Monday, December 2, 2002

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Esquire's secret formula

The White House press corps can't stand the Bush administration. The motivation isn't ideological. It's that the Bush team is rarely off-message, which leads to a dearth of interesting stories.

This leads to the following question: how the hell is Esquire getting the dirt that no one else can? In the spring, you might remember, they were the ones to publish a bizarre Andy Card confession about the behemoth that is Karl Rove. Now, according to Drudge and the Times, the magazine has scored another tell-all interview. This one's with John J. DiIulio Jr., the former head of Bush's faith-based initiative. He confirms Card's gaffe -- Rove is running everything. This latest dust-up just prompted a White House denial. (Update: Drudge has posted DiIulio's long e-mail that formed the guts of the article)

One substantive comment and one smart-ass comment. The substantive comment is that according to the Times story:

Mr. DiIulio says the religious right and libertarians trust Mr. Rove 'to keep Bush 43 from behaving like Bush 41 and moving too far to the center or inching at all center-left.'

As a pragmatic libertarian, I think that DiIulio is both logically and factually wrong. He's logically wrong since on social issues libertarians will espouse views that are pretty far to the left [take it away, Jacob Levy; He has--ed.]. He's factually wrong, since libertarians are not happy with this White House on either homeland security or foreign economic policy. The latter most defintely has Karl Rove's fingerprints. Which means that despite the Weekly Standard's claims that libertarians should consistently favor Republicans, libertarians might not want Karl Rove to have that much power.

The smart-ass point: if a "sophisticated" men's magazine like Esquire can get quality dirt like this, imagine what less sophisticated men's magazines could dig up. I call on the White House to extend press credentials to reporters from Maxim, Stuff, and FHM immediately!! [Did you really have to link to those magazines?--ed. Just trying to be thorough!]

UPDATE: DiIulio now denies making the comments. Card provided similar denials last spring. Ron Suskind wrote both pieces for Esquire. Here's Suskind's response to DiIulio's denial. Maybe Suskind's just making it all up, but the guy's a former Wall Street Journal who won a Pulitzer, so I have to think there's some truth to the stories. Looking at DiIulio's e-mail, I suspect this is a case of a person upset by a reporter's spin, not the facts themselves. Patrick Ruffini disagrees. TNR's blog provides a nice summary of the plausible explanations for DiIulio's comments and retractions. Hmmm, another thought.... maybe men's magazines encourage the same kind of fantasizing with their feature articles that they do with their profiles of attractive women. In which case, having Maxim or Stuff in the White House press corps could produce "reporting" along the lines of Robert Reich's notorious memoirs, but more titillating.

posted by Dan on 12.02.02 at 01:01 PM