Tag Archives: Frances Martel

There Are No Happy Endings On Craigslist

David Murphy at PC World:

Craigslist was expected to have earned an estimated $36 million from advertising associated with its Adult Services section in 2010—at least, that was the case when we first reported the projections from Advanced Interactive Media in late April of this year.

You can now expect that number to drop significantly, as Craigslist has removed its Adult Services section for U.S. visitors. The move surely comes as a relief to the various entities that have been petitioning for Craigslist to shut down the section—including human rights groups and more than 17 attorneys general from states across the nation.

There’s no indication that Craigslist has removed its Adult Services section for good, however. Although links to the site are now eliminated when accessing the main Craigslist page from an IP addressed based in the United States, one can still pull up the page from other countries. There’s been no comment from any Craigslist spokespeople whatsoever—officially or otherwise—related to the matter.

Chris Matyszczyk at Cnet:

The section was originally entitled Erotic Services. Its name was changed to reflect a new discipline, as, under pressure from attorneys general, Craigslist declared it would manually screen every ad in its newly named Adult Services section.

It is arguable whether the content of this new section truly changed. Some would say it was adult business as usual.

(Credit: Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Recently, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark gave a troubling if spontaneous interview to CNN, in which he seemed unable to answer questions about whether the site was facilitating child prostitution. Then, instead of answering the specific charges, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster took to the company’s blog to assail the CNN reporter’s methods.

Evan Hansen at Wired:

Craigslist has made numerous changes to its sex listings over the years to accommodate critics, changing its sex listings label from “erotic services” to “adult services,” imposing rules about the types of ads that can appear, and manually filtering ads using attorneys. But it has also fiercely defended its overall practices as ethical, and criticized censorship as a useless and hypocritical dodge.

When Craigslist was hit with a lawsuit by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster in 2009, it struck back with a preemptive lawsuit of its own and won. In a blog post last month, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster explained the company’s filtering policies in detail, pointing out its lawyers had rejected some 700,000 inappropriate ads to date, and suggested its methods could offer a model for the entire industry. He has also used the company’s blog to blast critics, most recently an “ambush” CNN video interview of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.

Craiglist has a point: Given other sites on the web (and in print) serve the same types of ads without the same level of scrutiny, it seems politicians are making the pioneering, 15-year-old service an opportunistic scapegoat. Internet services may accelerate and exacerbate some social problems like prostitution, but they rarely cause them. The root of these issues — and their solutions — lie in the realm of public policy, not web sites and ham-handed web site filtering.

Frances Martel at Mediaite

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch:

Craigslist has fought back using little more than their blog and logic. And they’re right. Having prostitution up front and regulated, as Craigslist does, means less crime is associated with it. It’s not like prostitution, sometimes called the world’s oldest profession, was invented on the site.

The fact that eBay and others do exactly the same thing, but without human review and moderation, doesn’t seem to matter. Craigslist Sex is what scares the general population, and it’s what the press and the politicians will continue to use to get their hits and votes.

So the Craigslist Adult Section was removed. Is the world now a safer place?

Update: This only appears to affect U.S. sites, so if you’re looking for a happy ending in Saskatoon or the West Bank, have at it.

Mistermix:

After a few months of getting shit from AGs looking to make a name for themselves, Craigslist has replaced its adult services ads with a “Censored” bar.

Until they gave up, Craigslist was the only big site hosting adult ads that made a good-faith effort to keep exploitation out of their site. eBay owned a site that also posted erotic ads, made no effort to police it, and they simply blocked access from the US when the site was criticized.

Perhaps we’ll have an honest conversation about ending the prohibition of prostitution in a few more years, but this episode shows that we’re nowhere near ready to have it now.

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Still I Look To Find A Reason To Believe

Brad Thor at Big Government:

Through key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I have just learned that reclusive Taliban leader and top Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar has been taken into custody.

According to the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program there is a bounty of up to $10 million on Omar for sheltering Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda network in the years prior to the September 11 attacks as well as the period during and immediately thereafter.

At the end of March, US Military Intelligence was informed by US operatives working in the Af/Pak theater on behalf of the D.O.D. that Omar had been detained by Pakistani authorities. One would assume that this would be passed up the chain and that the Secretary of Defense would have been alerted immediately.  From what I am hearing, that may not have been the case.

When this explosive information was quietly confirmed to United States Intelligence ten days ago by Pakistani authorities, it appeared to take the Defense Department by surprise. No one, though, is going to be more surprised than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  It seems even with confirmation from the Pakistanis themselves, she was never brought up to speed.

Jed Babbin at Big Government:

If the report is correct, and if Omar is persuaded to talk (which is not at all assured) the information he has could reduce the Taliban networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan to a level at which – for a time – they were no longer an existential threat to both governments.  And, equally important, he could expose the details of the Iranian support of the Taliban, naming people in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan who give and receive arms, funding and training.

But let’s not celebrate too quickly.

First and foremost, we need to get the Pakistanis to delay giving him into US custody.  That is contrary to our normal instincts, but this man – taken alive and brought to any US detention facility other than Guantanamo Bay — would be Mirandized and pushed into the civilian criminal justice system where he, and his ilk, manifestly don’t belong. We would be forfeiting months of probable success in interrogating him.

The other reason to keep Omar in Pakistani custody is the Iran question.  The Obama administration still hasn’t formed the so-called “high-value detainee interrogation group” promised as the alternative to the now-banned “enhanced interrogation techniques” which proved so valuable in the Bush era.

If Omar can be persuaded to give up information on Iran, it should be either to CIA or US military intelligence personnel or to the Pakistanis.  US civilian interrogators would be more susceptible to Administration pressure to ignore information about Iran which might put them in the position of having to do something serious in response to the information.  Obama wants no inconvenient truths interrupting his “open-hand” strategy to Iran.

CIA and military US interrogators – perhaps working with the Pakistanis in a Pakistani jail — can better question Omar on matters such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ involvement with the Taliban, what other sources of funding and support come from other Islamic countries, and what involvement do Russia and China have? (We know from the Pentagon report on Afghanistan released a week ago that the Taliban receive funding from many Islamic countries).

And then there is the question of Usama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Omar is reported to be close to them both, and if anyone could lead us to them, it is probably Mullah Omar.

Omar is, at the very least, a co-conspirator in the 9-11 attacks.  If we have him – or the Pakistanis do – he must not be allowed to escape.  He should face trial in a military commission at Gitmo as soon as the intel folks have bled him dry (figuratively speaking, more or less.)

