Thursday, September 22, 2005
It All Depends on What You Mean by “Substantiated” (Updated)
Salon’s “War Room” is playing a nasty little game: giving out unsubstantiated information from The National Enquirer (fergodsake) and slyly noting that it isn’t particularly reliable. But here’s how it reads in my aggregator:
Is Bush back on the bottle?
The National Enquirer says so, but that doesn’t make it true—or false.
Like I said, sly.
But the only named source is the author of Bush on the Couch, Justin Frank, and Frank admits that he doesn’t actually know anything. He just “thinks” that Bush has been reaching for the bottle. Aside from that little bit of presumption, The Enquirer just teases and toys with unnamed sources and assertions.
The National Enquirer is reporting that the president’s troubles have literally driven him to drink. “Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again,” the Enquirer says.
As you might expect, the sourcing for the story is a little vague. In an odd sort of grammatical construction, the Enquirer says that “family sources have told”—to whom, it doesn’t say—that the president was “caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze” in Crawford, Texas, when “he learned of the hurricane disaster.” “One insider” says that Bush “apparently” reached for a “Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey” when water flooded into New Orleans. Another “Washington source” says: “The sad fact is that he has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him—but the word is his drinking has been going on for a while in the capital. He’s been in a pressure cooker for months.”
What does it all mean? Who knows? The National Enquirer ain’t exactly the New York Times, but it isn’t the Weekly World News, either.
In his rush to find a brand new way to smear Bush, Tim Grieve, “War Room” writer, is willing to use The National Enquirer as a somewhat reputable source of information.
All I can say is that any journalist’s reputation is only as good as his sources.
Read his post. (Salon requires either a subscription or an ad view to access this content.)
Update: Not that a lack of reasonable substantiation has stopped bloggers from running with the story as if it were simple fact.
The entire Bush family has a condescending lack of empathy for people who are not wealthy. So it confuses me why Bush is actually feeling enough to lose his nerve and start pounding the booze again. It could be that he really does know he totally lacks the mental capacity to do the job, and his incompetence really does have real consequences for living, breathing, human beings.
But, hey, when you hate someone as much as people like Tom hate the Bush family, it’s easy to treat rumor and innuendo as fact.