Adam, Where Are All of Those "Critics"?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Adam, Where Are All of Those "Critics"?

What is in the water that Adam Nagourney has been drinking lately? A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about a New York Times article that Nagourney co-wrote – an article that included this overblown assertion:
Four months after Mr. Bush won a solid re-election over Senator John Kerry, 63 percent of (poll) respondents say the president has different priorities on domestic issues than most Americans.
Nagourney was guilty of another indefensible assertion on Friday when he wrote:
Gov. Jeb Bush's last-minute intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo … has cemented [his] religious and social conservative credentials …

… even critics said his efforts – prodding the Florida Legislature and the courts and defying much of the electorate – were rooted in a deep-seated opposition to abortion and euthanasia rather than in political positioning.
But who were the critics that Nagourney spoke to? Good question.

A reporter who reaches such a conclusion in his or her article is obligated to provide supporting evidence. So where’s the evidence that "even critics" of Jeb Bush say his Schiavoesque efforts have been “rooted” in moral views, not politics?

In Friday's Times article, Nagourney quoted only 6 people. First, he quoted a political science professor at the University of North Florida whose remarks were unrelated to the principle-over-politics assertion.

Second, Nagourney quoted Cory Tilley, who praised the Florida governor, declared Jeb to have “no future political ambitions,” and insisted that the Schiavo case is “an issue that strikes at his core beliefs.” But since Tilley is described as “a longtime (Bush) advisor,” surely he can’t be considered one of these mysterious critics.

Next, Nagourney quoted Susan McManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. McManus did call Bush “a very ideologically consistent person,” and she did state, “Those of us who watch him think this is Jeb, and how he truly believes …” But neither Nagourney nor McManus’ quote spell out the persons being referred to as “those of us.”

Is McManus a Jeb Bush critic? Judging from Nagourney’s conclusion, I assumed she must be. So you can imagine my surprise when I learned from the website of Media Matters that McManus actually served on Jeb Bush’s health care policy transition team and was appointed by Gov. Bush to the Florida Elections Commission.

Oh well, on to the next “critic.”

Republican strategist Mike Murphy is the 4th person quoted, but his remarks didn’t speak directly to Nagourney’s conclusion. Needless to say, Murphy is not a critic of Bush.

The state’s outgoing Democratic Party chair would definitely qualify as a Bush critic, and he is the next person quoted in Nagourney’s article. But outgoing chair Scott Maddox declares Bush’s high-profile maneuvering in the Schiavo case to be an instance in which politics “has to be in play here.”

The only other person quoted is Jim Kane, chief pollster for Florida Voter. But he is identified as the head of a “nonpartisan polling organization” – in other words, not someone who could be branded as a Bush critic.

So there you have it. Six up, six down. Of all of the people quoted directly or indirectly in the Times article, not a single critic expressed an opinion supporting Nagourney’s assertion that “even critics” believe Jeb Bush’s actions were driven by principle, not politics.

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