If Omar has been captured, there is a time window in which he must be questioned and the information he gives up acted upon.  If the Pakistanis – or we — have Omar then the Taliban and al-Qaeda know we do.  And they will change as much of the way they operate, their funds flow, the location of their people and supply trails as they can.

The Jawa Report

Greg Pollowitz at NRO

Dan McLaughlin at Redstate:

If Thor’s sources pan out, this is excellent news, and a moment for real vindication for everyone – from the military brass to Republican leaders and conservative commentators to, yes, President Obama – who argued for pressing on for victory in Afghanistan and not abandoning the region to the Taliban. Of course, I’m guessing that if Mullah Omar has been held for some time now by Pakistani authorities without public disclosure of that fact, he’s probably been under questioning. Without being read any Miranda rights by the Pakistani government, one assumes. But doubtless we’ll learn more about what has happened and when, in due time.

Marc Ambinder:

The Internet is abuzz about a report from BigGovernment.com’s Brad Thor (not a nickname!) that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has been captured in Pakistan. Official sources cast doubt on the claim, although there’s a chance that news of his capture would be highly compartmentalized. Nonetheless, these sources are advising extreme skepticism in a way that suggests Omar is not in U.S. or Pakistani custody.

Ed Morrissey:

Any reasons to believe? Well, (a) like Hillary said yesterday, it’s entirely plausible that jihadi double-dealers inside the Pakistani government know where this guy is. Picking him up isn’t so much a question of ability as a question of will. (b) Remember, they nabbed the Taliban’s number two back in February along with a bunch of other capos. Things got quiet after that, but there were suddenly a lot of people in custody who would have a good idea exactly where Omar is. Someone might have rolled over on him. (c) This could explain why the Taliban was keen to have Shahzad hit the U.S. homeland. A catch that big warrants a big reprisal.

Any reasons not to believe? Yeah — namely, how come this hasn’t leaked? Nothing against Brad Thor, but this is so tippy top secret that he knows about it when the NYT, WaPo, and even Hillary Clinton don’t? Five weeks seems an awfully long time to keep something like this quiet. Also, why wouldn’t the White House or Pakistan or even the Taliban itself have announced the capture? I can explain the latter two — the Taliban doesn’t want to discourage jihadis in the field and the Pakistanis don’t want to draw their wrath — but The One has an obvious political incentive to put it out there. Maybe he’s holding back because Karzai and the Taliban are negotiating some sort of reconciliation deal behind the scenes and a formal announcement of the capture would explode the deal? If that’s what’s going on then the question turns to why Pakistan brought him in. Are they trying to force him to make a deal with the Afghans or are they actually trying to prevent it? Mullah Baradar, the Taliban number two, was allegedly keen on reaching an agreement but I’ve never heard that about Omar.

No answers right now but it’s worth putting this on your radar screen. I have an e-mail out to Bill Roggio to see what he knows.

Update: A commenter wonders where we plan on holding him if the rumor turns out to be true. Bagram seems awfully risky. If only we had a special prison somewhere outside the theater designated for jihadi enemy combatants.

Update: Roggio e-mails to say that he’s heard not a single peep from anyone, U.S., Taliban, or otherwise.

Frances Martel at Mediaite:

Unsurprisingly, Big Government isn’t getting much support from the mainstream media. In fact, even among default allies like RedState and Hot Air, there seems to be a level of skepticism. RedState reported it with a question mark and made sure to point out Thor’s credentials as a “best-selling novelist.”Allahpundit at Hot Air went through a list of reasons to believe the story— namely that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had commented that she believed Pakistani authorities had information on the Taliban they were refusing to share— and reasons not to believe the story (“how come this hasn’t leaked? Nothing against Brad Thor, but this is so tippy top secret that he knows about it when the NYT, WaPo, and even Hillary Clinton don’t?”). Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic also reported it with extreme skepticism, but other than these sites, no one seems to have picked the story up.

Reporting the story is a peculiar decision to make on the part of the Big sites (Big Journalism ran it, too), as they usually stay away from major foreign policy journalism. Not to mention that by Brad Thor breaking it, he is putting professional provocateur Andrew Breitbart’s reputation at risk, as well. Breitbart’s sites have rarely broken a story without video evidence, and the Big sites usually shy away from news from outside the US, with the exceptions of denouncing Che Guevara’s war crimes or updates on Hugo Chavez’s crackdown on the Venezuelan media. If he’s right, Breitbart will have branched out as a legitmate source on military intelligence and beaten all of the mainstream media to the punch; if he’s not, he just gave all of the media– not just his enemies– carte blanche to ignore anything and everything he says, a risk that doesn’t seem to be worth the short-term increase in web traffic.

UPDATE: Jeremy Scahill at The Nation

Oliver North at Big Government

Allah Pundit

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I Did Not Know That Mediaite Was Glenn Beck’s Favorite Website… Thank You, National Enquirer!

The National Enquirer:

UPDATED: Reports out of Washington, DC:  PRESIDENT OBAMA in a shocking cheating scandal after being caught in a Washington, DC Hotel with a former campaign aide.

A confidential investigation has learned that Obama first became close to gorgeous 35 year-old VERA BAKER in 2004 when she worked tirelessly to get him elected to the US Senate, raising millions in campaign contributions.

While Baker has insisted in the past that “nothing happened” between them, reports reveal that top anti-Obama operatives are offering more than $1 million to witnesses to reveal what they know about the alleged hush-hush affair.

Among those being offered money is a limo driver who says in 2004 that he took Vera to a secret hotel rendezvous in where Obama was staying.

An ENQUIRER reporter has confirmed the limo driver’s account of the secret 2004 rendezvous.

The Jawa Report:

This is Vera Baker, a fundraiser for Barack Obama and also his (gasp) alleged mistress.

Vera-Baker-276x368.jpg

I was just going to ask, “Is she hot?”. But then the Enquirer ran with it

PRESIDENT OBAMA has been caught in a shocking cheating scandal after being caught in a Washington, DC Hotel with a former campaign aide, sources say. And now, a hush-hush security video that shows everything could topple both Obama’s presidency and marriage to Michelle!

So…

A. Is she hot?
B. Ya think Obi-One hit dat?
C. Anyone have any more pics of the Presidential Cupcake? Like in a bikini?

Carol Platt Liebau at Townhall:

Were it not for the paper’s accuracy in reporting on John Edwards, one would simply laugh at the story.  From what I’ve ever known of Barack Obama, he never struck me as the philandering type.  That’s just not where his passions seemed to lie.

