that period. So Dobbs was wrong.

But that's not really the most astonishing part of this. A few days later Dobbs had on a couple of representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center who accused him of whipping up anti-immigrant hysteria by focusing on disease and crime. It turns out that Dobbs actually had a decent comeback to that charge: he claims that out of 750 reports on illegal immigration over the past few years, only six have focused on disease and crime. And to make that stick all he had to do was fess up about the leprosy error and move on. Instead he gave mere sophistry a bad name by claiming that he had never said those 7,000 cases were new cases of leprosy. Read and be amazed:

DOBBS: Mark, Richard, gentlemen, you know we never said they were new cases. What we said in point of fact was that there are 7,000 cases on the active — active leprosy register.

....COHEN: Just wait, Lou. Just wait. You said or your reporter Christine Romans said on May seventh that Hansen's was a disease so rare that in 40 years only 900 people were afflicted. Suddenly in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy.

DOBBS: Right.

COHEN: I think that makes it — that's a pretty strong implication that the number has jumped from 900 to 7,000 or over 7,000 in a very short period of time. You were wrong to claim that.

DOBBS: Let's listen and I would ask you to listen as well along with our viewers to exactly what Christine Romans said and if we could roll that, please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting because the woman in our piece told us that there were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: That report, as you gentlemen know, was done two years ago....So we did not say we quite agree that there were 7,000 new cases. We said there were 7,000 on the registry.

Wow. Karl Rove could take lessons from this guy. Just amazing.

Kevin Drum 9:18 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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Comments

It's all about the Benjamins.

Posted by: jimbo on May 30, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting because the woman in our piece told us that there were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years.

Sure as hell sounds like they were saying there are 7000 new cases of leprosy. But what do I know.

Posted by: Old Hat on May 30, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

If you look at it from the point of view that everything the left says is wrong then Dobbs is right, he never said they were new cases, so his original point stands.

Posted by: jg on May 30, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Lou Dobbs's response is very Rosie-an. He's the type who even when you agree with him, you don't want him on your side.

Posted by: Andy on May 30, 2007 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

If his Master gives Dobby an item of clothing, then Dobby is FREE!

Someone please give Dobby a sock. Please, give him a sock. Then he can retire, move to Barbados,...

Posted by: DNS on May 30, 2007 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

No only that, but when confronted on CBS, Dobbs insisted his number was correct
...STAHL: Now, we went to try and check that number, 7,000. We can't. Just so you know --
DOBBS: Well, I can tell you this. If we reported it, it's a fact.
STAHL: You can't tell me that. You did report it --
DOBBS: Well, no, I just did.
STAHL: How can you guarantee that to me?
DOBBS: Because I'm the managing editor, and that's the way we do business. We don't make up numbers, Lesley....

Dobbs is becoming a sanctimonious nativist .

Posted by: Mike on May 30, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Son: Hey, Dad, can I borrow 50 bucks?

Father: 40 bucks?!? Whaddya wanna borrow 20 bucks for??

Posted by: obscure on May 30, 2007 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum: A few days later Dobbs had on a couple of representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center who accused him of whipping up anti-immigrant hysteria by focusing on disease and crime. It turns out that Dobbs actually had a decent comeback to that charge: he claims that out of 750 reports on illegal immigration over the past few years, only six have focused on disease and crime. And to make that stick all he had to do was fess up about the leprosy error and move on. Instead he gave mere sophistry a bad name by claiming that he had never said those 7,000 cases were new cases of leprosy.

Yup, Dobbs messed up by not simply saying that he made a mistake. Similarly, William Jefferson Clinton messed up by not simply admitting to the blow job.

However, that doesn't change what you admit was a decent comeback to the broader charges.

As for the "pretty brutal takedown of Lou Dobbs in the New York Times", it ends with:

More to the point, if Mr. Dobbs’s arguments were really so good, don’t you think he would be able to stick to the facts? And if CNN were serious about being “the most trusted name in news,” as it claims to be, don’t you think it would be big enough to issue an actual correction?

This from the New York "Judith Miller" Times? That's the sort of thing that gives hypocrisy a bad name.

Posted by: alex on May 30, 2007 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

OH man, this is interesting. I just heard Pat Robertson blaming TB on illegal aliens. So, now it appears as if these two ever intelligent fellows are able to lay blame for our many medical ills upon Mexicans.

