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November 28, 2003

A lot of the time Matt Drudge just seems like another right-wing fluffer, teasing smears and rumors into semi-tumescent news stories until outlets like Fox News and The New York Post decide to have a go at them too...

Sometimes, though, his appetite for iconoclastic muckraking manages to trump his partisan instincts. So it was on Wednesday, when Drudge reported on a military ceremony involving the remains of Howard Dean's brother Charlie, a civilian tourist who was imprisoned by "communist Pathet Lao guerrillas" in 1974 and allegedly executed by them on the grounds that he was an American spy. (The U.S. government says this wasn't true.)

Efforts to retrieve Charlie Dean's remains were initiated by a Pentagon unit that Drudge identifies as the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). Drudge writes:

JPAC was pressured to not only recover his brother's remains, but to bump Dean's recovery over numerous other MIA's who actually died fighting for their country, a well-placed military source tells the DRUDGE REPORT. Additionally, JPAC is being pressured to push up Dean's brother's identification ahead of approximately a hundred other service members remains, it is claimed.

Initially, I was skeptical of Drudge's contentions. I mean, what kind of influence would a former governor of a tiny state, aka Howard "We won't always have the strongest military" Dean, have at the Pentagon?

Then it occured to me: Drudge didn't say who was pressuring JPAC regarding Charlie Dean's remains; he just said someone was.

At first, I figured Drudge was referring to Howard Dean, but then I realized that he was actually onto a much bigger story: the Bush Administration has been pressuring JPAC to give special treatment to Dean's dead brother, in order to make Dean look bad!

Drudge hasn't come right out and said this yet, but what else, really, can he be hinting at? After all, we all know how skilled President Want-More-Gravy-With-That? is at using the military for PR ends. And while Howard Dean probably couldn't even get a cup of coffee at the Pentagon, our Commander-in-Chief pretty much has the run of the place. So which makes more sense: that Dean pressured the Pentagon to do his bidding, or that Bush did?

Meanwhile, the Pentagon itself has denied that JPAC "was pressured" by anyone to recover Dean's remains. In addition, the New York Times reported that "though Charlie Dean and his friend were civilians, they were given military honors, officials said, on the chance that the remains include those of service members missing in the Vietnam War."

But if you ask me, that all sounds like desperate subterfuge. Drudge says this story is developing, and I'm confident he's going to get to the bottom of it soon, exposing the dirty tricks of the Bush Administration in all their craven audacity...

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:50 AM
November 24, 2003
Blame Game

First OxyContin done him wrong. Then U.S. Trust done him wrong. Now perpetual victim Rush Limbaugh is shedding tears over how the media is bungling details about his life while covering his longterm drug addiction and potentially felonious behavior:

"I have a new view of the media, folks. I want to cooperate with these people, because they don't get anything right, and so they need help...I tell you, I said yesterday I watch all this stuff that's being said, and I just laugh myself side-splittingly to tears over here. I have just said my studio is not in my home. How many newspapers tomorrow report my studio was in my home? And quote me today as having said that. Jim Avala gave me fits. I may have 50 more affiliates by now. I mean, you never know. But the one thing I didn't know was how much the house cost and they told me that, too, $24 million. So now I know where it went. Okay."

And according to current Palm Beach tax records, Limbaugh's house is worth $21,570,191. So it appears that the journalists who described it as a $24 million house were horribly wrong (if by horribly you mean slightly).

But you know what? There's really a pretty easy way Limbaugh can clear up any questions and misperceptions regarding his longterm addiction, his possible felonious behavior, and the occasional real estate question...

Indeed, if Limbaugh is half the man William Bennett thinks he is, then he would simply explain the history of his addiction in a clear, comprehensive, and straightforward manner. Instead, he's acting even more furtive than Michael Jackson. When people ask him questions about his drug addiction, he simply criticizes the National Enquirer:

"Don't make the National Enquirer the world's foremost authority for the first time in your life on this story. Whatever you've always thought of The Enquirer, keep that thought alive."

That's good advice, perhaps, but why won't the world's foremost authority on this case tell us any more than that? After all, no one has charged Limbaugh with any crimes. And he insists that he hasn't done anything wrong. So what does he have to gain from evasion, silence, and puzzling explanations?

For example, here is on October 10th, explaining how he became a drug addict:

"I first started taking prescription painkillers some years ago when my doctor prescribed them to treat post surgical pain following spinal surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful and I continued to have severe pain in my lower back and also in my neck due to herniated discs. I am still experiencing that pain."

And here is on November 17th, explaining why he's still taking pills.

"Now, as to managing my pain, I've got two herniated disks between C5 and C6 or in that area, and I have discovered something while I've been gone that the way I sit at a computer aggravates it partially but I'm also taking medication for it called Vioxx. I was introduced to Vioxx out at the treatment center, and it has cut the discomfort, which is considerable, and it's primarily when I sit. It's cut it in over half. They also introduced me to a sort of a physical therapy plan. But here's the thing. I mean, the bottom line is it's there and I'm probably going to have to have surgery for it. And the reason I have not had surgery on this is that the surgery goes through the throat, to get to where my problem area is, your doctors have to gently push the larynx aside."

So, let's see. He became a drug addict in the wake of back surgery. And the reason he abused drugs for so long was that he never had back surgery. Is there any wonder the media's confused?