Then again, the arrogance of power can, no doubt, encourage people to feel as though the rules simply don’t apply to them — and few could deny that Obama has a fair share of self-regard.  What’s more, people can change (or their real character can fully emerge).  The Barack Obama I knew at law school was a big liberal, but he didn’t seem to enjoy attacking his adversaries, and he still had a sense of humor.  But that’s before he had anything to lose — or any significant opposition.

It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.  I’d be afraid to be the one to have to confess to his wife, wouldn’t you?

Frances Martel at Mediaite:

The Enquirer is also promising hotel surveillance footage that could prove that Obama and Baker entered and left the hotel at the same time. “Investigators are attempting to obtain a tape from the hotel (that) shows Vera and Barack together… If the tape surfaces, it will explode the scandal.” The Enquirer does not specify the dates of the surveillance footage, which could mean they are merely touting a 6-year-old affair the Obamas and everyone around them have moved beyond it, but they could also be breaking something new. Or they are totally wrong or taking some bit of information completely out of context, which would hardly be shocking.

So that’s the kicker– whether the video evidence truly exists, and how old it really is. Yes, the fact that it is the National Enquirer reporting it makes the matter highly questionable, especially in light of their previous attempt at launching an Obama sex scandal. However, the last time the Enquirer broke a high-profile political sex scandal, many in the media were upset it didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize, which makes their claim at least worth reading over. Plus, the claim is simply too damaging for the publicity rewards to outweigh the risk of publishing such a falsehood– this isn’t exactly an Anderson Cooper adoption story– especially after the tabloid worked so hard to establish credibility over the past couple of years on this precise type of case. Somewhat adding to its credibility significance and impact is the fact that the Drudge Report, whose success is directly attributed to breaking the Monica Lewinsky story in 1998, felt confident enough in its accuracy to give it prime real estate on the site.

As Rod Blagojevich would say, let’s not jump to conclusions until we’ve had a chance to review all the tapes– after all, without them, this wouldn’t be any more credible than the latest Brangelina rumor (which, if you’re interested, is that the twins have Down Syndrome). That said, a story of this category is no longer the joke it once was in the post-Rielle Hunter world, and if this is something more than a publicity campaign on behalf of the tabloid, could prove to be problematic.

Doug Mataconis at Below The Beltway:

And if the tape doesn’t exist, it will be like the supposed Michelle Obama “whitey” tape which turned out to be a hell of a lot of ado about absolutely nothing.

The other thing to note is that this isn’t an new story at all. The London Daily Mail ran with it before the 2008 election, and had a much more skeptical look at it than the Enquirer:

Barack Obama is the target of a shadowy smear campaign designed to derail his bid for the US Presidency by falsely claiming he had a close friendship with an attractive African-American female employee.

The whispers focus on a young woman who in 2004 was hired to work on his team for his bid to become a senator.

The woman was purportedly sidelined from her duties after Senator Obama’s wife, Michelle, became convinced that he had developed a personal friendship with her.

The allegations were initially circulated in August, just two weeks before the convention at which Obama finally beat his opponent for the Democratic Party nomination, Hillary Clinton.

The woman, now 33, vigorously denies the vicious and unsubstantiated gossip.

And some Washington insiders suggested that she was the victim of an 11th-hour attempt to smear Obama by die-hard Hillary supporters.

But now the rumours have resurfaced, suggesting that they may be coming from elements in the Republican Party.

According to sources interviewed by The Mail on Sunday, the respected Los Angeles Times, the tabloid National Enquirer and the huge ABC television network have been provided with the woman’s name.

In the most commonly-purveyed version of the rumour, she was ‘exiled’ to a Caribbean island because Michelle Obama objected to her job on the 2004 campaign.

To say the least then, this story deserves to be looked at with a jaundiced eye, notwithstanding the fact that the Enqurier has, in the past, been accurate about these types of stories.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Every couple years, the rumor surface that Barack Obama had an affair with his hot campaign worker Vera Baker. It happened again—this time in the pages of the National Enquirer. Which is always right about politicians’ sex scandals.

In 2008, the Daily Mail re-visited the old chestnut that Obama got it on with 35 year-old Baker back in 2004 when she was helping him campaign for the Senate. Of course, the Daily Mail is a paper famous for falsely claiming that everything causes cancer and it is British so we cannot trust them because, remember the Revolutionary War?

But now the National Enquirer says the same thing. And they claim an anonymous limo driver can vouch for the fact that Obama and Vera Baker spent a sexxxy night together in a DC hotel in 2004. Here’s how we know it’s true:

  • The National Enquirer broke the John Edwards sex scandal, but the mainstream media ignored it. Since the National Enquirer was right about John Edwards it has to be right about Obama. Why would the National Enquirer risk its reputation of being mostly made-up, but once in a while being right about something?
  • The National Enquirer currently is reporting that Tiger Woods slept with 121 women. If they were able to get information about 121 women who slept Tiger Woods, surely they could get information about one woman who slept with Barack Obama.
  • The Enquirer reports that “anti-Obama operatives are offering more than $1 million to witnesses to reveal what they know” about the affair. WHY WOULD ANYONE OFFER THAT MUCH MONEY IF IT WASN’T TRUE?
  • Limo drivers are among the most trust-worthy people. This limo driver is so trustworthy that it took him six years of introspection before breaking his client’s trust by dishing to the Enquirer; and he only broke that trust to fulfill the greater duty of exposing to the American people that Obama had an affair. Six years! Dude is super trustworthy. And he’s humble, too, since he chose to remain anonymous rather than exploit the situation.
  • The story is currently the top story on Mediaite, home to the POWER GRID. Mediaite is Glenn Beck’s favorite website. Glenn Beck is always right; so is Mediaite.

Colby Hall at Mediaite:

Late last night the notorious tabloid the National Enquirer broke a story claiming that President Barack Obama was caught having an affair with a former campaign staffer. Despite the story being very thinly sourced, various Internet media outlets picked up the story, including Mediaite, raising questions about even repeating stories that have not been properly reported.

Almost immediately we received harsh feedback from progressives on Twitter who felt that we were somehow derelict in duty for reporting that this story had broken in the tabloid. I want to rebut the notion that we should not have covered this story at all.

Information is so widely available in this day and age – the hope that people will not discuss a story, no matter how questionable its sourcing – is a time that has passed. Does that mean that the Washington Post and New York Times should be reporting this story? Of course not. Does it mean that we are part of some right-wing cabal for analyzing it? No. A website covering the intersection of media and politics can’t ignore this story. Did we give credibility to what some are claiming to be a paper thin account? Some may say yes, but only those who did not read the story carefully.