Posted by: HopefulOkie on May 30, 2007 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder what the figures are on dementia? Is a person who still thinks Sadaam was involved in 9/11 demented? Is a person who still thinks Sadaam had serious WMDs demented? Is a person who still thinks Sadaam was a serious threat to the US demented? Is a person who thinks global warming is a liberal conspiracy demented? Is anyone who thinks the US is a meritocracy demented? I could go for a long time...

If it is not a situation of mass dementia, is this evidence of a propagandized, willfully dishonest and selfish, or incredibly naive, significant portion of our society?

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on May 30, 2007 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, yes, give Dobbie a sock.

GOD! I laughed myself sick at that comment!


More to the point, why the hell do some old white guys have such a problem admitting they were wrong?

My older sister, when she was much younger, had an argument with my dad about something.

Turned out she was right and he was wrong and he admitted it. She circled the day on the calendar because getting my dad to admit he was wrong about anything was a monumental occasion.

Looks like Lou has the same problem.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on May 30, 2007 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Michael7843853 G-O in 08 --

Preach it, brother.
What a sad situation we're all in...
How would it feel to be smart, educated, informed, well-traveled, capable of critical thought, wary of the charlatan, wry and sarcastic when confronted by a false prophet, AND NOT PART OF A BESIEGED MONORITY?
I wonder...

Posted by: DNS on May 30, 2007 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Dobbs is a pompous turd, isn't he? I think he might have gout.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 30, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Morpheus.
Glad you liked it. :-)

Posted by: DNS on May 30, 2007 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

If his Master gives Dobby an item of clothing, then Dobby is FREE!

Can we just call the "comment of the day" aleready and give it to DNS?

Sweetie, you gotta warn a girl. I laughed so hard, I thought I would *ahem* "embarrass myself."

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 30, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Why in the world are you comparing Dobbs to Karl Rove? For the past several years, Dobbs has been a Democratic populist, lambasting free trade, demanding protection for American workers and unions from foreign competition. Now he's on a rampage against President Bush's immigration bill. Dobbs speaks for the heart of the Democratic Party, and now you're calling him a Republican? Strange, very strange.

Posted by: DBL on May 30, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

I watch him, and often he makes me so mad I yell at the television. And really, I shouldn't let him get to me.

But half the time he makes up these half-truthes and skips over to his position, and it drives me nuts! He says 'now that's what the Democrats should do!' but for the life of me I can't imagine him ever voting for one.

Argh.

Posted by: Crissa on May 30, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Dobbs doesn't speak for the heart of the Democratic Party; he speaks for Dobbs. Kevin's harmless bit of snark simply highlighted the fact that Dobbs clearly lied in order to avoid having to admit that he screwed up. Regardless of his other views, this is reprehensible behavior and it warrants getting called out.

Posted by: PaulB on May 30, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Leprosy is an extremely terrifying disease. Why are you trying to minimize this issue, Kevin?

If we can prevent even one American being infected, it's worth it. Why do liberals want Americans exposed to foreigners with leprosy?

Posted by: Al on May 30, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

Yup, Dobbs messed up by not simply saying that he made a mistake. Similarly, William Jefferson Clinton messed up by not simply admitting to the blow job.

The CLENIS!!!!!!!

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on May 30, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

I eviscerated the NYT report here. If you have an open mind, and you mistakenly think Kevin Drum knows anything about this issue, I suggest you check it out.

Posted by: TLB on May 30, 2007 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

Does that mean that if we can save even one person by ammending the constitution to make owning a gun illegal that we should do it?

More to the point, nothing Lou or anybody else (to my knowledge) has said indicates that there an actual increase in the rate of leprosy cases, to say nothing of the assertion that this is a result of illegal immigration.

That's the whole problem with using misleading numbers. It makes it so that we can't even debate the actual issue, we have to debate whether the misleading numbers mean anything.

Posted by: Ghebs on May 30, 2007 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Let's roll the tape."

mmmmm

"Yup, that's me hitting the game winning home run in the World Series in 1922. Next."

Posted by: craigie on May 31, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Try as i do, I cannot fathom why the democrats would tie themselves to the immigration issue.

Simply put, it is a loser of an issue. It brings zero new voters to the democrats.

If the democrats want to do something on principle alone, I have one word for them.

