SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Two of my stories for this blog have become issues in current congressional campaigns. One story was about Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman and his close relationship with political donors, including a businessman named Nasser Kazeminy. The story raised the possibility, based on two confidential sources, that Kazeminy has helped underwrite Coleman’s wardrobe, specifically with purchases at Neiman Marcus.
The second story, which ran last November, reported that “Family Values” Congressman Ric Keller of Florida had, after winning office,
divorced his wife and married a young woman who worked on his congressional staff. I spoke with four people, each of whom would only speak with me on condition of anonymity, and each of whom told me that Keller’s relationship with the staffer began while he was still married.
I reported then that House disclosure records showed that Keller and his staffer (and future bride) traveled together on his campaign’s dime, during the same month in 2002 that he separated from his wife, and that she was his only staffer that year to receive a year-end bonus. Now Keller’s opponent has apparently sent out my story as a campaign flyer.
Both Coleman and Keller have denounced the stories–apparently because I published them online in this weblog. “There are very awful things that are said about people on the blogs,” Coleman told one reporter. And Keller issued a statement saying that the story I had written was all “innuendo” and that I was a “discredited blogger” who had previously reported that Hillary Clinton was a lesbian. That is, very simply, a lie, as anyone can see if they bother to read postings I wrote earlier this year making fun of the dumb rumors about Hillary’s alleged “Sapphic excursions.”
In other words, neither Coleman nor Keller wants to discuss the issues raised by the stories; both prefer instead to shift the topic and rail against “bloggers.” What’s particularly striking is that I gave both Coleman and Keller ample opportunity to comment before the stories were published. Both posts were based on interviews, public documents, and published accounts, and were reviewed by an editor before publication. Keller’s office refused to comment at all, whereas Coleman’s office refused to provide a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question about his clothing purchases. (I reproduced those emails in my post.)
Politicians do this all the time: instead of answering questions, no matter how specific and direct, they hope a “no comment” or dissembling will kill a story. And it often works. I spent significant time on both the Coleman and Keller stories, and I reported what I knew to be true. I made clear in the specific case of Coleman’s wardrobe that I did not have all the details confirmed, but that the accounts I had were highly detailed and credible. And instead of replying, Coleman was, and remains, evasive. If he ever gives a straight answer, I’ll be happy to report it. But blaming “bloggers” should not be a substitute for elected officials replying to specific, detailed questions.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
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.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“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.”