We have a smart audience of savvy media watchers who will know that when Drudge picks up a story, that in addition to his base of readers, media decision makers will also be seeing it and making difficult decisions about what to do with it. The days of a paternalistic media protecting the populace from questionable information has passed. Good or bad for the country and the world, it is. That is where we are today.

James Joyner:

It wouldn’t be the first time a politician had an affair while on the campaign trail, of course.  If there were a political counterpart to the old VH-1 “Behind the Music” series, it would be as much a standard subplot as a drug-induced career spiral is for rock stars.

So, I suppose I wouldn’t be shocked if this bore out.  I’d sure as hell be surprised, though.   Despite significant ideological differences, Obama has always struck me as an incredibly decent sort.  As Joe Biden said in a different context, he’s storybook, man.   He’s seemingly excelled at everything he’s ever tried and is universally regarded by those who know him and work with him as down-to-earth, earnest, and hard working.  And, while politicians always tout themselves as family men, Obama actually seems to be one, making time for his kids even while holding down the hardest job on the planet.  Let’s just say he’s no Bill Clinton.

Further, while I suppose it would be good news for Republicans if true, I sincerely hope it isn’t.   It’s just bad for the country to continually be let down by our leaders and role models.  And that’s especially true for The First Black President, who serves as an inspiring example for a historically downtrodden group and has the very real potential to heal some very old wounds.

Joe Coscarelli at Village Voice:

That’s right, false alarm. The only thing adding any sliver of believability to the National Enquirer‘s rehashing of a 2008 rumor about a Barack Obama affair was a claim about the existence of a video tape showing the president and his former aide at an illicit hotel rendezvous. They didn’t claim to have the tape, or even know where it was, but just that it existed. Maybe:

“The ENQUIRER has also learned that on-site hotel surveillance video camera footage could provide indisputable evidence,” the story once read.

Now, an astute eye at Mediaite (doubtlessly refreshing the page all day, fiending for new info), found that the Enquirer report has been “UPDATED,” meaning stripped of anything almost resembling journalism.

All that remains is anonymous chatter from a limo driver back in 2004, who claims he dropped off a women, Vera Baker, at a hotel where Obama might’ve been. According to the tabloid, “top anti-Obama operatives are offering more than $1 million to witnesses to reveal what they know about the alleged hush-hush affair.”

The lingering urge to trust the Enquirer after their brush with the truth in the John Edwards affair has all but been squandered on this recycled story, and it didn’t even have a chance to grow legs beyond the weekend. It will be interesting to watch whether Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, et al. dare to touch this thing with the Enquirer, of all places, already issuing what resembles a correction in the world of “real journalism.”

For a minute there a lot of people were on the verge of very nervous. Now maybe Obama can enjoy his dinner.

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:

Here is an email we received yesterday from National Enquirer Web Editor Dick Siegel in response to Frances Martel’s second post about the story:

In reference to the online Medialite story which carries your [Frances Martel] by-line:

http://www.mediaite.com/online/national-enquirer-obama-story-update-retracts-hotel-surveillance-claim/

1. The ENQUIRER has NOT retracted the story

http://www.nationalenquirer.com/reports_obama_cheating_scandal_vera_baker_investigation/celebrity/68590

2. The updated story was edited for clarity and the online copy is an abridged version of the original posting
3. The reference to the hotel surveillance video you claim in your story that was omitted is in the online ENQUIRER posting
4. The full unabridged story appears in this weeks Globe magazine cover date May 10, 2010 pgs 30, 31 and 34
5. The ENQUIRER stands by its story.

Thank you,
DICK SIEGEL

National ENQUIRER Web Editor
One Park Avenue
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10016

So! The Enquirer is standing by their shadily sourced story. And I mean seriously, shadily sourced: “An ENQUIRER reporter has confirmed the limo driver’s account [the print version provides an expanded, if equally shady, anonymous account from said limo driver] of the secret 2004 rendezvous and has also learned that on-site hotel surveillance video camera footage could provide indisputable evidence to the investigation.” Yeah, that’s a pretty big could. As in it could provide evidence that campaign workers stayed in the same hotel at Barack Obama in 2004. As in, if we could get video evidence of Roswell, we might be able to prove the existence of aliens (actually, I think that may have been a NE story).

Likely the most reliable part of this entire story is that “that top anti-Obama operatives are offering more than $1 million to witnesses to reveal what they know about the alleged hush-hush affair.” Yes. I think it’s pretty much a guarantee that a whole lot of people would be willing to pay a whole lot of money for some sort of proof (video tape or otherwise) that the president is not what he says he is. Duh. In political terms it’s referred to as “opposition research.”

Interestingly (or maybe predictably), when I emailed Siegel back to ask him to comment on how the National Enquirer is following up on this story, and why the NE has suddenly decided to re-pursue it, or if we can expect the sort of photo evidence that accompanied the Edwards stories? His only response was to confirm that I had the right link to the story.

Marc Ambinder:

Whatever collective motivations may be operating on this story, there is a simpler explanation for the lack of coverage: the story has no legs. It doesn’t even have thighs. It is, really, as Slate’s John Dickerson put it to me today, an “investigation about an alleged rumor,” but we don’t know who is doing the investigating and what precisely ought to be investigated.
Also, when this rumor came up during the campaign, mainstream news organizations did investigate, and found that there was no evidence to support the charge. (I did my own noodling around, interviewing even disaffected Obama staffers from the time period and found nothing.) Through his campaign, Obama denied any affair. Vera Baker has also publicly denied any affair. There are no new developments to speak of, and the Enquirer has already revised its claim about “an alleged surveillance tape.” Says the Enquirer: “Now, the investigators are searching for a hotel surveillance videotape [my emphasis].”
Investigators? That implies something criminal. No, no. We learn that these investigators are “top anti-Obama operatives” who are offering a million dollars for solid evidence.
It’s appropriate to ask the “So what?” question. So what if Obama did have an affair six years ago? Well, it’s gossip. It has no bearing on his job as president, but it would tell us something about his life at a critical juncture. Part of Obama’s mainstream appeal, which is code for saying that Obama doesn’t scare working class white voters, is that his family is picture perfect. He does not represent a stereotype. But Obama didn’t falsely create this image. Whatever happened or did not happen six years ago, his family life is extremely solid today. All of this discussion is moot, though, because there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that there was an affair.
Baker was a good PAC fundraiser, having worked with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under Jon Corzine. Why was she in Washington with Obama? Because PACs are headquartered in Washington.
If there were criminal allegations, more pursuit might be warranted, even in the absence of evidence. There are no such charges involved here.
This “affair” is destined to become a white whale for fringe groups who have no other impulse than to bring down a president they “know” in their hearts is illegitimate. It’s the birth certificate, all over again.