Impeachment.

Posted by: busdrivermike on May 31, 2007 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

Golly, when you compare this trifle with the institutionalized corruption and lying of Jorge Bush, Jose McCain, Eduardo Kennedy, et. al., ...it's hard to fathom such a lack of proportion.

Posted by: Luther on May 31, 2007 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

"If you have an open mind, and you mistakenly think Kevin Drum knows anything about this issue, I suggest you check it out."

LOL... Because heaven knows, a paranoid whackjob with a monomaniacal obsession about immigration is such an amazing fount of wisdom...

Posted by: PaulB on May 31, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Journalism is to advocacy journalism as science is to pseudoscience.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 31, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Doc at the Radar Station: Is this journalism?

He is the heir to the nativist tradition that has long used fiction and conspiracy theories as a weapon against the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Jews and, now, the Mexicans.

Even someone like Kevin Drum would be forced to admit that, no, that's not journalism.

Kevin Drum: you're linking in it.

Posted by: TLB on May 31, 2007 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

Illegal immigrants turned Lou's skin and hair orange.

Shut up and read us the commodity futures, Dobbs.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on May 31, 2007 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

I kinda like Digby's suggestion for quarantining the States. Then Lou and TLB could move onto other worries.

Posted by: snicker-snack on May 31, 2007 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

Spare a thought for the real breakthrough here. Leonhardt did what MSM journalists rarely ever do - seriously critique the claims of another MSM outlet. Sure, we'd all like him to critique a few NYT claims as well, but this is a development that needs to be encouraged. All power to him, I say.

Posted by: jim on May 31, 2007 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

It's too bad Dobbs has to range so far afield in his "populist" pursuits. It's not like he doesn't have enough ammo to spend on the real populist issues of the day. With his viewership, he could have a real and beneficial impact on the political discussion, yet he ranges into nutball arguments like leprosy. What a waste of time and airtime.

Posted by: gab on May 31, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Deport Lou Dobbs.

Posted by: Brojo on May 31, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

gab: Until the SPLC - a group indirectly linked to the MexicanGovernment - brought it up, Dobbs had only featured three shows about IllegalAliens and disease.

First, what I'd suggest you do is try to figure out who gave you the impression that Dobbs focuses on that issue, then don't trust anything else they say.

Second, I'd suggest you try these JAMA searches:

tinyurl.com/28l98z
tinyurl.com/2a4h3u

Third, hit my link above to see what the NYT "reporter" - and, by extension, Kevin Drum - didn't tell you.

Posted by: TLB on May 31, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

TLB:

Did you actually read either of the JAMA articles you linked to? Neither says anything about illegal immigrants causing a rise in cases of leprosy or TB. In fact, one says that many Tibetan immigrants in Minnesota -- not Dobbs target group -- have TB. A sublink takes you to an article that says TB is common, but adds that "timely, adequate medical evaluation and follow-up care of immigrants and refugees ... should be a high priority." That's it. That's why they have regular screening in states like Hawaii, with high numbers of immigrants.

The other article says that TB rates in New York City rose in the 1970s (i.e. 30 years ago), that the cases come from many different countries, and that the incubation period can be extremely long (up to 40 years) as is evidenced by the fact that most of the cases were asymptomatic when they entered the U.S. Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with illegal immigration, particularly from Mexico.

Certainly, nothing in either link justifies your defense of Dobbs on this issue. But then again, you probably just copied the links from some other nativist without bothering to read them yourself, right?

Posted by: keith on May 31, 2007 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK
He is the heir to the nativist tradition that has long used fiction and conspiracy theories as a weapon against the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Jews and, now, the Mexicans.

Even someone like Kevin Drum would be forced to admit that, no, that's not journalism.

No, dear, that's what the rest of us refer to as a fact. If you don't realize that the rhetoric that's being used against Mexican immigrants today is the exact same rhetoric that was used against my Irish, Italian and, yes, German ancestors, you're either frighteningly ignorant of the history of immigration in this country or you're delusional to the point that no actual facts are allowed to enter your brain.

Why do you think that immigrants were held on Ellis Island for several weeks after they arrived?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on May 31, 2007 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Dear dust throwers:
- those JAMA links are search pages with hundreds of results. I didn't read any of them. The point was that Big Grownup people can discuss immigrants and diseases, something that "liberals" are trying to silence.

