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When Bill Kristol wrote, in a recent New York Times column, that McCain should fire his entire campaign staff, surely he had deputy P.R. chief Michael Goldfarb in mind. Which is strange, because Goldfarb used to work for Kristol—and perhaps he will again in a few days. Watch Goldfarb disintegrate under questioning by CNN here when pressed on McCain’s involvement in large-scale funding of a West Bank project that Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi developed:
What gets lost here is this: Khalidi’s project was and is terrific. McCain and Craner made the right call in funding it, and should be congratulated for their foresight. However, it does rather get in the way of the absurd slime campaign that Goldfarb has been dripping on Khalidi. Goldfarb’s thinking is pretty facile: Khalidi has a Arab name; no one is going to stand up for him; no one will take notice of the fact that he’s America’s foremost historian of the Middle East. Goldfarb runs into rough waters, however, as CNN’s Rick Sanchez insists that he identify the anti-Semites with whom Obama “hangs around.” Sanchez accepts Goldfarb’s characterization of Khalidi. That was unprofessional on Sanchez’s part—the suggestion that Khalidi is an anti-Semite is, as Joe Klein observes in Time, “fatuous” to begin with. True, he is a critic of the government of Israel. On the other hand, I have no shortage of Israeli friends who are more pointed in their criticism of the Israeli government than is Khalidi. Does that make them all “anti-Semites”? Goldfarb struggles, sputters, and can’t identify a person. But note that this doesn’t stop him for a second from unloading his McCarthyite bombload.
This evening, Bill Kristol, appearing on the Daily Show, acknowledges again that the McCain campaign has been “poorly” run. But isn’t that an understatement? Goldfarb got a client with a sterling reputation–a genuine war hero, a man viewed by many as the Daniel Webster of his generation. He managed to drag his client’s name through the gutter and to undermine an identity crafted over twenty-seven years in Washington. He also contrived to demolish McCain’s rapport with the media, painstakingly built over a generation. Calling his performance “poor” just doesn’t do it justice. More apt might be “histrionic, juvenile, and unprofessional.”
Keith Olbermann at MSNBC has some fun focusing on another point: Goldfarb’s failure to do even the most rudimentary research before he launches his attacks. I don’t for a second doubt the power of the lie wielded as a political instrument. But those who, following in the tradition of Machiavelli, would use the lie as a political weapon must learn to lie cleverly, so that the lie is not immediately exposed. Goldfarb has failed this very basic test.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”