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American Enterprise Institute: Now With 100% Less Frum

David Frum at FrumForum:

I have been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute since 2003. At lunch today, AEI President Arthur Brooks and I came to a termination of that relationship.

Below is the text of my letter of resignation.

Dear Arthur,

This will memorialize our conversation at lunch today. Effective immediately, my position as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is terminated. I appreciate the consideration that delays my emptying of my office until after my return from travel next week. Premises will be vacated no later than April 9.

I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute, and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.

Very truly yours,

David Frum

Frances Martel at Mediaite:

The announcement comes shortly after Frum received a rush of criticism for a column suggesting that the passing of health care reform was the Republicans’ “Waterloo,” and that they “suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.”

The “Waterloo” piece, as well as subsequent criticism of the Republicans, was a deviation for Frum, who had been reliably supportive of the conservative cause throughout his career. While he received plenty of criticism from many on the right– most prone to dismiss him as a relic of the neo-conservative 2000s– and even got his old bosses in hot water with Rep. Darrell Issa, he managed to get the increasingly mellow Bill O’Reilly on his side despite saying the only people on the right who would benefit were those in the “conservative entertainment industry.”

Greg Sargent:

I just got off the phone with writer David Frum, and he says the conservative American Enterprise Institute assured him today that he isn’t being fired because of his recent blistering criticism of the GOP, as has been widely speculated this afternoon.

[…]

But Frum says AEI president Brooks at lunch today actually lauded him for making so much noise with that post.

“He said the thought might occur to me that this had to do with that,” Frum says. “He wanted to ally my anxieties on that score. He was very empatic.” Frum adds that Brooks said he “welcomed and celebrated” the debate he’d stirred up.

“He asked me if I’d like to work for AEI on a non salary basis,” Frum added. “He said it had nothing to do with my work and that after all these are hard times.”

“Big bad conservative think tank axes writer for criticizing GOP intransigence” is a seductive storyline for our times, but it may not be true.

Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time:

I caught up with Frum after the meeting. “Arthur Brooks insisted that this had nothing to do with my writings,” Frum said, adding that Brooks also did not challenge Frum’s fealty to AEI’s three core principles, which are described on the AEI website as, “expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise.”

An AEI spokeswoman, Veronique Rodman, sends over this statement: “While AEI makes it a practice not to discuss personnel matters, I can say that David Frum is an original thinker and a friend to many at AEI. We are pleased to have welcomed him as a colleague for seven years, and his decision to leave in no way diminishes our respect for him.”

So it goes. Is the timing a coincidence? Hard to tell. I guess one can take Arthur Brooks at his word. Or not.

As irritating as Frum can be — and he can be very irritating — most of his policy positions, as far as I know, are reliably conservative. True, he’s a fan of RomneyCare, but then, er, so is the guy who’s at or near the top of the polls right now for the GOP nomination in 2012. And yes, I know, it’s predictable that a Chamberlain-esque RINO candy ass such as myself would defend a guy who whines about Rush Limbaugh at every opportunity, but Bartlett’s point about rigid conformity is well taken. Frum’s still a hawk, at last check; he was a McCain voter in 2008 and prefers market solutions in most cases, from what I know. He’s wrong about the GOP having mishandled O-Care and he’s annoying with his endless scolding of right-wing media, but hopefully it’s still possible to be a conservative who’s wrong (occasionally) and annoying (frequently) and nonetheless employable by a conservative think tank. Currently AEI has as a fellow one of the geniuses who helped craft McCain-Feingold. Ornstein’s conservative enough, but not David Frum?And yes, of course, AEI should be free to employ whomever it wants. Doesn’t mean they should be free from criticism, though, assuming that the suspicions about their motive here are confirmed. Oh, and a reminder to the media, which is surely polishing Frum’s new halo as I write this: When it comes to excommunicating conservatives, he knows whereof he speaks.

Bruce Bartlett:

As some readers of this blog may know, I was fired by a right wing think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush’s policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D. In the years since, I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC.

Now the same thing has happened to David Frum, who has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute. I don’t know all the details, but I presume that his Waterloo post on Sunday condemning Republicans for failing to work with Democrats on healthcare reform was the final straw.

Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already.

Conor Friedersdorf

To sum up: The implication in Mr. Bartlett’s piece is that lots of people at AEI favored most aspects Obamacare — so many people, in fact, that AEI scholars were ordered against commenting on the subject at all. But lots of people at AEI did write publicly on the subject. Put another way, even if a few pro-Obamacare scholars had been silenced, Mr. Bartlett’s piece would be inaccurate as written. Perhaps he misheard Mr. Frum, or else Mr. Frum was mistaken or speaking imprecisely. I’ve followed the work of both men, and I’ve never known either to lie, so I presume there is some good explanation for the mistake.

Were any AEI scholars told to shut up about health care? Was there unspoken pressure? I sent an e-mail to all the folks listed on the think tank’s Web site, offering anonymity to anyone who requested it. I remain willing to expose even a partial vindication of Mr. Bartlett’s charge.

As yet, however, I’ve gotten only a lot of replies like this one from Charles Calomiris:

In all the years of my association with AEI no one ever suggested, much less ordered, that I say or not say anything. Quite the opposite; I was specifically told never to expect any guidance and I was guaranteed it in advance, which is why I was comfortable being involved with AEI for many years. The culture of AEI is completely contrary to attempts at control of academic thinking or speech. Freedom of thought is sacrosanct. I can tell you from personal knowledge that in many other think tanks in Washington that is not the case. At AEI, however, it is hard to imagine that these accusations could be true.

Or this one from Jack Calfee:

I have long admired Frum’s work, although I confess to not having paid much attention to his critiques of Republicans and conservatives. Speaking as one of the AEI health policy scholars, however, the notion that we have been muzzled on health care reform is bizarre. So many op-eds, so many AEI pubs, so many media appearances and interviews and quotes . . . I have to wonder whether David was quoted correctly on this point.

Or this one from Sally Satel:

I have never, ever been instructed/hinted/cajoled on what to say or write.

Or this from Edward Blum:

It has been my experience that AEI does not censor, discourage, or micromanage the work of its scholars and fellows or how they communicate with the press.