- what exactly is Dobbs' "target group" anyway? Is your knowledge of the issue what you read here?

- Mnemosyne: I don't think I've ever met anyone with European immigrant ancestors. Have you considered writing a book about your unique experience? It's also said that you'd consider a scurrilous lie like that a "fact"; once again, even an ignorant fool like Kevin Drum would realize that quote for what it is.

Read more about the NYT piece Drum linked to here.

Posted by: TLB on May 31, 2007 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

If you think a viable left can be based on the class interests and social values of hedge fund managers, then the NYT editorial page is for you. If you think a viable left can only be based on the class interests and social values of actual, real life, nickel and dimed working class Americans, then Lou Dobbs is for you.

Working class Americans have NEVER favored high levels of immigration for the sensible reason that it dilutes their wages. Have they always expressed this fact in terms that were politically correct ? No. But it does not alter the basic truth that working class Americans have no stake in a cheap labor society. If the WSJ and NYT support high levels of immigration it is because it is in the interest of the investor class to do so as they profit from cheap labor.

Working class Americans flatly refuse to pick up the tab for the 'compassion' of the affluent. Was Lou Dobbs factually wrong ? Possibly. Is he a whole lot closer to the interests of working Americans than latte liberals who snicker about 'xenophobes' and 'nativists' and 'yahoos' ? Absolutely.

Posted by: Charles Warren on May 31, 2007 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

those JAMA links are search pages with hundreds of results. I didn't read any of them.

Perfect.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on May 31, 2007 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Charles Warren: Yeah, wul, my side may be wrong about everything but we got the fake populist demogogues on our side!

I'm not going to try to make myself stupid just so I can be authentically "working class."

Interesting semiotics, BTW. The poor and desperate cannot afford to be compassionate [sic.], so they can only be represented by morally squalid misanthropes like the nativist right.

Posted by: James R MacLean on June 1, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne: very few of the millions who came through Ellis Island were even slowed down as they came through. There were the famous "stairs of separation", where newcomers literally off the boats would be watched by health officials looking for signs of disease, and there was a shockingly brief yet remarkably effective inspection.

SOME of those who failed that inspection were quarantined. It wasn't a conspiracy theory, it was basic common sense. Nobody got quarantined unless an inspector saw something -- most often, it was an individual, occasionally a whole boatload, but NONE by nationality or ethnicity.

Got that? NONE. (N.B. This refers to health inspections, not the country of origin quotas nor the Asiatic Barred Zone which scarcely affected Ellis Island anyway.)

Others were sent back as likely public charges or carriers of infection. (Thus, the 'stairs of separation'.)

You may be confused with a handful of political cases which came much later, detainees who were not at all typical of the Ellis Island process.

Tens of millions of immigrants went through Ellis Island between 1891 and 1954, iirc, virtually all of 'em in less than a day -- getting off the boats, walking up the stairs, in line and registered, then getting on ferries to the mainland, and on throughout the country.

Posted by: theAmericanist on June 1, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not going to try to make myself stupid just so I can be authentically "working class."

Interesting semiotics, BTW. The poor and desperate cannot afford to be compassionate [sic.], so they can only be represented by morally squalid misanthropes like the nativist right.

Posted by: James R MacLean on June 1, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

So working class Americans, who bear the entire economic brunt of this peculiar alliance between latte liberal multiculturalism and cheap labor business interests are "morally squalid misanthropes" and "stupid" for trying to protect their families and livelihoods.

You know, the thing that I have always found disgusting about the cheap labor lobby and its allies is the class snobbery towards the 'lower orders'. After all, theirs are "jobs America can afford to lose", now aren't they ?

People of your ilk repeat the blunders of the Democratic Party in the 70's and 80's. As violent crime surged latte liberals tried to argue that 'society was to blame' and people afraid of crime were 'racist'. This at a time when people in major cities planned their lives around being off the streets before dark. This refusal to validate legitimate security concerns cost the Democratic Party dearly. Just as you are piously proclaiming how Americans who do not want to pick up the tab for Mexico's social services at the precise moment the baby boom is about to retire are 'morally squalid'.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 1, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Leprosy is a very treatable disease.

And hard to contract.

(Cue Murray Hamilton's speech about sharks in "Jaws")

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on June 1, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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