Now, I think Limbaugh is probably talking about two different surgeries here, for two different problems. But it's all a little vague and confusing. Initially, it seems, his major problem was his lower back. But even though the surgery he apparently had was such a failure he was forced to become a drug addict to escape his pain, his major problem now, it seems, is the herniated disks in his neck region. Or something like that.

Oh well. At least with each new detail you learn, the story get more intriguing. Take Limbaugh's mansion. While looking at Palm Beach tax assessor records, I learned that Limbaugh's wife Marta owns her own million-dollar mansion in Palm Beach too. Is it an investment property, or does it mean they don't live together? If it's the latter, that might help explain how Limbaugh was able to keep his addiction such a secret. On the other hand, even if they do live together, it was probably easy enough for Limbaugh to hide his stash - according to the assessor's records, the couple's main mansion has 16 bathrooms, and thus, presumably, 16 medicine cabinets! In a place that big, it must be easy to hide a few thousand tiny pills...

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:33 AM
November 23, 2003
Dumb and Dumber

Officious, meddlesome, and with a placid gaze untroubled by anything resembling thought, much less sin, Michelle Malkin is completely underutilized by the vast right-wing conspiracy - one of their shadowy lever-pushers really ought to give her her own decency league to run post-haste...

In the meantime, she goes it alone. Tipped off by Nancy Nall (who graciously praises some recent efforts here), I checked out Malkin's latest column on the pleasantly vapid Jessica Simpson. Big surprise here - Malkin sees the evil hand of liberal Hollywood in the success of Simpson:

"Hollywood loves dummies. The more beautiful, the better. Witness the stratospheric rise of the vacant-eyed Jessica the twisted domain of Hollyweird, chastity simply isn't the ticket to an ambitious young woman's superstardom. Stupidity is. The same 'progressive' Hollywood celebrities who sneer at President Bush's mediocre college grades work in an industry that has long prided itself on, and profited from, popularizing anti-intellectualism."

The only problem with this line of reasoning: MTV had modest expectations for Simpson's show, Newlyweds, and didn't do that much to promote it. Ultimately, then, the show's surprise success wasn't due to MTV's machinations but rather viewer enthusiasm. So when Beltway elitist Malkin blames "Hollywood" for Simpson's "stratospheric rise," she's really blaming millions of her fellow Americans, who without the influence of pernicious Hollywood brain-washing or elite media hegemony, turned Newlyweds into basic cable's biggest hit.

It's understandable why the ostensibly patriotic Malkin has so little faith in her countrymen - some of them are dirty liberals! But why so little faith in Jessica Simpson's father Joe, who reportedly worked as a Baptist youth minister in Texas for over two decades?

Despite his solid, middle-American bonafides, Malkin excoriates this family-centered Christian do-gooder:

"Proud papa Simpson explains that when Jessica caters to low expectations, it shows that 'she's just a normal kid.' What a terrible message to send to young women and girls. Deliberately dumbing yourself down to enhance your popularity isn't 'normal.' It's degrading."

The only problem with this line of hectoring: when Joe Simpson says that his daughter is "just a normal kid," he's not talking about her catering to low expectations, or anything remotely like that. Instead, he's talking about her exceptional vocal talent and beauty. Here's the complete quote, which Papa Simpson issued during an interview with TV Guide:

"We did the show because everybody had seen Jessica as only a Barbie doll, because she does have beauty that separates her from the average person. She has a six octave range, so she also has a voice that not everybody [has]. So a lot of America didn't relate to her. We did this show so that people would see that, hey, she's just a normal kid."

Alas, lazy quote-twisting is only foreplay in Malkin's world. The cathode eugenicist's real goal here is to tout Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and other conservative tele-hotties as superior alternatives to the ditzy Simpson: "Fortunately, parents looking for antidotes to Jessica Simpson syndrome and moron worship by the liberal Hollywood elite can find plenty of female role models in the media with beauty and brains."

On the one hand, then, you have Jessica Simpson, a famously chaste virgin who married her longtime sweetheart Nick Lachey after years of PG-13 courtship. She's family-minded, straightforward, and charitable. According to Rolling Stone, "Jessica herself, raised in this gospel of giving, says she loved nothing more than performing selfless acts of devotion -- as a child, she kept twenty-odd photos of missing children under her pillow, praying for them each night. When she was sixteen she tried to adopt a Mexican baby found in a Dumpster... Even today, Simpson remains involved in charity as international ambassador for Operation Smile, a reconstructive-surgery nonprofit."

And on the other hand, you have quadragenarian spinsters Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, who give lip service to subservient motherhood and groups like The Promise Keepers but aren't quite ready to sacrifice million-dollar careers, drunken bar-trolling, or no-strings-attached sex for the ideals they espouse.

And according to Malkin, it's the hypocritical drunken floozies, not the principled, altruistic good girl, who are the best role models for impressionable young females.

Which means the joke's on me, of course, because I completely agree! Imagine how great America would be with, say, ten million more rich, slutty, alcohol-swilling, fortysomething blondes who believe their own careers are far more important than raising families? Unfortunately, there are probably too many women out there like Simpson, who really do believe in marriage and family values, to make this Coultertopia viable. But a man can dream, can't he?

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:55 PM