Or this from Rick Hess:

i’m curious about the sourcing of the Bartlett claim. i certainly never heard any such thing.

i do know that in my own field (K-12 and higher education), no one at AEI has ever attempted to steer, stifle, or influence my writing or speaking. this is particularly relevant, as much of my own work has been flagged over the years as heartburn-inducing by Bush administration proponents of No Child Left Behind and conservative proponents of school choice. indeed, AEI scholars writing on questions of education– including Charles Murray, Lynne Cheney, Christina Hoff Sommers, Mark Schneider, Andy Smarick, and myself have consistently reflected diverging and oft-contradictory views regarding policy, practice, and aims in our written and spoken work.

indeed, i’ll simply say that in my eight years at AEI I have felt far less intellectually constrained (through formal clearance mechansims or informal social norms) than i did in my previous role as a professor of education and government at the University of Virginia.

Does anyone at AEI have a different experience to relate? The offer of anonymity remains, even if you’re someone who already wrote me expressing a different opinion on the record. Meanwhile, all the folks who ran with the Bruce Bartlett angle — I’m looking at you, Howard Kurtz — should note that whatever else happens at AEI, good or bad, it is undeniably the case that various folks there have been commenting on health care.

Incidentally, the think tank is foolish to lose the talents of David Frum.

Bartlett responds:

To begin with, I think the important thing about what David told me is that I believed it instantly because it seemed very plausible for two reasons. First, I know from personal experience and from private comments by people I know in the conservative think tank community that there is enormous pressure to follow the Republican Party line. Those that dissent keep their mouths shut lest it cost them their job, a promotion, friendships or just because they don’t like to be hassled by those they work with. I’ve known people who shifted their specialties so they wouldn’t have to work in areas where they had objections to the party line that may have only involved tactics.
Second, I knew that there were a great many conservative health analysts who have long accepted the idea that universal coverage without a single-payer system basically requires some sort of individual mandate. Here, for example, is some testimony that Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation gave on this topic a few years ago before the party line changed. Sensible conservatives understand that you can’t cover preexisting conditions without a mandate and you can’t have a mandate without subsidies that have to be paid for. That leads logically to the system Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts that is virtually identical to the legislation that has just passed Congress.
So it didn’t surprise me at all that some AEI health specialists would have agreed with much of what Obama was proposing. Nor did it surprise me that the media and fundraising people at AEI might have suggested that they avoid making public comments supportive of the Democrats’ health plan. Before I was fired by NCPA I was often told that my comments critical of George W. Bush were unhelpful to fundraising even though they agreed that I was right on the substance.
I don’t have access to Nexis to check and see what comments AEI fellows might have said in the months before David made his comment to me and things may have changed afterwards. I have no way of knowing what things AEI people may have avoided saying or said off the record or on background to a reporter and were identified as a conservative health expert or whatever. Perhaps David was just wrong and that every AEI health expert was in fact opposed to every provision of the Democratic health plan and completely agreed with the Republican Party line that it was a huge step on the road to socialism that would completely destroy the American health system. I only know what he told me and that it rang true at the time he said it.
If it turns out that I misheard or misunderstood what David told me I promise a full retraction and public apology to AEI. In the meantime, my inclination is to believe anything David tells me and treat with deep skepticism anything I hear from AEI to the contrary. The organization has lost an enormous amount of credibility by firing him and hiring Republican political hacks like Marc Thiessen. That’s a statement I will never need to retract.

Jacob Heilbrunn at Huffington Post:

The banishment of David Frum from the American Enterprise Institute may be one of the best things that’s happened to him. He’s become a cause celebre. As a newly hot commodity, he’ll get gobs of publicity — a New Yorker profile must now be in the offing — and website hits for his fledgling FrumForum. But it’s not good for the conservative movement, which has regarded his efforts to drag it into modernity with increasing consternation.

Frum has long had the right stuff for the right, working at the Wall Street Journal and for the Bush administration. In recent months he’s been staking out somewhat heterodox stands, at least in the context of the conservative movement. Even mild dissent, however, is apparently too much for it to swallow. It has reached the point where, in Bolshevik fashion, it’s devouring its own children.

Is Frum really an apostate, a ranks-breaker? No, he isn’t. I haven’t seen any evidence that Frum, a vigorous polemicist, has fundamentally deviated from traditional conservative positions when it comes to Israel or tax rates. What he has argued for is a more modern Republican party that doesn’t stage a gadarene rush to the far right, but tries to come to terms with environmental issues, health care, and so on. Writing in the Washington Post on Thursday, Anne Applebaum observed that much of what Frum represents is a no-brainer for conservatives, who, like the British Tories, may well find themselves in the wilderness for many years if they refuse to acknowledge new realities.

Wonkette:

It is not like we are in love with David Frum, coiner of “Axis of Evil,” and general lover of war. But at least you can have a conversation with the guy, hypothetically!

Whenever we see an article or book from a Reasonable Conservative saying, “We need to tone down the rhetoric and stop following Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh,” though, it never takes the next step: how? Where is the implementation plan? These terrible scourges don’t come out of nowhere; everything follows a system of incentives, the biggest of which would have to be money, followed by short-term power. How do you make the exploitation of fear and constant outright lying and insanity less profitable, and less able to deliver short-term gains? The only solutions seem to be ones that would have the Republican party concede they’re following a failed ideology and must fold permanently or accept general minority party status for the next 25 years.

DO IT, FRUM.

More Friedersdorf:

On the subject of David Frum, I’ve got a lot to say, and I’ll begin by disclosing a personal story. In January 2009, I had a particularly bad day: the Washington DC based web magazine where I worked folded; and immediately afterward, I got a call informing me that my mom had been diagnosed with cancer, and would soon undergo a significant surgery. I am unsure how Mr. Frum heard about the magazine closing, but he e-mailed to ask if I would call him. On doing so, he offered condolences on a professional disappointment — a nice gesture, especially since I had precious little to offer him as a professional contact, and wasn’t a friend — and when I revealed why the lost job hadn’t been much on my mind, he spoke to me for perhaps twenty minutes longer, conducting himself in a most gentlemanly fashion.

Understand that I hardly knew Mr. Frum. I’d met him perhaps thrice in person, always in a room full of people. Even now I’ve met him perhaps six times. Upon calling me that day, I am certain he didn’t expect me to say that my mother had cancer — what does one even say to a professional acquaintance in that situation, beyond a mumbled, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.” I still don’t know, because I can’t remember what Mr. Frum said, except that it consoled me greatly at the time, reassuring without being prying or presumptive: It was a polite, well-mannered, graceful, kind-hearted gesture, and it demonstrates two things. 1) The way Mr. Frum conducts himself isn’t intended to ingratiate himself to Washington DC’s liberal elite — he regularly demonstrates social graces on all sorts of occasions utterly unconnected with politics. 2) Probably Mr. Frum isn’t aware of how much he raised my spirits that day, which is another way of saying that being a gentleman — and striving to avoid shrillness, intolerance and boorishness — are commendable virtues and bedrocks of civil society. It is execrable to make civility into a vice, let alone an ideological signifier, as if most Americans don’t value these things regardless of their political beliefs, or benefit from a world where they are practiced.

