Friday, September 17, 2010

Moynihan on O'Donnell

One of the things that first got me paying attention to the charges against Christine O'Donnell was a piece in the Reason blog by Michael Moynihan attacking her. He has now posted a second one. It provides a little evidence that she is a nut, more that Moynihan is either incompetent or dishonest. He writes:
I mean, we all could make the mistake of thinking that there exists an army of mice with human brains, or that Vince Foster was “murdered,” possibly by those in the White House. (A number of people are offering up the “O’Donnell was just asking questions” defense, though she explicitly refers to “the murder of Vince Foster,” ...
As you can easily check by following the "murdered" link, O'Donnell did not explicitly refer to "the murder of Vince Foster." What she actually said, arguing that Newt Gingrich was being attacked on relatively minor charges while much more serious charges against President Clinton were being ignored, was:
"And then there's also the issue of murder with Vincent Foster. That's a much more serious charge than failing to seek legal advice"
There is a large difference between "the issue of murder with Vincent Foster" described as a "charge," which implies that he might have been murdered, and "explicitly" referring to "the murder of Vince Foster." Moynihan not only attributes the latter to O'Donnell, he does it in quotation marks. Attributing words to someone that she did not say is either incompetent or dishonest journalism.

The "army of mice with human brains," on the other hand, exaggerates what she said but there is something real there to exaggerate. The actual quote is:
"American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains"
The story he links to suggests that she was "misremembering this 2005 report on scientists who successfully grew human brain cells within mice." If so, she was careless with her facts and demonstrated a badly exaggerated idea of the capabilities of current bioscience.

The piece offers two other pieces of evidence against O'Donnell. One is that someone who worked for her 2008 senatorial campaign reported that O'Donnell "told me that she thought Joe Biden tapped her phone line." If Moynihan believes the idea that political campaigns sometimes engage in illegal wiretapping is absurd, he somehow managed to miss the entire Watergate episode along with much else.

The other evidence, from someone who volunteered for the same campaign, is that O'Donnell talked to him about winning a lucrative television contract with CNN or Fox News Channel.

"I informed her that most media organizations prohibit their employees from running for office. She didn't seem to understand and was more interested in getting a contract," he recalled. "She was more concerned about getting a TV deal than winning office."

It does not seem to have occurred to either him or Moynihan that O'Donnell's chances of winning office—while running in an election she ended up losing by about two to one—did not deserve a major role in her career plans.
P.S. I emailed Moynihan pointing out that he was misquoting O'Donnell and he has now put a correction up on his post.


Anonymous said...

Somehow your overparsing of the semantics of murder here are underwhelming, especially given the fact that Moynihan explicitly mentions that other view.

Likewise, I'm underwhelmed by the "misremembered" explanation. I really don't want people in congress who's memory is so bad that they somehow come to think that something like that is true. Of course, young earth creationists believe in all kinds of strange magic, which is all the more reason to toss her into the "nut bag".

Since you've admitted to not really knowing what her positions are, maybe you should do some basic research of your own instead of picking semantic nits with some random blogger from a biased website.

Bill said...

Pace my comment on the later post, thinking Vince Foster was murdered is "nutty," like thinking disbelief in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is "nutty" is pure status-marking. These beliefs are not known to be wildly counter-factual. They are loudly announced by high cultural authority to be wildly counter-factual.

Vince Foster was probably not murdered, and CAGW is probably false. But neither side of either dispute is "Apollo Program never happened" wildly wrong.

TGGP said...

Joe Biden is no Tricky Dick. I'd be surprised if he can tape-record his own memos to himself.

TGGP said...

I've never regarded Moynihan as particularly honest, but most of his animus is directed to his left.

Seth said...

"I really don't want people in congress who's memory is so bad that they somehow come to think that something like that is true."-Anon

So, are you equally upset with Hank Johnson's concern about Guam capsizing?

Everybody's going to say stupid stuff sometimes. The larger issue here for me is that we give a pass on these stupid comments for people we like and fixate on them for people we don't like. The inconsistency makes me squirm.

Andrew said...

Seth, there's nothing inconsistent about it. Lots of politicians say some stupid things, but they get balanced out by the less stupid and possibly even insightful things they say.

It's not a question of fairness or cherry picking; it's simply a stupid person. Sure, she may have read Lord of the Rings but so have tens of millions of others, many of whom are simply not very bright.

David Friedman said...

"Sure, she may have read Lord of the Rings but so have tens of millions of others, many of whom are simply not very bright."

I don't think O'Donnell is "very bright"--certainly not anywhere close to the IQ of Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon, say. On the other hand, listening to her talk about Tolkien, she doesn't come across as stupid either. Almost certainly brighter than Teddy Kennedy was, for instance.

And while she has said some pretty odd things, she said them a good deal younger than Biden made his comment implying that FDR was President and television widespread when the stockmarket crashed.