Of course, David Frum is uncivil sometimes. I recall a line in Newsweek about Rush Limbaugh’s dimensions and manifold personal flaws that he phrased somewhat more harshly than was necessary (talk radio hosts bring out the worst in all of us), I’ve seen him scrap in the blogosphere, as so many of us sometimes do, and I object strongly to some of his rhetoric during the Bush era, when he questioned the motives of Iraq War opponents. But it is to his credit that he tries and usually succeeds in tempering the bad impulses that shadow us all in political argument. And it speaks poorly of anyone who criticizes not his rare failures, but his constant effort to resist them. What normal person wants to be like a boorish, mercenary talk radio host, for goodness sake? Since when are these qualities how conservatives define themselves “aesthetically”?

Other critics say that Mr. Frum is egotistical, disloyal, arrogant, self-important. Beyond the fact that these same people unselfconsciously laud Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity — self-important folks with out-sized egos if ever there were any — it is noteworthy that these criticisms are always offered as though they refute the arguments Mr. Frum is making about a given issue, or a politician, or conservatism, or the future of the Republican Party. It is an intellectual coward or a fraud who tries to discredit ideas by pointing out the alleged, totally irrelevant personality flaws of their advocates.

Love him or hate him, Mr. Frum has been around Washington DC a long time. He possesses knowledge on political history, policy, and politics that is broad and deep. He has an especially curious mind, and a willingness to flout the conventional wisdom, which influences him less than most people. Were movement conservatives less childish, irrational, and defensive in the face of dissidents, they’d learn something — even when he is wrong, he often raises worthwhile points that inform my thinking, much as I might disagree with his ultimate conclusions.

Paul Krugman:

David Frum* has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute; one has to assume that this is a response to his outspokenness about the Republican failure on health reform.

In discussing the Frum firing, Bruce Bartlett asserts that AEI has muzzled its health-care experts, because the truth is that they agree with a lot of what Obama is proposing. I find this quite believable; back in 2003 Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, which is supposedly harder-right than AEI, proposed a health care reform consisting of … drumroll … an individual mandate coupled with subsidies to make insurance affordable. In short, Obamacare.

[…]

*I’m informed, by family members, that Frum is a distant cousin of yours truly.

Mike Allen at Politico:

EXCLUSIVE: David Frum told us last night that he believes his axing from his $100,000-a-year “resident scholar” gig at the conservative American Enterprise Institute was related to DONOR PRESSURE following his viral blog post arguing Republicans had suffered a devastating, generational “Waterloo” in their loss to President Obama on health reform. “There’s a lot about the story I don’t really understand,” Frum said from his iPhone. “But the core of the story is the kind of economic pressure that intellectual conservatives are under. AEI represents the best of the conservative world. [AEI President] Arthur Brooks is a brilliant man, and his books are fantastic. But the elite isn’t leading anymore. It’s trapped. Partly because of the desperate economic situation in the country, what were once the leading institutions of conservatism are constrained. I think Arthur took no pleasure in this. I think he was embarrassed. I think he would have avoided it if he possibly could, but he couldn’t.”

We talked at length afterward with an AEI official in an effort to get a specific response to Frum’s charge. But the group apparently doesn’t want to get into a back-and-forth with Frum, and stuck to this earlier statement from Brooks, blaming Frum for his departure: “David Frum is an original thinker and a friend to many at AEI. We are pleased to have welcomed him as a colleague for seven years, and his decision to leave in no way diminishes our respect for him.” Ask other AEI scholars how they felt about David’s mail and packages piling up outside his office. Frum, who will be 50 in June, had been on the payroll since leaving the Bush White House in 2003. He acknowledges he was very seldom at the office. But he maintains he developed and spread conservative ideas — AEI’s stated goal — with the 300,000 words a year that he writes for his blog, FrumForum.com; his weekly columns for CNN.com, The Week, and the National Post of Canada; his biweekly offerings for TIME and American Public Media’s “Marketplace”; and his three TV and three radio appearances in a typical week. He also landed Canadian Finance Minister James Flaherty for an AEI retreat last month that included donors. Frum tells us that regardless of his dismay with the party, he’ll stay registered GOP.

Charles Murray at The Corner:

I have known and liked David and Danielle Frum for many years, and what I am about to write will end that friendship. I regret that. But his statement goes beyond self-serving. It is a calumny against an organization that has treated him not just fairly but generously.

Regarding donor pressure: The idea that AEI donors sit down to talk with AEI’s president about who should and shouldn’t be on the staff, or what the staff should write, is fantasy. David has never seen the slightest sign of anything like that at AEI. He can’t have. He made it up. AEI has a culture, the scholars are fiercely proud of that culture, and at its heart is total intellectual freedom. As for the reality of that intellectual freedom, I think it’s fair to say I know what I’m talking about. I’ve pushed it to the limit. Arthur Brooks is just as adamant about preserving that culture as Chris DeMuth was, and Chris’s devotion to it was seamless.

I do not have any certain information to convey about David’s departure, except what Arthur Brooks has already said publicly: David resigned. He could have stayed. But I will tell what is common knowledge around AEI: David got a handsome salary but, for the last few years, has been invisible as a member of the institute. Being a scholar at a think tank (or any institution) is not just a matter of acknowledging your affiliation in your books and op-eds. It’s also a matter of blogging at the institute’s blog, not just your own blog (David had a grand total of 3 posts on AEI’s blog in the year since it began), reviewing colleagues’ drafts, reacting to their ideas, contributing chapters to their books, organizing scholarly events, participating on the institute’s panels, attending the institute’s conferences, helping out with fundraising, serving on in-house committees, giving in-house seminars, and mentoring junior staff. Different scholars are engaged in these activities to different degrees. Full disclosure: I’m on the left-hand side of that bell curve (I make the trek from Burkittsville so seldom that I don’t even have an office at AEI). But David was at the left-hand tail. If I had to guess — and that’s what I’m doing, guessing — David’s departure arose from something as simple as this: Management thinks that an employee is not as productive a member of the organization as management thinks he should be. The employee disagrees. They part company.

I think that’s what happened. I also think that for David to have leveled the charge that Arthur Brooks caved in to donor pressure, knowing that the charge would be picked up and spread beyond recall, knowing that such a charge strikes at the core of the Institute’s integrity, and making such a sensational charge without a shred of evidence, is despicable.

Andrew Sullivan has a round-up

Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

Danielle Crittenden at FrumForum:

We have both been part of the conservative movement for, as mentioned, the better part of half of our lives.  And I can categorically state I’ve never seen such a hostile environment towards free thought and debate–the hallmarks of Reaganism, the politics with which we grew up–prevail in our movement as it does today. The thuggish demagoguery of the Limbaughs and Becks is a trait we once derided in the old socialist Left.  Well boys, take a look in the mirror.  It is us now.

David of course doesn’t need my defense–and a defense coming from his wife probably isn’t worth much (although I can categorically state this has been posted without his authorization, approval or even, um,  knowledge–he’s flying somewhere over the country right now).  My role right now is to pass him the flask in the trench.

But to return to Washington and dogs: Along with the bile, there has been an equally considerable outpouring of support and defense, from friends and foes alike, who–whether they agree with David or not–are horrified by the guillotine that is being set up in the public square of democratic debate.  They understand that nothing good can come of this, for anyone of any political stripe.

For this support, we are both very grateful.  And while I wouldn’t have thought it possible to admire David more than I do, I have to say he is still turning this old girl’s head–now more than ever.

UPDATE: Henry Farrell and Daniel Drezner at Bloggingheads

More Frum

More Bartlett

Christopher Buckley at The Daily Beast

Daniel Larison

John Holbo

UPDATE #2: Anne Schroeder Mullins at Politico

Maggie Gallagher at The Corner

Mark Schmitt at The American Prospect

UPDATE #3: Henry Farrell and Brink Lindsey on Bloggingheads

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Ladies And Gentleman, We Have Nerd Porn Lift-Off

Brian Stelter at NYT:

Researchers, political satirists and partisan mudslingers, take note: C-Span has uploaded virtually every minute of its video archives to the Internet.

The archives, at C-SpanVideo.org, cover 23 years of history and five presidential administrations and are sure to provide new fodder for pundits and politicians alike. The network will formally announce the completion of the C-Span Video Library on Wednesday.

Having free online access to the more than 160,000 hours of C-Span footage is “like being able to Google political history using the ‘I Feel Lucky’ button every time,” said Rachel Maddow, the liberal MSNBC host.

Ed Morrissey, a senior correspondent for the conservative blog Hot Air (hotair.com), said, “The geek in me wants to find an excuse to start digging.”

Michael Calderone at Politico:

Brian Lamb, the network’s chief executive, told the New York Times that “journalists can feast on it,” and now having the ability to more easily check what politicians said in the past versus now

Frances Martel at Mediaite:

The database is assembled by program, topics, date, and personalities in them, so if you vaguely remember watching something interesting on Book TV last month (you don’t, but bear with me here), you can simply browse last month’s episodes of Book TV. It is even more useful if you’re researching a certain American political personality and want to find when they were most active on C-SPAN over a span of time, or just watch the person in action if you’ve only had the chance to read up on them. For example, say you overheard something about Richard Nixon and it got you curious to watch some of the footage of his last years in office. Simply search his name and click on his profile page, and all his appearances in the archives (mostly television but some radio addresses) are neatly organized by year. It’s a researcher’s – and a political nerd’s – dream come true. There’s even a transcript library for those who need the text in print.

But the impact of having such a free online database goes well beyond political science research libraries and the home computers of all three of America’s Spiro Agnew enthusiasts. The fact that 23 years of video footage of America’s history is accessible online for free at an age where most Americans have access to the Internet renders the entire debate in Texas over the content of textbooks obsolete. Teachers now have access to a library of raw data with which they can enhance their lessons, and if they don’t, students don’t need their teachers’ permission to do a quick fact-check.

Plus, most students in the YouTube era prefer watching history to reading it, so the chances of them taking five seconds to find a video of Ronald Reagan joking around about invading the USSR are much higher than the chances of them taking an hour or two to read the Reagan chapter conservatives in Texas are so afraid of them happening upon. C-SPAN has provided students an avenue both of objective history and of instant academic gratification, and given this alternative, most will be hard-pressed to take a second look at the books their parents are currently warring over. As the pool of information widens and becomes more organized, there will come a time when textbooks will have little to no place in the classroom at all. The classification of facts will be so sophisticated that it will take such little effort to wade through enormous amounts of information there will no longer be the need for someone to do it for students by way of a book. So while a five-hour congressional session from 1967 may not be interesting in and of itself, the shift to film and digital media is fascinating.

Andrew Malcolm at The Los Angeles Times:

One of America’s greatest living treasures is about to turn 31.

It’s not a he. Nor a she. It’s an it. C-SPAN, which is short for something like Cripes, Some Politicians Are Numb. (See video samples below; these may take a moment to load.)

For the last 11,320 days, this public service of the cable TV industry has provided priceless outlets and insights (even sometimes on the Democratic line) for millions of Americans watching, processing, learning and judging their government and its political processes at work. Or at least talking a lot.

While the rest of Washington yadas on like a bunch of chugging crazies on spring break, C-SPAN provides a priceless sense of serenity amid the nation’s political storms.

Yes, C-SPAN can be annoyingly calm at times, as if its announcers took twice the recommended dose of meds and don’t realize that total political chaos reigns everywhere outside that studio. “Well, if Iran does launch nuclear Armageddon, do you think the evangelicals will still be a serious force in the 2012 Iowa caucuses?”

On Wednesday, in honor of its official birthday Friday, C-SPAN will announce the opening of …

… a free, searchable, online video archive of every C-SPAN program since 1987. More than 160,000 hours of digital video. Like home movies for D.C. denizens. Imagine being able to look up and watch a specific speaker at a specific committee hearing on a specific day in 1993.

Or imagine getting a life.

Joe Carter at First Things:

Some policy nerds may be nostalgic for Dee Dee Myers-era White House briefings or Congressional budget reconciliation meetings. But for the rest of us, the archive offers an abundance of fascinating interviews and lectures from non-politicos.

Check out some of the videos of First Things‘ editors Richard John Neuhaus, Joseph Bottum, James Nuechterlein; FT contributors Mary Eberstadt, Alan Jacobs, and Yuval Levin; and FT board members Hadley Arkes, James Burtchaell, Eric Cohen, David Dalin, Midge Decter, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Suzanne Garment, Robert George, Mary Ann Glendon, Russell Hittinger, Glenn Loury, George Marsden, Wilfred M. McClay, Gilbert Meilaender, David Novak, Michael Novak, George Weigel, William Burleigh, and Peter Thiel.

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